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Discouraging at Best [Hardcover]

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Item description for Discouraging at Best by Edward Lawson John...

Already known for his works of speculative fiction, author John Edward Lawson uses Discouraging at Best to take a look at the "real" world. On the pages within are five interlinked tales that, when pieced together, paint a panorama of apathy, greed, and manipulation. We follow the self-inflicted plight of working class families and their efforts to step on others in the race to get ahead. We watch the petty wars of Nobel laureates. We become immersed in the minds of those caught in an ankle-biters rebellion. We are drawn into the intrigues and incompetence of those pulling the strings at the highest level of government. And, ultimately, we wonder: why? Here the absurdity of the mundane expands exponentially creating a tidal wave that sweeps reason away. For those who enjoy satire, bizarro literature, or a good old-fashioned slap to the senses, Discouraging at Best offers extra helpings of each.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   200
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.13" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.94"
Weight:   0.99 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2007
Publisher   Raw Dog Screaming Press
ISBN  1933293330  
ISBN13  9781933293332  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Comic
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories > General

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Discouraging at Best by John Edward Lawson  May 1, 2008
Discouraging at Best is the latest collection of stories from John Edward Lawson (Last Burn in Hell, Pocketful of Loose Razorblades). Never one to shy away from controversial subject matter, Lawson now takes on a cherished social structure: the idea of "family." The book is composed of four stories that provide intimate views into the inner workings of four very different families.

The first family we meet is the Havenots, a poor family led by an extremely abusive father. Tired of being poor, he attempts to raise some money by hiring out his son to give "whippings" to the neighborhood children. The next family includes a soon-to-be Nobel Prize winner on the night before the grand ceremony. Despite the joyous occasion, they are involved in a fight that could figuratively and literally tear them apart. The third story is about two brothers, an acid-tripping author, and a perverted store owner.

Next is the stand-out story of the book, "Maybe it's Racist." It is a tour of the White House and the first family laden with conspiracy theories and kinky sex. When a phrenologist gets unrestricted access to the President and his immediate family, she begins to uncover secrets that could tear the administration apart. Rounding out the book is a short piece that humorously and poetically ties all the stories together.

Billed as a collection of short stories, the book still could work as a novel. Each story is only vaguely related in content and characters, but they all address the similar theme of failed families. Despite the wide variety of approaches to the issue, each story is ultimately about individuals being hurt, physically or emotionally, by their family. It seems that Lawson has a lot to say on the matter and it's all bad.

The content of the stories moves from profoundly disturbing to surrealistically hysterical, giving the book a manic texture. Readers are constantly off balance as the subject matter is just as likely to be aliens as it is child abuse. Somehow this all works together and the stories do not feel like part of a collection, but their own exploration of the book's themes.

John Edward Lawson has written a powerful work with Discouraging at Best. Its stories are strong enough to stand on their own, but when taken in the thematic context of the rest of the book, they reveal added levels of meaning. Raw Dog Screaming Press has a real winner on their hands--a disturbing, thought-provoking, wildly humorous book. Highly recommended.
Discouraging at Best by John Edward Lawson  Jun 3, 2007
In his latest book Discouraging at Best, award winning poet, fiction writer, and editor John Edward Lawson takes on everyday American life as his subject, becoming at turns hilarious and gravely serious. Functioning as a bizarro page-turner as well as social commentary, this collection of interlinked stories follows the life a working class family, the thought processes of a comically pompous Nobel Prize winning author, and the inner workings of the White House. These stories often intersect and illuminate one another, presenting the reader with a satirical portrait of the ways people of different genders, ethnicities, and social classes interact and view one other.

Lawson's approach to satire is highly inventive. His writing drifts gracefully between different characters' points of view, allowing the reader to view the same plot through several characters' eyes. In the first chapter of the novel, which deals with the struggles and adventures of the Havenot family, July Havenot tries to rent his son out to wealthy neighbors as a disciplinarian, and this incident is recounted from the point of view of the father as well as his daughter Josephine and his son Malcolm. Early in the book, for example, Lawson writes from the father's perspective: "This son of his would go from door to door, yes, with that supple, imposing thorn switch, and he would hawk his wares, oh yeah, unlimited whippings for just five bucks" (10). The narrative then shifts to Malcolm's point of view, revealing how frightening this scheme has become to the young boy, then transitioning daughter Josephine's perspective and her confusion as to the general state of chaos in her family. Providing the reader with a mosaic-like narrative comprised of different voices and perspectives, Lawson's approach is both imaginative and hilarious in its pairings, juxtapositions, and contrasts.

In portraying the interactions between these characters, the stylistic aspects of the book often change shape to suit the individual being described. For example, Lawson makes a dramatic shift in tone and diction between the first chapter, in which he describes the day-to-day lives of the Havenots, and the second, in which he writes in the voice of a fictional Nobel Prize winner. He narrates in the first chapter, for instance: "This was his scheme of schemes; no way could this fail to bring home the bacon" (9). The conversational tone, use of slang, and informal diction form a stark contrast with the following chapter, which reads: "...By that time my antagonized mind was bubbling with the lewdest of obscenities dredged up from the course sediment of my darkest sentiments..." (48). This ceremonious and stately tone in the second section of the book suits the scholarly Nobel Prize winner's character, whose voice narrates this chapter, just as the more casual opening of the novel reflects the personality of the Havenots. This juxtaposition of several different narrative voices gives the reader a sense of the diversity of the cast of characters, expressing on a formal level how these dissimilar people, views, and voices coexist and relate to each other.

Discouraging at Best is an accomplished and enjoyable read. A fabulous introduction to John Edward Lawson's work as well as a treat for long-time fans, these stories are stylistically innovative and engaging. Highly recommended.

Tight  May 24, 2007
In Discouraging At Best, John Edward Lawson has created and confronted intertwined tales of human behavior, political awareness, social morality and its boundaries, and the ever-present racial tensions that continue to drudge through this "civilized" nation among other topics. This serious approach to fiction is not without Lawson's ability to bring disgust and humor to the situation at hand at any given moment. His words are sharp on the tongue and his sentences sting the eyes, they read as though they are fully written books themselves. Tight, righteous and slightly surreal, Discouraging At Best is full of wonder and intelligent story telling. John Edward Lawson is easily a top dog of the small and specialty press.

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