Wednesday, 19 July 2017

BOOK REVIEWS: THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION AND PWR VOL



THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION BY JAMIE THRASIVOUSLOU

It is immediately evident reading The Best of a Bad Situation that Jamie Thrasivoulou is a very passionate individual, and a proud resident of his native Derby. This emotional rollercoaster of a poetry collection is a visceral and hard-hitting showcase Jamie's work; tackling issues ranging from drug and alcohol abuse and racism to living and surviving in austerity Britain. To capture the intensity of his live performances on the page is no easy task, but Jamie has pulled it off with flying colours. This is certainly not a collection for the faint-hearted, but one you'd be foolish to miss out on. Grab one now from Silhouette Press.



PWR VOL BY NICK SCANDY, AARON ZONKA AND MINI AND THE BEAR

PWR VOL is a series of weird and wonderful philosophical vignettes, loosely stitched together by various threads and themes that run throughout. Reading this book, no *experiencing* this book, was like watching Richard Linklater's Waking Life, if it had had a pounding punk rock soundtrack. PWR VOL may not be everybody's cup of tea, and will likely split opinion, but one thing is for sure, you have definitely never read anything like it before! Buy one from B.O.S.S Underground Press.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

BOOK REVIEW: CRUMBLING UTOPIAN PIPEDREAM BY SCOTT WOZNIAK



Scott Wozniak has seen some shit. This new poetry collection from Moran Press offers a sobering snapshot at a life of hardship, pain and regret. Wozniak puts it all on the line and pulls no punches. At times it can be hard to swallow, but it is necessary. This is vital and honest poetry. 

One particular poem that stood out to me and hit me right in the feels was Numb, a poem that highlights the stark reality of heroin addiction - as he watches his friends die one by one from overdoses, he finally realises that he needs to get clean:

"I stood numb,
tearless,
thinking to myself,
"They finally got
what they wanted,"
then wondered,
"What the fuck
made me
stop wanting
to die?"

That, to me,
is more mysterious
than death
could ever be."

This is not poetry that glamourises the struggle, or celebrates reckless behaviour, but poetry of survival and redemption. Of fucking up and learning from it. Of taking every blow that life can throw at you, getting back up and throwing right back.

Littered throughout the confessional big hitters are astute and oftentimes comical observations about modern life, delivered in Wozniak's concise and succinct style. The juxtaposition of these lighthearted interludes make Crumbling Utopian Pipedream a fascinating and enjoyable read. I am incredibly proud to have published Scott's work in past issues of Paper and Ink Literary Zine (#9 and #10) and shout out must be made to the striking cover artwork by Marie Enger (whom illustrated the covers of Paper and Ink Issues #6 and #9). Grab a copy of Crumbling Utopian Pipedream from publisher Moran Press. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

BOOK REVIEW: WHEN YOU HEAR THE BELL THERE'S NOWHERE TO HIDE BY JOHN D. ROBINSON



John D Robinson is my new favourite poet. Bar none. 

I do not make that statement lightly, and to make it abundantly clear, it is not because we are both from the same town, nor is it because John's Holy & Intoxicated Publications recently published my own collection of poetry (Worse Things Happen At Sea), and it is definitely not because having met the man I can attest that he is a genuine, lovely bloke whom also bought me a cup of tea. No, it is because having devoured this book in double quick time it was instantly clear that John D Robinson specialises in writing a very particular form of poetry: That which I wish I had written. 

Poet John Grochalski puts it perfectly in the book's introduction; "what has always struck me about a Robinson poem is how stark the language is, the grit that comes off the page, and the life that is distilled into each line". Robinson's no nonsense style is refreshing to behold. The no bullshit front cover sets the tone and that distilled, direct approach is carried through each line of every poem. No word, syllable, letter or full stop is wasted.

You will find no flowery, metaphorical head scratchers here, just stark and honest poems about life, and all of its absurdity. From shitty jobs, to shitty girlfriends, to one heart breaking poem towards the end about a cat, which I am not ashamed to admit made me cry. That's right, a poem about a cat made me cry. I don't think a poem has ever made me cry before. Maybe I hadn't been reading the right poetry. I certainly am now.

John D Robinson is somewhat of an elusive character. No website, no social media, and unfortunately you are unlikely to find When You Hear The Bell There's Nowhere to Hide on the shelves of your nearest Waterstones, nor languishing in the algorithms of Amazon. If you wish to purchase a copy you will have to contact the man directly and you can do so via johndrobinson@yahoo.co.uk. Do it. Do it right now. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#16]


This month's interview is with a writer whose fantastic story The Crowning features in the tenth issue of Paper and Ink Literary Zine. She has had books published by both Eraserhead and Ladybox Books, and is not only a brilliant writer but is also a photographer and model to boot. Her website URL may be TiffanyScandalSucks.com, but Tiffany Scandal is one hell of a talent...

First things first, what is your name, where do you come from, and what do you do?


My name is Tiffany Scandal. I grew up in Los Angeles, but currently reside in Portland, Oregon. I'm a writer, photographer, and sometimes model. I also do some work for King Shot Press, a micro publisher based out of Portland.

Your latest book, Shit Luck, was recently published by Eraserhead Press, tell me a little about it...

It's a bizarre dark comedy. I wanted to write about the absolute worst day anyone could have and turn it into something that reads like a slasher film had it been written and performed by the guys of Monty Python. There's some Evil Dead moments, too. My first two books are often described as incredibly bleak, so I wanted to break away from that and show my readers that I can be funny... sometimes.


Your first book, There's No Happy Ending, was also published by Eraserhead. How did the hook up with them come about?

I've been a huge fan of Eraserhead Press for some years. Reading the works of Carlton Mellick III, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Cameron Pierce, etc. I started paying closer attention to Eraserhead Press and found out that they throw an entire event dedicated to Bizarro Fiction, aptly named BizarroCon. I bought a ticket, went by myself, and made a lot of amazing friends. After that weekend, they expressed interest in working with me. They invited me to pitch some ideas and I was paired with Kevin Shamel as an editor. By the following BizarroCon, I was celebrating the release of my first book.


Your novel, Jigsaw Youth (published by Ladybox Books), was a very personal story, grounded story, how did writing that compare to writing the more bizarro stuff and which do you prefer?

Hmmm. This is a tough one to answer. I just love to write. It doesn't matter what the style or theme is. I have a lot of demons that need out, and putting words to paper is one of the main ways I know how to survive.


Your short story, The Crowning, which features in PAPER AND INK #10, captures a mix of dread and cuteness. What was the inspiration behind it?

Maybe this sounds crazy, but when inspiration hits, it's almost like a vision. I was laying in bed, just thinking, then I pictured what the main character was seeing during her final moments. It was such cool imagery in my head, I immediately penned down the scene and built a story around that. And I like capturing innocence. Children, depending on the age, sometimes don't know how to react without the prompt from an adult. So capturing the wonder in the kid's eyes as this surreal death is happening is really what I wanted to capture in this story. 

Which writers/artists have been the biggest influence on your own writing?

My favorite authors to revisit are Roberto Bolano, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Sylvia Plath. Current authors that blow my mind and inspire me to be a better writer are Violet LeVoit, Laura Lee Bahr, and Samantha Irby.

If you were stranded on a desert island which three books would you want with you?

Antwerp by Roberto Bolano, Everything and Nothing by Jorge Luis Borges, Meaty by Samantha Irby



Same question, but music. Three albums...

Jerk of all Trades by LunachicksSmell the Magic by L7, Abyss by Chelsea Wolfe

Finally, what does the future hold for Tiffany Scandal?


Working on a buttload of short stories, writing a new book, curating/editing an anthology for charity, building up King Shot Press. At some point, I'll throw in the towel and fade away, but today is not that day.

Thank you for answering these questions, Tiffany. All the best with the new book.

Connect with Tiffany via her WEBSITE, TWITTER or INSTAGRAM and buy PAPER AND INK #10 HERE or HERE

Thursday, 16 February 2017

BOOK REVIEW: WAVES BY JARED A. CARNIE



Waves is the debut novel from writer and poet, Jared A. Carnie, and was published last September by Urbane Publications. It follows the story of a young man by the name of Alex. After his long-term girlfriend breaks up with him, his life and its planned trajectory, take a nosedive. With the future he thought he knew, and thought he wanted, taken away from him he is understandably heart broken. In steps his childhood friend, James, who invites him to tag along on his annual visit to his parents' home on the Isle of Lewis. Alex is reluctant at first but James does not take no for an answer, and Alex soon finds himself on a journey of self-discovery in the Outer Hebrides.

Let's forget for a second that when reading this book I learned that Donald J. Trump's mother was from the Isle of Lewis, and not let that taint the beauty of the far flung Scottish island, because Lewis is as much a character as any human in this story. Carnie really makes it sing with rich, candid descriptions of the rugged, historical landscape. Other than being the origin of Trump's mother, I know precisely fuck all about the Outer Hebrides, nor seen photographs of it, but I almost feel as if I have spent time there myself thanks entirely to Waves.

The character of Alex is at times somewhat of a damp squib, and I often found myself wanting to reach into the page, give him a slap and yell at him to grow a pair. Then I'd remember what a pathetic mess I have been after break-ups and cut him some slack. However it seems that Alex was always kind of a damp squib, even when in a relationship. Living at home with his mother and working a job he hates, saving up every penny he can for his "future" with a girlfriend that is away at university. By his own admission he had over-committed to the relationship in an attempt to convince himself it was what he wanted, rather than attempt to find out what it really is that he wants from life.

Finding out what you really want from life is no easy thing, and if you're thinking that knocking about on a freezing cold Scottish island for a week is going to solve all of your problems, you're dead wrong. By the end of the story Alex still doesn't know what he really wants from life, but he is one step closer to knowing what he doesn't want, and that is half the battle. 

My only criticism would be that I found it a teeny tiny bit dull in places. I would have enjoyed a touch more conflict, even if it was just of the superficial, Tom Foolery kind. Aside from that Waves is a fulfilling, introspective read, and I found that it had an unexpected a calming effect as I read it. Almost as if I could hear the waves crashing against the shore in the background.

Grab a copy of Waves from Urbane Publications.

Check out my interview with author Jared A. Carnie.

And check out these sweet "inspirational memes" that I made from quotes from the book.            

WORDS TO LIVE BY [#76]



Jared A. Carnie's novel, Waves, is available from Urbane Publications

Photographs from Pexels