In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods (2)In Matt Bell’s debut novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods (Soho Press), we are lured into familiar territory—the world of fables and tall tales, where our expectations of the surreal, the grotesque, and the magical are fulfilled in ever-expanding layers. But beyond the illusions, beyond the world building, darkness, and the unknown is an allegory—a harsh yet beautiful lesson on what it means to be a man, a father, and a husband; to be a woman, a mother, and a wife. Told in layers, fractured into sections, unfolding in a grand tapestry that weaves emotions and actions into a complex series of destinies and consequences, this novel is not an easy read. But the reward is dense prose, powerful psychoanalysis, and the unsettling feeling that our own actions today—many miles from the woods with its failing bear, and its lake with its undulating squid—might be bound by similar rules and outcomes.

A lot has been written on Junot Díaz lately.  For several weeks starting in September, he appeared in at least twelve publications that showed up at my house.  He was in everything from the unsolicited Time Magazine, apparently intended for my fifteen-year-old son, to Vogue, where Díaz appeared in costume, dressed as a member of Edith Wharton’s circle.  Díaz’s face smiled out from Entertainment Weekly, and he appealed for understanding from the pages of the New York Times Magazine. Online, the Guardian Blog stated that the term “genius” was inadequate praise.  Seemingly everywhere, his big glasses, smooth head, trim beard, and tentative smile greeted me. If Andy Warhol still lived, he would use Junot Diaz as a subject.

“What is abuse? Someone with an upper hand taking advantage of it over a more vulnerable someone, usually exactly where there should have been intimacy, trust, love instead.” – Unnamed Narrator — Watch Doors as They Close

Spuyten Duyvil Novella Series recently unleashed an-anti love story called Watch Doors as They Close by Karen Lillis. Set in New York City, this novella is a common tale told in an uncommon fashion about an “ended before it began” relationship which was strained and then destroyed by the behavior patterns of a manic-depressive named Anselm.

Marc Schuster has and will continue to hold a high place on my shelf. His debut novel The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl wowed me to such such an extent that it became a catalyst of inspiration for my own writing. His literary abilities are phenomenal. He follows the rules when it comes to scene setting and character introductions, but maintains narrative originality so his prose is never stiff or forced. His writing style is dark but down to earth, silly but practical, and smart and hilarious all at once. I’ve been holding my breath for his sophomore novel, The Grievers, released in May, 2012 through The Permanent Press, and I can say with definitive certainty that Schuster has written another boundary-leaping novel.