Books

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of bizarro literature, and I haven’t been the same person since. These wonderful, grotesque pieces of works were one part science fiction and fantasy, one part horror, and dark comedy added for that special flavor. From Baby Jesus Buttplugs to young men orgasming tilers with their ejaculate, these stories were set in worlds where the fantastical seemed mundane.

Such tales wouldn’t be found mixed in with the “regular” books at Barnes and Noble, so imagine my surprise when I picked read Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory, a short story collection by Raphael Bob-Waksberg creator of BoJack Horseman. It’s hard to not categorize these tales as anything but bizarro-lite. While the crass, almost pornographic references are missing, they are replaced by with lifelong bus rides, nuptial goat sacrifices, presidential clone abominations, and doorways to alternate universes.

Set in their own pocket universes where the fantastical is commonplace, these stories are about love. The love you have for a complete stranger encountered on a train; the love you have for your fiancée as you plan a small wedding while your family forces tradition upon you both; the love you have for a sibling; and the love you have for your wife in an alternate universe. They will carry though with gentle hands as they explore emotions, which may cause some introspection (it did for me, at times).

If you were a fan of BoJack Horseman, I promise you this book is a must read.

Details

  • Title: Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory
  • Author: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
  • Pages: 243
  • Genre: Sci-Fi Short Stories
  • Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • Available in:
    • Paperback
    • Kindle
    • Audible with full cast narration featuring Nicholas Gonzalez, Colman Domingo, Natalie Morales, Raúl Esparza, Will Brill, Stephanie Beatriz, and Emma Galvin
  • From the back cover: Written with all the scathing dark humor that is a hallmark of BoJack Horseman, Raphael Bob-Waksberg delivers a fabulously offbeat collection of short stories about love—the best and worst thing in the universe.
Books

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

I have this saying: A good book’s worth whatever the price, but a bad book always costs too much.* I picked up a copy of Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes. It was a bargain priced book, an excess copy that Barnes & Noble was trying to get rid of. barbara the slut

I wanted to read the book a couple of years ago when it was first released in hardback by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. There’s always a hesitation when it comes to me buying a collection of stories by a debuting author. I was a bit more reckless in college when I purchased Julie Orringer’s debut, How to Breathe Underwater.  However, I never regretted that purchase—and, I purchased the book new.

How to Breathe Underwater is a prime example of a book worth its price. Not so with Barbara the Slut and Other People. First story left me wondering if Holmes just grew bored with writing it. The second left me wondering the same. By the third, the realization that even at bargain price this book was too much.

The biggest problem I see with these stories is the lack of endings. Lauren Holmes offers several “non-endings.” And I define non-endings as open-ended conclusions that felt unplanned by the writer, leaving the reader confused and annoyed. (Imagine seven or so cut-to-black Soprano-styled endings.)

There aren’t many lovable characters in the story. They’re human, except those who aren’t, with flaws and dreams. But most of them are fall short of being relatable. Most come off as flat and underdeveloped, lacking motive in the their actions. And several seem to have suffer from fatigue as several of the stories end with them sleeping for a long time.

There are two stories I did enjoy in the collection. “My Humans,” a tale told through the eyes of an adopted dog, focuses on the crumbling a relationship. We’re giving the ending before it matters to the reader. So when the story does end, the blow is swift but strong. “Desert Hearts” tried to the same method, but it missed several marks. Still, the story is worth reading.

If you find yourself holding a bargain priced copy of Barbara the Slut and Other People at a Barnes & Noble, perhaps place it back on the table. If you really must read it to see for yourself, please check your local library to see if they have a copy.

Until next time, keep on huntin’.

*Ok, I’m not sure if I came up with this saying, if it’s a saying I picked up somewhere, or a saying that I heard someone say about something, but I later changed it to make it about books. Either way, it’s a saying and it’s a philosophy I live by.
Writing & Writers

Workin’ Writin’

I started doing a little bit of research, digging for a YA magazine looking for fiction. So far I’ve come across nothing that remotely interests me.

I need to pick up a copy of the latest Writer’s Market – either the main one, or the one specifically for short stories and personal essays. I have a few poems I’d like to start shopping around, as well. However, I’ve become more and more insecure about my poetry. I haven’t written a poem in almost two years. That’s a scary thought.

Like most writers, I started off with poetry. I have a huge plastic bin filled with folded, crumpled sheets of paper from poetry a decade ago. They’re not good at all. I wrote most of them in high school. When I started taking the craft seriously, I’ve only written enough to fix in a small box. However short stories and sketches – stories that really don’t go anywhere –  that take up most of the box.

Anyway, I’ve decided this is the year I get over myself. I shall take Jan Seale’s advice and ignore my goal of perfection. If I get rejection letters, I shall continue revising. If they’re accepted, then I’ve achieved my goal. A lot of other writers say that the story isn’t finished until it feels right. I agree with you, but we have to draw a line. I’m constantly second guessing myself, tumbling down a never-ending revision mountain.

I shall suck it up and make an attempt. If I sell one short story, I will accomplish a goal. If I receive twenty rejection slips, then I will work harder on the craft.

Books · Writing & Writers

Re-establishing Myself

Last week, I read my short story, “12 Notes to my 12-Year-Old Self,” for the Nueva Onda Poets’ reading at Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial in Edinburg, Texas. I had recently revised the piece, hoping to have it down for the reading – the night’s theme was Chocolate Lovers, even though in many posts I had called it Chocolate Love.

I don’t know if the Nueva Onda Poets – which I am a part of – were the ones heralding the night, because the most of the readers in attendance were apart of the Texas Rio Writers – which I’m not a part of. Texas Rio Writers were there promoting their recently published anthology, Valleysong: An Anthology Echoing the Rhythm and Cadence in the Rio Grande Valley, which features short stories from fellow NOP writers and friends, Richard Sanchez and Dr. Anne Estevis.

Because I’ve never read in front of a crowd of writers who’ve been writing before I was even a thought in my parent’s head, I was nervous. Here I am, reading a piece about an awkward time in my life that happened to coincide with the momentous event of receiving my first love note. Lucky, I took that piece and not the lyrical essay about the raunchy details of my ex-girlfriend. (I actually did have this piece in my binder, but because the night also involved a younger crowd, I decided not to read it for their sake.)

So I read it, the second adult reader of the night. Nervously, I should say, I concluded the piece. I said my thank yous and sat down beside Ann Greenfield, a friend of Anne and a writer featured in Valleysong. To my right was El Senor, who said he wasn’t reading because all his material was still packed from the move. I produced a copy of his poem “Politically Incorrect,” which I thought suited the night’s darker side of love. No dice.

During intermission, I got several I-liked-your-story compliments and spoke to a few strangers, something I’ve been having a harder time doing since I’ve divorced myself from society. Jan Seale, who – I believe – is the organizer of the Texas Rio Writers, also came up to me. While I’ve been to a reader where she was in attendance, I never properly met her. She asked if we’d spoken before in the past, but I told her we might have only just seen each other at a reading.

She asked if I had ever been published. Other than a piece I wrote for Gallery, I told her I hadn’t. She insisted that I stop with the perfectionist attitude and get my stuff out there. Maybe “12 Notes” is ready to see some light, maybe in a YA magazine – after I make a few minor cuts and alterations.

Later, one lady – who I believed worked for the library – complimented my story again, adding in that my writing reminded her of Augusten Burroughs – though, in the past, I’ve been told I’ve reminded people of the other Burroughs.

I think I came out of that night with an inflated ego – something I was in dire need of because I was falling back into myself – and a library copy of Kinky Friedman’s Kill Two Birds & Get Stoned. All in all, it was a good night.