Jordan A. Rothacker is a poet, essayist, and novelist who lives in Athens, GA where he received an MA in Religion and a PhD in Comparative Literature. His books are The Pit, and No Other Stories (Black Hill Press, 2015), And Wind Will Wash Away (Deeds, 2016), and the meta-text My Shadow Book by Maawaam (Spaceboy Books, 2017).
Buckskin Cocaine by Erika T. Wurth Astrophil Press, 111 pagesreviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker Sometimes we read fiction to escape, to experience the art of writing, or to lose ourselves in plot. Non-fiction is often imagined the territory of learning, absorbing direct information on a topic. We often forget that fiction still has this power, to take you somewhere real you’ve never been, to introduce you to people you might not have otherwise met. Fiction can convey social realities and erode the “otherness” of others. Sometimes even when we set out to read to escape, to read for fun, we are confronted with truths about our world. But of course, true art about the human experience never eludes the social and the political. I find myself in this dual mindset with Erika T. Wurth’s recent collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine. This collection of eight different first-person-voiced stories covers a lot of terrain over 111 pages all the while exploring the distinctive world of “buckskin” filmmaking, a once exploitative Hollywood Western subgenre that nowadays signals a world of Native directors, actors, and film festivals. The story titles bear the names of the protagonists, among them “Barry Four Voices,” “Candy ... Read the full text
Like Cats and Dogs, the Intimate Other AFTERGLOW by Eileen Myles Grove Press, 224 pagesTHE STRANGERS AMONG US by Caroline Picard Astrophil Press, 84 pagesreviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker Dog people and cat people often like to stake their identities on the idea that they are starkly different from one another, but are they really so different? Regardless of species, a pet’s companion is a certain type of person who probably prefers their dog or cat to other people. In two recent books, by Eileen Myles and Caroline Picard, a dog person and a cat person, respectively, confess the closeness they feel to their pets while also marveling at the strangeness of intimacy with another kind of being. Reading both of these books together becomes a chance to deeply explore the intimate otherness of animal companionship. They live amongst us, but are they with us? Myles has become a bit of a public figure recently with appearances in the Amazon original program, Transparent, a show that also features their (Myles’ preferred pronoun) poetry. With this new book, Afterglow (Grove/Atlantic, 2017), Myles is as provocative as ever. The subtitle of Afterglow is ... Read the full text
MY SHADOW BOOKby MAAWAAMedited by Jordan A. RothackerSpaceboy Books, 227 pagesreviewed by William Morris In the summer of 2011, novelist and scholar Jordan A. Rothacker discovered a box containing the journals of a being known as Maawaam. Thus begins My Shadow Book—part literary manifesto, part metafictional frame narrative. The novel itself is credited to Maawaam, while Rothacker gives himself the title of editor. This framing device, the found manuscript, is used throughout literature as a way of creating verisimilitude in the reading experience. By claiming to have found and compiled Maawaam’s papers, Rothacker gives the novel legitimacy as a real, authentic document, while also absolving himself of any blame for the contents: he simply discovered these writings, and so is not responsible for their creation. Despite Rothacker’s apparent effort to distance himself from the fiction, in Maawaam we have the character of a struggling writer. He calls himself a Shadow Man, a “double agent” writing in the darkness while presenting himself as a functioning member of society in the light. Is “Shadow Man” another way of saying “artist,” or is Maawaam otherworldly? Perhaps both. In his journals, Maawaam quotes William S. Burroughs, Anna Kavan, and Guy ... Read the full text
THE FUTURE WON’T BE LONGby Jarett KobekViking, 416 pagesReviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker Not even the greatest writers can write the story of how their own careers will go. Behind every success story that doesn’t involve something like the dark arts there’s always a lot of hard work, but also the presence of the most elusive element, luck. In his latest novel, The Future Won’t Be Long, Jarett Kobek meditates on the nature of artistic success. He follows two friends coming of age in New York City in the late-’80s to mid-’90s as artists, their personal development and their artistic development hand in hand, all hard living, hard work, and big dumb luck. While this is Kobek’s first book from a major publishing house—a measure of success for a once indie small press writer—he is no rookie; this is his seventh book to date (next year will see another, a 33 1/3 on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut solo album, “Return to the 36 Chambers”). Kobek’s own career trajectory might mirror that of his characters, as he’s the kind of writer not afraid to dance back and forth across that nebulous boundary between art and reality. If ... Read the full text
AND WIND WILL WASH AWAYby Jordan A. RothackerDeeds Publishing, 376 Pagesreviewed by William Morris Detective Jonathan Wind is not a wisecracking, hardboiled investigator in the tradition of Philip Marlowe, or a hyper-observant sleuth like Sherlock Holmes. Rather, Wind uses his almost encyclopedic knowledge to investigate crimes for the Atlanta Police Department. When he’s not on a case, the protagonist of Jordan A. Rothacker’s And Wind Will Wash Away splits his time between Monica, his devout Catholic girlfriend, and his secret mistress, Flora, a goddess-worshipping sex worker. All of this changes when, one early morning, Detective Wind gets a call from his partner, notifying him of a new case. The victim turns out to be his lover, Flora Ross, and her body has been burned to ash in an otherwise undamaged apartment. The police are satisfied to call the woman’s death accidental, the result of some electrical mishap, but Jonathan Wind isn’t so sure. He takes it upon himself to investigate the case in secret, going against department policy, and withholding the fact of his relationship to the victim all the while. In his quest for truth, Detective Wind encounters “an albino midget dressed in all white […] ... Read the full text