Blanc et Noir: Masters of Noir 2

“Bangkok Shadow and Light”

A review by Joey Madia

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing John Gartland’s Resurrection Room: Bangkok dark rhetoric, a complex, riveting piece that seamlessly blended sardonic autobiography and social commentary with fantastical leaps through time and subject-space.

Blanc et Noir operates as a companion piece and, although it showcases Gartland’s poetry (as did sections of Resurrection Room), it comes at its subject matter—Bangkok and environs and the myriad personalities who populate this space—from a series of different angles. It is no less (and at times more so) sharp and biting than its predecessor. Add in the stunning and at times disturbing photography of Mark Desmond Hughes and the written/visual cocktail is both potent and lasting.

Gartland knows Story, and talks of it often in his poetry and prose. The opening line of the collection is “That fantasy of a well-rounded life in three acts,” calling to mind Joseph Campbell’s oft-stated observation that, although our lives seem random, looking back at the end, they seem as well-crafted as the best of novels. Continue reading

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

You won’t forget this story even though you will try.”

Review by Malcolm Campbell

“For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll hear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I’d say. I’d say that’s what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.”

Riverrun of words, past church and family and worse, from swerve of hope to bend of knee, you might think you’re reading “Finnegan” again as you start Eimear McBride’s streamOFconsciousness novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. James Joyce leaves early on, though when you reach the novel’s final words, you might agree this story is a wake.

It’s also a mental letter of sorts, an interior monologue, from a rebellious sister to a brother with a brain tumor, within.the.tight.confines of a dysfunctional household, abuse and other perversions, rape and WorseThanRape, and the protagonist’s desperately destructive behavior. We are INside her head. Too much for simple syntax there, though sin is a constant theme, and prayers, too, so when James Joyce leaves the book by the back door, Virginia Woolf arrives at the front door. Figuratively speaking. You should be afraid, for this book will wreck you as though you yourself are violating the protagonist page by heartbreaking page, you bastard. Continue reading

Jesus and Magdalene

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the Earth, that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Review by Grady Harp

Portuguese author João Cerqueira, having won a PhD in History of Art from the University of Oporto, happens to be one of the more clever and creative humorists writing today. His novels satirize modern society and use irony and humor to provoke reflection and controversy. Satire is the form of humor that holds people, or society in general, up for examination, and ridicules the follies revealed. Good satire should offer improving examples or at least make us consider choices we often take for granted. In this sense, satire is of huge value to society. While satire can be cruel to the victims it mocks, it should always be funny. Some of the great satirists whose ranks João Cerqueira joins include Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Jonathan Swift, Günter Grass, Charles Michael Palahniuk, and P. G. Wodehouse – and I’m sure many have been left out of this too brief list. Continue reading

The Trinity

Dark Beginnings, Dark Expressions

Review by Joey Madia

Beneath the title of this book appear the words “A suspense novel.”

I had mixed feelings about this. Having read the first two books in Ambroziak’s vampire trilogy, The Journal of Vincent Du Maurier, I was already aware of the author’s facility with suspense but I wondered at the expectations of what such a statement might produce.

No need to wonder… The Trinity lives up to its label. And more.

Some novels are more challenging than others to review, because to say almost anything specific is to give more than a little away, which robs the reader of that which I most savored and for which the writer worked so hard.

So I will have to do a lot of “talking around” plot points here, and give you just the broad strokes of what Ambroziak attempts—and accomplishes—in the book. Continue reading

Resurrection Room: Bangkok dark rhetoric

Narrative Noir

Review by Joey Madia

“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster/The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free’You’ll find a god in every golden cloister/And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she/I can feel an angel sliding up to me” (“One Night in Bangkok,” Chess)

There are cities in the world that pulse with a deep mystique: the sleepless dichotomies of New York; the romanticism of Paris for lover and writers; the foggy Victorian mystery of London… the list goes on and on.

Bangkok (Thailand) conjures images of crowded streets full of steaming food, rickshaw drivers, and exotic women finger-motioning from alleyways and doorways… and Resurrection Room takes these images wider and deeper than perhaps your average reader wants to go. Continue reading