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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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creative writing

To Do List

To Do List

Before enlightenment

Haul water Chop wood

After enlightenment

Haul water Chop wood

In between

Haul ass

Mister Paul
Mr. Paul

MGM

Summer Solstice 2016

Drive-By Book Review “Spent” by Antonia Crane

Spent by Antonia Crane

Published 2014,  Rare Bird Books, A Barnacle Book

Spent cover

I just finished reading Antonia Crane’s gripping memoir Spent, and I realize it happened again. I fell hard for a book. After inevitably coming to the end, I am, once again, left wondering “Now what in the Hell am I supposed to do?” I end up doing the only thing I can do in a case like this. I talk about it. I used to write book reviews, but it’s something I really don’t do much anymore. However, there are times when a book really lights a fire and truly captures my interest, and the best way for me to process what I’ve just read is to talk about it, and sometimes rant and rave about it. That’s what’s happening here. To be clear, I am not even attempting to write a piece of serious literary criticism. This is just me responding, reacting, processing. This is me just sayin’: “You gotta read this book!”

 Spent gathers early momentum with a depiction of Antonia Crane’s childhood in coastal northern California, the disintegration of her family life and her coming of age in a small town that just doesn’t offer enough to keep her there. She moves to San Francisco and later to LA, where she supports herself by stripping. She lives a bohemian, alternative lifestyle, hits bottom doing hard drugs, but finds connections that lead her to sobriety. She becomes a powerful political activist within the sex worker industry, earns an undergraduate degree and enrolls in graduate school. Crane’s reconnection with her mother is heart breaking as it occurs just as her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. At a new low, with no other resources, Crane returns to sex work which leads to an arrest. This serves as a clarion call to change her life. At the risk of sounding trite, the old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” seems to apply here. While the sex industry is the setting for Antonia Crane’s journey, on a deeper level, it is a memoir about the human condition, the search for meaning and finding one’s purpose, and the importance of connection through family and community.

Every so often I’m lucky enough to come across a book that is so well written, so personal, so honest and unflinching and so compelling that I never want it to end. I just want to go on and on, living with those characters in that world. I wish I could say that about all the books I read, but I can’t. It’s not to say that they are not good books or well written, but, for whatever reason, they just don’t command my attention and engagement the way this one does. Spent is a special book, a searing memoir that got under my skin in a serious way and left me hungry and longing for more.

Antonia Crane is an articulate and vibrant story teller and a force of nature as a performance artist. I’ve had the good fortune to actually see and hear her read selections from this book on two separate occasions, once in Boston and again in Seattle, shortly after publication. I was a participant in the reading in Boston. It was my first public reading and I was nervous. There was a timer on the podium to help us keep our readings to the allotted four minute limit. Ironically, it looked like a dildo and started blinking red to signal 30 seconds to wrap things up. I was on the schedule immediately following somebody I’d never heard of named Antonia Crane. The author hosting the reading called her name and I watched as she emerged from behind a pillar across the room. She was tall, blonde, athletic looking, dressed in black leather, with muscular tattooed arms. She approached the podium looking like some kind of Viking warrior goddess and delivered a reading about rough gay bondage sex fueled by crystal meth. She had the audience enthralled. The timer started blinking at the 30 second mark and Crane quickened her pace, picked up the timer and held it aloft as if she were the Statue of Liberty, dramatically finishing her piece just as the timer went off. She tore it up and brought down the house. It was unquestionably the best reading of the event. And there I was, holding a crumpled piece of paper with my staid, little poem, dressed in my tweed jacket with patches on the elbows and I had to follow that. It was like the teeny bopper pop group, The Monkees following a mercurial guitar player named Jimi Hendrix. I’ll never forget it.

Everyone has some kind of story to tell. But not every story is worthy of a written memoir. Memoir writing takes a very unique and special kind of skill. It requires an almost mystical legerdemain to put the reader inside the author’s head and Antonia Crane totally pulls it off. Spent is a memoir right up there with the very best. It goes toe to toe with some of my favorites such as Kate Braverman’s Lithium For Medea and Frantic Transmissions To And From Los Angeles , Ghost Bread by Sonja Livingston, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Just Kids and M Train by Patti Smith, Things I Like About America and 501 Minutes To Christ by Poe Ballantine and Chronicles by Bob Dylan. These are the Titans of Modern Memoir in my world and Antonia Crane is right up there on Mount Olympus with the rest of them and the best of them.

Antonia Crane is an author, writer and teacher. She has worked as an adult dancer and performer. Her writing has been published in The Rumpus, Black Clock, ZYZZYVA, Slake, Smith Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review. She received her MFA in creative writing at Antioch University. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers Program.

Find links to her publications at http://www.antoniacrane.com

Also listen to a wonderfully entertaining and informative interview with Brad Listi at

http://otherppl.com/antonia-crane-interview/

Book Review: F250 by Bud Smith

Book Review: F250 by Bud Smith

Piscataway House Publications 2014

Fiction 230 pages

“It’s a novel about a noise band, some car crashes, kids with bloody faces, strange loves….” Bud Smith on F250

Thus reads Bud Smith’s hyper minimalist synopsis of his own novel F250. While this does summarize some of F250’s plot points with hilarious, deadpan understatement, needless to say, F250 is much, much more.

Set against a backdrop of the Jersey Shore somewhere around 2003-2004, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Lee Casey, plays in a noise band called Otter Meat. The band teeters on the edge of either breaking big or breaking up and the dream of moving to LA beckons like some sort of mythical land of Milk and Honey. Lee works a day job as a stone mason. He hauls rocks, gravel and cement, his scant personal possessions, musical equipment, and his friends in his F250, a battered old workhorse of a truck that seems to crash into things like a heat seeking missile. Lagoon House is the dilapidated house in the process of being systematically demolished that serves as living space, party house, crucible and metaphor for a colorful and motley cast of characters going through life’s momentous changes together.

F250 depicts a group of friends whose lives are changing and evolving into something new as their old lives fall away. Preconceived notions of personal identity morph and grow into something new. It’s a story of farewell to youth and coming of age into adulthood and a story of self examination and self realization. F250 celebrates synchronicities and the peculiar kind of ephemeral magic that occurs as peoples’ individual orbits briefly come together before once again separating and twinkling into the heavens like the Perseid meteor shower. It’s about how the flash of one monumental event can change everything forever. F250 is about coming to grips with mortality and human frailty as we learn to understand our own individual gifts and strengths. F250 is about learning to forgive and to accept ourselves for who we really are and others for who they really are.

Some passages of descriptive prose are pure poetry.

“Outside, everything flickered like the world was film being fed through an 8mm grindhouse projector. Splatters of light struck everywhere reflective, creating a slowly rotating light show – glass and high sheen metallics caught the last rays of the falling sun. Reality was exaggerated. Colors were over-saturated: thick green, gold, plum.”

With references to regional cultural icons like Kiss, Bruce Springsteen and Thunder Road, Seaside Amusement Park, beaches, boardwalks, the Pine Barrens, Jersey salt marshes and 4th of July on the Jersey Shore, Bud Smith captures a unique slice of life and a snapshot of Americana at a particular time and place with lyrical agility and an unflinching eye. The book is also an exorcism, Last Rites, Kaddish, a memorial, and a celebration of life and love for each other.

With F250, Bud Smith has written his own “Moveable Feast” of sorts, with reflections based largely on his life as a younger man on the Jersey Shore; woven into a realistic work of fiction that is a totally enthralling and enjoyable read. With passages of cinematic prose and dialogue that captures moment to moment banter in spot-on colloquial fashion and characters large as life, Smith weaves a tale that is so engrossing and compelling that you won’t want to come to the end of it. At least I didn’t. It’s one of those books I could have devoured, but took forever to read, because then what the Hell was I going to do? It was like saying goodbye forever to my best friends.

F250 is a great book and Bud Smith is a hopeless romantic, which is a great thing to be in this fucked up world. I hope that Bud Smith revisits these characters in a future novel. The potential is there, and I would very much like to reconnect with these old friends as our lives once again intersect at some point down the road.

About the Author

Bud Smith is the author of the novel Tollbooth,  the short story collection, Or Something Like That, and the poetry collection, Everything Neon. He works heavy construction, lives in New York City and has a pet jackalope.

F250 Bud Smith

Book Review “Maybe Even Wanton” Jeanne Holtzman

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Review of Jeanne Holtzman’s wonderful chapbook “Maybe Even Wanton” is now LIVE on Madhat’s Drive-By Book Reviews.

Have a peek then buy her book!

http://www.madhatreviews.com

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“Short Fuse” Published in The Bitchin’ Kitsch

“Short Fuse,” my twisted flash fiction piece about  going off the deep end is published

in the December 2013 issue of The Bitchin’ Kitsch. 

Humble and heartfelt thanks to

Chris Talbot-Heindl ~ Co-creator and Editor of

“The Bitchin’ Kitsch  ~ A zine for open creativity”

Follow the link below and go to Page 29

http://www.talbot-heindl.com/dec2013

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“Editor’s Eye” on the Blog of the Fictionaut ~ Guest Editor ~ Michael Gillan Maxwell

Apologies to those who received an earlier version of this post with malfunctioning links.

I am honored this week to be guest editor of Editor’s Eye on the Fictionaut Blog. This installment of Editor’s Eye features prose from writers Vincent Fino, H. L. Puaf, Dallas Woodburn, Carl Santoro, Bud Smith, Glynnis Eldridge, Ron Burch and Deborah Oster Pannell. Check it out!

http://www.fictionaut.com/wordpress/2013/10/07/editors-eye-michael-gillan-maxwell/

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“In Summer” published in The Wilderness House Literary Review

I am honored and thrilled to have my piece “In Summer” published in the latest edition of The Wilderness House Literary Review 8/2. Thank you Editor and Publisher Steve Glines and Fiction Editor Prema Bangera for including my piece with work from so many wonderful writers.

“In Summer” can be read by following this link.

http://www.whlreview.com/no-8.2/fiction/MichaelGillanMaxwell.pdf

Follow this link to read the entire issue.

http://www.whlreview.com

Wilderness House Review

“Awesome” Alert!

“Awesome” Alert!
 

My short, nonfiction piece “Fly the Friendly Skies” was accepted for inclusion in the forthcoming anthology real.

 
I am SO excited to be included in this group of writers, and most humbled and honored by all of it. Thank you so much Editor/Publisher Matt Potter!
 
For a peek, click on the link below.
 
real

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