A tangible, paper version of Cynicism Management has just been published!

To expand on last week’s short notice a bit…

My first novel Cynicism Management, a rather politically incorrect satire with sci-fi elements, has just been published in Slovenia in a tangible, paper form as a part of the independent imprint called corona/samizdat. The eye-popping and relatively thick pocket-sized paperback only costs a measly 12 euros plus postage, so if you feel like supporting the entire “cause”, it won’t cost you much. Even if you’re not interested in my book at all, please do consider taking a look at the complete catalogue. You may find something else of interest, as this fine collection of titles, carefully curated by the US American expatriate to Slovenia, writer and unwavering literary activist Rick Harsch, already includes many fascinating works and will certainly keep growing in the coming months – especially if readers keep supporting it. To order, send an e-mail to rick.harsch@gmail.com and let Rick know which books and how many you would like (combined shipping is cheaper), along with your mailing address.

As many of you already know, the novel Cynicism Management contains links to music (allegedly) recorded by the fictional musicians appearing in the story. As this original soundtrack for the book is, just like the novel itself, now more than ten years old, I’ve recently released the so-called “augmented” versions of the tracks in honour of the novel’s corona/samizdat edition (in Slovenia) and the upcoming River Boat Books edition (in the United States). These are not remixes or remasters, but in fact thoroughly reworked versions of the songs – click here for more detailed information on the project. All of the “rejuvenated” songs will be published about a year from now, on the official 10th anniversary of the original Tit, as a new music album titled Tit Augmented. However, the entire “renovated” soundtrack can already be streamed from our SoundCloud page. You can also download it in its entirety for free right here:

……or stream it from SoundCloud:

“Cynicism Management” (the novel) is out!

A tangible, paper edition of my first novel “Cynicism Management“, now already a ten-year-old satire with sci-fi elements, has just been released in Slovenia by Rick Harsch‘s independent press corona/samizdat. The pocket-sized paperback is available from https://coronasamizdat.com for a measly 12 € plus postage.

The novel contains links to music (allegedly) recorded by the fictional musicians appearing in the story – to the actual soundtrack for this literary work. You can download it in its entirety for free right here:

……or stream it from SoundCloud:

Rick Harsch: The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas

I won’t conceal the fact that I know Rick Harsch – the author of The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas – personally. What’s best about that – apart from being able to enjoy Rick’s sunny disposition and roguish good looks first-hand, of course – is that sometimes he lets me read his work before it’s published. So I happened to read Eddie Vegas more than four years ago (judging from my history on Goodreads), but, of course, the lazy slob that I can be, I didn’t bother to write a review. The convenient excuse that I told myself was that I found it just the tiniest bit weird to express opinions about an unpublished book. Which is true, but still: now along comes Eddie, having recently been published by River Boat Books – which is fabulous news, as I’ve always cheered for this novel – and I’ve wound up owing Rick a review all this time later. Which worries me, because I usually don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

I’ve started writing this worried that rummaging through my mind for things I remember about Eddie Vegas would be frustrating – and yet, completely unexpectedly, I find myself remembering all these vivid details for some reason. As this is, sadly, definitely not true of every book I happen to read, apparently Eddie has made quite an impression. So let me see what I can remember from more than four years ago.

The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is a formidable tome in terms of length and complexity, yet it reads effortlessly, smoothly, and very quickly – especially once you get the hang of Rick’s trademark linguistic stunts. I’ve had the fortune of reading much of what Mr Harsch has written, and I don’t suppose he ever disappoints in this regard – but I found that Eddie was truly on (a yet) another level. Still, I don’t feel that Rick ever crosses that fine line between good taste and gratuitous fanciness: while he is indeed an impressively eloquent linguistic delinquent, he is also as hilarious as he’s unrelenting. And his lists, for crying out loud, the lists! They are poems, really: from dirty, drunken ditties to dazzling diatribes such as the horrendous thirty-page list of moronic, imbecilic, and idiotic names – truly pure-blooded American names – for doomsday devices. What am I going on about, you ask? Well, Rick approaches the rather sensitive subject of nuclear tests with the immediacy of a battering ram: instead of wasting any time yammering about it, he just hands us a list of names of each individual nuclear bomb that Americans have ever blown up on their own soil. There is a truckload of them – the list goes on forever – and seeing so much human idiocy in one place is about as bizarre and disturbing as watching the news or checking out your favourite social media stream.

However, Eddie Vegas is undoubtedly far from being all fancy bells and whistles and no substance. Four years after I read it, I still remember it as a magnificent, intricate, urgent spectacle spanning two continents and multiple timelines, a political thriller, a (noir) crime novel, an absurdist comedy, a love story, a drama, a poetry collection, a dictionary of languages forgotten and newly invented, an epic historical novel, and even a Western (I haven’t read a Western as good as parts of Eddie for a very long time, if at all) – all of this at once.

In short, Rick Harsch’s newest novel is not only a treasure cove of language porn – it is also a narrative rollercoaster, artfully fashioned by a whimsical narrator you simply can’t help admire even when he gets intentionally annoying. In times somewhat different than the current age of Twitter tweets and rampant split-second attention deficit disorder I can easily imagine this becoming a part of the canon. Kids in secondary schools and universities all over the English-speaking (or English-learning) world could easily be pestered with this instead of Finnegan’s Wake, for example – only that in case of Eddie, they might even be interested in making it further than the cover.

 


 

The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is NOT available on Amazon. It can, however, be ordered directly from the publisher, River Boat Books, which kindly offers two links: head here for U.S. purchases; and here for international orders (everywhere except the United States).

E-book update & release

The novels Cynicism Management and Pendulum Pet have both been updated and released in most e-book stores. Pendulum Pet, previously exclusive to Amazon, has now been removed from Amazon out of solidarity with my new U.S. publisher River Boat Books, and both novels are now available, in electronic form, in most e-book stores except Amazon. The price of both books has been set to $ 3.99. Find the universal book links that will take you to the lists of all the stores the novels are available in below each cover.


Available in the following e-book stores


Available in the following e-book stores

Tilting at Windmills?

A few days ago I pulled my books off Amazon in solidarity with my new publisher’s anti-Amazon campaign, which you can read about – and possibly contribute to – on GoFundMe. Tilting at windmills? Possibly, but I believe it is still a good cause, and all the reasons for it are explained in the River Boat Books Anti-Amazon Statement, so no need to repeat them here.

For me personally, the decision to join the boycott was not particularly difficult: after all, Amazon has single-handedly destroyed bookstores and publishers all over the world as well as literature in itself, or at least completely polluted its e-book segment: rabidly profit-driven, it has ensured the global domination of an endless deluge of cloned (pseudo-)fantasy, (quasi-)sci-fi and romance scribblings of the pulpiest kind, as everything that doesn’t get consumed instantly by vast numbers of readers – thanks to aggressive (and expensive) advertising, paid reviews, marketing tricks and schemes, etc. – is sentenced to instant oblivion, ensured by algorithms that keep pushing only what sells best and burying everything else under mile-deep piles of dregs. While that is perfectly understandable and completely unsurprising in the world ruled (and ruined) by rampant capitalism of the worst kind, it is also exactly what I so frequently rant against in my own novels. Therefore I had already felt like a hypocrite for selling (or, rather, attempting to sell) my books through such a malignant transnational corporation even before my publisher, River Boat Books, initiated their openly anti-Amazon campaign.

However, the last and most hilarious straw for me was that some time ago, Amazon arbitrarily and with no explanation or warning at all categorised my debut novel Cynicism Management as erotica – probably because some tender soul, possibly belonging to some terminally-embittered housewife, complained about the couple of rather explicit sex scenes that the novel indeed contains. Fine, so in Amazon’s opinion, any book containing a (semi)vivid description of anything carnal automatically means that the book is porn. Classifying my novel as “erotica” might not even have been so detrimental if it, in fact, was erotica… But, as it happens, it is actually a sci-fi satire with elements of cyberpunk, and the cover displays a cyborg cockroach. I doubt that anyone in their right mind would find that particularly sexy, and the actual sex scenes in the novel probably take up about five to maybe ten pages out of approximately 450. I dread the potential review by anyone who’d buy this thinking that it truly is erotica, but (fortunately?) the book had been concealed under a million of books about witches, fairies, werewolves, and sexy vampires already before this fiasco, so it hasn’t seen any sales whatsoever for ages, anyway.

So, yeah: obviously, my decision to pull my novels off Amazon would have certainly been harder had they actually been selling… But since they had already been largely ignored and increasingly “undiscoverable” with each passing day (as they sank deeper and deeper into the bottomless abyss littered with hundreds of thousands of long-forgotten e-books), this boycott is, I admit, no skin off my back. That much is true. Nevertheless, I’d hate to subscribe to my publisher’s “manifesto” and then do the exact opposite behind their back, so I hope this decision still counts as a valid expression of solidarity.

And now for something completely different!

It now appears that the “slight possibility that my first novel might soon(ish) get released on paper, as an actual, tangible, physical book” that I mentioned in my previous (longwinded, as usual) post will become a fact after all. Here’s an inspirational quote for this occasion:

The whole jeremiad that is Cynicism Management (the novel) is going to be published by River Boat Books this summer – where else than on the banks of the Mississippi River. Hell, maybe NOW the devil I keep looking for might appear to me at those fabled crossroads after all, so that I can finally sign the infernal contract…?

Pendulum Pet FREE on 28 and 29 May

My second novel, Pendulum Pet, is FREE on Amazon on Saturday, 28 May, and Sunday, 29 May, as a part of KDP Select. During this limited time you can grab it without risking any of your capital assets for something you don’t like. In fact, even if you’re never going to read it, you’d be doing me a favour if you downloaded a copy, because all downloads contribute to the book’s stats and visibility on Amazon. Head to this page for more information about the book.

PPet-COVER-400x600

Rick Harsch: The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman

AoD2-300pxI have been shamelessly procrastinating for quite a while now and have avoided writing this review, figuring that I’ve had many more “pressing things” to do – for the very simple reason that this is one of those books that are certainly not “easy”. As such it has called for quite a bit of pondering, because writing a hasty review would have not done it any justice. Let me start by typing a few words about Rick Harsch first. In fact, I’ll just pilfer a bit of my own text from the review of Harsch’s Arjun and the Good Snake that I wrote a couple of months ago.

Once upon a time, Rick Harsch was well on his way to becoming internationally renowned for his traditionally-published and widely acclaimed “Driftless Trilogy” (The Driftless Zone, Billy Verite, and The Sleep of Aborigines), which has also been translated into French and made its way into the curriculum of the somewhat obscure University of Tasmania (as Rick defines it in Snake, “the intellectual center of the only block of land to exterminate all its aboriginals“). However – rather unsurprisingly, if you know what an onerous conundrum of uncalled-for incidents tends to surround Rick most of the time – due to an extremely unfortunate sequence of events, including but not limited to the vastly premature death of his Hollywood agent, a bitter though hilarious (to an external observer) dispute with his subsequent literary agent, the bankruptcy of his French publisher and other similarly torturous circumstances, Rick Harsch’s tenacious infiltration of the world literary canon has been on a rather involuntary and undeserved hiatus of late. The infamous downward spiral of the traditional publishing industry that has got out of control after the advent of e-readers has only further complicated Rick’s theretofore cunning world-domination scheme.

In light of all of the above, Rick has recently decided to join the indie author tribe, and I’m helping him out by formatting his books for e-readers. Arjun and the Good Snake was the first book of his to be re-released as an e-book, in a series of others that should follow shortly. The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman was the second e-book to be published, and I’m almost done with three more, which should be out soon. Appearance goes together with Snake and represents the second half of Rick’s Indian Duology, or however he may refer to the pair of novels. Like in Snake, in Appearance he once again focuses on India; on, as he puts it himself in his description of the book, “…the spaces where love and delusion, myth and existence weave sinuously, rhapsodically, through the Indian world.

The resulting “love story” is an extraordinarily poetic and meticulously thought-out narrative, describing a pilgrimage of an US American man through India in an attempt to overcome the dark forces (mundane as well as otherworldly, even demonic) that would prevent his reunion with his Indian love. However clear and relatively simple this basic plot may seem when you “boil it down” like this, Rick’s writing is, of course, not nearly as straightforward. What starts out as a tale of love in the face of culturally-related obstacles (with the traditional Indian family opposing their daughter’s relationship with a Pisaka, eater of dead flesh, as the girl’s mother refers to the narrator) soon develops into a feverish, phantasmagoric journey of a man-out-of-place through the unknowable intricacies of Indian history and myth. The pilgrimage itself may or not be real, and on his path the narrator is derailed by “suspicious” characters, assailed by demons, and drawn into “the foul game” (as one of the characters refers to it, and which involves a horrendous case of dysentery). Soon the story takes on a somewhat magic-realist dimension that makes it difficult to separate reality from delusions. After darker and darker turns the story culminates in a feverish monologue of the narrator whose pilgrimage has, apparently, not succeeded quite as he has imagined – or has it? Perhaps what really happens is that he finally succumbs to the demon Theengu Karuppu, as he suspected he would (and was warned about it)?

The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman is the sixth book by Harsch I’ve read, and such “uncertainty” with regard to his writing, resulting from the frequent “phantasmal” passage, seems to be his modus operandi: it’s simply something one comes to terms with and learns to love, or one doesn’t. When reading Appearance one should also be prepared to tolerate the frustration one might feel (if one is not exactly an expert in India) by all the Indian names, places, Tamil and Hindi words and concepts, and especially Indian mythology, which Rick, naturally, rarely bothers to explain (such “India-for-dummies” explanations would not have any place in a narrative like this, anyway). Rather than resorting to googling all of this one can also do oneself a favour and just remain relatively ignorant – as far as I’m concerned, one doesn’t have to know exactly what is going on to appreciate the story.

What I mean to say is, if you happen to be one of those readers who like their books clear, to the point, and lacking any digressions and seemingly gratuitous “asides”, you would probably do yourself a favour by staying away from Harsch’s Appearance (and probably Snake as well). However, if you can appreciate a random hint of obscurity and see value in an occasional internal monologue and cryptic passage, this is for you – especially if you can relish the exquisite “prose poetry” language that Appearance has to offer.