Tag Archives: Ryan Ridge

Holiday Book Buying

4 Dec

I’m sitting here working on my list of books that I’d like to buy, be given, and/or give this holiday season. I’m becoming overwhelmed as I realize (again) that tricky situation: so many books, limited money. I thought I’d share a few books that I haven’t read but really really want (or want to give) that seem like great choices for holiday shopping this December.

1. The Oregon Trail Is The Oregon Trail by Gregory Sherl (MudLuscious Press): Every book MLP puts out is that beautiful blur of story and sound. In his past work, Sherl is a fearless traveler of emotions, searching inside himself and carrying whatever he finds to his readers. Add in that obvious connection to the video game of my (our?) youth and this could be a good gift for any literary lover of our generation, despite it being a pre-order (better a little late than never!). Check out this excerpt from the book’s page:

In my dreams we always ford the river.
In the wagon I cover you with blankets
when you sleep. You often dream of ghosts
while I hunt bison wherever bison live.
The ghosts are vegetarian, your heart
is April wind, raindrops the size of half dollars.
We never hire the Indian guide. Instead,
we keep the five dollars, roll it up, hide
it in my wool sock. You look better in 3D.
I touch your breasts with my fingertips.
Then I touch your breasts with my whole
hand. I swallow the idea of independence,
finding the West before the dirt was soiled
by factories that build heat-seeking missiles,
amusement parks, & chain restaurants.
Chimney Rock is underwhelming. I spit
in the cracks of the rock, tiny crevices
that hide who the fuck knows. You are hot
shit & the other carpenters from Ohio
are jealous. They think about your hair
while they’re inside their wives, think about
your dimple while they try to repair the axle
on their wagon. True love is finding wild
fruit. We eat without bibs. By rivers I sleep
easy, knowing you’re cleaning the clothes nearby.

2. Issue 4 of Artifice Magazine: The next installment from our favorite super self-aware journal promises to be beautiful, both inside and out. It also will fit in a stocking. Most importantly, it features new work by wonderful writers like Ryan Ridge, Richard Chiem, and Caroline Crew that are sure to be mind-thumping.

3. So many things from Dzanc Books’ Holiday Sale: With sales like Buy One, Get One Free or free eBooks with every print book or sweet bundles, Dzanc continues to offer some of the best literary booyeah for your buck. Maybe you have a friend/relative that needs some good lit exposure; try some the 30 Under 30 Anthology edited by Lily Hoang and Blake Butler, featuring innovative fiction from the likes of Matt Bell, Evelyn Hampton, and Brian Oliu. Or maybe–like me (silly I know)— you still haven’t read Kyle Minor’s book, so ask for that. Or maybe one of those wild new releases has caught your eye, like Animal Sanctuary by Sarah Falkner:

Winner of the 7th Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction

A wild and mysterious novel of multiple characters and episodes structured around the life and career of a fictional actress and animal rights activist, is the winner of the 7th Starcherone Fiction Prize. The manuscript was selected by novelist and short story writer Stacey Levine.

Animal Sanctuary is a challenging, readable, powerful, and mysterious novel. The story—not a single plot, but multiple, peripherally connected episodes and discourses – concerns an American actress, Kitty Dawson, who stars in two movies by a famous (and famously obscure) British director, Albert Wickwood, both having animal disaster themes. Kitty then goes on to make a great many other pictures with animal themes, and to found in the 1970s a sanctuary for big cats that rich people decide first to have as pets, then abandon. Later, Kitty’s only son, Rory, raised in the animal sanctuary and as a young teen the lover of a renowned Austrian big cat trainer, becomes an installation and performance artist whose work incorporates animals & animal themes, as well as attempts to critique and get outside of institutions.

4. Please Don’t Be Upset by Brandi Wells: Missed out on Tiny Hardcore Press’s sweet sales awhile back? That’s okay, you’re not alone. But, you can still snag Well’s sure-to-be-sweet book for a stellar $8.99. I’m always impressed by how Wells’ writing, and THP books in general, can be in-your-face without being obnoxious, intimate without being awkward, and 100% hard-hitting.


It sounded like a reasonable request…. (A Review of Hunters & Gamblers by Ryan Ridge)

17 Nov

Hunters & Gamblers
by Ryan Ridge
Dark Sky Books, 125pgs, $12

Hunters & Gamblers? Not quite the clever title I expected from Ryan Ridge, the writer I came to follow because of the Ox poems, those strange LOLZ-worthy poems (like these at elimae). However, I’ve read these stories and it’s admittin’ time: I can’t imagine this collection being titled anything else. These pieces tumble around with names and labels and states of being. And boom, an explosion illuminating how a label can affect so much, how a person can be lifted above the junk or, in most of these instances, thrown in a whirlwind of weird and tragic.

Infectious? Is that word a good label? Anyways, once I started, I pulled this thing out of my bag during my lunch break, snuck off during work to read pieces, found myself reading them before bed and having some wicked dreams. Originally, I was gonna write a single-sentence review of this collection, but no no no, not fair to these stories that kicked a hole in my comfort gut and not fair to myself. I’ve been wriggling around for a week now.

But first: that single-sentence review–On these bitter Indiana nights when winter is a bit early, these stories remind me how there are worse places to be, how a safe place can make all the difference, how there are worse people to be.

And here’s more: With superb language and an eye for the right situation, Ridge has crafted stories big and small to remind us of the goodness we have by showing us the ugly. There are labels and then there is life, a often forgotten distinction showcased by Ridge’s method of showing us the banner, then waltzing out the awful and having them/it dance around for us.

Like “Pussy (an Explanation).” It doesn’t get clearer what we are talking about, a boy whose coworkers call him a pussy. And as the story unfolds, from being about the speaker leaving work to get out of skinning deer, opting to take home a female coworker, it quickly unravels and then twists. The speaker, this whole time we learn, has been talking to his son in the story, explaining the elk head with a plated “Pussy” and the revelation that the kid’s mom is that same girl from that night, the one the speaker drove home. And we get it, how a label can collide with a life, like the phrase “jumping off a pier” blazing real once you’re in the mouth of the gator in the water.

Everything after the word becomes reality is shaken up:

Oh, I quit that bullshit job a couple months later, just after deer season. Your mother worked there a little while longer. Mike and Baxter even crashed our wedding. They showed up, called me a pussy, and said they didn’t think I had it in me and they gave us the strangest wedding present—
The mounted elk’s head with the word “pussy” engraved on it?
Yes son. I’m that Pussy. Does that explain things?
Yes, dad. Crystal. Hey, question.
Do you think you and mom will ever get back together?
Hard to say. The ball is in her court. You can tell her I said that.

Or like “After Fall,” a post-invasion story about a family trying to continue on after paratroopers took over. We see the craziness of life without order, or rather a jumbled order, with Girl Scouts selling single cookies for $20 or the women of a family gone, the speaker says to chase wildlife for food (but maybe we know better). Once the umbrella of “stable” government shuts, the power shifts and our comforts and expectations are toppled. The ending (besides an italics section detailing more of the takeover) is what gets me, the men of the family on the floor, asking for divine intervention, seeing how their safety net worked more smoothly when that umbrella was up: “It sounded like a reasonable request, and we were reasonable people, historically speaking. We just didn’t know what was hurtling toward us.”

But this is all to say that Ridge’s collection at once shows us life covered by its cloud of strange, pummeled by its raindrops of ugly, bad weather we call it.

I keep flipping back to the story, “Fuck Shop.” It goes like this:
“Welcome to the fuck shop,” said the old man in the red smock.
“I thought this was Wal-Mart,” I said.
“That’s funny,” he said, “I thought this was America.”

(Reprinted here with the permission of the author)

And that’s it, that’s perfect. If perception is more than a blip, but also a major catalyst for how we behave, also a label stuck to everything we see, also a hand in the back that pushes us forward and maybe down, then these stories are those rare stories that shake us awake, that remind us to stop gambling and hunt something that’ll keep us full, make us warm, keep us safe.

Available from:
Dark Sky Books | Powell’s | Amazon | Amazon Kindle


15 Jan

Hey hey. My monthly column went up yesterday at Smalldoggies Magazine for the Vouched Satellite project. A bunch of cool people including the Vouched contributors, Peter Davis, Matt Bell, Ryan Ridge, and Matty Byloos contributed lists of their favorite online lit journals. Thanks to all them for helping out. Thanks to you for supporting indie lit. GET TO READIN’.


9 Dec

My second Vouched Satellite post is up at Smalldoggies. This time, Ryan Ridge and I sit down on the Internet and talk about his American Homes project, objects in indie lit, and even E.B. White. Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to help out. It was super fun. I hope it’s super fun to read.

Lamination Colony is all kinds of rays of colorlight

28 Oct

Lamination Colony‘s final (read: bummer dude) issue is closing this web journal with a boomabang. I bet you know this.

Ryan Ridge is back with another installment of “The Anatomy of American Homes.” Man, I’m so stoked about this series, really, like I’ve lived in an American home for what 22 years now, but the way this guy moves it around, shapes it, hands it over, it is shocking and even better, fun.

Peter Davis is here with three poems that shriek with personality, his honesty and humor and goodness. I think I like “Mother’s Day” best, the uniting of the skateboard and the wife as images, metaphors, etc., is tricky, but Davis lands it smooth.

Jeremy Schmall throws language around like he just figured out it’s a dangerous world. I like the first line a lot: With the dim sky out of sight I can almost—finally—be just a dude under tree branches.

Catherine Lacey in “Everybody” reminds me the importance of a name, “Everybody” is the name of the character and that just threw me for a loop, for real. Also, this story seems to take words like “eggs” and “had it” and make them unbelievably powerful.

Amber Sparks makes me like science and places I don’t know, and that’s nice. The coolest thing about this story is the way the title interacts with the content, man my mind is racing.

Cool last issue. I know a lot of people are sad about this issue, but this seems like a sweet way to end it, like seriously it’s just a super issue. AND ALSO YOU KNOW I’M REALLY DIGGING THE FACES AS BACKGROUND WITH BARE SHOULDERS AS AN EXTRA.