Reviews, Interviews, Opinions

We like to share our views on books by independent presses and authors we dig.  If you know of a book or author we might dig please email us at  info@curbsidesplendor.com.  


How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy TalesThe cover of Kate Bernheimer’s story collection How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, with its golden tones and its pastel lettering, is deceptively placid. Are we sailing through a field, or squirming nose-deep through shag carpeting? As it turns out, either would be appropriate. Inside, Bernheimer leads us through worlds both wild and domestic—from outer space to the cruelest of classrooms, from the dinosaur age to modern suburban sprawl. Bernheimer’s goal seems to be to take the classic fairy tale as we know it and turn it inside out, exposing its guts in all their beautiful, brutal, pitch-black glory. Rather than simply reiterating this form of storytelling, she is reinventing it.

 
Review - Nobody is Ever Missing

By Jacob Hall

Catherine Lacey’s Nobody Is Ever Missing is dense enough to nearly chip a tooth on, and I say this with only the utmost glee and respect. The novel follows twenty-nine year-old Elyria as she leaves her quiet, peaceful life with her husband in New York for New Zealand where she plans to take up a past offer to stay on a secluded farm. The deal quickly turns sour, with her host eventually kicking her out for interrupting his peaceful life with her sadness.

Left to her own devices, Elyria eventually secures several odd-job positions in order to survive, including a catering job with a trans woman who hums with an “indistinguishable sound,” a hired hand on an organic farm run by a cross-generational couple, and the temporary, pretend wife of a “bogan” (a New Zealand "redneck"). Each of these characters serves as a representation of an attribute that Elyria herself is striving to acquire, or at least that she admires.

Along the way, she struggles with what she describes as “the wildebeest” that resides within her, and grapples with the suicide of her adopted sister years earlier that she has never quite dealt with.

 
Review - Sad Robot Stories

By Claire Gillespie

Sad Robot Stories Blog Tour Mason JohnsonSad Robot Stories is, indeed, sad, and the novella’s main character, Robot, may just break your heart. Too curious to fit in with his methodic siblings and too precise to fit in with humans, Robot is a perpetual outsider. This status allows him to observe the human race through the welcome of a human fellow factory worker Mike and his family. Eating casserole with Mike’s wife and children, Robot learns that disaster can be avoided with a little bit of sentimentality and humor and that keeping track of children is more difficult than it seems. Robot realizes that he can be scared and can love, and that these are both important.

Mike and his wife Sally, as Robot learns, fall in love over books. They send each other classics, detective stories, and ideas through letters. Their shared love of the stories they send each other is what brings them together. Mason Johnson structures Sad Robot Stories as a narrative within a narrative: some stories, like that of Sally and Mike, sit for awhile before they become part of the larger story. Other stories grow rapidly.

 
Review - Love Songs of the Revolution

By KC Kirkley

On the first page of Bronwyn Mauldin's Love Songs of the Revolution, Martynas Kudirka, the Lithuanian-American narrator and protagonist, claims that his memoir is "true" – a sure sign that we're dealing in subterfuge.  Historicity, in fact, is under cross examination in Mauldin's novel-masquerading-as-memoir, but that concept isn't fully realized until well after the main narrative text is finished.  While the memoir itself is a formidable little bit of fiction, Mauldin places it in context with other documents that shine a mottled light on the difference between fact and truth.  However, before we can think about all of that, we must first deal with Kudirka's "memoir."

On the second page, Kudirka warns us that we (his American audience, of whom he is hyper-aware and judgmental), will be disappointed in his story. In fact, he warns that we are "fools to expect anything but heartache and disappointment" from his story, or anything else at all, for that matter.

 
Review - Painted Cities

By Alex Houston

Painted CitiesIt seems strange, wrong even, to start a book review by talking about the cover, given the old adage regarding judgment thereof. But the alluringly surreal jacket design of Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski's luminous, chill-inducing short story collection Painted Cities is so evocative of the book's content and barrio setting that I'm tempted to use this review as a platform to urge the artist, Joel Trussell, and the author to collaborate on a graphic novel version of the book (and I guess I just did). Assuming you don't have the book in front of you, here's what I'm talking about: a jumbled, almost cubistic mess of buildings rendered in shades of blue, among which various urban scenes are depicted in jarring bursts of color—children playing in rainbow-colored water spouting from fire hydrants, magenta flames shooting from the windows of a house, the orange glow of streetlights, and, against a pink sky, the Chicago skyline, shadowy and unreachable in the distance.

 
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