Month: August 2012

Public Displays of Affectation

Shaun Haurin’s debut collection of short stories, Public Displays of Affectation, offers a subtle and emotionally complex examination of the ties that bind. For the most part, the characters in this collection are looking for love — romantic and otherwise — which is fitting, given the setting: all of the stories take place in and around Philadelphia, widely known as the City of Brotherly Love.  In many instances, the love is forbidden, as in “Best Man,” which finds a not-so-young-anymore bachelor pining away for his best friend’s wife. That the best friend is himself engaged in an extra-marital affair only adds to the would-be lover’s dilemma. After all, doesn’t the object of his affection deserve more than to be cuckolded by an unfaithful husband? As with all of the stories in this collection, the answers to such questions are never easy to come by.

Other stories in the collection find Haurin exploring the love between parents and children. In one heartbreaking instance, a story titled “Bloodsucker,” a grown man dons a vampire costume in order to catch a glimpse of his estranged daughter on Halloween. Elsewhere, in a story titled “Me, Tarzan,” a boy named Sammartino Hayes wants nothing more than to be able to respect his father, a frustrated illustrator who dreams of hitting the big time with a cartoon canine named Bobo Lazarus. At nearly one-hundred pages, this latter story could likely stand on its own as a novella, yet its attention to the frustrating and often conflicting desires that motivate the human heart makes it the jewel in the crown of this intelligent and moving collection.

With a keen eye for the telling detail and a well-tuned ear for dialogue, Haurin explores the myriad shades of gray that shroud adulthood and haunt the contemporary heart, thus rendering Public Displays of Affectation a compelling and emotionally intelligent collection.

The Man Who Danced with Dolls

The Man Who Danced with Dolls by Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams is a tiny book that packs a lot of punch. The story revolves largely around the narrator’s recollections of his odd intercontinental, multicultural childhood and the strained relationship between his parents. On a long, confusing adventure with his alienated mother, the narrator catches a brief glimpse of a busker dancing with a life-sized doll in a Metro station. The image stays with the boy for many years and serves, ultimately, as the metaphor that might allow the reader, if not the narrator, to understand the complicated relationships that constitute adulthood. To wit: In one way or another, we all have to make do with imaginary versions of the people we love.

This is the first book I’ve read from Madras Press, and I have to say that I’m highly impressed. The writing is beautiful, the subject matter significant, and the author’s attention to human nature impeccable. What’s more, the proceeds from all Madras books support causes that the authors care about. In this case, it’s the New Hanover Humane Society of Wilmington, North Carolina. A great book supporting a great cause — what more could you ask for? Madras Press and The Man Who Danced with Dolls are definitely worth checking out.

Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book

Here’s some news for anyone who’s self-published a book:

Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $10 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine.

To submit an entry, email a PDF of your entire book, including the cover, to Margaret@shelfmediagroup.com, subject line Contest Entry, and send a check for $10 made out to Shelf Media Group to Margaret Brown, Shelf Media Group, 3322 Greenview Drive, Garland, TX 75044. All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered.

The top five books, as determined by the editors of Shelf Unbound, will receive editorial coverage in the December/January 2013 issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of full-page ads in Shelf Unbound (rate card value $6,000).

The deadline for entry is midnight on October 1, 2012. The winners will be notified by October 15, 2012. Additional information and rules can be found on our contest rules page at www.shelfmediagroup.com.

For further information, please feel free to contact Margaret Brown, Publisher, via email: Margaret@shelfmediagroup.com.

Shelf Unbound book review magazine, a 2012 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Publication, reaches more than 125,000 avid readers in the U.S. and in 42 other countries around the globe. Subscriptions to Shelf Unbound are free at http://www.shelfmediagroup.com.

More information on the competition can be found on our website: http://www.shelfmediagroup.com/pages/competition.html.

Hot Dog: A Global History

Bruce Kraig’s Hot Dog: A Global History offers an in-depth examination of that most American — yet curiously multi-cultural — of foods, the hot dog. Highlights include the history of the term “hot dog” as well as an examination of the myths surrounding the origins of the hot dog. The book is at its best when discussing the social significance of the hot dog, particularly with respect to regional variations both within the United States and beyond. Photographs of hot dog stands are an added bonus. Also intriguing is a reference to the following ads featuring an early incarnation of Jim Henson’s Muppets.


Licentious Litanies

At about 19 pages in length, Rob Roper’s Licentious Litanies reads, in some ways, like a comic version of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now.” At age 26, a young man named John begins making lists in order to make sense of his life. Yet for all of his list making, John finds little satisfaction. Indeed, his lists generally end up raising more questions than they answer. Case in point: John’s sudden epiphany that he may be gay. According to the lists he’s compiled, there’s no question about it, and though he feels no particular attraction to men, John sets out to meet one. At this point in the story, strains of the The Smiths are all but audible: “There’s a club if you’d like to go. You could meet somebody who really loves you.” More to the point, as John, a loner by nature, practically cries out, “I am human and I need to be loved just like everybody else does.” Also a bumbler by nature, John gets himself into some sticky sticky situations, many involving his ill-informed understanding of gay culture, before the story resolves itself. Ostensibly about a young man questioning his own sexual orientation, “Licentious Litanies” is ultimately about the quest for love, which the story and the Smiths’ song both suggest is something that unites everyone regardless of orientation.

PS: Today is my birthday! If you’d be so kind as to consider buying my latest novel, The Grievers, I’d be very grateful!