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Original Essays | April 11, 2014

Paul Laudiero: IMG Shit Rough Draft



I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working... Continue »
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Tyler Jones has commented on (13) products.

The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo
The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories

Tyler Jones, November 8, 2011

There is something fascinating and frightening about the way that Don DeLillo sees the world. It’s not that he sees it differently than you or I, he sees it more clearly, he makes connections most of us don’t dream of. For this reason he has been called “weirdly prophetic” about the millennial decades. For example, the World Trade Center Towers featured prominently as the site for terrorists attacks in more than one novel. How did he know that they would be a target almost 30 years prior to the events of 9/11? He looked at those Towers and saw something so monumental that they would have to come down, one way or another.

These stories span almost over 30 years of time, and DeLillo’s writing has under gone many evolutions since then. I’ve read every single one of his books and many of these stories fit well into the spaces between novels.

I prefer not to summarize plots in my reviews, simply because I go into book and stories completely blind and discover it. I would hate to rob anyone of anything. So, I will say that one of the things I’ve always loved about DeLillo is the way he takes everyday events and infuses them with a sense of dread. We all get flat tires, or miss flights, or call a wrong number ��" but in the DeLillo world these things are signs of something much larger at work, even if it’s never revealed the fear is felt.

DeLillo recently wrote a short story that was published in the New Yorker called “Midnight In Dostoyevsky,” in which two young men follow a man in a strange coat. The act itself is fairly innocent, but the way Delillo writes it makes you wonder if the two boys are going to rob or murder the man in the coat.

The sentences are astonishing, as well as the words he uses, which aren’t necessarily big and unpronounceable, but uncannily perfect for whatever he is describing.

My only complaints are I wish this book would have collected more of his stories and “The Angel Esmerelda” will be recognized by those of you who have read “Underworld,” although it is a bit different, it still felt familiar. This is excellent reading for anyone who appreciates intelligent fiction, but in the end it just makes me want to go back and read his novels.
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Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
Damned

Tyler Jones, September 1, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk’s books just keep getting weirder and weirder. I read and enjoy all of his novels, some more than others. “Pygmy” was a strange experiment, but unique and compelling nonetheless. “Tell-All” was a fun and enjoyable romp through the golden age of Hollywood, although it never quite became what it could have been.

And now, here is “Damned,” a journey through hell (literally) with a sharp tongued and lovable young woman named Madison who died from…you’ll have to read to find out, and it’s not a marijuana overdose.

Frankly, this book is about as strange and bizarre as they come. The underworld is depicted as a place of grotesque monsters with lakes of sperm and mountains of toenail clippings. There were times when I thought this book was completely unclassifiable in any genre, forcing a new one to be invented. Afterlife Black Comedy.

“Damned,” at its core, is a satire, and Chuck is at his best in skewering the affluent Hollywood lifestyle. Madison’s parents are a movie star and a real estate mogul/business man who adopt children from war torn countries for the PR.

More importantly, in my opinion, is the writing, and Chuck breaks free from whatever has bound him over the last couple years and writes with an eloquence not seen since…well, maybe ever. Palahniuk has a very distinctive voice in his writing, all of his fans have gotten used to it, and look forward to it with each new book. But with “Damned,” there is something more, a careful attention paid to craft more than story. The sentences flow artfully in Madison’s voice and bring her to life with all her hopefulness and intelligence.

“Damned,” is not a great book in the sense that it’s a new classic, but I think it is a step in the right direction for Chuck. The story is just weird, but the way he tells it is what makes it such a fun read.

It’s okay for books to be both fun and well written.
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Nemesis by Philip Roth
Nemesis

Tyler Jones, January 3, 2011

Philip Roth reimagines history like no other author alive. He takes true events and displaces them, adding his own blend of imagination and plausibility.
Though "Nemesis" is placed in the same category in Roth's bibliography as "Everyman", "Indignation", and "The Humbling", it actually falls closer to "The Plot Against America" in terms of plot and style.

There was no polio epidemic in New Jersey in 1945, but Roth imagines one, and then proceeds to tell us of its devastating effects, not just on those stricken with the disease, but also a young man who witnesses these events. Bucky Cantor is a twenty-three year Physical Education teacher, and unlike some of Roth's other heros, is not a tormented intellectual, but rather a solid individual, truly injured at what is happening to the children around him. Gradually, as the epidemic spreads, Bucky begins asking himself questions for which there are no answers.

This is one of the first books in which some of Philip Roth's infamous outrage is directed at the divine. In past novels, it is almost always men and women (usually women) who are the source of the protagonist's crises. But this time, the nemesis is a disease, a germ which cannot be killed at this point in history. It is nameless, faceless, and silent. Roth recognizes that we as human beings require an enemy, someone to blame for the inexplicable happenings in our lives. Who better than God to point the finger at when young children, not old enough to yet be stained by guilt, are ravaged by pain and then die? There is an extremely powerful passage that takes place at a funeral in which Bucky begins to harbor his doubt of the Almighty.

Rather than summarize the plot, I will say that Fate in this novel is a blood hound on the scent of our young hero. A sensitive man who cannot understand why God would allow such suffering.

In the later short novels, Roth has been a writer obsessed with Death and its various forms, both self inflicted and random. How we view life through the lens of impending Death is the subject of "Nemesis" - an apt title considering the hero is uncertain who the enemy is. Is it God, Fate, himself, the disease? Or is it simply Life, that chews us up and spits us out, mindful of no one?

The prose, as always, is some of the most precise in the English language. Roth is an author sure of himself and his abilities and "Nemesis" is a worthy addition to the Roth cannon.
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You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
You Shall Know Our Velocity!

Tyler Jones, October 20, 2010

Dave Eggers first novel after the explosion of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" is a rambling, long winded story of two friends traveling around the world to give away a large sum of money left to them by a dead friend.

Eggers is a talented writer, of that there is no doubt. However, his ambition seems to outweigh his abilities, perhaps success came too fast for him to develop his craft. Either way, "YSHKOV!" is probably about more than the story, although the themes are lost somewhere in the narrative. These two friends travel, encounter people, give some money to them, talk amongst themselves, and sometimes even philosophize about how worthy they are to eat a piece of pizza.

What Eggers specializes in is the self-awareness of young men, feeling that life is something more than surface...but they have a hard time figuring out just what that meaning is. They feel different, they are intelligent and articulate but ultimately aimless and wandering the world without any ambition.

The diasffected young male has been a staple of literature for decades, but now, there is more emotion to these characters than previous hereoes, like Salinger's and Kerouac's. Today's young man reaches 30 and is suddenly slapped in the face by the reality of life, and it stings. The problem, is that Eggers' heroes speak esoterically of the meaning of everything but focus on nothing of real importance.

In short, Eggers bites off more than he can chew. He sounds smart, but it's misplaced intelligence, it's a focus on aspects of life that true intellectuals see as minor parts of the major whole. It's these mundane aspects he spends most of his time writing about and it's unfortunate.

Thankfully, he grew as a writer much later, "What is the What" is evidence of a man who has seen more of the world at large and all the other people who inhabit it. People who can't take the time to wonder about how worthy one must be to eat a pizza becuase they're too busy trying to survive...and that is the bigger picture he misses in this novel.
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Ratner's Star (Vintage Contemporaries) by Don Delillo
Ratner's Star (Vintage Contemporaries)

Tyler Jones, October 20, 2010

The novel is a thing of great power and beauty, not limited to the works that populate the "best seller" list. Unfortunately, in America, we have been conditioned to expect instant gratification and understanding, whereas truly great works of art require the attention and concentration of a great reader.

Ratner's Star is, according to Mr. Delillo himself, his favorite of all his novels. The reason for this, I can only imagine, is a true sense of pride in having finished it and accomplished something so dense and difficult...and difficult it is. This is not easy reading. The language is a conglomeration of mathematics and science, of speculation and spiritual dimension.

This is a novel by a relatively "new" writer (at the time) wishing to flex his intellectual muscles and perhaps prove to the world at large that he is a voice to be reckoned with in the future of American writing. Cormac Mccarthy also did this with his incredible novel "Suttree."

Many reviews I read seem to expect something from a novel: a very specific and easy to understand plot, wonderful characters, and maybe even some twists and turns. But true literature challenges the reader to step beyond these confines and give himself over to ideas and turns of phrase. This novel is like a dream in which all is understood while in the midst of it, step away for too long and you will lose all sense of time and place.

Of course, anyone reading Delillo is already aware of how he writes, his work is not tailor made for the ADD generation. His work takes time and patience to appreciate, just like great paintings hanging in a museum, to truly recognize the genius at work you can't just walk through the room. You have to stand there, motionless, and study the brush strokes, the amount of skill and effort that went into creating what you're looking at. For this reason alone Ratner's Star stands out and above, a novel of vast ideas and ingenious philosophy. It is a firm demonstartion of Mr. Delillo's power with words and his grasp on what a novel was meant to be...a tool to shape modern thought through one means or another. Granted, they are just words on a page, but they are also so much more than that, just like a sunset is much more than colors in the sky.
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