Bloggy Stuff

rate and review, rinse and repeat: a request

a small note in these quarantine days: without forgetting how we’re all, directly involved, intimately connected, in our varied levels of precarity:

most of us with new books out are fairly restricted in what we can do vis-a-vis book/self promotion, and even more restricted by what we feel is right. I feel, acutely, (I suspect I’m not alone in this) my narcissism in the face of larger concerns: to state that if a new book like Two Californias has a lifespan, then our current situation will severely curtail its ability to make its way out into the world.

but we can help each other out. I recognize that many of us are in spending lockdown, and/or don’t want to further burden the postal service, and so can’t/won’t buy books right now. Having said that, if you’re in a bookbuying mood, I’ll point you to the New Books of AWP 2020 list – ( – thanks to Danielle Pafunda for initiating this resource – and also to Rosebud Ben-Oni’s “Open to All: A Crowd-Sourced List of Over 300 Mid-2019 to 2020 Poetry Titles” ( at Kenyon Review.

yet there are things you can do that don’t cost money, which will help these books see the readership they deserve, AND (perhaps as importantly?) help writers when they write and try to publish/sell subsequent books. In particular, if you have the time and inclination, I’d encourage you to rate and review – 3 sentences will do! – our books on Amazon/Goodreads/other venues. (I know that Amazon/Goodreads are problematic entities – if anyone else has other/better venues, please let me know.) Thanks to Matt Kirkpatrick, who helped illuminate the easy and joyful benefits of rating/reviewing.

i’m listing here the books I know, as well as links to their Amazon/Goodreads pages:

Al Abonado: Jaw (Poems)

Leland Cheuk: No Good Very Bad Asian (Novel)

Kathryn Cowles: Maps and Transcripts of the Ordinary World (Poems)

Shira Dentz: Sisyphusina (Hybrid, out soon from PANK) and the sun a blazing zero (Poems)

Noam Dorr: Love Drones (Essays)

Robert Glick: Two Californias (Stories)

Eryn Green: BEIT (Poems)

Sadie Hoagland: American Grief in Four Stages (Stories)

Matthew Kirkpatrick: The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art (Novel)

Shena McAuliffe: The Good Echo (Novel) and Glass, Light, and Electricity (Essays)

Danielle Pafunda: Beshrew (Poems)

Michael Palmer: Baptizing the Dead and Other Jobs (Essays)

Jacob Paul: Last Tower to Heaven (Novel)

Natanya Ann Pulley: With Teeth (Stories)

Anne M. Royston, Material Noise: Reading Theory as Artist’s Book (Critical Theory)

Sejal Shah: This is One Way to Dance: (Essays)

Cori Winrock: Little Envelope of Earth Conditions (Poems)

Brian Wood: Joytime Killbox (Stories)

please add other books in comments (with links?), and sorry if I forgot anyone!

peace, quiet, joy, health,


booknotes: Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police, Pantheon Books, 2019. Trans. Stephen Snyder. This is a really great book. Really great. I was really taken by the slow burn of it, the fairly sparse prose, the way it honestly didn’t go the way I thought it would go. By the end, it takes a tonal turn that I wasn’t ready for, making the book more allegorical, more darker and more solemn, less an inquiry into memory than a resignation in the face of its necessary, inevitable degradations.

It’s less a mode of magical realism than one that takes a speculative premise and builds on it, something like Saramago’s Blindness. The beauty is in the exploration of the ramifications of that premise.

Side note: there’s a certain kind of un-realism common to contemporary Japanese writers in translation – Abe and Murakami come to mind. It feels more like a marketing drive than a national mode of writing…Does the US get a lot of Japanese literary realists (Murakami Ryu, Oe) that I can’t think of off-hand?

booknotes: Jacob Paul, Last Tower to Heaven

Jacob Paul, Last Tower to Heaven, C&R Books, 2019

This is a smart, funny, conceptually sharp, and sometimes sad book that tries, in our current days, to figure out how one can survive collective trauma, notably the Holocaust, without having it turn into parody or soundbite. The protagonist, himself named Jacob Paul, helps make this book deeply personal at the same time it goes on cross-country adventures for meaning and self-meaning. The book feels larger than its plot, forcing us to understand ourselves as possibly dreamed by another, as if it is part of a larger book. I never really thought anyone would have the guts/imagination to mash the Celan/Jabes continuum with an almost Confederacy of Dunces plot and main character, but Jacob Paul has done just that. Last Tower to Heaven is a big, ambitious, and I think very personal beast that kept me engaged and emotionally attuned throughout.

4/27/20: Review of Two Californias in The Literary Review

Endless thanks to Karin Falcone Krieger for this gorgeous review of Two Californias in The Literary Review. Besides the nice ego boost and the fuzzy feeling when you know the book (especially in difficult times) has been circulating, I’m also starting to treasure the different ways each reviewer approaches the book – which topics are subjects of focus, which stories, which writing lineage the book splays out from. I love the review’s notation of menace underlying the stories, and am touched/humbled by calling the book a “Gen X Thomas Pynchon or low key cousin of David Foster Wallace.” Thanks, Karin!

4/15/20: Review of Two Californias in THE SEM10TIC STANDARD

Thanks so much to R. Leigh Hennig for a glowing spotlight (with the humbling post title “Superiority Through Characterization”!!!) in THE SEM10TIC STANDARD. I admit that I didn’t think I’d ever be favorably compared (or compared at all) to Stephen King! I really appreciate Leigh’s insights into character development in 2C, and especially the ways that he thinks of Two Californias in terms of the horror genre; that horror, or domestic horror, doesn’t intrinsically involve the supernatural or even the superviolent…

booknotes: Sadie Hoagland, American Grief in Four Stages

This book is amazing. These voice-driven stories, at once harrowing and quirky and elegant, remind us not simply that tragedy is commonplace. Rather than stopping (and potentially wallowing) in a fetishized moment of tragedy, the book mines the complicated ways through which grief and loss drive how we make sense of the world, and write themselves, despite us, into the dna of our behaviors.

Purchase at IndieBound

booknotes: Andrew Farkas, Sunsphere

Sunsphere is a book of many books. You could call them linked stories, almost literally revolving around the Sunsphere itself, or you could call it a novel about the Sunsphere that ranges, a bit like Cloud Atlas, through multiple time frames, multiple universes, multiple characters who come into contact with the Sunsphere. This is not a book about character psychology so much as it is a moving, wonderfully-languaged meditation on the absurdity of how we construct our universes, on meaning and meaning-making itself. The smart and sharp writing utilizes a number of modernist and metafictional techniques, further calling attention to how The Sunsphere, all things to all people, remains elusive, unpinnable. Great book!

Purchase at Small Press Distribution (along with Andy’s other books)

3/29/20: Review of Two Californias in Compulsive Reader

A boost to the ego amidst quarantine days.

Lots of gratitude and appreciation to Juliana Converse for writing a terrific and incisive review of 2C, and to Maggie Ball for hosting/spearheading the wonderful Compulsive Reader. Such a wonderful feeling not simply to be complimented; more that someone has spent deep time with the work, digested it, and evolved it with their own words. 2C, for Converse, with language that “is vibrant, even magical, and often humorous,” conveys how “our attempts to reconcile loss are imperfect, and ultimately transforming.” Thank you!!!

Compulsive Review / Review of Two Californias

booknotes: Matthew Kirkpatrick, The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art

In The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art, Matthew Kirkpatrick shows us what the novel can do with language and structure without sacrificing an attention to the strange, varied desires of the human heart. Composed of captions to fictional art works, and interspersed with the slow-play stories of those who view these works, Kirkpatrick’s novel offers us multiple approaches to the book – as mystery, as art catalog, as a collective tale of a community of creators. Particularly revelatory and uncanny for me are the collection of doll houses, which give us miniaturized windows onto the girl whose disappearance drives us through these wonderful pages. Most highly recommended!

Purchase from Powell’s Books