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The Literature Issue

Book Reviews - The Literature Issue

BRUISED FRUITAs pathetically drawn chap books made by black lesbians in NA pile up around us, we hold one great book up to the sky. David Choe (creator of our May ’99 cover) is up there with
December 1, 2002, 12:00am

bruised fruit
David Choe
Slow Jams / Drips Inc.
As pathetically drawn chap books made by black lesbians in NA pile up around us, we hold one great book up to the sky. David Choe (creator of our May ’99 cover) is up there with Ryan McGinley and Terry Richardson as one of VICE’s favorite artists of all time. Before you quit your day job, examine closely these 82 pages of African travel photos, rushed water colors, comics, sketches, gigantic paintings, porno collages, and gorilla sculptures. If you can’t achieve even four percent of his greatness (we know you can’t), be thankful you have a job and stop your whining. David Choe has just saved another wasted life. CHRISTI BRADNOX Contact Choe at EBOLA
Jeff Ladouceur
L’oile de Cravan
Jeff is a 25-year-old from the West Coast (of Canada) who dropped out of high school to doodle for a living. The Montreal publisher L’oile de Cravan saw some of those doodlings at a show at the VICE store and decided to put out a book. It’s in its second printing now and a new volume will be out soon. He recently moved to Brooklyn with everyone else, but unlike everyone else there he actually has a real outlet for his personal, tortured, philosophical musings. NATHAN McCAFFERTY IN
Volume I: Issue 2: INCOGNITO
Published by Ken Miller and Shu Hung
IN is a small square with a mock wood- panel cover designed by SoCal clothiers Green Lady. Well-designed, with good production and clean writing, this little guy is 48 pages of authentic, straight-to-the-source, in-the-first-person narrative. Conceptually it could have gone painfully wrong but, to the editor’s credit, they have good taste (at times bordering on the pretentious) and vigilantly chose the right people to explain why they do what they do. The candidates take two to three pages each and the overall effect of this exercise is greater than the sum of its parts. From filmmaker Sandi Dubowski’s look at homosexuality in the Orthodox Jewish community, to Fischerspooner’s DJ Unknown (who we love) explaining why the “concept of subculture is in the shitter,” to Ilan Kayatsky’s story about the Sudanese security guard who works in his building, this chapbook is good for the brain. Unexpectedly, though, the weakest piece of text comes from young superstar writer JT Leroy (of Sarah fame). SUROOSH ALVI All Families Are Psychotic
Douglas Coupland
Random House
So there’s this family with a soap opera name (the Drummonds) who talk like they are on a soap opera (no real siblings call each other “big brother” and “baby sister”). Three of them have AIDS, one of them is being launched into space, the bad-boy son accidentally slept with the trophy-wife stepmom, and they are chasing after a letter stolen from Princess Di’s grave. But in the end they learn to work together and everybody’s AIDS is cured by a Ugandan prostitute. Phew! It’s like Coupland is afraid that if he gives us a moment to catch our breath, it’ll be obvious that this is nothing but a series of wacky chase scenes held together only by the centrifugal force of the narrative’s relentless spinning in absurd directions. The novel’s screwball storyline makes Coupland’s hackneyed nuggets of cultural critique stick out like a Baudrillard reference in a VICE article. The bad-boy son, on driving through Daytona Beach says: “This landscape is from an amusement park. I’m on a ride – a ride shaped like an orange VW camper.” So this is what it has come to – the author, whose cultural relevance peaked about a decade ago, has stooped to mocking Florida. Mocking Florida is not shooting fish in a barrel, it’s shooting fish in a shot-glass with a rocket launcher. And a perfunctory critique of Disney World? What is this, 1983? BTW: Expect to see this on the screen soon. Michael Stipe’s film company just bought the feature film rights. ETHAN WILLS Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
Alexandra Fuller
Random House
When Alexandra Fuller was three her drunk, crazy, white parents removed her from England and deposited her and her sister back into the heart of black Africa. Fuller’s folks were Rhodesian whites who had reluctantly fled years before. They returned to an Africa that resents white people farming on the best, blackest African soil. Countries like Rhodesia revolted, killing white farmers and pillaging their land. It’s still going on. Many white people left, some stayed and became pawns of the state, and others, like the Fullers, put on slippers, stifled yawns, poured themselves big glasses of Scotch, and loaded their rifles. Alexandra’s childhood is so pocked with bullets and malaria, booze and starvation, it’s a wonder she’s alive, considering three of her siblings died stupidly and unnecessarily. It’s also a wonder she hasn’t become a hateful mess. Instead she hilariously and poignantly chronicles her life with the wisdom and detachment of a rock-steady pimp. It’s a stunning account of lazy, loving people (dad’s a decadent weirdo, mom’s a bona fide nutcase) who accidentally raise two interesting kids. Alexandra’s as white as Julie Andrews, but her spirit sits buck naked on a zebra. She’s so fucking black, I bet she wears socks balled up around her ankles and slaps her mouthy kids across the face, once, but hard. LISA GABRIELE Snake Pit
Ben White
Every day Ben would come back from band practice or getting drunk or working at the record store and do a three-panel autobio strip about his day. At first they seem sloppily drawn and irrelevant but after about 400 strips you see a greater truth, an overall pattern. You see how bored we get, how wasted we get, and how we always break up with people for no reason. Ben’s shitty comics have created a book that’s impossible to put down, with lessons usually reserved for more pretentious art. Jenny Sommerville Contact Ben at Surviving on the Streets
Ace Backwords
Loompanics Unlimited
Another garishly laid-out but priceless book from Loompanics. Backwords (remember those funny punk rock comic strips from Maximumrocknroll?) has done a four-part guide to surviving life on the streets. While the initial chapters are a bit pedantic and talk about things you don’t need to know, like the merits of a good sleeping bag, the rest of the book evolves way past a survival guide. It becomes a window into the world of the homeless. In a brutally honest manner, Backwords teaches us the safe ones from the dangerous ones, the shit- together ones from the lost ones, and the ones like him from the ones not like him. You’ll never look at homeless people the same way again. LISA LINANG