Two for Tuesday: Sheldon Compton and Len Kuntz

Are you having fun yet? If not, read what Sheldon Compton and Len Kuntz consider two of their favorite reads (recent or all- time). And then add your own in the comment threads. Nothing gives me more pleasure (okay, it’s near the top!) than sharing “you’ve just got to read this!”

Two for Tuesday: SHELDON COMPTON

Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz

I’ve just been waiting for the chance to write and tell somebody about Wendy C. Ortiz’s memoir Excavation. Now’s my chance, by god.

I cannot overstate the pure courage Ortiz brings to the table in this memoir, which covers her teen years while preyed upon by her middle school English teacher, Jeff Ivers. Feels good to exclaim his name here publicly. That’s the kind of impact this book can have on you. It changes you.

The book, working beautifully in a broken up narrative scheme that shifts from her childhood to the present day, follows Ortiz from a thirteen-year-old girl who is amorously attracted to her teacher who then, in turn and disgustingly, returns this emotion and spends the next five years manipulating her in a pseudo-relationship.

Before reading Excavation I thought I had seen bravery in action through the written word. I had seen hints of it. Ortiz not only trumps any other attempt at this, but also does so with the most beautiful and readable prose I’ve come across in possibly the last decade.

And speaking of time-frames for best-of lists, I’m going to go ahead and so that, so far, this is the best book I’ve read this year. It would take a motherload of a book to unseat it at this point.

http://www.futuretensebooks.com/futuret/books.html

Paperback: 242 pages, Future Tense Publishing (July 18, 2014)

Excavation

Galaga by Michael Kimball

I’m going to tell it to you straight: I had no idea when I received Michael Kimball’s Galaga for review from Small Press Book Review that it was about the game Galaga. Let’s skip how I could have been so unintelligent about the gaming world and move on from there.

When I discovered I was, in fact, reading a book about the arcade game, I balked. I had made a mistake and was now committed. Oh well, at least it was Michael Kimball. I never could have imagined how well he came to bat on that expectation.

Kimball’s fantastic novel currently holds the number two spot for best books I’ve read this year. The book is about so very much more than the game Galaga, yet exactly about the game. Yep, it’s a beautiful thing to see, full of heart and hurt and perseverance and so much more. I wrote my review, gushing and gushing, and was not the least bit embarrassed. I felt like I was telling the world a golden secret. To entice, here’s the first paragraph of that review from SPBR:

Galaga is Michael Kimball’s love letter to the game of the same name, his textbook, his instructor’s manual, his encyclopedia and fan fiction, and is so much more than any of these things. The book covers every nuance of the game, references in pop culture, merchandising, and just about any other thing related to Galaga.  Tattoo anyone?  He’s got those to talk about, too.  No worries.  And that’s fine and good, but there’s something Kimball displays with this book – courage and love and survival.  How’s that for a magic trick?”

Yep, it rolls like that.

http://bossfightbooks.com/products/galaga-by-michael-kimball

Paperback: 136 pages, Boss Fight Books, (July 1, 2014)

GALAGA-cover-nospine-shadow-wide_1024x1024

 

Sheldon’s bio: Sheldon Lee Compton lives in Eastern Kentucky. He is the author of The Same Terrible Storm (Foxhead Books). His work has appeared in numerous journals, has been nominated for several awards, and has been widely anthologized. He is the editor at REVOLUTION JOHN and blogs here: BENT COUNTRY.

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Two for Tuesday: LEN KUNTZ

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

This is a wonderful stew of rich and individualized characters, all walking the tight rope of love.  Anything that begins with this opening line has to be good:

The man—me, this pale being, no one else, it seems—wakes in fright, tangled up in sheets.

From there our narrator leaves his bed in the middle of the night, walks to the University of Michigan football stadium, plops himself down in the stands and spots a young couple making love on the fifty yard line.

Full or delightful surprises, gut-searing emotion and peppered throughout with enough humor to keep the ship righted, The Feast of Love is perhaps my favorite book ever.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Feast-Love-A-Novel/dp/037570910X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1414445076&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Feast+of+Love

Paperback: 308 pages, Vintage (May 1, 2001)

Charles Baxter

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar HiJuelos

Lush, vibrant writing infiltrates every sticky sentence of this book.  There is love, betrayal, sex (lots of it, steamy, too), music, movie stars, you name it—all set in 1949, where two young Cuban musicians make their way up from Havana to the grand stage of New York.

HiJuelos has such a flare for capturing the mix of different ethnicities, and how these mingle or tug at each other.  The writing is so vivid that you’ll feel like you are there are on the street corner, or up on stage, or being thrown about on a mattress.

Early in the book we get a taste of what we’re in for with this zinger:

She expected to turn around and find the devil himself standing beside her, a smile on his sooty face, saying, “Welcome to America.”

I’ve recommended this book to every person who’s ever asked.  Read it.  You’ll be glad.

Paperback: 448 pages Hyperion (May 4, 2010)

http://www.amazon.com/Mambo-Kings-Play-Songs-Love/dp/B0043RT8M2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414445192&sr=1-1&keywords=the+mambo+kings+play+songs+of+love

Oscar Hiluelos

 

Len’s bio: Len Kuntz is the author of The Dark Sunshine (Connotation Press) and an editor at the online literary magazine Literary Orphans.  His work appears widely in print and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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Thanks so much, Sheldon and Len; these are all great books. Remember to support your local bookstores, and attend readings (like tonight, a Writer’s Showcase at Saz’s in Tosa, 7- 9 p.m.) Read often, and share your passion with others! What are you reading?

 

 

2 thoughts on “Two for Tuesday: Sheldon Compton and Len Kuntz

    1. Robert Vaughan Post author

      Hi Andrea, thanks for reading and your comments. Great to know you also endorse the Mambo Kings book!

      Reply

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