Monday, April 4, 2011

Jim Krusoe

Jim Krusoe is the author of the novels Erased, Girl Factory, and Iceland. His stories and poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, Bomb, the Chicago Review, the Denver Quarterly, the American Poetry Review, and other publications. He teaches at Santa Monica College and lives in Los Angeles.

His new novel is Toward You.

Last month I asked Krusoe what he was reading. His reply:
About ten or so years ago I read a short fictional excerpt in Granta magazine that impressed me so much I kept waiting for it to appear as a book. Well, it has, and though it’s a short book, Javier Marias’s Bad Nature: With Elvis in Mexico does not disappoint. Marias has been a favorite writer of mine for some years now—especially his mid-career work—which seems to combine maximum elegance with breakneck daring, and Bad Nature exemplifies this seeming oxymoron more than most, especially the daring part.

The narrator of the story is a guy who accompanies Elvis during his stay in Mexico while he films Fun in Acapulco. (I should add here that another movie of The King’s, Blue Hawaii, was responsible for my starting to smoke. The film was so intensely unbearable that I went out to the lobby—I’d come with friends so it was impossible to leave—and, rather than kill myself on the spot, I bought a pack of Salems. They were my first cigarettes ever.) In any case, Marias’s Elvis exits fairly early, and the rest of the piece is like being trapped in a dream of sleazy a Mexican cabaret with prostitutes and gangsters, the dreamer facing nearly certain death. I loaned my own copy to a writer who promptly finished it and loaned it to another who loaned it to another, etc. It’s a fabulous read.

And speaking of dream-like novels set in sleazy Mexican cabarets with gangsters who threaten to kill the protagonist, I can’t resist mentioning here Toby Olson’s The Woman Who Escaped from Shame, even though I read it a while ago. It takes the above mix and adds to it pornographic movies and miniature horses (no, really miniature, the size of Jack Russell terriers). Olson’s novels move with the logic of beautiful and dangerous dreams; he’s another favorite of mine.

And then, speaking of mostly helpless individuals caught up in menacing dream-driven plots (are you detecting a theme?) I commend as well Julia Holmes’ first novel, Meeks, in which her hero/victim moves about in a world where the rules become clear only after it’s too late to change one’s actions. It’s radiant, funny, scary and disorienting—the best sort of read.
Read reviews and excerpts from Toward You, and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Factory.

The Page 69 Test: Erased.

The Page 69 Test: Toward You.

--Marshal Zeringue