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Jack Haringa
Lives in Worcester, MA
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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#7: JOHN CROW'S DEVIL by Marlon James

Marlon James' first novel is a horror story, an allegory, a magical-realist fantasy, and a stylistic whirlwind of language and imagery. It features a conflict of ostensibly moral forces (the Preacher and the Apostle) that, through their clash and their influence on those around them in a small town in 1957 Jamaica, reveal the flaws not only in themselves but in the systems they represent. James doesn't shy from gore or sex in the course of his tale, but such elements never feel prurient, and as dark as the book is, it still has its moments of humor. I feel bad for not continuing to follow his career since this book came out; his most recent novel (the 700+ page opus A Brief History of Seven Killings) won an ABA and was long-listed for the Booker. From all accounts he continues to marry post-colonial concerns, the best of what may be called literary horror, and a unique personal style.

Here's the Booklist review: "Vultures, or John Crows, descend on Gibbeah, a vine-entangled Jamaican village where a catastrophic spiritual battle takes place between the Preacher and the Apostle. Pastor Hector Bligh's leadership of the Holy Sepulchral Full Gospel Church has eroded into drunken muttering by the time Apostle York arrives with his fire-and-brimstone manner and ironclad rules for holy living. As the Apostle and his five deacons engage in maniacal power-mongering, the black villagers are forced to submit to the harshness of a god in York's diseased image. Will a transformed Bligh be able to save the village? First-novelist James combines evangelical ideas about spiritual warfare with the folk traditions of voodoo and magic, producing a transfixing blend of horror and metaphor that echoes Austin Clark's Barbados tales. The result is a mesmerizing treatise on the nature of good and evil, faith and madness, guilt and forgiveness, eloquently captured in a microcosm of society."
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Jack Haringa

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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#5: MORTAL LOVE by Elizabeth Liz Hand

While Hand is better known for her fantastic short fiction (see the collections SAFFRON AND BRIMSTONE and ERRANTRY) and her neo-noir novels featuring Cass Neary (GENERATION LOSS, AVAILABLE DARK), this novel showcases her knowledge of and passion for art and poetry as well as her skill for handling deep emotions across multiple timelines. The fantastic element is ambiguous, treated less as a plot element than a thematic suggestion about the beauty and ravages of artistic inspiration. As always, the prose is impeccable.

For a plot summary, here's the PW review: "Hand (Black Light) explores the theme of artistic inspiration and its dangerous devolvement into obsession and madness through three interwoven narrative threads in this superb dark fantasy novel. In late Victorian England, American painter Radborne Comstock makes the acquaintance of Evienne Upstone, a model who's inspired members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and driven painter Jacobus Candell completely insane. More than half a century later, Radborne's grandson Valentine ends up institutionalized after viewing intensely erotic paintings grandpa produced under Evienne's spell. His experiences echo those of Daniel Rowlands, an American writer in contemporary London whose research into the legend of Tristan and Iseult brings him into contact with Larkin Meade, a fey lover whose passion leaves him physically and emotionally deranged. Subtle parallels and resonances between the subplots suggest that Evienne and Larkin are, impossibly, the same being: a force of nature incomprehensible to mortals, whom countless doomed artists have translated imperfectly into aesthetic ideals of beauty and love. Hand does a marvelous job of making the ineffable tangible, lacing her tale with references to the work of artists ranging from Algernon Swinburne to Kurt Cobain and capturing the intense emotions of her characters in exquisitely sculpted prose. With its authentic period detail and tantalizing spirit of mystery, this timeless tale of desire and passion should reach many readers beyond her usual fantasy base. "
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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#3: Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess

Burgess may best be known for the violence and social commentary of A Clockwork Orange, but people should never forget the brilliant wit that infuses nearly all of his work.This is plainly evident in TREMOR OF INTENT, his deconstruction of the spy thriller. Drawing on Le Carre, Fleming, and the realities of Cold War paranoia, this "eschatological spy novel" (the book's subtitle) points out the absurdities of both the geopolitical situation and the entertainments that spun out of it. This is a novel about which I genuinely say, "I laughed out loud."
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Two people I find insufferable in the same film together? Way to make my nightmares come true, Hollywood!
 
‘American Ultra’ costars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart flip the script on the typical film-junket interview and ask each other some uncomfortable questions: http://bit.ly/1MNnuBu
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This looks good--not necessarily a completely original idea, but the visuals and performances can make up for that.
As Ive said countless times in the past filmmakers from South Korea do suspense better than just about anyone in the world Director Jeong Yeongbae will attempt to fray nerves of moviegoers across the country when his latest endeavor Confession hits cinemas next month
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And now for something good: Confessions is one of the novels nominated for this year's Shirley Jackson Awards.
A contemporary crime/revenge story that takes a leaf from Rashomon and other multiple-perspective thrillers and mysteries, Confessions has a few twists to surprise even jaded ...
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Jack Haringa

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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#6: SHRINKING THE HEROES (AKA From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain) by Minister Faust

One of my favorite novels of the past 10 years, Minster Faust's Shrinking the Heroes is the smartest deconstruction of superheroes in a now-crowded field of such books. Its novel-within-a-novel structure satirizes self-help books, the Bush administration, fandom, pop culture, and so much more, but there's also a clear love and knowledge of superhero comics behind it all. Faust's prose is exuberant and perfectly tuned to the subject matter, and his critical eye never falters. For you e-reader types, the kindle version is only $2.99.
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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#4: Let's Put the Future Behind Us by Jack Womack

(Note: the Amazon synopsis is not for this novel.)

Womack is well known in SF circles as a cyberpunk author (Ambient, Terraplane, Heathern, Elvissey) and as the author of the brilliant and devastating Random Acts of Senseless Violence, but this novel is rooted firmly in the present of its composition (1993). It showcases the author's mordant humor and political awareness in a very different way from his other novels as it illustrates the chaos and energy of post-Soviet Russia. Less linguistically adventurous than his SFnal novels, LPtFBU offers insight into to the anarchy of unbridled capitalism with both hilarity and pathos.

The Kirkus review offers a decent summary: "Imagine 1984 as told by Alex of A Clockwork Orange. Our unheroic narrator, Max Borodin, is a likable, rather elegant counterfeiter: not of rubles or dollars, but of history. For instance, his corporation produces irrefutable evidence that the KGB's attempts to brainwash Oswald were foiled by the CIA--and the precise opposite, depending on which American scholar is in the market. Max has a feisty young mistress who's married to his sometime business partner, and an entrepreneurial-minded wife who nags him but retains enough energy to negotiate the corruptions and decay of Moscow, where nothing can be accomplished without a bribe and everything's for sale. Max, a clever dog in this dog-eat-dog society, is a happy man, so much so that he pragmatically wants to put the future as envisioned by reformists behind; it simply won't work, he thinks. But trouble's on the horizon. There's Max's feckless brother, who tries to involve him in a theme park called Sovietland that will invoke nostalgia for the gulag and in which American tourists will be spirited away for interrogation by park employees posing as secret police. There's a powerful mafia trying to muscle in on Max's sweet operation. Finally, there's a sentimental, paranoid, right-wing politician who seems modeled on Vladimir Zhirinovsky; he has the kind of quirky vision that might get clever fellows such as Max killed."
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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#2: Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff

Ruff's second novel out-weirds his debut, Fool on the Hill, by skewering Objectivism, Ayn Rand herself, race relations, Walt Disney, eco-terrorism, and the shaky foundations of the American capitalist system. Hilarious and bizarre, the novel reads like the bastard love child of Thomas Pynchon and Robert Anton Wilson raised in a group home overseen by Hunter S. Thompson. One of my favorite novels of the last 20 years.
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10 Wonderfully Weird Novels You (Probably) Haven't Read

#1: Been Down So Long, Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina

Farina's biography itself reads like a wild fiction, from his friendship with Thomas Pynchon to his marrying Mimi Baez (and winning best artist at the Newport Folk Festival) to his tragic death in an accident on the way home from a release party for this novel. And that's without including his claims to have been a bomb-maker for the IRA and doing subversive work in Cuba! The novel here is wonderfully weird, full of strange characters and gonzo events, but it's also some sharp social commentary on campus radicals and the exploitation of idealism. I'm thrilled this is back in print in a widely available edition.
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Satire isn't always funny, but it's still worth saying.
 
CINCINNATI—Following a traffic stop earlier this month by a University of Cincinnati police officer that ended in the shooting death of an unarmed black motorist, authorities confirmed Thursday that the disturbing video recorded by the officer’s body camera clearly and graphically shows the current state of America.
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Continuing to make friends in the comics community....
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Worcester, MA
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Matsudo, Japan
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I teach. I write. I edit. I snark. Not necessarily in that order.
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