Friday, May 14, 2010

Recommendations - Bloomsbury Review at 30 - Book Launch


Indian Country Noir
edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez

Akashic, 2010

Years ago, when I finally got serious about understanding crime fiction, I learned, from people who knew, that noir is different from hard-boiled. But the two are often confused or commingled. No matter, readers know what they like. Some of the stories in this anthology are noir, some are hard-boiled, some are neither. Again, no matter, I like the stories in Indian Country Noir.

Akashic has quite the thing going with its noir series. Brooklyn Noir. Chicago Noir. Havana Noir. Istanbul Noir. London ... Mexico City ... Phoenix ... Twin Cities (?). No Denver, though. There are a lot of titles in this imprint. I've read a few, the quality is high, the authors are a good mix of well-knowns (Indian Country Noir features Lawrence Block, for example) and soon-to-be-well-known. The stories can be gut-wrenching, over-the-top, evocative. All okay.

Indian Country Noir is a welcome addition to the noir list. Comrade Sedano reviewed the anthology earlier for La Bloga, and I'll add my two centavos and also recommend this book. Pick up a copy and see what Native and non-Native writers have to say about crime among, to, and for the indigenous, on and off the res. Plenty of good surprises: R. Narvaez in Juracán tells a story set in Puerto Rico among the legends of the Tainos, stolen artifacts, double- and triple-crosses, uneasy justice; Joseph Bruchac gives us The Helper, all about the notorious boarding schools, and one former student's long-delayed but very satisfying revenge; Liz Martínez develops a new take on the familiar and sad Ira Hayes story, with a twist that reads very Indian to me, in Prowling Wolves. And if you really want noir, the final story is a gem. Kimberly Roppolo's Quilt Like a Night Sky is as tough as they come. The definition of noir from those smart people years ago, as I remember it, was that the protagonist is screwed on the first page and it only gets worse from there. And then I read Quilt Like a Night Sky.

The Book of What Remains
Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Copper Canyon Press, 2010

Benjamin Alire Sáenz may be best-known for his novels: provocative and deep tales of human frailty and strength. His well-received books include standouts Carry Me Like Water, The House of Forgetting, and In Perfect Light. But Sáenz also is a poet. The Book of What Remains is his latest volume of poetry, and it is exquisite. These are poems meant to be read aloud to other poets, lonesome travelers, and grandchildren; or treasured under a solitary light at three in the morning, preferably in an adobe house hidden in the desert. Sáenz takes on the desert, the ironies of modern life, the subtleties of any life, as well as his understanding of how he got to where he is today. He lays it out there as a poet should do. His preface (a poem unto itself) sets the stage:

But now that I am on the subject of memories, I am thinking that even if memories lie, even if no memory is true, despite all of that, there must be some truth that remains --even within the lie. And that truth is what I'm hanging on to. That is all that remains.

His series of short Meditations on Living in the Desert are interjected among longer pieces. I did not resist and I read them together, consecutively, and they tell quite a story. So here's another recommendation - buy this book and read these poems. From The Last Meditation on Living in the Desert:

I want to die in the middle of the summer.
At ten o'clock in the morning.
Preferably on the hottest day of the year.
I want everyone who comes to my funeral to keep repeating
Goddamnit it's hot. This will make me smile.
If I am not allowed to smile after I'm dead

then I want to live forever.

But only if I can continue living in the desert.

Play some Tinariwen when you read these poems.

The Bronx Kill
Peter Milligan,
art by James Romberger
Vertigo Crime, 2010

Really a mixed bag today, no? This one is a graphic novel - you talk about noir, this has noir oozing from the ink. Ken Bruen, a guy who should know, calls this book "Sheer pitch perfect noir." Okay, not for everyone, but then neither is poetry.

Martin Keane is a writer struggling to finish his second book. His father is a NYC cop, as was his grandfather and the great-grandfather. Martin has no stomach for the violence that surrounds his cop family, but he's obsessed with the murder of his great-grandfather at the Bronx Kill, the lonely, strange stretch of land that captures the writer's imagination. The book's plot swirls around Martin's immediate mystery - his wife disappears and all the clues point to Martin's involvement -- and the past mystery of the murdered great-grandfather, but there's also the book Martin is writing, inserted into the graphic artwork as pages of a manuscript, a very strange book, indeed. Martin needs to learn the answers to the riddles of his family mysteries, which, of course, are devastating. As the cover blurb says, he learns a truth "more shocking and monstrous than he could ever have imagined." And that ain't no bull.


Here's an event I'll be participating in - glad to help out one of the great (and few remaining) review magazines (of course it's much more), The Bloomsbury Review.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN! Silent Auction & Literary Fête!

THE BLOOMSBURY REVIEW ~ Celebrating and Serving Literature for 30 years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

6:00pm - 9:00pm

Washington Street Community Center

809 South Washington Street

Denver, CO

Blooms has put the "fun" into fundraiser! In celebration of our 30th year of publishing, and presented by Friends of The Bloomsbury Review, items from all around the world will be up for grabs.

A major focus will be books--rare, collectible, and signed first editions--including books by T.C. Boyle, Sherman Alexie, Linda Hogan, Jim Harrison, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Greg Kuzma, Nathaniel Philbrick, Russell Chatham, Laurence Yep, and others--as well as a special, limited-edition, slipcased and signed copy of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain will be among the dozens and dozens of must-have volumes.

But that's not all! Paintings, and prints, and photographs, and other artwork; Bike tours; Life Coaching/Counseling sessions; Gift certificates; a tea-tasting for ten; fine wine, and much, much more to entice you.

Local literary luminaries will be on hand--and we invite you to come and join us! Hors d'oeurves and beverages will be available. There will be a $10 admission charge to mingle and shop to your heart's content.

If you need more information, e-mail us at, or call us at (303) 455-3123. Be there and be loved.


Book launch for King of the Chicanos - May 20, 7:30 PM, Tattered Cover (Colfax). Go here for more info (including how to order a signed copy if you can't make it to the event), or click on the image - hope to see you there.


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