1. image

    CHLOE: “Oh, how we yearned to abandon this slim, predictable, implausible, crummy little tale; and yet we didn’t, out of some misguided faith that it might turn around. (Spoiler alert: It never turns around.) David Bezmozgis’s The Betrayers is the story of one Baruch Kotler, an Israeli politician immersed in a scandal who heads to a Crimean vacation spot with his younger girlfriend to escape a media circus. His hotel loses his reservation so he’s forced to stay with a one of the locals who are offering a room at the train station. And—will wonders never cease!—the woman whom he ends up letting a room from is the wife of his former enemy, a KBG rat who testified against him years ago in Russia and got him sent away to some terrible, gross Russian prison. This sets up the perfect scenario for Bezmozgis to explore issues of morality under duress, as well as to examine the myriad ways in which, in which—zzzzzzz.

    Probably the only reason we kept reading is that Bezmozgis is a very competent stylist. We stress the word competent. Perhaps another way of saying it is that he has a very workmanlike grasp on the language, and by that we mean that he writes very much like someone who has been produced, limb by limb, by one of those fabled Midwestern writer’s workshops. The Betrayers is basically a middling New Yorker story that has been exploded into the length of a short novel. And Bezmosgis’s stylistic competency isn’t enough for it to rest on; sure, he can make the sentences fall in a way that shows the steadiness of his hand, that lets the whole thing hum and move, but that’s a bit like praising your refrigerator technician for being an artist.”

    image

    UNI: “Ben Dolnick’s At The Bottom of Everything is also a novel about betrayals, but it does not suck. In fact it’s sort of the opposite of Bezmosgis’s book, in that it starts out deceptively breezy and casual and ends up having a dark, complicated, disturbing heart. It’s a novel about friendship + tragedy X time, and half of it takes place in India, but not in a way that makes you go, “Oh I guess this Dolnick dude spent six months ‘finding himself’ over there and then decided he might as well make use of the experience.” We don’t want to give too much more away so you should just fucking read this thing.” 

     


  2. The Evening Interviews: Richard House

    image

    Richard House’s most recent book is The Kills, a huge-and-strange tale of war, murder, burning garbage, con jobs, men-on-the-run, desert intrigue, mistaken identities, and much more. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, which is a very highbrow high-five for a British person, and it will soon be adapted for Starz and the BBC. Despite how busy and successful Mr. House is, he took time out for a S.M.C.R. interview, because CATS MATTER. We chatted with him about craft and kitten-facilitated writing.  

    UNI & CHLOE: We’ve only taken one very basic Fiction Writing 101 class (online, through Phoenix University), but the professor was quite adamant about what he called The #1 Super-Golden Rule Of Superior Noveling: “Write what you know.” That led, on our part, to a lot of fairly unproductive and meandering prose about eating, sleeping, chasing sunshine, etc etc. But reading ‘The Kills,’ and researching a bit about you online, it’s clear that you have very dramatically disregarded this #1 Super-Golden Rule. You were never, for instance, employed as a government contractor in Iraq, burning boatloads of incredibly toxic shit out in the lonely, foreboding desert. What gives, Richard? Aren’t good novelists supposed to stick to, like, personal experience?

    RICHARD HOUSE: It’s a daft rule, if I’m honest. It’s limiting. I agree with the basic idea (which is, no one wants to be stuck with some dreary armchair analyst who thinks they’re a world expert on such and such), but, that said, fiction is a long game, and it benefits the reader if the writer is unravelling and enquiring into ideas for themselves and looking into fresh territory. And besides, it’s almost impossible to look into any subject and not draw connections with your own experience. Most times I write to inform myself. I’m pretty ignorant, otherwise.

    What is your daily writing regimen like, and how does your cat play a part in that (both as inspiration and obstacle)?

    It changes. At the moment I’m writing every spare moment. Trains. Office. Bed. Anywhere. In writing The Kills I was in an attic office, overlooking a park in which some seriously dodgy stuff was happening. So I veered between writing and watching this mayhem unfold outside. The best part—and I still grieve over this—was having my partner’s cat sit with me. She’d rest with her head on my wrist while I wrote. The whole day, for about five years. Her name was Taz, and, alas, she was old. I had a very long period where writing/life/work wasn’t going well, but I could always sit down to work and she’d hurtle up three flights of stairs, jump on the desk, set her head on my wrist and I’d try to write. Day or night. The things that make you hold on can be infinitesimally small, but outrageously important. You cats can be difficult, but you are unparalleled company. We have a new cat called Mouse who is here with me while I write, but she’s just figuring out things—like you can’t attack images on a laptop screen / sit and clean yourself on a keyboard / bite fingers while they are typing, etc. Slow learner though.

              Richard House, reading & note-taking with his cat, Mouse.

    Lately we’ve been on something of a trans-Atlantic jag, ping-ponging between American authors (Dawn Powell, a lot of Dawn Powell) and British ones (Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis). Would you say that British literature is just better than the stuff we Americans crank out? We’re still on the fence, though our kitten-heartstrings are, of course, pulled by predictably patriotic inclinations.

    I had to read Evelyn Waugh for school and haven’t approached his work since—doubt I’ll get to it, life is too short even when you have seven lives. I’d say, generally, that Brit lit isn’t better. It’s not a conscious thing, but I tend to prefer American (South and North) writers, although that’s not a rule. I usually read to inform a project, and the writers I’m looking at aren’t timid about approaching big or tough subjects—and they happen to be US writers. Stylistically, and this is a very general comment, but there can be a robust and direct quality to some contemporary US writing—which I prefer.

    You’re an artist in addition to a writer of very big, highly acclaimed novels (because, clearly, you are a pathological overachiever whose goal is to make us kittens feel small and unacclaimed.) What sort of art do you make, when you make art? Would you rather hang out with artists or novelists?

    I wish I mixed more with artists. When I lived in Chicago I worked with a collaborative called Haha, and I miss that kind of intense interaction - although it was demanding. I like how fluid artists can be with ideas and media. Since working on The Kills I’m back to working at a pitch where I feel engaged and challenged in the same way I did with Haha. It’s oxygen. Vital. Once you start developing ideas, the harder you are with them, the better they get—and they keep dividing into more iterations, I guess. If you’ve ever had that great crazy hour spent chasing after something, where you just feel so perfect for the job, but in honesty, you don’t really know what the hell you’re doing… that’s exactly how I feel when I’m talking through and developing ideas. We have a young cat. She’s intense about everything. Perfectly in the moment. I want to work with that kind of presentness and submersion and engagement. Maybe one day I’ll work in a studio environment with other writers/artists immediately at hand…

    image

    The Kills is over 900 pages long. Since most people, according to recent scientific studies, have an attention span of 12.9 seconds, and think entirely in 140-character flatulent outbursts, where do you get off expecting someone to make mental time and space for this novel, especially considering that—being a novel—it’s just a long story about things that didn’t even actually happen?

    It’s a big ask, I guess, but it’s the kind of challenge I like to be set as a reader. I prefer to read works which are a little tougher, maybe even colder, something that might become immersive. In longer works pace and pressure are important, and those qualities can really test a reader. If it works for you, it’s going to be a worthwhile experience. But… if you’re getting nothing from it, then there are plenty of other books and other choices, so there’s no insult or problem with moving on. I have one (over-used) notion about reading fiction, which is that the book is this suspended ball, this thing you return to each time you read, a world, an object, a gathering of ideas, who knows, something sparkly and distracting. It takes time to read, and you get to spend that time with ideas, characters, situations, you might otherwise not encounter. It takes time, it happens inside your head, and it’s intimate. In reading you gain experience, maybe even knowledge, without risk, without suffering. It’s the most human thing you can do—so I think it’s worth knocking about the form a little and asking a reader to work a little harder.

    *

    RICHARD HOUSE: So, I have a question. What’s it like to kill something? Like mice and stuff? You ever feel guilty? Or is it just big fun?

    UNI: Don’t get the wrong idea, Richard. We’re not sociopaths (we’ve done the checklist, we’re cool).

    CHLOE: But that’s not to say that we’re afraid to admit to the exquisite pleasures of mouse-homicide, the blood-rush inherent in stalking one of those disgusting thousand-legged insect freaks for an entire afternoon…

    UNI: It’s sport and ritual and catharsis, you know?

    CHLOE: I mean haven’t you ever just wanted to hunt something and then, once you’ve found it, just sort of mess with its emotions, taunting it, maybe picking it up and throwing it against the wall, letting it pretend to be asleep and almost escape into a corner before reigniting the entire horrible cascade of violence, and without any actual useful purpose, like killing for food or sustenance?

    UNI: Useful but beautiful in its own way, see. Idle afternoon killing is our art. Guilt is an outmoded concept; it helps that we’re adorable.

    *

    Richard House’s The Kills is available now.

    image

     


  3. image

    Chloe: “Why the fuck did no one tell us that David Mitchell had been commissioned to write the 12th installment of the Harry Potter franchise? We waited and waited with tweenish excitement until the September 2 pub date of this doorstopper, which Scott brought home and literally flung into our eager paws. Hallelujah! But the celebration was short lived, for sure. Mitchell has always had a thing for Murakami, but he’s generally toned down the magical realist New Age-y shit, and he’s also much better than Murakami, in that he’s not the worst fucking prose stylist of all time. But man oh man, The Bone Clocks is one bad trip for the first 60-ish pages, which is as far as we’ve made it, and probably as far as we’re going to get, which is a sad admission. But before you try and convince us otherwise, just take a look at this sample passage, which we’re paraphrasing from memory:

    I scampered down the alleyway and got to the lake, where I hurled my vinyl copy of Fear of Music. Rhimes suddenly appears, a spectre in the sky, flying on a cloud of bubbles and defracted light. “Xi Quytin told me thou werest a Defeebian,” he cackled, “but Horology shalt not perish because you happened to gumkle the Malachites. Nay! A thousand curses on the House of Plethora, and if Saxaxxius is watching—woe to all the perths of Bimble!” **

    The thought of what sort of overwrought, myth-tinged, everything-is-connected fantasia must be around the corner, in the following 1,901 pages, makes us want to burn our whiskers in a slow flame. Oh, oh, sad disappointment of the September fiction calendar so far. Damn you Malachites. To hell with you, Henry VIII of the Horologist’s Hamper.

    (**EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not actually a direct quote from The Bone Clocks. But it could be. Or should be.)

     


  4. image

    Uni: “Ohhhh, kitten-belly pierced by the sad death knell of aging libertine!!…this fat book has it all: Corpse-pissing, brazen adultery, dirty-talk-with-undergrads, tumescence beneath the borrowed robe, “gonadal disgrace,” faulty suicide attempts, World War II fighter pilot casualties, the Jersey Shore, puppetry, threesomes, Alcoholics Anonymous, shamelessness, shameless, shameless. We highlighted our favorite passages and showed Scott and by Jebus he deleted his OKCupid account for at least 48 hours before restarting it. Beautiful, gut-churning, this one: A cautionary tale for the heedless hedonist.” 

     


  5. image

    Uni: “Jebus, what a vicious, sick-funny, barbed little knife this book is. Kingsley—father of Martin, of course—shares the sordid tale of Sir Roy Vandervane, well into his middle years who falls smitten with a 17-year old anti-Establishment punk-hippy from hell. Vandervane himself, a respected icon in the classical music scene, entertains faulty visions of getting ‘down with youth’ that culminate in a horrific violin outing with a noise outfit dubbed Pigs Out. Our narrator is Douglas Yandell, a mere 33 but already a prematurely aged stick-in-the-mud. The plotting is pitch-perfect as most everyone slides swiftly into the gutter, some faster than others. Highly recommended.

    image

    Still feeling optimistic about life? Muriel Spark serves up a swift 88-page remedy for that with this mysterious and fucked-up novella about a woman who goes on vacation in order to instigate her own murder. (We sniffed certain resonances to London Fields by Amis-the-Younger.) Weird and compulsively readable, The Driver’s Seat is a poison dart that flies swiftly toward its bloody conclusion.”

     


  6. image

    CHLOE: The forthcoming-in-November Sarah Thornton book, 33 Artists in 3 Acts, is one of the most hilariously bad tomes we’ve dribbled and nibbled over in many a year. Literally the only interesting thing about this book is A) how and why it was published, since it’s neither an insider’s book for outsiders, nor an insider’s book for insiders, and B) how drunk and/or high the editors were to allow whoppers like the one pictured above to slide through, without someone vomiting their coffee all over the advance proofs and sending a frantic email along the lines of “OMG LOL YOU ACCIDENTALLY LEFT SOME TOTALLY RACIST AND ALSO INACCURATE SHIT IN HERE GLAD WE CAUGHT IT BEFORE IT WENT OUT INTO THE WORLD ‘CUZ THAT WOULD’VE SUUUUUCKED.” Thornton’s organizing conceit for the book—and we put the emphasis very strongly here on conceit—is that she’s weaving some sort of bullshit drama in which the artists featured are actors on the great stage of—zzzzzzzzzzz. What we’ve really got here is a collection of half-baked, pointless quasi-profiles of the likes of Jeff Koons, Ai Weiwei, and Francis Alys, along with really tortured and occasionally fantastical transitions attempting to sew up a grand narrative about—who the fuck knows what? Sometimes, instead of interviewing the artists, she just goes and hears them talk at LACMA or some shit and then basically transcribes what happens. Sometimes she hangs out with the Dunham clan (Laurie Simmons, Carroll, Lena), just chilling and drinking lemonade in their country house. In any case, she makes a big point about how many air miles she accrued traveling all over the globe to hunt these stories down, which was a real waste of a carbon footprint, since this kind of crap journalism could have been conducted via Gchat, easy. Ordinarily we wouldn’t get so worked up about what’s really just a forgettable smear on the fall publishing calendar, but the problem here is that A) there are so many talented art journalists who could have written a book like this, geared to a wide audience who already thinks the art world is a big pointless shit-parade, and it could’ve been a great book, and B) THIS IS NOT THAT BOOK, and C) that means the narrow window for this-type-of-book-to-be-published has already been filled with this thing, which is so laughably bad—both structurally, and line by fucking line—that it makes us want to gag up a series of 33 perfectly formed hairballs, which we could pack into a sort of abstract sculpture in the living room, and I swear to Jebus that sodden, barfed-up mass would have more artistry in it than you’ll find in all of these 352 pages.

     


  7. The Evening Interviews: Adam Wilson

    In the acknowledgements for his new collection of short stories, What’s Important Is Feeling, Adam Wilson admits that his own father considers him “one weird dude.” This should be taken as a compliment, we think, since while some of the material here made our fur crawl, Wilson is ultimately an expert navigator and explicator of the types of emotional and sexual strangeness you human beings are capable of. We chatted with the author about prose techniques and why no one wants to read about attractive people making each other come.

    UNI & CHLOE: First lines are important—they’re the snacks that lure you in. And in terms of first lines you, Adam Wilson, are a veritable high-octane genius-machine. “No one knows who slept with her first”; “My grandfather was an old queen, and when he was dying he would grab me through my pants and try to make it hard”; “I’m done being friends with dreadlocked white guys.” Tell us: What’s the recipe for a perfect opening line? Is an opening line like that the initial catalyst for a great story, or does it come later in the process?

    ADAM WILSON: I’m not sure if one recipe is better than others, but looking at the three you’ve quoted, mine seems to involve making an extreme statement and then spending the rest of the story trying to justify it. The main thing, for me, is getting the reader interested. We live in such an ADD culture, that every sentence seems like an opportunity to lose the reader. I try to make a big bang at the beginning in order to say, STOP, read this, it’s not gonna be boring, there’s sex in it! I often read my opening sentence to my own cat, Frida, and if she stops destroying furniture or chasing pieces of paper around my apartment in order to listen then I know I’m on the right track.

    Young adulthood—dramatic teenage years, existential college years—seem very important to you. We’re 4 ourselves which, in cat years, puts us right in this target demo. What’s interesting or fruitful about this time of life? Can we ever expect to grow out of this awkwardness?

    Awkward? Aren’t cats supposed to be graceful? As for me, I’m still trying to deal with the psychic wounds from my adolescence. I had a baby face and a ponytail and no muscle mass to speak of. Older kids called me “Hanson” after the band who sang “Mmbop”. You would still be writing about it too. Luckily, cats don’t have to go to high school. 

    In the acknowledgements for the book you thank your father, but then admit that after reading this collection he called you “one weird dude.” Are you a weird dude? Does it feel weird to have your dad read a story in which the protagonist is, you know, idly masturbated by his dying-and-mostly-senile grandpa?

    You know, I didn’t feel that weird about my parents reading this stuff. My dad is a writer, and has written some pretty weird shit himself, so I feel like he can take it. I do, however, feel weird about my girlfriend’s parents reading the book.

    What are some songs that we should listen to while reading What’s Important Is Feeling?

    I would listen to the albums Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady, Celebration Rock by Japandroids, Doris by Earl Sweatshirt, and Manhattan, the debut record from my old high school buddies, Skaters.

    Is it important for writers and those-who-want-to-be-writers to go through a so-called “drug period,” so that they can later drag themselves out of the gutter and use their hard-fought wisdom to craft better, more authentic prose?

    Let me ask you this, are you two more authentic cats for having tasted catnip? Did it alter your worldview? Improve your sex lives? Or just make you mellow? Drugs are fun and provide good material, but they’re not great for writing because they make you lazy and dumb. I sometimes think I could have written the next War and Peace if I hadn’t taken so much ecstasy as a teenager. That said, I like fiction that both funny and sad, and most drug experiences involve some combination of both.

    Most of your protagonists tend to be men (or boys), and considering that we’re two girl-cats, we appreciate the insights into the male psyche that you provide (we never knew it was so sweaty, so sometimes sad, so occasionally desperate). But in “The Long In-Between” you’re suddenly narrating a first-person story from a woman’s point-of-view. Did that feel strange? What sort of research did you do?

    It didn’t feel so strange, to tell the truth. I think that writers, as a species, are basically feminine creatures. That what all the Hemingway/Bukowski macho posturing is about—trying to hide the innate femininity of what we do. For more on this theory, read Anne Carson’s amazing essay, “The Gender Of Sound,” in which it turns out the Greeks thought vaginas were mouths and vice versa. That said, I did pass the story by a number of really helpful female readers including my girlfriend, my mother, and a close friend, before sending it out for publication.

    There’s a good amount of sex in this book, and very little of it makes us feel comfortable. Like the little tryst in “America Is Me And Andy,” during which two teenage friends are watching American Idol, and suddenly become engaged in an unexpected act of potentially non-homosexual fellatio, if that’s a thing (which it probably, definitely isn’t), and then one of their moms walks in on them, which is of course not what you want to have happen when you are “sucking with every atom, salivating.” Why is sex more interesting when it’s a bit unnerving or somehow wrong? And as a fiction writer, how do you go about accurately capturing this—all the crippling undertones and endless permutations present when people do something so simple as fuck?

    I think most things are more interesting when they’re unnerving and wrong. Good sex is boring unless you’re having it. No one wants to hear about attractive people making each other come—it’s like, stop bragging. I’d much rather read about people with flawed bodies having flawed, human sex. Sex is such a ridiculous and hilarious thing when you think about it, and it can also be incredibly sinister and dark. I’m interested in people with hangups, people with sexual anxiety, people who are uncomfortable in their own skin and touching other people’s. These are all things I can relate to. As I said earlier, I like funny and I like sad, and bad, weird sex always has a little bit of both. I’m also interested in taboo, and notions of shame and guilt in relation to sex. I think the difficulty is figuring out a way to do it that doesn’t come across as simply in there for shock value or cheap titillation. In the story you mention, I was a bit nervous about going for such a “big” ending in the way that I did, but I thought the story justified it, because it’s really an allegory about the relationship between beauty, shame, sex, and violence in America. It’s not a very subtle one either, and I didn’t intend it to be—in a sense I wanted to tackle some of the collection’s persistent themes in a more straightforwardly satirical and over the top way.

     *

    Adam Wilson’s What’s Important Is Feeling is available now, along with his first novel,  Flatscreen

     

     


  8. image

    RUGBY: “Life wears you down, it fucks you up. Life is a big cartoon fist aimed squarely at your nose, and no matter how frantically you scrape or paw or scratch, it’s going to hit the mark (blammmo! little cartoon birdies flapping around your noble, dazed, orange head!) These two works by Nathanael West—a novella from 1933, a novel from 1939—are set in New York and Hollywood, respectively, thereby definitely proving that a perfect climate does not lead to emotional and psychic happiness. Miss Lonelyhearts is a slim, nasty little number about an advice columnist suddenly overburdened by the terrible moral funk of the world (some of the Christian shit gets a bit heavy-handed, but I couldn’t tell if it was sarcastic or whatnot—some of the smartest people can turn out to be Christians, you’ve got to be very fucking careful). The Day of the Locust is a love-triangle story (or some other shape, maybe a rhombus—more horny corners, but all of them focused on one young lady). Our hero here is a sort of set designer/scene painter in L.A. named Tod Hackett. He—along with several other wannabe Lotharios—is obsessed with a horridly pretentious struggling actress named Faye Greener. (“Being with her was like being backstage during an amateurish, ridiculous play. From in front, the stupid lines and grotesque situations would have made him squirm with annoyance, but because he saw the tawdry summerhouse with its tangle of paper flowers, he accepted everything and was anxious for it to succeed.”) Other people eager to paw Ms. Greener silly: An Aspberger-y cowboy; a man unable to control his hands, named Homer Simpson (no relation); a Mexican hombre with ambitions in the D.I.Y. cockfighting scene (not a euphemism).

    A lotta shit happens, including some nicely anarchic house parties, and a chase scene through the fictitious postmodern hell of Hollywood’s back lots. Tod Hackett keeps conjuring ideas for a painting called The Burning of Los Angeles, which makes me think that a bro named Ed Ruscha must’ve read this book before painting his depiction of LACMA in flames.

    In any case, it’s all bleak, with a chuckle. Here’s a description of the masses of L.A. residents who’ve gathered to go wild during a film premiere:

    Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, wars. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges don’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.

    Mr. West, Mr. West, pass the fucking cyanide! For a second you probably thought I’d accidentally inserted a paragraph from The Coming Insurrection. But rest assured: All this dooming and glooming is tempered by a nice dose of farce (including one irate midget who likes to kick people in the balls). These books are old as shit, but they still ring with a real contemporary relevance, exhaustingly so.

    image

     



  9. UNI: “Everyone was asking us, like, Where were you girls during the entire month of January? You weren’t in the windowsill, you weren’t on Skype, we thought you were dead, jesus christ don’t scare us like that again. Sorry for the alarm! What happened is that we ‘discovered’ Evelyn Waugh for the first time, and basically fall into a deep and delicious Waugh-Hole that we’ve only recently climbed out of. Here’s the embarrassing fact: Initially we had somehow confused dear Evelyn with Edith Wharton, due to the shared initials…so when we thought of what a typical Waugh novel might be like, we pictured posh people with starched shirts, being all snooty and shit, fornicating with the help in big, bloodless mansions, which is probably not even what happens in a goddamn Edith Wharton novel, but we occasionally like to generalize in a highly ignorant manner. We had no idea that Evelyn Waugh was actually responsible for some of the most unbe-fucking-lievably dark satires ever penned in the 20th century, especially Handful of Dust, which is basically a sick comedy about cuckolding that ends with a poor bastard kidnapped and marooned in a sort of horror-movie scenario involving the collected works of Charles Dickens. Long story short: Our little four-pawed existences have been enlivened and forever changed by this manically creative motherfucker, who is unfortunately very dead by now, so we can’t interview him.”

     


  10. image

    Chloe: “We started this book because Scott came home and was talking about Matthew Barney’s new art-shiza film, River of Fundament, some sort of scatological riff on Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings. The general consensus on that novel is that it’s an unreadable garbage-barge, so we decided to try our luck with The Executioner’s Song instead. (Plus it was a good value, basically $2/pound). This is the story of Gary Gilmore, a dirtbag who gets out of prison and has a hard time acclimating to straight life; he falls in love with a teenage space cadet and then, when she breaks up with him, decides to go murder a few people for no reason whatsoever. For the first 300 pages or so we were swiftly pawing away, oddly drawn to the book without knowing why—the prose style is kinda limp and flat (although it goes down easy, like Bud Light). Imagine if Tao Lin wrote a true crime novel, maybe. In any case, after Gilmore is arrested and is definitely going to be executed (the publishers include photos of his electric chair in the first third of the tome, which is like, SPOILER ALERT, people) we lost interest very quickly. It’s atmospheric and has a certain laid-back, cool-hick charm about it, but The Executioner’s Song isn’t one we’ll be singing again any time soon.”