The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Book review: Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

There are no tidy endings in Bizarre Romance, the new short fiction collection by Audrey Niffenegger, with Bizarre Romance Audrey Niffenegger Eddie Campbellillustrations by Eddie Campbell.

Niffenegger’s stories are, as advertised, bizarre. In one, a woman inherits a house from a kindly elderly woman, and demolishes the house when she discovers something disturbing in the basement No resolution, no lessons learned.

My personal favorite in the collection is “Digging Up the Cat,” a bittersweet story about loss. A character digs up her old dead cat because her parents are moving and her mother insists that “it would be too weird to leave a box full of dead cat in the garden.” She describes in loving detail the act of removing her most recently dead cat from the freezer and adding it to the old cat’s box. Continue reading

“Error: User_Interface,” a short story by Rose Kinney

This isn’t the call Joan is waiting for. The call she’s waiting for, as she stares into the guts of the vintage purple GameCube she doesn’t have the skill to fix, is from Miku. Miku, who wears half of her hair in a ponytail and uses too much garlic when she cooks, who knows exactly which of Joan’s shit to call her out on and which shit can’t be helped, who understood Joan better after one year than Joan’s family had after twenty-eight. She can’t help but pick it over, the moment she noticed the blot of dissatisfaction in Miku three nights ago.

Joan had been slumped on the couch in her apartment, giggling as Miku finished her impromptu performance of “It’s Your Move” by Diana Ross. Miku took a bow, perched across Joan’s lap, and placed her hands on either side of Joan’s face. The ceiling fan clicked rhythmically. An upstairs neighbor slammed a door. Miku smiled lopsidedly, bringing her face closer to Joan’s. A flush burned Joan’s cheeks and she looked away. After a moment, Miku sighed. She detached herself from Joan and stared at the ceiling. “I guess you’d like for me to go, then,” she said, her eyebrows raised.

“No, no,” Joan had replied, too quickly, “You don’t have to.” Continue reading

“Bigger Isn’t Better,” a poem by Marissa Glover

People always say that size matters.

But these days, it’s hard to know what’s true.
So I studied the subject for myself—to see
if the reports I’d heard were just fake news.

Science says Frenchmen have the largest members.
Monsieur Bedel indeed insisted
his was best and that I kiss it! kiss it!
A frog with frantic aim, he lashed about:

a series of this and that—quick in, quicker out.

As if to whip a fly from my cervix,
he jerked his darting la queue faster than a blink.

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Book Review (spoiler-free): Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz, An Orphan X Novel

The newest book in the bestelling Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz offers page turning thrills- it’s a fun quick read for old and new fans alike.

 

Taken from an orphanage as a 12 year old Evan Smoak was raised and trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. Evan eventually goes rogue, and reinvents himself as the Nowhere Man, using his skills to help the truly desperate.

 

All of this information is covered within the first few pages of Hellbent making this book very easy to pick up for any thriller fans looking for a new read.  

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“All the Pretty Lights,” a short story by Alex Rosenfeld

For Lollie

 

Otieno (oh-tee-en-oh) feels lost, again. Lying on his bed, the Sixers game plays on the flat screen while the A/C forces the dust on the bookshelf to resettle. The bookshelf, really his wife’s bookshelf, encompasses both sides of the wall around the flat screen TV. A year’s worth of dust mars the spines. That must be her skin still existing in the world. On one of the shelves sit pictures of his parents, two of his best friends, and his beloved cat, Oliver. They’re all gone. Part of living as long as he has, he’s seventy-seven, has entailed outliving everyone he’s ever loved. Maybe he should have pushed his wife harder to have a kid. Then, at least he’d have someone, and he probably wouldn’t be contemplating how high to fill his rocks glass with brandy to wash down too many of the painkillers meant to manage his recent back pain.

Warm August air tiptoes through his apartment window – the apartment where he and his wife moved a few years ago when the house started feeling too big – while his eyes search the starless, moonless night. His shadow doesn’t reach up the wall as far as most men’s would, yet the shadow is enough for him to believe that the darkness isn’t just pressing in from the outside, but emanating from inside, too. He runs a hand through his gray, fading hair that sprouts unkempt above a receding hairline, as if present only to delay the inevitable. In the angled glass of the open window, the Sixers game reflects next to his face, which is so much older than the players’ faces on the screen. It didn’t use to be that way. Now his dark skin is worn down and sags away from his bones, away from him, as if it’s getting ready to leave him. He’s never used so many notches on a belt before.

Otieno doesn’t think about the TV being the only light in the room before turning it off. He lingers in his newfound darkness. Does it matter to have lights on when you live alone? The darkness speaks to his existence. He’s invisible. A retired insurance salesman living in Allentown, quiet Pennsylvania suburbia, with no reason to leave the house other than to buy groceries. Soon after his wife passed, he tried going to synagogue, hoping to meet people. The more he went to services, the more people talked to him about the importance of having God in his life, and the more it seemed God wasn’t going to save him. God appeared to have retired from burning bushes and parting seas. It seems modern day people don’t need miracles. They just need to believe in them. Continue reading

The Search for Alexander the Great by Charles Haddox

It’s strange how a person who would ordinarily be insignificant in one’s life, who should already be forgotten, remains in the memory simply because of an association with the first intense, passionate stirrings of love. Some dull, remote co-worker who introduced you to the man or woman of your dreams, for example, will forever be a part of a whole series of magical recollections, a minor character in one’s own personal fairy tale. For me, ugly, middle-aged Pauley Reddy, a ticket-seller at the Field Museum in Chicago, was just such a person.

    I worked for a time at a weekly tabloid-format entertainment publication in Chicago, where I held the inflated title of Film Editor. We had a Music Editor and an Arts Editor, as well as a Publisher—who my father-in-law would have called a “success story,” i.e., a trust fund baby—a motley group that along with me constituted the entire staff. All layout, sales, and production work was contracted out. I fell madly in love with the Arts Editor, Eliza Oberwitz, from my first day at the paper.

    One morning, the Music Editor, Mark Betts, and I decided to accompany Eliza to a traveling exhibit at the Field Museum that she was planning to review for our publication. The exhibit was called “The Search for Alexander the Great,” and I don’t remember a whole lot about it except that there were a bunch of Greek artifacts and stuff. Actually, I don’t even remember that much. I’m just assuming that there must have been. I spent the entire tour of the exhibition staring at Eliza, studying her smile and her walk, watching the enthusiasm in her eyes. She was born in England, and still retained a soft West Midlands accent—which sounded like music to me. Her family had moved to Chicago when she was fifteen. She still considered herself British, and had a snobbish preference for all things English. The only times I ever saw her act peevish or defensive were on those occasions when someone made negative comments in her presence about something related to England, however remotely. I remember her scathing response to an article Mark had written that was critical of the direction Kate Rusby’s career had taken. She told him in no uncertain terms that he knew nothing about English folk music, and had no right to pass judgement on what did or did not constitute genuine musical development. If it could be said that Eliza had one fault, it was her “Anglo-touchiness,” as Mark so aptly christened it. Eliza is the most wonderful person in the world, so it’s terribly unfair of me to focus on one of her only flaws. But her lovely English accent was part of what distracted me from putting more effort into “The Search for Alexander the Great,” as I listened delightedly to the questions that she asked the guide at every turn, comprehending little of what was actually said. Continue reading

Book Review (spoiler-free): Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu is a sci-fi thriller from an author that has already written two other trilogies- Lu is someone who’s had practice and it shows. Warcross will satisfy YA fans of any age. Protagonist Emika Chen is smart, capable, and well drawn out. The world she inhabits is immersive, bright, and is believable enough to seem like it could be the not too distant future.

 

  • The title comes from the game that everyone in the book is playing- Warcross. Within the span of a few years, Warcross, a fully immersive virtual reality game, has become a worldwide phenomenon where almost everyone is at least a casual player. Readers with at least a passing interest in gamer culture (which is everyone, thank you apps) will be able to recognize how similar our world is to Lu’s. Lu mixes so much of her own vision of a future based around this game with very real tech/gamer culture. She creates a bustling and bright future Tokyo backdrop where for the majority of the novel takes place to take place in. Reading her seamless integration of imagined and kind of real tech is half the fun of Warcross.

 

There’s a whole economy based around Warcross, just like the one surrounding our real world’s popular games. There are pro leagues as well as illegal betting which is where our protagonist comes in. Continue reading

“The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer, but I Can Hear the Falcon (I Think),” a poem by Julia Brown

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“Pocket Knives,” an essay by Renee Igo

A knife has many uses in the wilderness.  I’ve taken Jamie’s knife from her, the weight of it added to mine in my pocket every day, the weight of trust hitting my leg, of no new scars.  

 

She is my student on a month-long wilderness expedition.  Our goals are to develop leadership skills, provide opportunities for reflection and growth, travel 150 miles by foot and canoe, and return everyone to their families safely.  On the sixth day of the trip, another student tells my co-instructor and me that Jamie has both snuck a pocket knife on the trip, and told her teammate about her history of cutting.  So it becomes my job, standing together on a trail slightly removed from the campsite, to ask Jamie for her knife.  I tell her I, too, snuck my knife onto my expedition when I was a teenage student in our program.  I ask her for the specifics of her past: where, when, under what circumstances, how recently.  She cries and then confides, cutting, scratching, wrists, thighs, the past two years.  I thank her and offer to carry her knife and allow her its use whenever she needs to chop vegetables or would like to whittle a stick or fillet a fish.  We return to camp with the weight in my pocket doubled.

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Book Review: Like a Champion by Vincent Chu

Characters find triumph in small moments in Vincent Chu’s new short fiction collection, Like a Champion. These quietly hopeful stories are a breath of fresh air.

Chu hands us a diversity of characters, all underdogs to varying degrees. For the most part, the stories follow a pattern: someone is having a rough day (or month, or year, or life), but then the universe sends them a small token of hope, or they find just enough courage to do something virtuous, and for one shining moment, they feel like a champion. Even protagonists who are downright unlikeable, like Hal in “Star of the World,” who thinks that the “Orientals” made up global warming to keep people buying Japanese, and sends his daughter a birthday card begging her to send him money and fix his computer, among other things, have redeemable moments.

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