Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Book: Dark Sparkler

Author: Amber Tamblyn

Type of Book: Non-fiction, poetry, confessional

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because I spent at least a dozen hours investigating the “Search” suggestions on pages 101-108 and didn’t even make it through the first page due to all the horrible yet interesting rabbit holes I found myself falling down into.

Availability: Published by Harper Perennial in 2015, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I read this book last summer but my overall disorganization as of late worked in my favor for once because some of the content in this book is rather topical right now (I really need to start discussing books the day after I finish them but we can talk about how much I suck in another entry, I promise). The #metoo and #timesup “movements” have brought institutionalized sexual violence and harassment in the entertainment industry into a sharper focus than I could have ever thought possible. The toppling of Harvey Weinstein has been absolutely surreal to witness, but it helps explain why Mira Sorvino sort of disappeared from movie screens after winning an Oscar. I always liked her and now I know Weinstein systematically blocked her from access to high profile roles because she preferred not to have sex with an aggressive ogre of a man. The sentencing of Larry Nassar has lit up Twitter with people cheering as a man who molested at least 140 gymnasts was dressed down by the judge in the case. No matter what the industry is, if it is fueled by young, fit, attractive people, you can count on the industry attracting predators.

But predation can take many forms. A parent, a manager, a director, drug dealers, a world that devalues older women. As topical as this book is in many regards, the women Amber Tamblyn discusses in these poems aren’t exclusively victims of sexual predators. The women who inspired the poetry in this collection experienced a variety of miseries in a world that chews people up and spits them out for all sorts of reasons. Tamblyn took the stories of these girls, teens, and women who achieved some fame, however small or fleeting, and showed the damage done in a way that, strangely, honors humanity as much as revealing interesting and at times salacious stories.

My interest in books is mainly prose – I am not as learned in poetry as I am in prose fiction and non-fiction. But there are still poets whose words speak to me. I focus on specific poems by those poets, seldom embracing their bodies of work as much as the poems that contain those lines that mean something to me. Wilfred Owen (“As under a green sea, I saw him drowning…”), Gerard Manley Hopkins (“It is the blight man was born for, it is Margaret you mourn for.”), and EE Cummings (“Olaf (upon what were once knees) does almost ceaselessly repeat ‘there is some shit I will not eat'”) are great examples of poets who produce specific lines that resonate with me deeply, and Tamblyn manages to create lines that similarly resonate. One in particular I will discuss in a moment.

This collection reminded me in many ways of Mikita Brottman’s short story collection, Thirteen Girls. I found myself curious about all the women in this collection, as I did when I read about the women who fell to serial killers in Brottman’s penetrating look at victims and the ways they are remembered. The titles of the poems are the names of the women they are about, and there were enough stories of women and children whose sorry tales I knew before reading this book to ensure I felt the power of the poems Tamblyn crafted to portray them. Seeing the most troublesome parts of their lives depicted in poetry forced me to rethink my attitudes towards some of the people Tamblyn wrote about.

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Orange Eats Creeps

Author: Grace Krilanovich (I can’t find her site – if anyone knows where it is, let me know please)

Type of Book: Fiction, experimental

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It is written like a drug-induced nightmare with no plot, characterization or coherence of thought and because I had to stop reading halfway through yet still want to discuss it.

Availability: Published by Two Dollar Radio in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I have been on a bad streak lately, book-wise. I struggled through a bland horror novel by one of my favorite writers and lost about two weeks as I forced myself to keep reading though  I longed to quit and move on to something else. By the last 30 pages, I just skimmed and by the last ten pages I gave up. I followed it with a book that was supposedly about the social and sexual politics of using one’s body to make money, via stripping or peep shows or similar. When it became clear that the politics were really going to be whining about how hard it is to be a girl, like even middle class white chicks get called a slut if they sleep with a boy OMG, I put it down.

And that cheesy book of whining about sexual politics was followed by The Orange Eats Creeps. Well, it was followed by my final stab at the book. I began reading it back in March and had to put it down because I could not make sense of it. I began reading again in May and gave it my last try in June. I can’t get past page 95. I stopped reading with the knowledge I was never going to finish it.

That was a difficult thing for me to do. I have, in the past, taken a very hard line with my reading habits. If I begin a book, I tell myself I must finish it. But lately I cannot make myself operate this way. I just don’t have time left in my life to struggle through books that don’t interest me or books that are not good. Which is why it sucked so much to give up on The Orange Eats Creeps because it did, ultimately, interest me, and it was not a bad book. It just was too uncontrolled, too scattered and too lacking in what one needs to make a novel; you can open this book to any page and begin reading and it will make no more or less sense than if you begin reading from the first page.  (And if it seems like dirty pool discussing a book I didn’t finish, I don’t make a habit of it, but I have done it before. But that book deserved it…)

Before I begin my discussion of the first 95 pages of this book, I need to get a rant out of the way. This book’s marketing was so utterly misleading that I suspect it pissed off many readers. Unless things are very different at Two Dollar Radio, most writers have no say in how their book is marketed. If I am wrong and Krilanovich approved of this approach I am all apologies, but I can’t imagine any writer would want their work so dreadfully misrepresented. This book is not about junkie vampires roaming the Pacific Northwest and encountering strange sights as they search for the protagonist’s sister. This book is not a new, fresh look at vampires, an adult’s replacement for the Twilight books. When I heard about this book and read some of the blurbs written about it, I thought, “Oh wow, this sounds like Near Dark but with grunge in the place of Southern culture on the skids.” That was not the case. Arguably, this is not a vampire novel at all. It is a stream-of-consciousness narrative that has no plot, no real characterization, and is the epitome of an experimental novel. It is difficult to follow, it has no linear story-telling, yet was marketed as follows:

A band of hobo vampire junkies roam the blighted landscape – trashing supermarket breakrooms, praying to the altar of Poison Idea and GG Allin at basement rock shows, crashing senior center pancake breakfasts – locked in the thrall of Robitussin trips and their own wild dreams.

In this book blog of mine, have I ever called anyone an asshole before? If I haven’t, let me start now. Whoever wrote the above, which is from the inside cover flap of the book and was reproduced on several book sale venues, is an asshole. Seriously. Because while some of the above is true, it paints a picture of this book that is not true, giving no hint to the fact that this is a difficult book, a book written in an experimental style.  That was a mistake because despite the fact that I found this narrative so jagged and jangling, so much so that it was like a kaleidoscope in the form of a book, this book has its moments of narrative brilliance. Passing it off as a junkie vampire hobo book during the time Kurt Cobain ruled the Pacific Northwest robs this book of its purpose and taints it because those who wanted a vampire novel can only walk away annoyed.