Book Reviews by C.B Smith
Book Reviews
by C.B Smith
As book reviewer for Mad Hatters' Review, I search trade publications and Internet sources looking for the new and notable independent publishing houses, understanding from experience that the most fascinating, challenging, and distinctive voices emanate from these quarters. It is these voices we wish to assist in bringing to international attention in our own small way.
 
click on covers to read reviews
The J Affect by Peter Burstin Drugs are Nice by Linda Carver Nietzsche’s Kisses by Lance Olsen Terror Nation by Mike Palecek Slam Dunks and No Brainers by Leslie Savan Skipping Toward Armageddon... by Michael Standaert
Burstin Carver Olsen Palecek Savan Standaert

The J Affect
by Peter Burstin

“We say the naysayers. We do the undoing. We solve for the unsolved. We live as the unlived. We feel for the unfelt. For the unaware, We make aware,” states Jahbb in the opening page. If the acute reader perceives a misspelling bad-grammar moment upon reading and dissecting the final phrase of the sentence ending with “We make aware,”

that reader will be in for a shock to find that contrary to popular grammarian thinking, the post-comma capitalized “We” is intended. No, not a fancy-dancy artsy “oh I’m so nifty” moment, a purposeful moment as the words and tale that unfold make clear. Yes, dear reader, if the diction and grammar produce an oddly solar plexus centered discomfort, and the oddly familiar Messianic sentences that proceed are naggingly apparent, give in to the urge and understand that this is a novel about the big G, the big J, the God of all gods and his son, Jesus.

“I awoke in my own bed under a blanket of sweat and tears. It took a while to realize I was back in the confines of my home. But was I safe? Prophets: Krsna, Abraham, and a naked man. My back was aching, but it was not sore muscles or bed cramps. Blood-stained sheets lay under me. The blood was dried in lines from my back. In the mirror by the bed, I could see the fresh scratches had coagulated. Was it from the rocks Jahbb dragged me over, aiding escape from the Neanderthal? Could I have done that? Nothing physical has ever come back from the dreams. All I knew was that it hurt like hell and was sure to scar. Was it last night? How long was I out? The dreams had taken my life away and I had just found they came from God, and if true, He had damn sure better have an explanation waiting.”

Sure to shock and offend the religious and political right, The J Affect paints a scenario of what will happen to our civilization if war, environmental neglect, avarice, deceit, and hypocrisy remain unchecked. And before you go running away at this realization screaming, “Oh no, not another messianic militant Christian gutter splat book,” stop and read on, you will not be disappointed. Why? Because Peter Burstin has succeeded where religious zealots and leaders have failed millennia upon millennia; painting a consistent portrait of the god of all life as the loving, caring, and giving being God so truly is, instead of the unbalanced, vengeful, recklessly jealous, and homicidal god that persists in the dogmatic domain.

But a being that operates from a place of absolute power with its concurrent command of caring and love is a god that all fell in love with eons ago, is it not? And when Jesus instructs in Matthew, 22:37, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” it seems unlikely that Jesus was asking us to give all of our person to an execrable uncontrollable monster. Since Jesus failed to return sometime in the period of 1 A.D. as he promised in Matthew 16: 27-28, “…. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” it is clear that as all those he spoke to at the time are long since dead, the second coming did not occur, at least not in the way the church has conveniently taught since then, focusing not on God’s love, but God’s unerring vengeance, relying instead on passages from the book of Revelations, despite the fact that the relevance and authenticity of this particular book still remains the most hotly contested book in the collection.

So what does this force feeding of the same old scriptural passages have to do with The J Affect? What is has to do with it is set the back-story for the premise of the book and its elegant reinterpretation of the same old same old. On this account, the book is a pleasure to read. Gone is the outlandish rhetorical dogma that fills the minds and pulpits of the religious institutions of today, but consistent is one message: God of love, forgiveness, and caring.

If you have traveled the road as many before and after yourself surely have, a refreshing moment escalating into a thunderous cascade of refreshing moments bordering on rapturous joy are possible and freely given by the one true God. Otherwise, life is no more than trip down The Death Road as the one in Bolivia, where each metre is one removed from probable death as one misjudgment in steering can occasion a 1,000-foot plunge down the sheer mountainside.

In short on the topic of Christianity, if you have said to yourself the very words of the narrator of The J Affect, “Wherever I was, I wanted no part of it,” then grab a copy of this book. And if you find yourself embarking upon this reading adventure like no other and find your fingers magnetically drawn to flip page after page not stopping until the entire novel has been read, call it the J effect. And if you choose to believe it is God, who guides your hand, you could be right, but then again, this review is about the book. What you choose to believe is entirely inconsequential.

Publisher
FS Laurel Press
http://www.thejaffect.com/

About the Author
After fleeing home at the age of 12 due to fears of Middle America, Peter Burstin sauntered about the planet, ending up in New York City. Shortly after arriving in New York, at the age of 17, he had his U.S. publishing debut with the publication of his poems by Free Illinois Press. Burstin has not stopped writing since. Having written a few plays for the theatre, he then turned to film. He didn’t care for the film industry, and was left feeling befuddled. So he sat alone behind his Mac, typing away.

interview micRead C.B. Smith's Interview with Peter Burstin.
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Drugs are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir
by Lisa Crystal Carver

Lisa Carver is a wild child, a woman born to chase the wind, laughing maniacally while caught in the tornado swirl, a woman to whom the easy way is the pathetically timorous route of the rubber spined cephalopod. And who was it that proclaimed the meek shall inherit the Earth? From the perspective of Lisa Carver, fearless undaunted adventure seeker, a danger dame without pause, her certitude is that the only earth the meek shall inherit is that beneath their fingernails. So much for shooting holes in a prophecy. It is true that her state of perpetual rebellion sometimes lands her the starring role of Rebel Without a Job,

but no tears are shed, freedom has its price, and while a wolf may often find itself left in the cold, hungry, and shot at by deranged monkey boys, the wolf knows that it has its freedom, and that is a sweet victory. Let us attend to the words of the fifteen year old girl of wanderlust, “At fifteen I lose my virginity at last….My classmates are a year older than me. They’re all pairing up and deciding to become hairdressers and store managers and mothers. I still want to be a kamikaze or an arctic explorer or The Second Coming.” These are far from typical mainstream desires of the run of the mill teenager. Yet for Lisa Carver, these are not just whimsical wanderings but the tenets of a mission statement. But one look at her life models points to a root cause. Her father, gone to prison when she was a mere toddling child of six, was her messianic idol, “He teaches me how to slow down my heartbeat and hold my breath for a very long time, how to mentally survive torture, how to ask someone questions until my way of thinking comes out of their lips as if it were their own, and then they will do what I want while thinking it was their idea all along; they’ll even think their getting one over on me!” Way to go Dad! Now some folks might take umbrage at this sort of parental pseudo-guidance, but in two short lessons he has taught her a mantra for coping with the torture that poses as life and a way to politicize herself into the driver’s seat of human interface. The man deserves a medal! Yet these tender and auspicious moments that are the rickety steps to the launching pad of her life, are simply words of hard earned wisdom from a man who was sent up for guns, drugs, and conspiracy but got away clean for murder, “This nineteen-year old guy ripped me off and bragged about it. That was his mistake: talking…. Smuggling is a violent business. Your only protection is your reputation. If I hadn’t killed him, my reputation would have been worth nothing, and anyone could have come in and taken whatever they wanted from me: my money, my stash, you…” Oh nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Moving forward at the speed of light we find Lisa at her next evolutionary step, that where she meets her enduring comrade in arms who boasts the creditable repute, “That’s Rachel Johnson. She’s fuckin’ nuts!” It is from this point that Lisa Carver becomes the embodiment of pure bohemian bedlam as she snaps the chains, breaks the mold, and forms a band which will eventually record and release the album Drugs Are Nice, a towering Punk Rock anthem in mid 1980’s Regan America. In 1987 in the small town of Dover, New Hampshire, Lisa and her best friend Rachel—both seventeen—set up a punk show at the Veteran's Hall. When the headlining act got lost and drunk and never showed up, the audience was angry and the promoters hid in the bathroom. Then Lisa got an idea. The girls put on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, mounted the stage, smoked cigars, caterwauled, took off their clothes and hit things and people. Suckdog—called "the most interesting band in the world" by England's Melody Maker—was born. This brief summary is only a fragmentary sample of a woman whose prose stylings earned praise like this from Time Out New York, “When Newt Gingrich wakes up sweating the middle of the night with a hard-on and a sense of nameless dread, the face that he sees might be Lisa Carver’s.” So finally, who is this Lisa Carver and what was her intention releasing this pseudo Post-Punk memoir to the unsuspecting and anesthetized world? If her goal was to inform, a success, to alarm, a twofold success, to explode the dormant neurotransmitters of the culturally shell shocked, a brilliant much needed revolutionary success. But she is too savvy, too in touch with the nerve centers of America to be taken easily and thereby became a unique embodiment of the concept of revolution for revolution's sake. When the world snares and bludgeons with absurdity, Lisa Carver knowing that turnabout is fair play, turns the beast on itself, a true Punk methodology if there ever was one unifying theme. Churn the waters, dive in, choke and swim for dear life. And when the shore is finally reached the soul is left cleansed for perhaps the first, leaving one with a burning sense of life pressing to crash through like never before. So with a misty eyed scream this reviewer shouts approval with arms raised high, feeling a joyous comfort knowing Lisa Carver is out there taunting complacency for all us sinners.

Publisher
Soft Skull Press
http://www.softskull.com/

About the Author
Lisa Crystal Carver was born in 1968 to a drug dealer father and an English teacher mother. Instead of going to college, she toured the U.S. and Europe six times in the performance art troupe Suckdog. They put out three albums, including "Drugs Are Nice," which Spin called one of the best records of the 90s. Lisa Carver started the magazine Rollerderby, did a short stint as a prostitute, and has written for Newsday, Playboy, Nerve, The Utne Reader, Mademoiselle, Details, and Glamour. Her book Dancing Queen came out in '96 (Henry Holt). She's interviewed Courtney Love, Beck, Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth, Anton LaVey, GG Allin, and Jon Spencer and was featured on MTV, VH1, HBO, and NPR - most recently on the May 7th 2004 edition of This American Life ("The Way to a Boy's Heart Is Through His Stomach"). Lisa Carver is a Nerve.com sex diarist. She lives in the small town of Dover, New Hampshire, with nine-year-old Wolfgang, and Mercedes, who is two. Visit the official website: http://www.suckdog.net/

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Nietzsche’s Kisses
by Lance Olsen

We see Friedrich Nietzsche as we’ve never seen him before as he drifts back and forth through time, frequently tripping over his “feet like pianos” as he stumbles through another span of time that seems to become more terrifying with each digression. “My llama

is very good.” So who then is this man of mystery, this legend that all familiar with his work have come to know? At one level, he appears an extremely confident and capable man, an uber mensch for all seasons to a fault. And yet, a very pensive and sensitive man of many levels, a man who upon discovering Lou Salomé, the woman who he feels “completes him,” sees the possibilities of their romantic joining becoming remote and remoter as his love boat drifts from the shore. Yet drift to and fro in a feverish romantic fantasizing he does in the only austere and wholesome way one would expect. Nietzsche is a man of many sometimes conflicting seasons and in this fascinating and structurally complex work by Lance Olsen, Nietzsche is shown the last night of his life, locked in a room, hovering between dream and wakefulness, memory and hallucination, the first person, second, and third, past and present, deliriously recalling a fraction of his seasons of glory in his dribbling impotence as we tune into a short stream of time at the end of his life, a refreshing, enlightening, disturbing, but altogether welcome accompaniment to the lore of all things Nietzsche. To this reviewer, both familiar with and enamored of Nietzsche, this work of inspired fiction brings together all that he could have hoped for with full scholarship and respect due the uber mensch himself.

Publisher
http://fc2.org

About the Author
Lance Olsen is author of six novels, four critical studies, four short-story collections, a poetry chapbook, and Rebel Yell: A Guide to Fiction Writing, as well as editor of two collections of essays about literary innovation. His novel Tonguing the Zeitgeist was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. His short stories, essays, poems, and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of journals and anthologies, including Fiction International, Iowa Review, Village Voice, Time Out, BOMB, Gulf Coast, Electronic Book Review, and Best American Non-Required Reading. A Pushcart Prize recipient and former Idaho Writer-in-Residence, Olsen serves as Chair of the Board of Directors at FC2. He lives corporeally with his wife, assemblage-artist Andi Olsen, in the mountains of central Idaho, and digitally at www.lanceolsen.com.

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Skipping Toward Armageddon:
The Politics and Propaganda of the Left Behind Novels and the LaHaye Empire
by Michael Standaert

Tim LaHaye is a dangerous man. Yet one look at him would fail to disclose this fact. Hence, the tenfold increase of danger. Since his arrival on the international scene circa 1977 and his successive arrival into the pseudopolitical arena during the advent of Regan

America, circa 1980, LaHaye has done everything, including openly declaring ideological warfare on the long-established Catholic and Protestant Episcopal centers. Why should you care, why should anyone? A good question and one that has an equally good answer as author Michael Standaert will tell you. Skipping Towards Armageddon traces LaHaye’s evolution as America’s leading political evangelist and the development of the Left Behind books as this most powerful tool, exploring the connection between LaHaye and leading figures of religious intolerance, as well as those between the ideology of the books and those of neo-conservatives. From 19th century Anglican priest John Neslon Darby to the Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909 by Cyrus Scofield, the path was laid for premillennialist dogma espoused by 20th century mouthpieces such as Falwell straight through to Time LaHaye and his phenomenally successful Left Behind series. If any among you have had the altogether unpleasant experience of encountering one of the abundant and odious militant Christians, who among other things will quite smugly convey to you that despite your well-studied Biblical beliefs and understandings, “Only those who have been born again can understand what Biblical scripture is really saying,” then you will have some sense the level of mind-numbing rubbish that is being fed these masses of blind sheep. Is this a religious agenda at work? Most definitely not. At work here is none other than the same separatist, hateful, discriminatory tripe that has found home in everything from Nazism to the Ku Klux Klan. Now put this powerful emotional negativity together with a wild and unrelenting push toward political theocracy that has already seized hold of influential positions and you begin to grasp just why this entire movement is not to be ignored.

Hey children,
what’s that sound,
everybody look what’s going down
– Stephen Stills

Not wanting or intending to steal the thunder of one Michael Standaert, whose revolutionary and necessary work makes his point quite clearly, this review will end with simply this: Read the book.

Publisher
Soft Skull Press
http://www.softskull.com

About the Author
Michael Standaert currently lives in Palo Alto, California. His first novel, The Adventures of the Pisco Kid, will be published by Arriviste Press in March 2007. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Review, Maisonneuve (Montreal), Far Eastern Economic Review, Reason Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal Europe, and Salon.com. He received an MA in European Journalism from Cardiff University.

interview micRead C.B. Smith's Interview with Michael Standaert.
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Terror Nation…notes from the perimeter
by Mike Palacek

Charlie Johnson is having a bad day, a very bad day, a very bad day that began the minute he realized he no longer agreed with the government’s policies and practices and no longer gave a good goddamn who didn’t care to hear him say so. His problems

escalated considerably when he sent a letter to the editor of his hometown paper proclaiming a list of crimes against the populace as he saw it and stating that perhaps he would be taken seriously if he kidnapped the mayor, refusing to let him go until something was done to set things right. Big mistake. So the big mistake turned the prolonged bad day into a perpetual chase of his person by the standing army of law as he was immediately dubbed Public Enemy #1. He is eventually captured of course as he is not doing anything to hide, he has done nothing wrong, has he, just expressing his First Amendment rights and all. Unfortunately, America has been so quickly pillaging the moribund Constitution that many amendments had already become null and void.

In short, Terror Nation tells the story of Charlie Johnson, former Saint Smith, Iowa, sports editor, now locked inside the local mental hospital for writing anti-Bush letters to the editor. But as in every story there is more to it than that, isn’t there.

Publisher
Mainstay Press
http://www.mainstaypress.org

About the Author
Mike Palecek is an Iowa author, former federal prisoner for peace, and newspaper reporter. He lives with his family in northwest Iowa. He was the Iowa Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. House, 5th District, 2000 election. He has written several novels: www.iowapeace.com

interview micRead C.B. Smith's Interview with Mike Palecek.
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Slam Dunks and No-Brainers
Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics. and, Like, Whatever
by Leslie Savan

Words like Duh!, Puh-leeze and Whatever have become such an indispensable form of communication they’re replacing our need to articulate any real thought. Where it’s George Tenet convincing George W. Bush that finding WMD in Iraq would be “a slam dunk” or Microsoft telling you that its latest software is a “no-brainer,” this bright, snappy language affects us all — up close and personal.

With dazzling wit and acuity, three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Leslie Savan dissects contemporary language to discover what our most popular idioms reveal about America today. She traces the paths that words and expressions travel from obscurity to ubiquity. She describes how “real people” create slang and colorful phrases; how media, advertising, politics and business mine the language for the these phrases in order to better sell products, idea and personalities; and how these expressions, now that they’ve hit the big time, then burst out of our mouths as “celebrity words,” newly glamorous and persuasive. In short we have been largely reduced to communicating in code, buzz words, a lexicon of which is accrued by the minute. So many questions come to bear. For instance, are we speaking slang or pop language?

“Pop language,” reports Leslie Savan, “includes a lot of slang, but pop is much more than that. Some pop phrases, like bling bling or fashionista, are technically slang, which is usually defined as ‘non-standard’ and probably transient language. But most pop speech today is made up of perfectly ordinary and permanent words, like Who’s your daddy or Don’t go there. Pop, by definition, is not jargon either. Unlike the various jargons that bind relatively small groups, be it the 12-year-old skateboarders or Big Pharma lobbyists true pop pops for everyone, regardless of age, race, class, region or occupation. You could say (I do) that pop eats slang for breakfast. Pop words are not only more famous, powerful and sales savvy than slang than other turns of speech, but pop is constantly digesting new expressions to keep itself sounding fresh and ‘different.’ ”

If any doubts linger as to the veracity of her well-researched findings on the interpersonal communication forms of today, stand back and observe the next time you speak with friends, send an e-mail or write any number of things. This reviewer believes that like Leslie Savan you will notice a distinctly familiar feel and shape that is explored most voluminously in this, her latest work of cultural import.

Publisher
Alfred A. Knopf
http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/

About the Author
Leslie Savan wrote a column about advertising and commercial culture for The Village Voice for thirteen years. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 1991, 1992 and 1997. In 1996, she was named one of "The Top Ten Media Heroes" by the Institute for Alternative Journalism. She has been a commentator for Fresh Air and has appeared on the ABC and CBS national newscasts, NPR and The O'Reilly Factor. She has written for The New York Times, Time, The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, Mademoiselle and Salon, among other publications. Her essays have been reprinted in numerous textbooks and anthologies. Her previous book, The Sponsored Life: Ads, TV, and American Culture, is a collection of her columns.

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