Monday, April 28, 2008

Reviewing the Neo-Beat Novel

A review I wrote of Ray Reece's novel, Abigail in Gangland, was published in the March-April 2008 edition of Small Press Review. It's my first publication in one of my favorite long-running small press magazines, and it's an honor to share a page with Richard Kostelanetz, whom I respect mightily. Here's the review draft I sent editor Len Fulton:

Abigail in Gangland
By Ray Reece
2008; 374pp; Pa; La Ventana Budapest in collaboration with Synergy
Books, P.O. Box 80107, Austin, TX 78758. $12.95.

Published in Hungary in 2005 as Szórakozz a nénikéddel!, this is the first English printing of the third novel by Ray Reece, currently a columnist for The Budapest Sun. Packaged as "neo-beat" street lit, the novel features a down-at-his-heels artist who moves from New York City to a gang-ridden neighborhood in an urban area similar to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in order to care for his elderly and violently racist aunt -- and have a shot at her inheritance. Facing challenges such as warring youth gangs, adult diapers, and his misadventures in the personal ads, the protagonist rediscovers the value of family, his art, and true love. The ending leaves some plot threads loose, but while I didn't find the street lit and neo-beat positioning persuasive -- the book's like neither Eldorado Red nor On the Road -- the book's an engaging read that's extremely well written and surprisingly satisfying.

The review is one of what I hope will be many that I contribute to SPR, and the book is worth checking out. If you'd like me to consider any small-press poetry or prose books for review in SPR, please email me.

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