All That Distance Between Us: A Review of Michael Kimball’s Big Ray

In Michael Kimball‘s books, writing is an act of quiet devastation. By treating emotionally charged subjects in a matter-of-fact, direct manner, Kimball lays bare the wounds on the body and in the mind, drawing us a picture of the blood and guts and yes, piss – without the excess of pathos that other writers might deliver up with it. This plain-spoken approach to the cruelest cuts is a brutal and truth-driven process; it forces the reader to look, really look, at the hurts that we inflict upon one another. Image

In his latest book, Big Ray, these hurts are, if anything, even more painful, because they are largely those of Kimball himself. In what he says is mostly an autobiographical novel, the narrator contrasts his father’s life story with his death story, using the familiar story-in-pictures frame in a way that feels appropriate and right for the book. The narrator has always felt distant from his father, and so seeing his father’s unfamiliar life unfold in photographs works well here, and enhances not only the distance between Ray and his son, but the idea that none of us can ever really have the whole person in our parents (or our children, for that matter.) Only a little part of our parents’ lives belong to us, and all of us are really strangers to each other in so many ways. There is so much distance between even and maybe especially families. Kimball writes:

I have a cracked photograph of my father as a newborn that is a kind of family portrait. My father’s parents are standing outside in front of their rented farmhouse surrounded by weeds. My father’s mother is holding him against her left hip, but she’s leaning her upper body away from him and looking at the camera in a challenging way. My father’s father is standing next to them, but he is leaning away…None of the people can get away from each other, but they have created as much distance between each other as they can. Continue reading


Review Issue 00!

Yet another issue of Review, Issue 00!, Spring, 2012: Paul Simon, it’s “Graceland.” Enjoy!


Michael A. Martone | Wikipedia

May I Not Seem to Have Lived | Joseph Cardinale

Mothermind | Samantha Stiers


Where There Should Be a Plant Stand, There Isn’t | Karyna McGlynn

Curtained Gothic | Olivia Cronk

from Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake | Heidi Lynn Staples


The Object is Always Magic: Narrative as Collection | Gregory Howard

A Monstrous Little Voice | Elena Passarello

The Printer Collapsed Into a Naked Singularity, Right There in My Office | Patrick Carroll, John L., and others


Interview with J. G. Ballard

Interview with Dennis Potter

Interview with Michael Martone

Review: Issue 0!

Issue 0 of Review, “THE CREATION MYTH OF THE DIGITAL UNIVERSE,”  is here! Rejoice.





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Daybreak, Brian Ralph (Drawn & Quarterly, 2011)

Republished late last year as a single-volume graphic novel, Daybreak was originally released in three parts between ’06 and ’08, and, in my mind, stands as one of the quintessential graphic (or “comic”) works of the past decade. Brian Ralph, the author and illustrator, is also notable for his graphic novels, Cave-In (1999) and Climbing Out (2002)—both highly recommended—but Daybreak ups the ante. So, having it picked up by Drawn & Quarterly and offered as a single book is an exciting event.

Daybreak is a zombie story.

It feels odd, saying that—like it’s a guilty admission or something. Continue reading

John Ashbery’s PLANISPHERE (Ecco, 2009)

A is for “ASHBERY”—which, in large red capital letters, is by far the most prominent word on the cover of his latest book Planisphere. This confirms what we’ve known for some time: that in the expanding and heterogeneous village that is Contemporary American Poetry, “Ashbery” has become a household name, a kind of trademark style, instantly recognizable. In the same way one can say “Those sunglasses are so Fendi,” one can say, “That prose poem is very Ashberian.”

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