Flying Dreams: Three Recent Books

February 06th, 2009 | Category: Reviews

“Read Honorary Astronaut by Nate Pritts,” read the scrawl on the wall in the bathroom (italics mine) at The Hole in the Wall here in Austin, Texas. And, being the obedient urinator that I am, I followed the instructions.

Honorary AstronautI’m not sure how Nate Pritts would feel about how I found his work, but I, for one, am glad I did. The man writes like I’d like to live. With power, with passion, and with an exquisite sense of the multitudes in the mundane. The following line and thought hung in my head for days:

Scientists say there are various kinds of fire but when they burn they all burn the same, a crisis of individuality so deep & desperate that I’m stunned speechless.

His subjects and style vary, but they all carry (like Mariah) the weight of many more words. Admittedly, I write and listen to more poetry than I read (and I’m hardly qualified to critique it), but Pritts’ Honorary Astronaut (Ghost Road Press, 2008) hits me where it counts, and that, to me, is what makes good poetry.

Alarm by Mike DailyI’ve read both of Mike Daily‘s novels in one sitting. That is, I’ve read each one in one sitting, one sitting per book. His latest, which I re-read recently, Alarm (Stovepiper, 2007), bends and blends genre and form both on and off the page: It comes with two CDs. You see, Daily does what he calls “storytelling theater.” More influence by the beat than the Beats, Daily freestyles his fiction live. It’s like Sage Francis meets Kenneth Patchen, Mike Ladd meets Charles Bukowski, or even Saul Williams meets Jack Kerouac: Hip-hop literature without the pretense or the posturing.

Alarm follows narrator Mick O’Grady (and his alternarrator) through the post-9/11 dissolution of a relationship in L.A. and a fleeing flight to Portland. O’Grady’s day-today (i.e., his Daily) minutia is the stuff of the book. Early in the book’s pages appears the statement “You can’t be a stuntman for your fiction,” but in a lot of ways, Daily is just that. Alarm closes with the appearance of inimitable Kevin Sampsell and the promises of Portland.

Jetpack DreamsWhen I was a kid, my uncles and elders told me that we wouldn’t have cars when I got old enough to drive. We’d have personal planes, hovercrafts, and jetpacks. If you were similarly lied to growing up then Mac Montandon’s Jetpack Dreams (Da Capo, 2008) is the answer to your prayers, and/or your queries about where your promised jetpack is. Well, it’s the closest you’re likely to get.

Montandon started this project and story with just that question (phrased more emphatically by his friend Jofie as, “Where’s my fucking jetpack?”). You see, like me and perhaps you, Montandon (and Jofie) had been promised a utopian future where jetpacks would be everyday fare. As we all well know, the evolution of transportation has ben stalled for quite some time. What’s the newest innovation? The Segway (Two words for Dean Kamen: Bicycle.)? The hybrid car? Puh-lease.

Montandon chases his jetpack dreams from Boba Fett to Cuernavaca, and, as the subtitle of the book notes, it’s an up and down (mostly down) ride.

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