Review: Third Class Superhero by Charles Yu

Third Class SuperheroThird Class Superhero by Charles Yu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short, genre-defying stories that look at people and things—mothers, relationships, language, infidelity, etc.—in unexpected ways. A prospective superhero has to make a choice between hero and villain, and neither are especially promising. In the land of Marketing and Platitudes, a couple have to keep deciding “What now?” A man discovers himself, and himself doesn’t discover a man. The mathematical precision of Janice’s “maybe”, a curious mother discovering the limits of language and storytelling, and an alien Florence swimming in circles while time and space march on in escalating cosmicomics of the boring and mundane and lonely.

Third Class Superhero is a quick read full of surprising gimmicks and unexpected revelations, precise details and laments about how language and other disciplines aren’t really all that precise in any particularly useful way, and characters that feel a little too close to home, even if home is a place you can’t quite return to ever again.

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Review: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Moby-DickMoby-Dick by Herman Melville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible if interminable reading experience made nauseating by deplorable racist interjections (sometimes an excruciating chapter long) and gory slaughter. This was not a pleasant read; I had to take frequent breaks from what was so upsetting about the novel and Melville’s comments about other races, especially black people, and other cultures. Melville may be a product of his time and his novel a reflection of those times, but that doesn’t mean the book’s not entirely odious and offensive in my time.

Yet I still want to give the book 5 stars. 5 stars for the writing (I highlighted so many images, phrases, and sentences), the various forms the 136 chapters took, the humor, the philosophical musings, the encyclopedic overview of whales and whaling (yes, I actually enjoyed learning more than I really ever care to learn about topics I have no reason for knowing anything about.) 5 stars because of the variegated terrain of emotions I experienced while reading this book. 5 stars for those incredible final chapters. 5 stars because Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is entirely new to me again. 5 stars because references and allusions elsewhere are going to make a lot more sense to me now.

And 5 stars to me for finishing the damn thing.

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Recommended: “How We Cured Racism” by Philip Ivory

Screenshot of Rosette Maleficarum website header
Screenshot of Rosette Maleficarum website header

Philip Ivory, one of my instructors and a fellow writer at the Writers Studio Tucson, has a new short story titled “How We Cured Racism” published online at Rosette Maleficarum. I read a couple of the earlier drafts of this story; the final published version is a polished work of chilling alternative history. This is a story that will get under your skin, no pun intended. Phil also wrote in a post on his blog about the day he found out the story had been both accepted and published.

Fall Tree

[Our first fiction writing assignment due November 07, 2013 in ENGL 215 required exploring psychic distance (how close point of view is to the narrator in the story) across five short 50-word descriptions of the same event. Mine is a little autobiographical – I did fall out of a tree in high school – but I didn’t die. Or really get hurt. Fiction!]

1. The Science Club president fell to his death last week during a field trip when the branch he was standing on broke. His parents have pressed charges against the club advisor, Mr. Chemistry Teacher, who allegedly failed to obtain a signed parental permission form from the president.

2. The branch under his feet gave way. He plummeted more than ten feet and when his stomach pressed on the forest floor, he laughed. He did not stop laughing even when he stood up and started running around trying to shake off the ridiculous pain.

3. He is falling and the wind is a vertical force pressing his face into a smile. When he lands by the saw, his body stutters. There are words to be said but they would come out the same. So he laughs instead, having carried the smile this far anyway.

4. I’m tall inside this tall tree before I am translated, a slow math student at work, his slipping rotation calculation. He picks his nose. He leaves me horizontal, flat, stacked on the earth, and my quick pain is his newly solved crush on the disgusted girl sitting next to him.

5. Surprise is the ground under my face where just moments before was bark scratching my eyes with dark texture. Down here the feeling is soft, green, cool, wet, scratching, crawling, waiting; no one has reacted yet, not even me, not this surprised. I’m alive, is my first movement.