Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CARLOS GONZALEZ - Top Ten of 2014

    Carlos is a mysterious figure. I once referred to him as my favorite musical performer and I wasn't even sure if he knew how to play an instrument. You can find Carlos performing under the name RUSSIAN TSARLAG or drawing comics like Test Tube and Lost Canyon. Contact him through russiantsarlag.tumblr.com and see what he has to offer. Here is his top ten....

Life is rough, ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Reading a good book can ease the burn and in some special cases it can even help you savor the burn. For me it also helps me slow down my thoughts and get out of my own head, which is good. My head is a cesspool where people are mud wrestling giant snakes and alligators and the wrestling turns into a strange coupling that is lubricated by pus.

Get me outta there, great authors of human history! None of these books are 'new' and they are not rated in any order, these are just ten great books I read this year. I hope it proves helpful or perhaps mildly interesting. So without any further ado....

'Dirty Snow' by Georges Simenon
this one is pretty bleak but incredibly compelling. A euro-noir tale in the style of Jim Thompson where you look through the eyes of a young sociopath in war torn France. Pretty brutal, but perfectly told.

'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Most classics are 'classic' for a reason and this book has earned that status a million times over. As grim as a lot of the subjects are, I forget how much dark humor he puts in his novels. Don't let this one collect dust and credibility on yr book shelf. Read this shit!

'The Woman in the Dunes' by Kobo Abe
A Japanese classic about an entomologist who gets stuck in a strange
town in the depths of a sand dune where people are constantly shoveling sand to keep their community alive. Truly weird and truly great.

'Outer Dark' by Cormac Mccarthy
I have yet to read a bad Cormac Mccarthy book. This is one of his earlier novels set in the south about a poor brother and sister who have a child together. They split up and you follow them both through the backroads and woods as she searches for the child and he just rambles doing odd jobs. I'm not going to ruin endings but the ending to this book is INSANE.

'The Lime Works' by Thomas Bernhard
An incredibly original book that mostly dwells in the insane inner monolog of an old man who just killed his wife in a huge abandoned lime works where he lives and has been planning and failing to write a massive book on the human sense of hearing. Great premise and a great execution.

'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte
They are classics for a reason! I was supposed to read this book in high school like so many others but the lazy rebel in me just wouldn't let it happen. Well, I finally read this Gothic romance classic (yes, I'll say it again.) and it was a distinct pleasure. I've yet to read another love story with as multi-faceted characters as Heathcliff and Catherine, and I am always a sucker for books set in mansions that are in disrepair or in the bleak English country side and this has both.

'Molloy' by Samuel Beckett
A stream of conscious style narrative about a decript old man with a
bad leg and a detective that goes into the woods with his son to track
him down. This book is incredibly funny and evocative. The first in a three part series.

'Buddenbrooks' by Thomas Mann
This book covers four generations of merchant family in Germany in the 19th century. Might sound boring but it's anything but. Weddings, funerals, divorces, vacations, births, and revelations all well told. Taking the wide angle and also zooming in to witness some deep human disappointment in the parlors and salons of the wealthy.

'Black Dahlia' by James Ellroy
A delicious neo-noir that uses the real life murder of the 'black dahlia' as a springboard for a dark, nasty, detective story that keeps lifting the veil to reveal more human depravity then you're likely to find at your local bikini bar. Using the city of Los Angeles as vital and fascinating a character as any in the book.

'The Stand' by Stephen King
I'm technically still reading this, so maybe it's a cheat but I'm almost done and it's so good I had to throw it in here. Stephen King might get a lot of shit because A. He one of the most famous writers in the world and B. You can buy his books at supermarkets and they're accused of being plain spoken 'entertainment' instead of 'art'. But most of the 'art' that hits me the hardest is often of the 'low' comic book/b-movie variety so I never have any qualms about opening one of his books. They're good and this one is so so good. A massive story about a super flu that wipes out 99% of the US population. The people that are left have collective dreams about a 100 year old woman playing a guitar on her porch in Nebraska and about a very evil dude in denim and cowboy boots with red eyes and no face. The old woman's people gather in Boulder, CO and the evil dude's people gather in Las Vegas and other western states. Eventually they have a 'stand' off.
Super fun, and compelling. Don't be intimidated by the size, it so readable and dynamic that you'll tear right through it.

Well that's it. I hope 2015 is a great year for all. I hope to be exposed to more powerful stories and with any luck a little bit of that power will rub off on my own stories. 
Thanks Greg!

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