I met Mike Faloon in July when he and James came to Pittsburgh on their Journeymen and Split Rock Tour. I had the pleasure of showing them around Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood before the reading. Although I forgot that it was a Monday and that the Warhol Museum would be closed, we ventured across Allegheny Square to see the artful writers’ residence houses on Sampsonia Way, the ones obtained by City of Asylum for international writers in exile. On the way there we passed the high school where a young Willa Cather was once head of the English department, and stumbled onto a sign for an industrial business owned by one of Andy Warhol’s brothers.
The reading that night at Cyberpunk Apocalypse showcased three great storytellers: James Jay with his tragicomic narrative poems, Mike Faloon with his deadpan-funny fiction, and Art Noose with her personal zine, Ker-bloom!
1. The Journeymen, James Jay (Gorsky Press)
Finding poetry I enjoy is like shopping for gifts: I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it. And with The Journeymen I’ve found it. A consistently satisfying collection of character sketches. Insightful, graceful, and funny at the right times. The titles speak volumes: “Ronald Reagan Killed My Band Teacher so Now I Can’t Play Saxophone for Huey Lewis or the News.” (I love the choice of “or” rather than “and.”) “A Sunny Day at the Pub Debating Whether to See the ‘On the Road’ Scroll at the Library or Order Another.”
2. Devil Born Without Horns, Michael Lucas (Rudos and Rubes)
At the 150-page mark I was still wondering whether this was a crime story or a memoir about life in the high-end furniture business. Devil Born Without Horns is the former and it’s worth the work. The “what the hell?” sense of wonder (confusion?) mentioned above kept me turning the pages and drew me into the narrator’s descent into madness. Credit Lucas with the willingness to let the story unfold so slowly and dishing out the absurdity in the proper doses.
3. Impossibly Funky – A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection, Mike White (BearManor Media)
Don’t be misled by the title, focus on the subtitle. This is a “best of” from one of the premiere movie zines of the past 20 years. Mike White is driven by a fan’s passion (obsession?) and writes with a critic’s objectivity. I can only assume that it took months to track down all of those James Ellroy documentaries he writes about but he has no reservations about letting you know which ones suck. White takes his movies very seriously but not himself. (You may remember his documentatry Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?, which brilliantly compared Reservoir Dogs to the Hong Kong movie, City on Fire, from which Tarantino swiped the ending.) Perfect commode fodder.
Mike Faloon, editor of Go Metric zine and author of The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock
Stay tuned for more end of the year Small Press Recommendations, and more guest reviews.