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Roger Sarao has commented on (29) products.

Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones
Growing Up Dead in Texas

Roger Sarao, January 2, 2013

Is it a memoir? Fiction? Was there a fire in Texas in 1985? Is Stephen Graham Jones pulling our leg? I don't know and don't really care. What is certain is that this book was among my favorites reads of 2012. The prolific, genre-hopping Jones pulls no punches in this unforgettable semi-fictional account of a devastating fire that destroyed the cotton fields of a small Texan community and changed the lives of its inhabitants forever. Just five months prior to the publication of this book, Jones released ZOMBIE BAKE-OFF - a novel that blends wrestling, donuts and (of course) zombies. Regardless of the subject (horror films, Blackfeet Indians, video games, etc.) or form (novel, short story, screenplay, etc.), Jones' writing puts his work at the top of any "must read" pile. GROWING UP DEAD IN TEXAS is a great place to start.
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Warmed and Bound: A Velvet Anthology by Pela Via
Warmed and Bound: A Velvet Anthology

Roger Sarao, September 10, 2011

WARMED AND BOUND is the first book published by The Velvet Press, and what a debut it is. The Velvet Press takes its name from a Web site (The Velvet) originally set up in 2004 (with help from the folks behind Chuck Palahniuk’s (FIGHT CLUB; CHOKE) Web site, The Cult) as a forum for neo-noir* authors Will Christopher Baer (KISS ME, JUDAS; HELL'S HALF ACRE), Craig Clevenger (THE CONTORTIONIST'S HANDBOOK; DERMAPHORIA) and later, the prolific Stephen Graham Jones (DEMON THEORY; IT CAME FROM DEL RIO). (*There is no apt description for this kind of writing, but neo-noir comes closest.)

The site quickly blossomed into something much more than a fan site, as many talented young authors, themselves fans of the authors mentioned above, began flocking to The Velvet to share and discuss their own stories. Flash forward seven years to the present and the list of people frequenting the site has grown to include established authors, fresh writers eager to express themselves, and more fans of independent artists in the book and film industries.

WARMED AND BOUND is a collection of 38 short stories from this community of misfits, miscreants and misanthropes. The stories have been described as "Velvet Noir," a variation of neo-noir which means nothing to those not familiar with the Web site and its family of writers. Yet the term fits, and like "Cyberpunk" (coined by Bruce Bethke and made popular by William Gibson and others), “Velvet Noir” may someday become a sub-genre unto itself. How does one describe Velvet Noir? I'll leave that to those with a better flair for words. To me it means dark, post-modern, non-traditional, experimental, creative, and most importantly, quality prose.

As for the 38 stories in WARMED AND BOUND, they share nothing in common, yet combined form one of the most talked-about and "must read" anthologies to come out in a long time. From the foreword by Steve Erickson -- one of, if not the, most original voices in contemporary literature:

“The writers of the Velvet are contemporary fiction’s most effective and least self-conscious aesthetic guerrillas . . . The result is fiction at once conceived from high artistic intent and executed with depraved populist energy.”

It's hard for me to pick favorites. None of the stories are fillers, as seems to be the case in many anthologies. The styles of writing are varied but always gorgeous. I found myself touched on some unconscious level by Amanda Gowin's entry, "The World Was Clocks," in which a twin sister struggles with the sudden departure of her sibling and the death of their parents and her own daughter, only to be reunited with her sister in an ending that forced me to reconsider the entire story and the reliability of the protagonist's narrative. Gowin's prose is haunting and elusive, and fits perfectly in this eclectic collection.

The heartbreaking tale "Touch" by Pela Via also deserves mention. There is more emotion packed into seven pages than in most novels. Like all short stories, it’s difficult to write a synopsis without giving away something that should be experienced alone and void of preconceptions or expectations. Sometimes a sentence or two is all that is needed to convey everything while revealing nothing. From “Touch”:

“You killed me that day. Have you ever had to hold your mouth with both hands?”

(Pela Via also served as the anthology’s editor -- a demanding role overlooked by most readers, particularly people (like me) whose written output is limited to e-mails, text messages and Facebook updates. While reading WARMED AND BOUND, I was impressed with Via’s sequencing of 38 non-connected stories, and by her ability to impart to these sundry tales an undertow of familiarity in a sea of disparateness. The overall effect created by Via was that these stories belong together, and each is stronger by virtue of being in the company of the others.)

The heavy hitters in WARMED AND BOUND -- Craig Clevenger, Stephen Graham Jones and Brian Evenson, to name a few -- contribute pieces that alone make this an anthology worth checking out. But the truly amazing thing about this particular collection is that the stories from the authors whose names are not as well known (yet) are just as good. Writers like Richard Thomas, Caleb J Ross, Gavin Pate, Bob Pastorella, Gary Paul Libero, Nik Korpon, Anthony David Jacques, Gordon Highland, JR Harlan, Sean P Ferguson, Chris Deal and all the other authors assembled in WARMED AND BOUND are authors to watch. I know I will seek out their other works and look forward to their future projects. It’s exciting to see such a gifted group of writers finally getting the exposure they deserve.

If you are tired of the same, recycled novels and stories, best-sellers and formulaic plot lines, read WARMED AND BOUND. If you are looking for offbeat, dark, uncategorizable, unique and, above all, exciting reading material, check out WARMED AND BOUND.

“Anthology of the Year” anyone? I’m casting my vote now. Welcome to The Velvet. It warms and binds. Highly recommended.
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Sea Came in At Midnight by Steve Erickson
Sea Came in At Midnight

Roger Sarao, January 1, 2011

Erickson is in a league of his own. His writing is hallucinatory and poetic. This is the story of the "Occupant," who loses his mind in an attempt to chart an "Apocalyptic Calendar." Weaved into the Occupant's tale is the story of Kristen, a young woman who can not dream. Together these characters create an ominous world that threatens to fold in on itself.

Impossible to fully describe, but also impossible to put down, The Sea Came in at Midnight is the perfect escape for those who want something different in contemporary fiction.
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On Writing by Stephen King
On Writing

Roger Sarao, September 5, 2009

A very entertaining and insightful and instructional book. You have to give King a lot of credit for his dedication to the craft of writing, his down-to-earth approach to his fans, and his storytelling abilities. This book is a perfect addition to his legacy; and chronicles a very important event in his life. A damn fine book.
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Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema by Robert Bird
Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema

Roger Sarao, May 25, 2009

Bird has written a thoroughly researched book on Tarkovsky's approach to cinema. Like his films, this book needs time to sink into one's consciousness. It makes me want to re-watch all seven of Tarkovsky's major releases. Of the several books on Tarkovsky available (let's hope for more), this one, and of course Tarkovsky's own "Sculpting in Time," are essential.
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