Archive for February, 2015

Review: The Laughing Monsters

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters is an exciting, suspenseful, thriller set in Africa.  For me, and I suspect most readers, the plot is really a sideline, though. The mood Johnson sustains is much more powerful and interesting.

Johnson’s Africa is haunted.  It’s haunted by ancient ways of life ruptured by recent horrors.  It’s haunted by the West’s history of exploitation and recent headless terror over 9/11 and related unrest.  It’s haunted by Africa’s homegrown despots and their rapacious hungers.  It’s haunted by poverty, greed, and ambition. These restless spirits howl throughout the whole book.

Importantly, all these ghosts visit our protagonists directly. There are no moments where anyone announces that Imperialism brought about a plot element or haunting detail, but there’s never any doubt where those elements and details stem from, either. The ghosts are always personal; they touch our anti-hero adventurers as directly as a creepy uncle in a church basement. The unease and guilt swirl throughout the narrative.

It’s a spooky book front to back, and a good thriller to boot.

Strongly recommended.

Review: The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Kevin Underhill writes Lowering The Bar, which is really all the credentials one needs as a funny lawyer. His Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance is one of those e-mails or gift shop books that collect strange, stupid, outdated laws.  Unlike the e-mails and the gift shop books, Sasquatch is well researched and properly referenced. It’s also funnier.

So Underhill has done an existentially strange thing.  He’s produced the best instance of a disposable piece of pop culture.  The result is an engaging piece of ephemera.  It’s well worth buying and reading it, even if you may do so in the bathroom.

Strongly Recommended.