Getting Away with Murder
On the Texas Frontier

Notorious Killings and
Celebrated Trials

Bill Neal
(Texas Tech University Press)
They certainly were a smarmy bunch, laying up with each other's wives, stealing land and children from each other, shooting guys right there in the courthouse, shooting down lawyers and the judges and bailiffs and innocent by-standers who had just come to court for the fireworks, but not that kind of fireworks, but for entertainment, back in those days before The Jerry Springer Show, when you went to the local courthouse to watch the show.

They even got them a Texas State Senator, Steve Bell (1919), who ran a movie theatre on the side when he wasn't being a Senator, did entertainment, and, apparently, was in the business of what Mr. Neal calls the "impregnation" of a lady named Suetta. My dictionary does make note of the word "impregnation," but to me, it sounds a little formal, not making for the kind of feud that ultimately did in the good Senator Bell. The writing is a bit Wild West, mostly, apparently, culled from court records. Sometimes they --- the records, if not the writer --- get quite windy (when not randy).

Translation is
A Love Affair

Jacques Poulin
Sheila Fischman,

We managed to make it 2/3rds of the way through this leisurely, very leisurely oh yawn story of a lady who works as a translator in Quebec, working for a leisurely author who takes his time finding just the right word, sometimes he has to get up and wander around for an hour or so, finding the word, as it were, there on the floor, as he is pacing back and forth, with the two cats, one fat and one black, the black one a nervous black kitty that turned up with a note tied to its collar, a note from a girl who has to escape from a witch's third-floor walk-up, there in downtown Quebec ... but before we could get to the end, oh yawn, we had drifted off, wondering, vaguely, as we did, whether the translator of this baby fell asleep too as she was leisurely going along on this leisurely tale from the île d'Orléans, which goes, leisurely, on and on. Yawn.

The Little Black Book
Of Grisélidis Réal

Days and Nights of
An Anarchist Whore

Jean-Luc Hennig,
Ariana Raines,

Hennig's job is working as a whore. 'Tis pity she's a whore? Perish the thought. She loves it, and after it is all over, before her clients get out the door, she hands them pamphlets of Prudhomme and Bakunin. Some of these tricks, apparently, don't get it. They're not interested in politics when they're involved in the beast with two backs.

Hennig may be a lady of the night, but she has a few strictures. She doesn't like being woken up too early to go to work. She doesn't like the guys who go on too long, without getting off: she gets bored. Yes, she washes them all down thoroughly before she begins operations, and she keeps a little black book, with a list of their preferences, what they prefer her to do, upside or downside, those little artful things she does with her hands ... the red whip, too, hanging there on the wall.

We do wonder, sometimes, though, what William Barton Rogers, the founder, some 200 years ago, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ... we wonder exactly what he would make of all this stuff, this world that Hennig describes so exactly, the stuff she does with her hands, and the washrag, and the red riding crop, etc., being distributed by MIT Press and all.

Go to a letter
from Semiotext(e) about this

American Salvage
Bonnie Jo Campbell
(Wayne State University Press)
The first story tells of going to the family cottage that was occupied during the winter by a "trespasser" --- a meth head --- who left behind a mattress, "the quilted fabric of the mattress crusted with jism, more jism than the daughter's mother had ever seen." The second one is about snakes and bees. The third tells of people who work in a LP gas place, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and are convinced that come the year 2000, everything's going to freeze up (and you'd better be in a hidden away in a shelter).

Then, "Solution to Brian's Problem," includes Solution #2,

    Wait until Connie comes back from the "store," distract her with the baby, and then cut her meth with Drano, so that when she shoots up, she dies.

In the next tale, Jim Lobretto is just trying to get back to Kalamazoo but spills some hot coffee down his leg at the gas station, then gets some gasoline on his pants, and when the cop stops him for running a red light, he gets nervous, tries to light a cigarette, succeeds in setting his leg on fire but there is no snow on the ground so when he rolls on the ground he can't put it out, so the cop calls an ambulance.

Jim's leg is badly burned but he refuses to stay in the hospital and when he gets home he can hear the two lesbians downstairs having sex, and he gets angry and screams down the register at them to shut up, then he goes out to the car, gets his shotgun out, and but the pain is too much, and he is rolling on the ground, and screaming...

The last story I got to, "The Inventor (1972)" tells of a guy with a big scar down his face who clips a thirteen-year-old girl in his rusted El Camino and breaks her leg. When he tries to get to a phone on the highway no one will let him in (they don't trust strangers). Nor --- after reading these stories --- do we. The author's notes don't tell us where Campbell got the ideas for this bleak, gray collection.

B Is for Bad Poetry
Pamela August Russell

    I tried to leave L. A.
    only to get struck
    in traffic.
    Now what?

The title of this collection is B Is for Bad Poetry. A poem with the name "Riding Bitch with Rosemary Clooney & Peggy Lee" goes:

    You with the stars
    in your eyes
    put them back
    in the sky.
    You're ruining it
    for the rest of us.

"Autobiography" reads:

    Looks like a pump,
    feels like a sneaker.
    Looks like a pump,
    feels like a sneaker.

The title is, presumably, from the pen of the author. Could we substitute the letter "D" for "B?" As in "Dismal." Or, perhaps, "E?" As in "Extremely Dismal."

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