Shadow Cast in Dust, A, By Ben Johnson, 333 pgs.

May 24, 2022

I tried this one multiple times, but it just didn’t grab me—prose littered with modifiers and unneeded words proved too daunting for me to dive any deeper into the trilogy of “a strange world of wonder and deceit.” Sorry, mang. –Michael T. Fournier (Grand Mal Press,

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This Is the End of Something But It’s Not the End of You By Adam Gnade, 197 pgs.

April 6, 2020
Full disclosure: I’ve known author Adam Gnade for about twenty years through music and literature connections. His publisher, Pioneers Press, also put out one of my zines. That said, I’ve legitimately enjoyed Gnade’s writing over the years and it’s been interesting and encouraging to see him develop and grow both as a person and a writer. This Is the End of Something But It’s Not the End of You is Gnade’s third novel, but he’s also written novellas and is the author of the well-known self-help guide, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad. Whereas most of Gnade’s work focuses on a timeline of a night or between family members, his novels often follow the same characters. In this case, he tracks the life of James Jackson Bozic from childhood through his forties. While Gnade’s writing has always had a connection to his home city of San Diego, it was fictionalized. I assumed characters were abstractions of people Gnade knew or conglomerations of multiple individuals. This is the End… is most clearly Gnade’s autobiography. Yes, there are parts that are fictionalized but other portions follow his life, especially his geographic locations. In that regard, it was difficult for me to read because I couldn’t separate what I know of Gnade from the fictionalization he presented. Where Gnade excels in his writing is the precious details. The story starts with Bozic as a grade school student and the information he shares—childhood chants, games played, nicknames—are those things that we all have in our memories but most have suppressed or forgotten. Gnade’s writing brought back a lot of my own childhood to me in good ways. His writing also brought back some bad memories, especially as Bozic journeys through his teens and early twenties. Bozic looks for a place to fit in and instead finds himself a runt, consistently being picked on and put down. I could also relate to being the outcast and desperately trying to fit in. Gnade’s writing can certainly strike a chord. And it is in that desperation and tension where he excels. I wanted to see more depth to some scenes, however. It would be nice to see this work as a good jumping off point for future writings with more intimacy, similar to what Gnade did with Locust House. Still, he shows such a way with words and capturing memories and places, that This Is the End… ends up being a compelling and engaging book. –Kurt Morris (Three One G, PO Box 178262, San Diego, CA 92177; Pioneers Press, PO Box 8010, Ann Arbor, MI 48107)
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