For the past several years, I have read very few books. A once avid reader and creative writer, I have done neither at any significant amount in what feels like a lifetime. So, in 2024, I plan to read a book a week… and as is my true self (see Letterboxd, Untappd, and other such list apps that I’ve filled up with my selections for year), I must log every book or it feels like it didn’t happen. While I have created a Goodreads account, some of the self-published and independent works in my collection aren’t seemingly available to log in any such app. So… I figured that there was no better place to share my weekly reads than right here on The Farsighted.
Thanks for embarking with me on my 2024 literary journey – my own personal book club of sorts – and please feel free… even encouraged to comment on the books I cover, grab copies for yourself, and recommend future reads for me in the comments or via email.
I started a week late, so I began the journey with two books to catch up a little. Both were rather short, so I actually ran through them in a day. However, I spent the better part of the ensuing week thinking about them both. The first of the 2 features for short stories, including one from the author of this entry’s second book, Justin Lutz.
This collection, Teenage Grave, the reader is treated to 4 horror tales with unique themes, wildly different styles and tones, and powerful ideas. With a story that invokes the pus-covered body horror of the classic Guinea Pig film Mermaid in a Manhole, a dark and erotic love poem, a unique metaphorical look at death and guilt and pain, and a nightmarish cult tale – Teenage Grave was one hell of a way to kick off this book-a-week journey.
Each story is different enough that it feels quite likely that each reader of this one will cling onto a different favorite, but all 4 entries are extremely well written and none of them are for the faint of heart. While Jo Quennell’s “Stale Air” kicks the compendium off with the most grotesque body horror of the batch, the final moments of the closing story – Justin Lutz’s “Start Today” (also my personal favorite story in this book) – gives “Stale Air” a run for it’s money. While Sam Richard’s “I Know Not the Names of the Gods to Whom I Pray” is less grotesque in the traditional body horror sense of those 2 stories, its erotic tone, invocation of what seemingly feels like some sort of sex magick, and beutiful poetic language feel like something forbidden and dirty, almost a blood drenched blend of sacred and profane. Brendan Vidito’s “Apate’s Children” has some many interesting metaphors and ideas in such a small number of pages that it seems to have more readings than I’m ready to even explore. It also features my favorite turn of phrase in the whole collection – when one image is compared to “an inverted bouquet of roses”.
At a mere $10, the short story collection is an incredible value, so I suggest you support independent publishing and scratch that transgressive body horror itch. And grab a few other great releases from filthy loot, while you’re there.
Hold My Hand and Hope for Heaven
While my brief experience with the writing of Justin Lutz and my knowledge of his film and literature tastes steer me towards the belief that he spends a lot of his efforts in the horror world and adjacent genres, Hold My Hand and Hope for Heaven isn’t exactly what I’d call horror. There is invocation of a spiritual world and a looming threat of the possibility of further, more horror related details to grow from the story, but Hold My Hand and Hope for Heaven is a “day in the life” portrait of several people living separate lives that intersect in that strange way life seems to connect us all.
I spoke briefly with Justin about this work and was informed that it’s intended as a first installment of an ongoing series, which is exciting – as this story is truly engrossing. I sensed the type of grit and style of an author like a Hubert Selby, but with a sense of the supernatural intervening in the lives of the characters. From gritty “day in the life” stories like those of Selby to James Joyce’s Dubliners, I’ve always loved this type of storytelling, so I was really excited to get to include Hold My Hand and Hope for Heaven in this first edition of my 2024 reading journal.
As a former literature major who’s rediscovering the literature geek in me that led to that course of study, I noticed some nifty little writer tricks in the way this short story played with voice and point of view. I made a bunch of little notes in my copy of this one about these little language games and tricks because they really got me thinking.
But one need not be a literature nerd to enjoy this short word portrait, the story itself is enough to pull you in. As Justin’s note on my personalized copy says, “Follow the dolls…” Grab a copy for only $6 on the CASTAIGNE PUBLISHING store and check out their other books and merch while you there – including another book that Justin is featured in, Void Haus.