What Bukowski did for poetry, Falatko does for prose

Not so sure about that, but great review of the new novel over at The Coil. Read it here or down below.

 

At first I thought that Daniel Falatko’s Travels and Travails of Small Minds would be just another tale of eccentric places and vagabond lifestyle, of living on the edge of poverty and starvation while the protagonist embarks upon some soul-searching adventure in the manner of beats like Jack Kerouac. It manages to be this, but much more, and in a delightful, not pretentious way.

The title is deceiving. This is not a tale of a small minds. It’s the tale of an intelligent, observant mind, one who in the manner of most postmodern heroes, can’t seem to fit into the world around him, or at least can’t find motivation to be anything greater than himself. Initially, we only see our protagonist react to the world around him, or not react much at all. I didn’t really know what “travails” meant, other than a word that is usually followed after “travels,” so I looked it up. It means “a painful or laborious effort,” which indeed is the heart of this novel. There is travel, but certainly more travail than anything.

Set primarily in hipster/crust punk-infested New York, the narrator, Nathan, works for a former English professor, Dr. Behr, who inherited some real estate and a fortune from his father and now runs a shady leasing business and refuses to use computers. At first he’s nothing but an eccentric prude for Nathan to complain about, but it turns out he has an obsession with a fictional beat writer, James Salanack. Salanack primarily writes “decadence for the sake of decadence”-type works, surreal, bizarre and William Burroughs-esque. Nathan shrugs this off as crap, which it probably is, but nonetheless, he is fascinated by it.

Then Dr. Behr gives Nathan an assignment: he must travel to England with $150,000 in cash, have payments made by a colleague of Dr. Behr’s, and meet with a Salanack fanatic, who is determined to own everything that Salanack ever touched, including old syringes, pool sticks, and most importantly, the properties where Salanack lived. Turns out the money he’s delivering is payment for an apartment of one of Dr. Behr’s tenants, whom he will illegally evict and whom Nathan accidentally meets and begins to root for.

The conflict takes a long time to build up. We begin in an unfamiliar weird, wild Russia. The first chapter and subsequent Russia chapters that follow read like notes of a world that to us seems bizarre and foreign, but for Nathan has become his everyday. Falatko has a talent for detail and world-building. Wherever you are in the book you will hear, see, and feel the world.

Gone is the cell phone chatter of cream-skinned blonds and the controlled hum of black SUVs, left now to walk amongst shards of colored glass from smashed soft drink machines, listening to the gnashing of my own teeth,

he writes. The only problem is that paragraphs and paragraphs of description slow down the progress of the novel. Even if the lines are beautiful, to quote another famous beat poet, he’d do well to kill a few darlings.

The environment is described superbly. You know exactly where you are down to dust mites on the corners of the walls and chipped coffee mugs — all things that Nathan, in his sad postmodern boredom, has nothing else to do but notice. There’s a certain joy taken from misery that the prose illuminates. Pages go on and little happens. Nathan is surrounded by academic snobs, burnouts, hipsters, and dull old people and rarely has much to say about it other than to report it to the reader, both unflatteringly and flatteringly. He doesn’t seem to like anything and ends up being perhaps the dullest object or character because he’s never more than an observer, there to report, but not to participate until the last 50–100 pages or so. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it makes us feel the longing and boredom Nathan feels by becoming so surrounded and flooded with details.

The novel is a diary of loneliness from the mind of a charming young man, desiring to escape the monotonous life he lives yet uncomfortable to break away from it. Along with this, we occasionally experience a certain meta-fiction self-awareness:

You’re a very unaware narrator,

Nathan’s coworker tells him, which naturally he is not. This sort of awareness seems to be added as a little wink, instead of a consistent joke.

Nathan’s relationship with Cally, the soon-to-be-evicted manic pixie dream girl, develops a little too quickly, with only one night of lovemaking to fuel his compassion and determination to make things right. It’s hard to tell what he likes about her so much. If time had been taken to develop their relationship, it would be more compelling, but for the most part his mission to do the ethical thing and keep her from losing her apartment is that morally it’s the right thing to do.

What Falatko lacks in structure he makes up for in character. Nathan meets some petty, wild old men in England who are fascinatingly grotesque. What Bukowski did for poetry, Falatko does for prose. The only thing more unpleasant and unlikeable than the whackos and lowlifes of skid row are the pretentious professors and wealthy capitalists. These men are perhaps the real scum, whereas the working class tend to be friendly and delightful, like Bilky, a drunken meathead who ends up being a deus ex machina, or Milton Perth, the millionaire Salanack obsessive who turns out, despite his silly fixation on an underground writer, to be a decent guy when he’s not bragging about his possessions.

Funny, even repugnant and vulgar at times, but overall enjoyable, Travels and Travails of Small Minds is a story that seems to go nowhere and ends up going somewhere very fast. Falatko has a talent for rich, strange detail and keeps us engaged, even if we’ve only walked two blocks in Nathan’s life. Personally, I prefer the original title, One Thin Dime, as it brings more curiosity to the novel, and now that I’ve finished it I know why those three words were originally chosen. But for the reader, the story itself is no travail.

Who In The Hell Is Tyler Durden?

Lukewarm Review over at Shelf Stalker. Read it here or down below.

And yes, apathy IS the point.

 

Falatko’s newest book, The Travels and Travails of Small Minds, has his characters treading familiar ground—the streets of New York City—along with new territory—England, Moscow, and others.

Nathan is dragging along at a dead-end for a senile old crockpot loosely in charge of slumlike properties. His girlfriend lives too far away, his neighbor is a drug addict, and his sole coworker is no better off than he is.

Taking life one day at a time with no real future in sight, Nathan gets mixed up in a property scam that entangles him in the works of a dead beatnik of extremely dubious talent, that beatnik’s number one fan, and a large amount of money.

The book’s strengths are revealed in the writing of the city—it is a very comfortable place for the author. The descriptions would be familiar and smell like the sweet garbage funk of home to any New Yorker. It is a mix of the grungy underbelly and the unique moments that make it a city like no other: a guy selling tiny turtles on a street corner, drugged out kids dancing on the subway, brawls in the street. It’s the real New York, the one you see if you live there, pounding the streets every day.

There is a dark sort of comedy here, not really like a funny comedy, but more like theater of the absurd. You laugh because you don’t know how else to react, because that is the only feasible emotion for the craziness that is occurring.

Similar to Condominium, this book lives and breathes New York. The eccentricities and insider knowledge swells to the surface and is painted on every page. The characters themselves take a bit of a backseat to New York herself, which becomes obvious when the plot is driven away from the city to other countries.

As far as the character’s go, this one is a jumble of personalities and is very much a different style from the satirical look at the gentrification of New York’s boroughs that Condominium encapsulated. The characters in Condo had reached the top, they had nowhere to go but down.

Nathan and his pals, on the other hand, are not even trying to climb the ladder. An intriguing mystery, a pretty girl, even a potential opportunity at work fall into his lap and he can barely be bothered to look into any of it. He’s just coasting.

While the plot does manage to move forward in a haphazard way, that almost complete apathy does get in the way, especially in Nathan’s case. At what point will he decide to take action and be a deciding factor in his future?

I didn’t see him as a dynamic character, even as he makes stunning revelations, even with the One Year Later sections. He is just the same throughout the book. Riding the waves, taking what life gives him, and not really trying to change his situation. I would have liked more action on his end.

But perhaps his apathy is the point. Are we the choices we make, the job we have, the clothes we wear, the city we live in? Tyler Durden would say no.

So what is left?

In the end, this one is a wild mind-trip. Falatko has an interesting take on the world and it’s worth exploring.

 

Lovely Bookshelf Song List

Thanks to Lovely Bookshelf for publishing this, and shout out to Francoise Hardy. Sorry I forgot to write your blurb, but you’re the best songwriter on this list by far.

Travels & Travails Of Small Minds out October 1st, baybee.

Travels and Travails of Small Minds by Daniel Falatko
Published by The Ardent Writer Press on October 1, 2017
Pages: 252
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Goodreads

Travels & Travails Of Small Minds Song List by Daniel Falatko

My brand new tome, which comes with an unwieldy title that can be acronymed as T&TOSM, takes place in a number of disparate locations. Some of these places are fictional. Others are ever so real. I’ve never written anything previously that wasn’t 100% static in location (NYC only), so easing through the scenery changes wasn’t quite so simple and made me gain a keen amount of respect for someone like the dude who wrote the Bourne series, constantly jumping from one exotic location to the next and having to capture the vibe of each as the plot unfolds.

Like always, music helps. I already wrote about the whole albums I was bumping in order to get through T&TOSM, but there were some location-specific individual songs I used as well in order to sink into each location in the book.

There may have been others that I’ve forgotten, so spare us with the “Hey how can you write about the Lower East Side without name checking the Velvet Underground?!” dogma, ok please?

Below find a list of each location covered on the list, plus the songs that helped vibe out that location.

Lower Manhattan

The Lovin’ Spoonful, Summer In The City

Nothing captures an NYC August like this Spoonful classic.

The Strokes, Reptilian

“The room is on fire while she’s fixin’ her hair” Ah, to be young and dating part time models from the East Village.

The Grateful Dead, Shakedown Street

Paranoia. Desolate urban decay. Open air drug markets. Somehow a Californian hippy named Jerry managed to capture this vibe a lot better than a bunch of native GBGB’s 70s punk bands ever could.

The Rolling Stones, Miss You

This song glides like the 7 Train through Queens on a Saturday night, full of dressed up people heading into the city.

Whiskeytown, Bar Lights

Bars are open until 4 AM in NYC, and then there are the after hours clubs. Ryan Adams seemed to know this quite well in his heyday.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

VietNam, Welcome To My Room

Captures the hedonist, pioneering spirit of the Burg as it was in its early 2000s, pre-safe space prime.

DIIV, Healthy Moon

Have you ever watched a full moon rise over McCarren Park? Well, you never have to if you listen to this song.

Son Volt, L Train

Celebrating the lifeblood of the neighborhood, the eternally fucked up but much loved L Train.

Jesse Malin, Brooklyn

Captures perfectly the pouty sense of hurt Manhattan enthusiasts have felt as they’ve watched all of their friends, girlfriends, and fun move migrate across the East River.

Beach Fossils, Window View

This track really hits at the surreal, kaleidoscopic possibilities that lay just outside any apartment window on a sunny weekend day in the Burg.

England

The Yardbirds, For Your Love

Like a girl in a DayGlo miniskirt striding through a grey council estate, The Yardbirds captured that moment when a black and white postwar London ran full on into the psychedelic swinging 60s

Babyshambles, Albion

“Talk over gin and teacups and leaves on the lawn, violence in bus stops and the pale thin girl with eyes forlorn” Say no more, Peter.

Ride, Leave Them All Behind

Trippy and defiant yet still gentile, this is swirling British paisley rock in its purest and most potent form.

Vashti Bunyan, Diamond Day

Capturing the essence of the ancient English countryside with a simplistic guitar line and a lyric about seeds and grass.

Led Zeppelin, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp

Goin’ on up the country, English rock dude style. I wonder how many drunken roadies fell in the fire when Jimmy and Robert came up with this one while sipping hot cider on a cool country night in the North Country?

Europe

Serge Gainsbourg, Bonnie & Clyde

Serge’s voice on this track is what it sounds like when you’re getting off the Paris Metro on a gloomy winter day and the most gorgeous person you’ve ever seen is gliding past. You lock eyes for an instant. In that moment you envision a kiss, a shared apartment, a commitment, children. Your soulmate’s lips curl into a lingering smile. You take a drag off a cigarette. It’s all too much effort. And besides, this moment is more potent than a lifetime together. You keep walking. You don’t turn back.

Francoise Hardy, Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles

Sisters of Mercy, Black Planet

When you’ve been on a redeye transatlantic flight, sleepless, watching out the plane window during the darkest hours before dawn. “So blaaaaaaacckkkkkkk all over Europe…..”

Breath Of Life, Nasty Cloud

If you’ve never been in a Berlin after-hours club in the mid-80s where goth chicks smoked angle dust in corners as mascara ran down their cheeks, then just listen to this song.

Can, Mushroom

Slinky and strange and propulsive like an empty neutral-country expressway to your skull lined with exit signs in foreign script and the glittering skylines of cities you’ve never heard of.

Moscow

Hawkwind, Master Of The Universe

There’s a reason The Hawk was massively popular in Eastern Europe in the 70s at a time when Pink Floyd was ruling the West. A poor man’s Floyd, mired in the dirt of the populace but aching to soar, Hawkwind’s sci-fi-tinged, scorched spacescape anthems just resonated better when smuggled behind the Iron Curtain than a bunch of genteel dudes in paisley sitting backstage discussing the prices of Aston Martins.

The Rolling Stones, 2,000 Light Years From Home

Although allegedly about space travel, Keef and crew were far too earthy to really mean it. Instead, this is an anthem for being stoned in a strange country far from home, longing for something more than just a lover, just a home, something just out of reach in another realm.

Teatr Dada, Das Produkt

The cold, dead land of Gogol and Rasputin, of Stalin-era architecture and kiosk counters behind bulletproof glass, where tenement blocks stretch for miles under crushing winter skies. This song is Russian nihilist glee in a bottle.

Forest Stream, The Crown of Winter

Black metal with a theatrical bent, like if Kiss grew up in Siberia. Representing grim and frostbitten kingdoms everywhere, Forest Stream’s mission to capture the essence of a February night in a land near the Tundra. When this track storms into its final march around the ten minute mark, like fur-clad armies facing off on a desolate winter plain beneath a crescent moon, they truly succeed in their quest.

Boney M., Rasputin

Can a feel-good disco number about a dissolute, dead-eyed mystic who single-handedly caused the downfall of the world’s mightiest empire really reach number one on the European charts? Why yes it can.

If you listen to the above tracks in order, you can get a feel for the locational arc of the novel. Perhaps the music and the book will even synch up like Dark Side Of The Moon and the Wizard of Oz. Or perhaps this track sequence only make sense to the author and you would instead be hearing a disassociated jumble of noise? Whatever the case, definitely check out the obscure 60s English blues band Led Zeppelin and the criminally overlooked Rolling Stones instead of going right to the acknowledged superstars like Teatr Dada and Vashti Bunyan.

And no, I didn’t once listen to the Velvet Underground.

“Step back and watch the lunacy begin”

Decent Review of the new novel over on Irresponsible Reader, coming from a dude that dissed hard on Condominium. Check it out here or read below.

PS: Why does every character in a book or film have to be “relatable” in order to be accepted these days?

 

Travels and Travails of Small Minds

by Daniel Falatko

252 pg.
The Ardent Writer Press, 2017

“I feel like I’m stuck in a mystery novel written by an unhinged individual, Amy.”

There’s a lot of truth to that lament Nathan makes to his girlfriend, Amy. In the same conversation, she had a different take on it:

“Mystery Englishmen? Ever-evolving eccentric casts of characters? Intricate layers of plot involving absolutely nothing? Two unaware and wayward employees leading the story? Nathan, you are living in a Wes Anderson film. And I’m not sure if I like it. You’re definitely more Life Aquatic than Rushmore at this point.”

There’s a lot truth to that, too. At the same time, neither of them is quite right (and please, don’t go looking for a Wes Anderson/unhinged mystery writer kind of book, you won’t get it. But you may get something that appeals to someone who’d like that kind of book). Just these commentaries on Nathan’s life during this novel shows you just how strange this is.

I don’t want to say there isn’t a plot — there is one; nor do I want to say that it’s not important, or nonsensical — there is a good amount of sense and it is a pretty good story; but compared to the experience of spending time with Nathan, his friends and colleagues, as well as those he meets over the course of the novel outweighs the story.

You’ve got Nathan; his girlfriend, Amy; his boss Dr. Behr, an elderly gentleman who just might be the living incarnation of “eccentric”; his coworker, Edward, who has spent far too many years working for Dr. Behr; and Nathan’s neighbor, who seems to do little other than use recreational pharmaceuticals. Throw in the study of a beatnik novelist of dubious quality, the attempted illegal eviction of a young woman, and some strange British citizens, and then step back and watch the lunacy begin. There’s a real estate deal at the core of this — which allows Falatko to indulge his fixation on NYC rental properties (and seals my conviction that I’ll never move there) — the sheer number of things that are wrong with the deal and that can go wrong with it. And here we are, proof that I can’t talk about this book in a way that makes a whole lot of sense.

This is a funny book, but not a comedy. It’s absurd in the best sense. It’s a wild ride, with a very human — and relatable center. Relatable might not be the best word, because I can’t imagine that any reader will have an experience like it. But even at the strangest moments, you’ll find yourself nodding with Nathan’s actions and reactions, saying to yourself, “yeah, I can see why he’d do that.” Even the conclusion that the plot careens to — for most of the book you’d say that wouldn’t work at all, but by the time it happens, it seems pretty perfect.

The illustrations are a nice touch — I don’t know that I needed them, and I don’t know that they really added all that much. At the same time, I enjoyed them. At what point was it decided that only kids could use a picture every now and then in their books?

I wasn’t a fan of Falatko’s previous novel, Condominium, but I thought it did display an element of talent. Travels and Travails put a lot more on display, and kept me entertained and engaged (and frequently smiling) throughout the novel. Although, I should note that I also spent a good deal of time wondering what I’d just read and why — but I was having such a good time that I really didn’t care about the answers to those questions. You won’t read many books like this one, but you’ll wish you could.

LitStack Excerpt

Check out an excerpt of the new novel over on LitStack or read below. Travels & Travails Of Small Minds is out October 1st on Ardent Press. Pre-order on Amazon.

 

Travels and Travails of Small Minds – Excerpt

Travels and Travails of Small Minds
Daniel_Falatko
Ardent Writers Press

Travels and Travails of Small Minds follows the sideways trajectory of an unambitious career temp worker occupying the most nowhere of nowhere jobs. Nathan spends many a hungover morning and afternoon fetching coffee for his senile slumlord boss in a dust-choked office on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Between gossiping with his lone co-worker in their dangerously untidy office, hanging with a drug-addled neighbor, and dealing with a jealousy-ridden girlfriend, Nathan stumbles headfirst into a clumsy property scam which finds him unknowingly at the center. 

With a cast of characters including a dead beatnik legend, an eccentric and pompous collector of the beatnik’s works, a new love interest in the form of a tenant with unclear intentions, and a network of sociopathic former literature professors, a saga unfolds over eight days in August which sends Nathan careening through lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, the suburbs of England, and Beyond in a swirl of comedic intrigue.

 

 

EXCERPT:

Travels & Travails Of Small Minds excerpt, in which an American temp worker escapes from the henchmen of a sociopathic literature professor with the aid of some English lager louts.

OUT ON THE ROAD, bearing down toward the freeway, there were empty bottles all over the van’s floor, clanging off of one another at every turn. I was riding shotgun with Bilky lying down on the floor in the back, moaning. In the filthy side mirror I saw one of Oxford Man’s men gunning down on us, smirking and shaking his head at the state of the vehicle he was chasing, his bony face set in determination. He was inching closer and closer to the back bumper of the van. “Who is this tosser?” Milly laughed, staring the spy down in his own mirror.

“He doesn’t like me very much.”

“Well, I know where to take him, then.” Milly snorted.

Swerving with absolutely no warning onto a country road instead of pushing forward toward the freeway, the rental car chasing us almost losing it on the unannounced turn, I watched a smile spread out across Milly’s face.

“Oh my God, Mill!” Bilky was shouting from the back. “Not the bloody golf course!”

The car seemed to linger on the road behind us, hesitant to follow, after Milly jumped the small hill and started tearing off across the course. Due to the fog, there weren’t that many golfers on the links, though two men in a cart drinking gin and tonics had to swerve out of the way when the van came tearing out from behind a row of trees, roaring directly at them. The car finally set out after us, half-heartedly at first, hanging fifteen yards behind us, unsure how to navigate the green terrain filled with sand traps and flags. Once we hit a long, flat link he sped up, gaining confidence, catching up to us almost bumper-to-bumper.

“Why are you letting the bastard catch up?” Bilky was looking out the van’s round back window. I clutched the satchel close, half-expecting the man to utilize an expanding robot arm to reach into the vehicle and snatch it from me.

“You’ll see.” Milly grinned, rapidly approaching a bend around some perfectly manicured bushes.

Rounding the bend, a deep, long sand trap suddenly loomed in front of us, visible through a break in the fog, gleaming white and wet from that morning’s mist. Both vehicles were traveling too fast to avoid it. There was a small hill in front of the trap. Milly’s eyes grew wide. I held onto the satchel and ducked down as Bilky let out a frightened groan. He gunned it at the hill, bearing down fast.

With two sickening thumps, the van’s front and back tires hit the hill a split second apart. We were clumsily air-born, wobbling violently. Milly let out a warrior’s shriek as the van came bashing down on what I hoped was the grass on the other side. The vehicle’s shocks were not enough to absorb the hit. My teeth knocked together and my chin hit my chest, wrenching my neck as the bottom bounced off the ground with horrific force.

Milly yanked hard on the wheel, throwing his considerable body weight behind it, managing to bring the rattling apparatus to a sideways halt. We had cleared the trap. Bilky had been hurled against the back door, on the floor with his white Reebok Classics sticking up from a pile of beer bottles.

“I’m alright!” He held up his hand as if in surrender. “Think I’ll stay down here for a while.”

The pursuing car had not been so lucky. He hadn’t hit the jump at the full, fearless speed required to clear the trap, breaking at the last minute, plunging front-end-first into the wet sand, kernels rattling in the grill, front tires sunk deep in the crud while the back tires spun helplessly. The man got out of the car, standing next to his now useless vehicle. He sat down in the sand, flipped us a two-finger salute and spit.

A man sporting a green uniform emerged from a nearby utility shed. Screeching hysterically, he came running for the sand trap wielding a long rake. Their pursuer got up and crouched into a karate pose as the man descended upon him, swinging the garden tool wildly.

Milly stepped on the gas, aiming the shaking van back toward the road.

“I’ll leave them to sort this out.”

Pre-Order now Available

The pre-order for my new novel is now up at Amazon. Find it here

Official Release Date: October 1st

Travels and Travails of Small Minds is hilarious,entertaining, and weaves a compelling mystery. I expected good things from Daniel Falatko after Condominium and he didn’t disappoint with this book. This is well-worth picking up.

—Cultured Vultures

Cultured Vultures Review

Those cultured vultures have offered up a nice first review of the new novel, coming October 1st. Read it here or the full thing below.

Travels And Travails Of Small Minds By Daniel Falatko REVIEW

Daniel Falatko returns with a hipster noir for his second novel.

Nathan is a temp worker currently assigned as a glorified secretary for the eccentric literature professor turned slumlord Dr. Behr. One day, Dr. Behr dumps an assignment on his desk with no explanation for it.

Nathan tries to unravel exactly what the hell the old man wants from him. He soon learns Dr. Behr is involved in a shady property deal involving a former colleague and a rich, fanatical devotee of Beatnik author Thomas Salanack. His assignment takes him from New York City to Northern England and, finally, to Eastern Europe.

“For a man sitting on some of the most potentially lucrative property in Lower Manhattan, you’d never know it by looking at Dr. Behr. His main stylistic reference point seemed to be the homeless men that hung around the Bowery, not the schizophrenic crackhead variety but instead the semi-sophisticated-burnt-out-old-hippie philosophers, with their ancient stained khakis, moth-eaten button downs, and wild head of Einstein-grey hair jutting out in all directions as if pulsed by electric current.”

Falatko’s second novel reads like a hipster noir. It’s got all the elements; the two-timing dame, the intrigue, the shady characters. Here, however, the anti-hero hangs out in barcades instead of smoke-filled bars, the two-timing dame sells her ex-boyfriends vinyl collection, and the mystery involves a collector of Beatnik author memorabilia.

I previously reviewed Falatko’s first novel, Condominium, and while I enjoyed the humor, I found the plot lacking with it being about a rich couple having existential problems. Travels and Travails of Small Minds retains the humor Falatko previously displayed while having a much more compelling plot. One scene earlier in the book is where Nathan accidentally pops Adderall thinking it’s anti-anxiety medication. This results in him going to work and running amok, cleaning and organizing the whole office.

“By ten o’clock that morning I had reorganized not only my desk but the entire front half of the office. The paper sediment which had once lined the floor was now neatly piled into towering stacks next to the filing cabinets. If Edward had not forbade me, I would have gone through the cabinets as well as with the intention of discarding any deeds or bill copies from before 1990.”

The plot takes a little time to kick in, with Nathan spending a few a pages meandering around New York. Once it does, it becomes a fun, hard-to-put-down read. Falatko keeps the mystery of Dr. Behr’s shady property deal interesting, even in spite of how silly it gets. I mean, the climax has Nathan running from an old, naked Oxford professor with the help of a couple of north English drunks. Goofy, yes, but goofy in a way that’s highly entertaining to read.

The book also includes illustrations with each chapter, but they aren’t very good. They’re very amateurish looking. Some are passable, but many just look laughably bad. This book deserved better if the publisher was going to go that route.

New Novel Cometh

New novel alert.

Travels & Travails Of Small Minds will be released on October 15th through Ardent Press.

Anyone who is a fan of Condominium will flip over this one. It has all the elements of the debut (NYC culture satire, cartoonish decadence, razor dialogue, slapstick slacker characters) but is far more ambitions in its scope and execution. As a matter of fact, it is an international crime caper. The novel is a wild and borderline surreal tale which follows the sideways trajectory of an unwilling career temp worker stuck in the most nowhere of nowhere jobs. Nathan spends many a hungover morning and afternoon fetching coffee for his delusional slumlord boss in a dust-choked office on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Between gossiping with his lone co-worker in their dangerously untidy office, attempting to calm a drug-addled friend terrified of the internet, and dealing with a jealousy-ridden girlfriend, Nathan stumbles headfirst into a clumsy property scam which finds him unknowingly at the center. With a cast of characters including a dead beatnik legend, an eccentric and pompous collector of the beatnik’s works, a new love interest in the form of a tenant with unclear intentions, and a network of sociopathic former literature professors, a saga unfolds over eight days in August which sends Nathan careening through lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, the suburbs of England, and Beyond in a swirl of comedic intrigue.

  • An irreverent Goldfinch
  • Bret Easton Ellis with a faith in humanity
  • J.G. Ballard with a sense of humor
  • William S. Burroughs in a jaunty mood
  • A Jonathan Latimer noir mystery gone severely off the rails
  • Robert Ludlum stuck with a non-heroic, slacker protagonist
  • Updike after an operation which removed all heavy-handed cultural musings

More release info on the horizon. Thanks to Ardent for unleashing this madness.

Raging Biblio Review

Always happy to submerge expectations.

Raging Biblio review here. Or read it all below:

condominium

condominiumThe Short Version: Charles and Sarah, a present-day yuppie couple, have just bought a condo in Williamsburg, right on the water. It should be the perfect next step in their relationship and their lives… but what seems perfect quickly begins to destabilize the not-so-perfect couple. Will their new place break them? Or will they retain their individuality even in the face of a midlife crisis?

The Review: Expectations are a silly thing. If we work hard, we’re taught, we can expect to be rewarded. And we expect that, with those rewards, we will find greater happiness. Or we expect that our neighbors will fulfill the terms of the lease they signed when moving in – which might include things like not being obnoxiously loud at 3am, not doing drugs in public, not renovating the apartment without consent. And then there are the expectations that come from, say, cover and jacket copy of a book or the blurb and trailer of a movie – things that cause us to imagine that the plot and environs of a tale based on very little at all, and leading to expect something we’re never actually going to get.

So it was with Condominium. The cover and the title alone conjured images of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise, a novel whose horrors are still rather present in my memory – and the jacket copy seemed to imply something crossed between that novel and the slightly-silly-but-still-totally-spooky Horrorstör. But while I do think Falatko is conscious of Ballard’s inspiration on this book, he’s not trying to write an update or even an homage. And he’s not actually writing a horror novel, despite the trappings in the early going. Instead, he’s interested in the terror of adulthood, of gentrification, and of the very real impact these things have on our mortal souls. All scary in its own right – just not the sort of thing that gets shelved in the horror section, you know?

Charles and Sarah, the couple who’ve just bought this condo, are a pretty ordinary sort of couple, for the most part. He’s a finance bro, she’s a bored assistant at a super-boutique indie press. They’re thinking about marriage but not really, yet. They’ve been together for a while now and the thing that’s getting to the both of them is the fact that their adventurous youth seems gone, now. Perhaps it was the purchase of the condo itself, a seven-figure investment that comes complete with views of the city, gleaming kitchen, hardwood floors, high ceilings, and all the mod cons. As someone who recently moved (renting, admittedly) into a new apartment in a new neighborhood, I understand how a new place can alter your perception of yourself – we very nearly avoided moving into a place that was way fancier than we felt we “ought” to be living in at this point in our lives, because we worried that it would alter our sense of being too much. So as I watched Sarah and Charles start to crack under the unexpected pressure of this beautiful new apartment that neither of them seemed to feel they deserved, I understood what was going on and what Falatko was aiming for.

The problem is, I was still hanging onto my expectations for the novel – and Falatko, it seemed, was hanging onto certain things in the first half of the novel that he would later give up on. The early going of this book is creepy. There’s an odd neighbor, who seems to be stalking Sarah but who is also just basically a character out of an episode of Psych: he shows up to complain about things he thinks the couple is doing, he’s always cleaning up cigarette butts at the smoking station, and they can’t seem to make it from their apartment to the elevator without running into him. And much musing is given to a “non-functional beam” in the apartment that straight up seems to move. Charles’ fear of the balcony seems like tremendous foreshadowing, as does a coffee explosion and Sarah’s night terrors.

But all of it, in the end, is looking only at what Bowie called “the terror of knowing what this world is about.” Charles is missing his glory days, when he and his best friend (a ne’er-do-well of the highest LES/East Village caliber) and said best friend’s sexpot of a girlfriend would (among other things) snort some heroin and go crazy on the town. And Sarah is realizing that she’s nearly completely financially dependent on her husband and doesn’t want to be an “old” just yet. It was the scene where Charles & Sarah meet the ne’er-do-wells in a bar – and end up snorting some heroin together, a terrifically questionable idea considering Charles is a self-proclaimed recovering addict. It has the end result of kicking the latent addiction entirely, but it also is the moment that the book began to pivot for me – and, I daresay, the author too. It was the first time I felt really engaged with Charles and Sarah as people as opposed to characters in a scary story and I got onboard for the rest of their story, leading up to one hell of a redemptive party to close things out.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel like the novel couldn’t shake off its desire to be actually scary. When the true nature of their creepy neighbor is revealed, it felt like somebody turning on the light to show that the scary monster is nothing more than a coat rack – but it also felt like exactly that, as though we were meant to have been spooked and thinking that something supernatural (or at least Weird) was going down, and that reveal felt a little out-of-sync with what the book had, by that point, become. I found myself wondering what Falatko’s actual point was, with this book. Was he writing about gentrification? Were we supposed to be on the side of the yuppies who own the building, on the side of the fake-yuppies (Charles and Sarah, who have more cred than their neighbors, ostensibly), or on the side of the people on the street we occasionally run into who express varying sorts of dismay at the change in their neighborhood? Perhaps you have to answer for yourself, based on your expectations of the world.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5. It’s a little uneven pretty much throughout the entire book, as though the novel doesn’t know what it wants itself to be. But Daniel Falatko conjures up the terror of growing up, of a thirtysomething’s identity crisis, of gentrification and missing the city you arrived into – and despite the book failing to meet my initial expectations, I course-corrected myself quickly enough to genuinely enjoy much of it. This isn’t anywhere near as bleak as High-Rise or the work of the Brat Pack – but, then, neither is Williamsburg in 2008, you know?

Gentrification Porn

I done wrote an article about gentrification porn over at The Weeklings. Check it out.

Or read it here:

GENTRIFICATION PORN: NORTH BROOKLYN GROUND ZERO

SOME PEOPLE are into serial killers. Normal, harmless people who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You probably know at least one. That nerdy dude from the design department who obsesses about just what pushed Dahmer over the line from sick-but-harmless fantasy world to full-on heads in the freezer, that girl you went out with Freshman year whose Manson Family book collection went way beyond just Helter Skelter and would refer to obscure Fam members by their first names. People are obsessed by sick things sometimes. You probably know someone who reads up on the Holocaust so much that this formerly “special section on the shelf” has taken over the entire bookcase, someone who will sometimes casually quote Göring at dinner parties.

Yes, oftentimes non-dangerous people are interested in evil. For me, serial killers are far too loner science nerd to be fascinating and the Nazis were a bunch of dicks. But one truly evil aspect of mankind has always held a special place in my heart: Gentrification. And when I say “gentrification” I mean hardcore, drive out the poor people with guns drawn, cash grab every square inch of bombed-out ghetto and build an overpriced coffee shop on the bloodstained concrete gentrification. I even wrote a novel about it. Fortunately, I happen to live right at ground zero for urban “nickname Flushing Head ‘FluHo’ and the condos shall rise” gentrification of the most ruthless and cunning variety: North Brooklyn. Unlike what most people think, a good gentrification move doesn’t just involve putting in a juicery outside a project highrise and hoping for a “Juicery spotted in hot new hood” headline on Curbed NY. A proper gentrification move takes a certain cold-hearted precision and tone-deaf ambition, a blatant Viking invader mentality that elevates properly executed gentrification strategies to the level of an art form.

Fortunately, I don’t have to walk more than two blocks past my front door on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to point out some really good examples of classic, evil-genius gentrification maneuvers. When I first moved onto this block ten years ago it was a desolate stretch of urban blight, the kind of place where if you saw another person walking on the street then this was a problem. Because nobody had any reason to be walking on this street. With Williamsburg now officially more expensive to live in than most of Manhattan, the street is now lined with so many juiceries, $200 jeans clothing boutiques, and specialty desert shops that they almost seem to cancel each other out. Which is, of course, perfect for a gentrification porn addict such as myself.

Williamsburg is just the same age-old NYC progression, only this time it’s right up in my face, just another couple of blocks on an increasingly bloody trail. Mobbed-up Hell’s Kitchen begat Clinton. The tent cities of the Lower East Side begat the East Village. And now bombed-out Billyburg, Brooklyn becomes a place for tourist groups and hip hotels, even though once war-torn Bushwick just two L Train stops past mine is now so utterly hip that certain areas of Williamsburg are calling themselves “Bushwick”. It’s a truly dizzying scenario, and it makes one wonder if currently war-torn Brownsville, Brooklyn, pretty much the last remaining ghetto in NYC proper, will soon be renamed BroVille for real estate purposes.

Of course, this is absolute paradise for a gentrification pornographer. There isn’t enough room in this piece to cover even a small portion of the truly cunning and cynical gentrification highlights this neighborhood has to offer, so see below for five really great gentrification chess moves I came across on just one ten-minute stroll through “East Williamsburg” (i.e. Bushwick, but now referred to as “West Bushwick”).

dan1

This is prime gentrification right here. Complete and utter genius. This used to be a quirky little neighborhood oddity, the kind of store that makes for a great talking point and gives any locale that WTF factor that really gives you a warm feeling when you walk past it. It was a store that sold a combination of tombstones and bread. Great-smelling homemade bread. You could pop in and order a headstone for granny and grab a loaf to have with your pasta that night while you were at it. It was run by two Italian dudes with matching poodles, with ads for their self-published memoirs likeSon Of A Don and I Did My Time in the windows. Every day at five they would come out on the sidewalk to peddle what was left of that days bread batch. “Two Dollar Loaves!” could be heard ringing up and down Graham Avenue. Followed by the yelps of the poodles.

Obviously, this down-home nonsense had to go. And why waste such valuable real estate on anything less than a high end tattoo shop? This is an incredibly well executed gentrification move since it isn’t obvious. It isn’t as if they threw the bread and poodles and tombstones out into the street and put in an Apple store or something. A good gentrification move must be subtle. A perfect one will even appeal to the old heads in the neighborhood, a Trojan horse deception smiling upon them with one face while driving up rents and calling in real estate developers with the other. Like this tattoo shop, for example. The old heads in the hood don’t realize that tatz are cool now. That they’re incredibly expensive. That these tattoo artists are probably branded celebrities with their own reality shows in the works. In their day, the only people who had tattoos were hoods or navy men. This seems, to them, like an underdog establishment run by bearded shabby dudes who couldn’t get an office job due to their neck ink. It stings far less to replace their beloved bread and tombstone store with this than it would another juicery. Yet it secretly hurts them far worse than a high end cupcake shop. Far, far worse. Because what is a better talking point when walking out of your 900K one bedroom than stating, “Yea, I’m getting inked up there next week. Grant got me on the short waiting list.”

Grabbing cash and adding to the gentrification of a neighborhood without having to endure all those annoying hall type meetings and flyer protests. Props to this tat shop for doing gentrification right. Keep up the good work, dudes.

dan2

Unlike the first example which is a cunning little gentrification chess move, this one takes the exact opposite strategy: The full-tilt, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners gentrification blitzkrieg!

“Oh so you were once this kooky little dinner with cheap and delicious heart attack shakes and a clientele of retired mafia members chatting about the dog races and old prison tales? A neighborhood institution that adds a lot of flavor and heart to the block? Well fuck you and all your haggard waitresses who call everyone “hon”. We’ll just buy the building and raise the rent and your colorful little world will be tossed to the ether where it belongs. And we WILL put in an expensive juicery with drink names like “Turnt Up” and “Wellness Now”. And there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that you or anybody else can ever do to stop our steamroller of PROGRESS.”

Development companies as modern day Norse Vikings? Not too far off, really. And this move right here is admirable in its take-no-prisoners, rip the lungs from the chest cavity and post them high to warn the other inhabitants of this coastline that THAY ARE NEXT technique. Respect.

dan3

This one is just so simple. Somewhere, the gentrification Gods are rubbing their hands together and having a good laugh at this scenario. Oftentimes, simplicity is key when it comes to proper gentrification, and this is as simple as small number, no-calculator-needed addition. Let’s take a look.

What did this used to be?

Oh, just a well-regarded, affordable neighborhood dentist with a way cool/semi-creepy tooth logo in the window. Dude was probably there for decades, or at least the decade I spent living right across the street giggling at the tooth logo late on certain “relaxed” nights. This was the type of neighborhood dentist who would take in tooth-aching stragglers off the street and charge only what they could pay. He was rumored to be generous with the laughing gas as well. In short, this was a legendary neighborhood tooth man with a long list of old school local customers and the type of eccentric, kind charm one just doesn’t get from a dentist’s office with a shiny glass exterior and flatscreens advertising teeth whitening surgery in the waiting room.

So what does Gentrification have to say about all this?

“Um, why don’t we put in a totally hip, Instagram-ready, organic butcher shop instead?”

And I really can’t thank Gentrification enough for ticking all the needed boxes on this one. Tatted-up butchers with urban-amish beards? Check. Customers with smartphones in hand ready to snapchat the meats? Check. The People of New York for sale in stacks by the registers? Check.

The real Italian butcher shop across the street contemplating various firebombing strategies?

Check?

I’ll leave that box open for them.

dan4

Just like the Germans learned to do, proper gentrification involves recognizing and outing imposters to the Cause. This right here is a terrific example of flushing out non-comrades. This used to be a thrift store, which sounds like the type of establishment that should be left to flourish in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood full of the types of individuals who thirst for $200 vintage Poison tees and musty lumberjack attire. But the vibe of this establishment leaned too dangerously close to “real-deal second-hand clothing store” to truly fit into a proper gentrification scenario. This was not the type of place with “fashion” on its mind and waify part-time models working the registers. The store seemed to cater a little too close to…gulp…actual poor people who, like, couldn’t afford new clothes. So while allowed to exist in the early stages of the neighborhood’s gentrification, not immediately crushed in the name of progress, it was eventually outed as an imposter and immediately demolished to make way for something that is truly needed: luxury condominiums.

We won’t be needing your musty old poor people hand-me-downs anymore, thank you very much. Nice work, gentrification Gestapo. And long may you reign.

dan5

Hi, we’re a quirky warehouse space selling cool stuff. We are sorry your favorite record store had to move out of here to Greenpoint, but hey, we’re not the enemy. Just another local biz trying to make good. Oh, we look like an Urban Outfitters, you say? Nope. Not an Urban Outfitters. We’re local and quirky! Oh, so you’re wondering why we sell all the same stuff as Urban outfitters? That must just be a coincidence. Because we’re definitely a warehouse collective selling nothing but great clothes and turntables and books and records and all the things that will let your inner-hipness really shine on out. Great! So you’d like to purchase that “mock vintage” Echo & The Bunnymen tee? Let me just ring you up. Sure glad we’re not Urban outfitters, amiright? Have a nice…um, ok, so you’re wondering why your receipt says Urban Outfitters. Well, ahem, sorry no refunds. Next in line? Sir, ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to move it along. Do we need to call…ok, we do…security we have a situation on the ground floor…

These five fine examples of expertly executed gentrification were spotted just steps from my front door, and I didn’t even get as far as the true Ground Zero of heartless urban progress: The Vice Magazine-ravaged Williamsburg waterfront. Here is to hoping that our fearless and cunning leader, Progress itself, continues to drive out this type of homey, neighborhood nonsense and line the entire world with vegan coffee shops, Urban Outfitters, and juicery after juicery after juicery.

For only then will we truly be safe.