Saturday, December 13, 2014

A highly recommended literary review

Lazy Fascist Review #1 and #2

Edited by Cameron Pierce.

Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press

Rating: See below

Everyone should read a literary journal now and then. The good ones do more than give you a sampling of new writers and material. They give you a break from the mainstream dribble that drowns us in a commercial sea of the expected. Not that I have any thing against the New York Times bestseller list, mainstream magazines, and the pulp jungle. But the real reader seeks the unexpected, those writers that bury us in words that tear at the fabric of our existence.

Lazy Fascist Review is a different type of journal. It is published by Lazy Fascist Press, an imprint of Eraserhead Press which primary deals in Bizarro Lit. Eraserhead’s other sibling is Deadite Press which goes more into horror. Yet Lazy Fascist, under the capable hands of Cameron Pierce, seems to be the most literary of the three, perhaps more accepting of experimenting and not tied down to any particular genre. Their novels seem to have no clear boundaries except to awe and impress and ranges from Bradley Sands’ surreal humor to Andersen Prunty’s existential horror to Brian Allen Carr’s sparse landscapes of angst and dread.

Lazy Fascist Review is a twice yearly publication with two issues currently out. Aside from that, it does not appear to have a regular publication schedule nor a subscription option. It sells right along with their other novels so it may best be called an anthology rather than a journal. It features both prose and poetry yet there seems to be no real theme except that it is prose and poetry way outside the mainstream and it makes you think. In the Lazy Fascist review, writing is a serious business. Yet not so serious that the journal doesn’t throw out a little twist. Along with the prose and poetry, the journal also features a look at an obscure brewery while the editor, Cameron Pierce, suggest pairings of a quality beer with each work. Beer tasting reviews are also featured. I am not likely to test out these pairings thanks to my recently acquired hops allergy, ending my beer days. Perhaps someday they may try a wine tasting issue which would be more to my liking and limits. However, kidding aside, this little quirk is what makes Lazy Fascist Review different, pairing very different and serious writing with a casual and slightly droll setting.

Lazy Fascist Review #1 starts with its best: “In The Neighborhood” by William Boyle. It begins fairly mainstream yet becomes dark and decadent quickly. It is a delightfully uncomfortable tale that tells the reader this particular journal is not going to shy away from those topics some call taboo. It is the most daring work in the first issue. Yet “Tenth Century Man” by Mike McGinnis is just as dark and lends a Southern Gothic feel to a tale of wanton murder. Between these two works are equally high quality stories by Juliet Escoria, Elizabeth Ellen, Hernan Ortiz, and Monica Storrs. There is also an exquisite and complex poem by Ben Spivey & Ben Fitzpatrick. While I cannot find any specific thing to complain about in any of these works I did think that, with the exception of the Mike McGinnis piece, there was a continuous feel of suburban angst, dark yet not really that far from the bulk of stories you find in most literary journals. Yet if any one of these authors show up in my radar again, these samples will certainly leads me to devour their next stories, poems or novels. In that way, the journal is a success. Overall, a quite exceptional debut yet a little more conventional than what I would expect from the Eraserhead / Deadite / Lazy Fascist triumvirate. Three and a half stars. Aside from the prose and poetry, there are interviews with writers Dennis Cooper and Tom Piccirilli plus book reviews and the aforementioned beer tasting reviews.

The sophomore issue, Lazy Fascist Review #2 picks up the pace quite a bit. Editor Cameron Pierce feels a little more relaxed in this one, regaling us with a look at salmon season on the Columbia River then effortlessly easing us into what to expect with the rest of the journal. There is a bit more edge in this issue and a bit more challenge. I am not sure what to think of Kevin Mahoney’s “Nelson Gets it All” except that its free flowing depiction of sports violence and thinly disguised eroticism reminds me of a bit of Jim Carroll .Yet Mahoney’s style grabs me more quickly and tighter. “The Waiting Room” by Cody Goodfellow is a mischievous bit of chaos that is also a strange love story. “Hector on the Continent” by Violet Levoit doesn’t grab me like the other two, feeling wandering and unfocused yet it is still interesting. But the stunner in this collection is “The Abortionists” by Scott McClanahan, the closest thing to a horror tale in the bunch and emotionally ripping. Rounding out the issue is a poem by Lucy Tiven, a brief, funny and silly piece called “Robots I’d Like to Fuck” by Dena Rash Guzman and a couple photo collages by Kevin Sampsell. Pierce continue his beer tasting reviews with a different brewery and there are more book reviews. The quality in issue #2 is a little more uneven in quality than the first issue yet still higher than most literary journals. Yet this is actually a plus as that unevenness is a result of widening the variety and providing a stronger sense that the reader will be challenged by topic and style. This issue comes out a strong four stars.

The bottom line is that this is a periodic review that I will continue to look forward to. With Cameron Pierce at the helm, himself a daring and talented young writer, I have strong expectations of continuing high quality and equally strong expectations that the next issues will be just as willing to stretch literary boundaries.

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