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Book Review: “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs (3 Stars)

A mad trip into the tattered drift of subconscious undercurrents.

Written in a “cut up” style this is one of the most non-linear books I’ve ever read. The author sets forth a series of disjointed vignettes he aptly calls “routines,” which I also found fitting. This book is designed so that you can jump in at any point and not be lost, which is to say you will be just as lost as you would be anywhere else. Narrative? Naw….

The routines in the book involve sadism and the bent thoughts of a junky’s subconscious flow of thought. Reality and perception of mind all seem to bend into each other. The way this book was written, make it difficult for me to recall much except for a pervasive mood and fragments of sarcastic witticism that sometimes played out in strange scenes of ultra violence (e.g. a plunger used in a surgical procedure-a toilet plunger…).

The strength in Burroughs’ writing is his biting satire and irony. He takes a salacious slant on the culture, right from the bowels of the counter culture. Some of the material in here made me laugh outright, and other times I cringed. This is definitely not just a book you casually read. You have to gear up for it. The content is not for those easily offended (this was the last piece of written word subjected to federal obscenity laws in the United States—it prevailed).

Burroughs was a known heroin addict and wrote this work after causing the death of his wife, and living life somewhat on the lam as he sought the sour comfort of illicit dealings in foreign lands. When he finally came to some kind of reckoning with what he had done, he managed to clean himself up (though I believe he continued to struggle with drugs), he wrote this book. Some of the book is about drugs (junk), some of it is caught up in science fiction elements (telepathic thought control), and some is almost like a political cartoon strip.

Later in life, Burroughs got more political and made a name for himself giving spoken word performances. There are hints of this buried in the smoky riffs. Little laughable nuggets of wit.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Podcast Review: “Naked Lunch” (book/movie) William S. Burroughs – David Cronenberg (Peter Weller)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

Thunder crashed (quite literally) during the heated debate between Ryan Sean O’Reilly, Richard Edward Mehl and Dave Wilkinson. Check out the latest episode of “No Deodorant In Outer Space”!!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2E7 – Naked Lunch (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…A made trip into the tattered drift of subconscious undercurrents…

Wilk: 1 Star “…I would not recommend this book in any sense other than offering a person the opportunity to taste milk that I already knew to be sour and spoiled…

Rick: 5 Stars “…Naked Lunch was the monstrous bubble ejected from the bowels of the Kraken, long fermenting on crooked capitalism, racism, and marginalization of people who refused to conform or simply could not, because of their PTSD, gender, race or sexual orientation...

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs

Book: “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs

“Since its original publication…

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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

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Podcast Review: “The King In Yellow” by Robert W. Chambers – “True Detective” by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Matthew McConaughey)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New Podcast episode for “No Deodorant in Outer Space”!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2E6 – King in Yellow – True Detective*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…A mastery of setting and mood, but a little aimless in navigating the swamps of weird fiction…

Wilk: ? Stars “…(to come)…

Rick: ? Stars “…(to come)...

Mike O’Reilly (Guest): ? Stars “Link to Mike O’Reilly’s IMDB page

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“The King In Yellow & Other Horror Stories” by Robert W. Chambers

Book: “The King In Yellow & Other Horror Stories” by Robert W. Chambers

“A treasured source for Lovecraft, Howard, and others, this collection endures as a work of remarkable power. Includes all the stories from The King in Yellow — “Yellow Sign,” “Repairer of Reputations,” “Demoiselle…

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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

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Book Review: “The King In Yellow” by Robert W. Chambers (3 Stars)

A mastery of setting and mood, but a little aimless in navigating the swamps of weird fiction.

Chambers has a fluent style of writing that is easily digested by modern readers for a book that is this old. Many have noted that his writing is done well. This is true. Others also note that the story telling doesn’t quite match up to the level of the prose contained within these horror stories. At times, I felt this too.

It’s no secret that the “King in Yellow” is a play within a book (though one that is not fully fleshed out). The play is something of an early Necronomicon or “forbidden tome” that drives its readers to madness. Only a few of the stories in this collection actually have this element. Sometimes this device is more prominent and other times it feels almost tossed in as an after thought. Yet, it’s a sort of world-building element that does adds a little more credence to the overall arc for (some of) the short stories. Chambers gives a sparse few tidbits along the way to keep the reader intrigued and wanting more (perhaps too few).

These early “weird tales” which were significant enough to draw the attention and inspiration of HP Lovecraft, are done thoroughly. The details the author adds to his setting and to the natural world, in which the characters interact, are authentic and feel real. When the supernatural comes into play, the author holds back and leaves much to mystery (a technique that would also intrigue Lovecraft). This all adds to the other-worldly feel of the tales and helps to draw the reader in. I was constantly reminded of the feeling I get when listening to the archives of a science-fiction or horror tale from an old-tyme radio drama program (I believe Chambers even had one of his detective works adapted into a successful run in that medium). All this is done superbly. I could visualize the hunting dogs running through the bush or wild birds flitting through the air. The macabre, alternate universe of other-worldly beings crossing into our own world or living along side us was described just enough to maximize the creepiness.

That said, in a lot of the tales I felt a little short-changed at the end. You get all this good writing and the author drops necessary twists along the way, but at the end some of the stories just kind of fall flat—as if the author ran out of steam and simply decided to wrap things up to be done. In that sense, I wanted more. I’m not sure if Chambers other works are like this as he crossed into different genres and did not really take up weird fiction whole heartedly.

 

Even still, the author reaches deep enough into the bowels of the supernatural, and strikes enough of a chord that hardcore fans of this genre will want to check out these older works—especially the more renown ones. For a dark, quiet moment of singular horror, this author did indeed stare into the mouth of some horrible unseen part of the universe and bring back a few nameless terrors worth pondering.

 

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut (4 Stars)

Post-traumatic stress, time-twisting alien abductions, mid-life crisis meltdowns, and a meta-story on life.

There are a few plot threads in this book, but they all weave around the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. The stories converge on Pilgrim from various times in his life. Having been abducted by aliens, the protagonist jaunts back and forth through various experiences of his life in a non-linear fashion. This might seem jarring, but Vonnegut’s straight-forward writing style makes the whole experience very manageable—no slogging through the muck here.

From a science fiction perspective, the book has some neat passages about time travel, the fourth dimension and how life would be if time was perceived as a nonlinear experience. The result, in Vonnegut’s opinion, is a sort of melancholy yet content, fatalistic attitude.

Contrasting Pilgrim’s time traveling adventure is the ever-present sense of claustrophobia. The protagonist is captured during World War II (as the actual author was in real life) and loses control of his mobility as a prisoner of war. He is also held in an exhibit at a “zoo” on a faraway planet, where he can be gawked at by the local alien population. In other scenes, while convalescing, he is bed-bound at a hospital. At times, Pilgrim expresses feeling trapped in his career as an optometrist and his marriage. Even as a widow, his daughter is constantly challenging his freedom. The time-travel experiences seem to be the only thing that transport Pilgrim out of these feelings, and give him a broader perspective.

The aliens (Tralfamadorians) have a completely different perspective on time. They know all the horrible parts of life and all the good parts at once. They can cope with the bad by focusing on the good. Many parallels can be drawn between this and dealing with combat trauma.

The jumping around of the plot, feels like flashbacks and sometimes there are flashbacks. However, there is also time-travel. The disjointed narrative seems to emulate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which the character is experiencing and the reader is brought into (due to the structure of the book). Stories within stories, within stories hopping back and forth over Pilgrim’s timeline.

Yet, there is a cohesive story underlying all the shifts in time and space. The framework of a life. And, maybe that’s what life is. A series of disjointed events that might not make sense individually, but when put together form an arc. When focus is pulled back and perspective is given, the entire story can be realized.

While reading this book, it is hard not to think about how the author might have felt, surviving a horrific bombing in WWII as a POW “trapped” underground in a slaughter house. A situation Vonnegut was also not in control of, yet one that was deemed to be his own. Is this book trying to make sense of that experience—or perhaps the experience of all people caught in war?

There is much made of this being an anti-war book, and certainly there is that aspect within the pages. Yet, the storyline, to me, seemed to be more along the lines of pointing out that in life, sometimes things are just really really really messed up. Sometimes things are bad and the reasons are not always so simple and straightforward or make a lot sense. Lines blur. Lives are lost. Vonnegut doesn’t seem to say we should not care about this. Instead, he seems to say that we must recognize these difficulties and give them there due. Reflect on them. Perhaps try to do better. Focus on the good.

As others have noted, this story is told in Vonnegut’s characteristic style of simple declarative sentences. A breeze to read. And yet his writing is a perfect compliment to this non-linear device of story-telling. Billy Pilgrim comes unstuck in time, and you will too as you read this thoughtful tale of dark reflective humor.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Podcast: “Slaughterhouse-Five” (book/movie) Kurt Vonnegut – George Roy Hill (Michael Sacks)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New Podcast Episode for “No Deodorant In Outer Space”!!!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2E5 – Slaughterhouse-Five (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 4 Stars “…Post-traumatic stress, time-twisting alien abductions, mid-life crisis meltdowns, and a meta-story on life…

Wilk: 5 Stars “…this is a book that everybody should read if you haven’t read it you should read it…

Rick: ? Stars “…(to come)...

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

Book: “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.” (from Amazon.com)

*** * ***

“Slaughterhouse-Five” by George Roy Hill (Michael Sacks)

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

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Book Review: “Carrie” by Stephen King (4 Stars)

Coming of age has always been confusing, but never so very bloody!

Phenomenal. King’s debut novel hit the stands hard and quickly established him as a heavy hitter. The story of Carrie White is near pitch perfect. The author’s character development is so excellent it rejuvenates my passion in reading.

The protagonist’s struggle is set in common typical high school woes (feeling awkward and unaccepted). Yet, Carrie’s plight is compounded by her religiously fanatic mother. As a result, this young girl cannot feel accepted at school or home—her only two worlds. She’s the ultimate outcast. This loathsome condition changes when a third-world opens up to her after a now infamous and horrific menstruation scene. Carrie finally becomes aware that there is a side to her that is very different from everyone else: Carrie is telekinetic. This could serve to further drive a wedge between poor Carrie and everyone else; however, it also adds a new dimension to her life and provides temporary reprieve from the crushing isolation she has been undergoing.

The novel is written with a mix of point-of-view accounts from different characters, as well as epistolary entries from characters and other outside references. That was actually one of the parts about the book that I didn’t like (the book excerpts and letter extracts). Nothing wrong with that per se, it just felt a bit clunky. I’m not well-read in the Stephen King universe, but the author seems to get away from this device in what later works I’ve read. That is where I felt the “newness” of the book and the “debut” aspect. Perhaps this helped drive the book forward in a quick fashion while also giving the reader a chance to digest the heaviness of what was happening? I can also admit that adding the epistolary entries gave breath to the story, established world building, and provided believability—however I still could have done without it.

There are some things created in this book that show up in later works by King. Carrie’s religiously fanatic mother reminded me of Mother Carmody from “The Mist” (another great story). Telekinesis seems to have been a fascination of King for some time (reminding me of Fire Starter (which I’ve read) and maybe “The Shining” – which I’ve never read). Interesting, to see these ideas in one of their early incarnations.

The secondary characters of this book, the other teenagers, and the school staff are all very fleshed out. King’s characters are mostly thoughtful and he develops sympathy for most (save maybe Billy Nolan)—their motivations, and even how they question their own motivations. Lots of depth. The author avoids flat caricatures, and provides rally points in between the plummeting horror’s of teenage depravity and selfishness. The reaction of the school staff to what’s going on was particularly heartening, by not making them part of the horror show against Carrie.

That’s another thing, the focus is on Carrie—she’s not fighting against some awful nemesis. Even the antagonist has a weak vendetta going that is more about circumstances. All this adds to the tragedy. Everyone’s tragedy. They are all flawed (save Billy Nolan—he’s just a prick).

King’s character of “Carrie” is done with a masterful hand. I can’t stress this enough. There is a “revenge” aspect of this story that is both satisfying and horrible at the same time. Carrie is the embodiment of tragedy. Her triumph is riddled with concessions of unjustifiable horror. The collateral damage undeniable. Innocents are taken down in the final battle as well as the guilty. There is also the question of the punishment fitting the crime. In the end, it would normally be hard to sympathize with the protagonist when her revenge quest goes so over the top. And yet, we do sympathize with her. Not just for being bullied at school or at home, but because she just wants to have her chance at living.

To me, the book should have ended at Part Two and eliminated the final part which I felt as supplementary and unnecessary—almost like trying to tack on a happy ending or last jump-scare for the reader (sort of ambiguous). The last passage of Carrie’s thoughts are so disheartening and yet so real. King really makes you feel Carrie’s struggle. Truly. It’s perfect.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website: www.nodeodorant.com.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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