Tag Archives: writer

Son of Amity by Peter Nathaniel Malae

DEAR MALAE: I swear I offered this to a bunch of publications in the straight community but no one wanted it, at least not from me, so here it is on an insignificant blog. I tried! Feel free to use. –N

Peter Nathaniel Malae’s new book Son of Amity begins with themes familiar to his readers: violence, incarceration, cultures tangled and erased by poverty, hatred for the consumer and the less-dedicated, and perhaps the Californian writer’s greatest contribution to twenty-first century literature: an identifiable search for the use of masculinity in our time.

As before, the economy of description is refreshingly socio-economic. Malae’s mission to portray common people brings us undernourished, overfed, jelly-spined poor whites, but also dignified and convincing portraits of men forgotten in prison and in Bush’s Middle-East conflict, and women rejected, imprisoned, by the ignorance in their environments.

But this is no rerun of What We Are: like Jimmy Baca before him, the author’s own evolution since he disappeared into the “Pacific Northwest” makes the reader an attractive offer to evolve according to his characters’ examples. There are three males in this dialect-rendered story. Which is the titular Son of Amity?

Here Malae repurposes his previous characterizations to disarming effect. For a start the writer’s voice, mercifully, is separating from the narrator’s. Malae always demonstrates an ear for specific slang, something that really impresses academics, but in Son of Amity, especially the memories of prison, we finally get to observe what this slang, in its various pressure and quantity, really means between characters.

Central to the three adults’ seemingly-doomed cohabitation is a highly-realistic evolution of characters’ wills and desires, something unfit in What We Are’s immediacy. Starting with revenge for a rape, the characters’ common ground shifts under them as the victim of the violence takes the will to both choose forgiveness and transform the violence into a child: Malietoa to his Samoan uncle, Tophat to his veteran father, the latter crippled by the former.

The use for masculinity is found in a shared faith in family centered around the child Benji, and not in an act or a gesture. The outcast’s longing for a family to serve –and worth serving –in previous work has arrived. As What We Are’s exasperation before an expanded mind rouses similar feelings to Immigrants in Our Own Land, so this meditation on refocused life approaches the glorious beauty of Black Mesa Poems.

Throughout the book, Malae turns his previous work’s conceits against themselves using time and natural renewal: here we hopelessly serve our past even as the future offers us a ride without reservations, in this case the innocent child at the lead. The book’s greatest charm lies in watching the three adults reluctantly choose the boy’s inspiration over their baggage. Who, then, is the Son of Amity? I would argue that it’s the boy, and I propose that the narcissistic masses of this country read this book and follow their own Malietoa, their own Tophat.

Malae never neglects the portraiture of people trying to both live up to the past and make some way of living in the present. Perhaps the clearest symbols of this are Pika’s Samoan umu Thanksgiving turkey at the book’s finale and Michael’s worship of the Vietnam vets. But the conceit and the dignity lies in Sissy’s internal monologue throughout, in which the urban, feminist, progressive reader must coexist with the fact that Sissy’s post-rape decisions come from a need to move forward without any plan.

Highly recommended for those needing an immediate dose of reality.

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New Peter Malae Book, Link about Technique

Malae has a new book! Just ordered it from Better World Books cause I’m a liberal do-gooder nonprofit chump. In a bouncy singsong I repeat to myself: “Can’t wait to fucking read it…”

For you simpering simpletons don’t know Malae, I recommend starting with What We Are and then joining us on the ride for Son of Amity, which just came out this month. Be the first on your block to read it!

What We Are, besides being the Sanjoseest-ass book ever written, is a tight piece of prose from the point of view of a man who grasps his own masculinity and desperately wants to put it to use in service of his family and community, but can’t, and so jacks it off with dumb violence and relationship-ruining. Along the way the author makes some hilarious satires of Silicon Valley, of which we can never do enough.

To the end of reading, appreciating and contextualizing Malae, I’ll just leave this essay here from when What We Are came out, in which Fiction Advocate weighs the whys and wherefores of how Malae and Junot Díaz use so-called ‘high and low’ language juxtaposition (hello —deja el show. Have you read Dos Passos, pendejos?) but the latter gets a Pulitzer for it in Óscar Wao. As a huge fan of Óscar Wao myself, particularly Achy Obejas’ fucking killer Spanish translation, and as someone who also put down the last page of What We Are and wondered how the hell this didn’t get any awards, I’m only too interested in continuing the argument begun in the article. Not to encourage it, but the comment string is pretty salacious too. Read, read and argue away!

Lit Crawling with Bentboybooks

At the lovely, dearest Green Arcade in the “hub” of San Francisco we encountered this store-exclusive Lit Crawling from Bentboybooks, a tiny publisher of whom we are, as usual, the shit-last to learn.

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Funny enough this October 2017 zine, besides being exclusive to Green Arcade, is not listed on Bentboybooks’ website. Turns out to be a survey of their recent zines.

The collection of mostly poetry begins with an anthology, complete with CV beginning in 1972, of Jan Johnson Drantell, whose work evidently has been rediscovered and put into the zine. Her poems could be called provocative: her voice earnestly and compassionately pushes against the ideas and word-bunches of her time, beginning in the Vietnam era. I really can’t pick a favorite poem, they are all so precise and on-point.

Then comes Pam Martin, who is quite joycean, and I’m a sucker for anything joycean that pulls it off, so I’m in. She’s apparently a big deal in the local art-organizing scene, and I mean the upper echelons, the museums and so forth.

Drew Cushing closes the collection out, and he seems to be the ringleader of Bentboybooks. His selections have a lot of political allusions that will have to remain over my head until sometime after I finish this zine review.

I’m finally excited to say that the book turned me on (ha ha) to the devotedly naked Ronald Palmer, whose books I will be investigating soon. Apparently he’s complex, capable and raunchy, so I’m looking forward to it. His story Manikin is very San Francisco-completist, lots of locations named, five-Os bleaching sidewalks. He’s always naked in his promotional photos, so it’s got to be good.

Check out Bentboybooks every time you spot one!

Smuttywood

Almost forgot to mention Smuttywood, whose charming integrants I met at Local Color during their zine fest in downtown San José. They make comics about either famous people’s dicks and boobs or famous people portrayed as dicks and boobs. The thing that caught my attention, however, was the photographic zine Men are Disposable, which I regrettably didn’t buy, but which you can order at their site. They make great gifts!

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Those Dark New Hampshire Woods

hampsire.jpgPropitiously, auspiciously, precipitously ran into Desmond Reed‘s work by chance on Tumblr, which for all the fat and noise is really one of the few places left one can sign on and see a ton of awesome art with relatively little digging.

A celebration of life’s will to grow, Those Dark New Hampshire Woods concerns a few weeks in the life of its denizens, rendered from all of whose perspective, looking inward and showing us how it is from over their shoulders, not unlike As I Lay Dying.
The book, like all great stories, like in Faulkner or Bolaño, distinguishes itself both through its place in a universe all its own as well as its exposition of the stories within that world in an elegant and silly spiral of nested and/or tangentially-related vignettes.
Amongst other instantly-relatable characters we meet the drifter, who drifts, the scumbag, the wild hairy uncles, the world’s smallest pervert, who seeks happiness despite being on the other side of existence.

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The obscene god of rebirth from Those Dark New Hampshire Woods

It is in the story of the Scumbag and the Troubled Teen that we encounter the persistent theme of nature’s regeneration, presented by means of the cloning by pore of the characters, reducing the proud, complex human down to the physiognomy of the plant kingdom. The joy with which their bodies relentlessly reproduce cycles through the setting and creates a second whirling narrative wheel.
My only gripe is what the hell is going on in the New Hampshire woods, and how does one end up there?
Those Dark New Hampshire Woods is a work of modest comic art blessed with satisfying textual depth, a work of literature not to be missed in the 2016 crop.

I also got the second one but honestly I haven’t even read it yet. I’m too blown away.
The books are published by Birdcage Bottom Books, and when you buy stuff from them you get a bunch of extra stuff!
https://www.birdcagebottombooks.com

On KKUP talking about waste

Here’s a talk between Negro and host Diane Solomon about writing and e-waste. The show was Meeting of the Ways on KKUP 91.5 FM Cupertino, 31 July 2016 at 5pm. Make sure to visit ban.org to see about getting your e-waste actually recycled and not just outsourced to the third world!

Lessons for Outlining Next Book

On the topic of writing, did some heavy outlining on my next book today, which is tentatively titled “Byebye and Shlort.” It’s about how no matter how X-Men special you are, no matter how well your psychic powers work, no one will listen to you if you’re poor, because in the USA it’s a crime to be poor and poor people are blamed for their situation without any question. It takes place in San Jose!

The outline is now huge and messy, but it’s as complete as I want it at this phase. The last few years “outlining” has really evolved for me. My organization method started as a sludge of paper food boxes, ATM receipts, notebook pages and so forth scattered on my desk or in my backpack or wherever else I could keep things depending on my living situation. It was like this for almost ten years, and was a step up from carrying ideas around in my addled adolescent head and losing all the great ideas over and over.

Then those notes started to get typed into the top of the computer file in which I type the story. One lesson I learned was to tell myself what each sequence or chapter or whatever has to do with the themes, characters, plot, etc. But this didn’t stop me from being a nervous neat freak and deleting notes as they went into the story. Stupid! Thank heaven for Google Drive and other backup techniques.

Now I’ve got the outline and page numbers for where each piece of notes goes into the manuscript. If I move it, the mark can change. I’ve also broken the outline up into two documents: the short THEMES document that tells me what I’m writing about, and the outline telling me what order the story goes in. This satisfies my need not to have everything in my face at once, and also allows for the establishment of a symbolic marking system so that the themes document can explain what I’m doing to me, with marks for when such thing happens, so I’m free to forget what the hell I did yesterday.

I think this story will come out, therefore, with very little fat, with digressions and extensions distinguishing themselves, and with an almost poetic focus on the presence of the themes in every word. Did you like Meat Ladder to Mars? Wait’ll you read Bybebye and Shlort, it’s gonna blow your fragile mind.

Interview: Eliza Gale on Negro

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Here’s hardworking interviewer Eliza Gale’s chat with Negro. We discuss stories, writing, and pretentious people in San Francisco. She’s from Portland, so take that for what you will. Click the link:

http://elizagalesinterviews.com/2015/07/19/an-interview-with-cartoonist-eugenio-negro/

Show her some love and look around her site!

RIP Günter Grass, 1927-2015

Here’s a really good obit of Grass, whose death I just heard about. What a crazy life.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/25/gras-a25.html

“Amongst Grass’s role models were German writer Alfred Döblin, Irish novelist James Joyce and other leading storytellers of the 20th century. Along with Siegfried Lens, Heinrich Böll and Uwe Johnson, he was a decisive voice in German postwar literature and made a significant contribution to a literary engagement with the traumas of 20th century history.

Grass’s world reputation does not rest alone on his epic fiction works, above all his début novel The Tin Drum. The fact that he continuously expressed his opinions on contemporary political issues, posed awkward questions and provided answers to them, invariably encountering strong criticism from sections of the media and politicians, was closely bound up with his artistic work.

With his critical perspective on society and history, the novelist attempted to break through the vale of forgetting and cover-up propagated by the postwar political establishment in Germany. It is testament to Grass’s steadfastness that his list of opponents ranged from leading figures in the Adenauer era (Konrad Adenauer was chancellor of West Germany from 1949 to 1963), when many old Nazis held high positions within the state and in business, to prominent politicians and media personalities in the present day.”