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Michael Hemmingson lives in southern California and Baja California. Michael Hemmingson writes and publishes books, stories, essays, and ethnographic research projects. Michael Hemmingson writes and sells screenplays and film treatments. Michael Hemmingson has been pegged as a novelist, playwright, cultural anthropologist, sociologist in the symbolic interactionism school, auto-ethnographer and criminal scalawag. Michael Hemmingson has been associated with the minimalist Gordon Lish School of Writing. Michael Hemmingson has been accused of being a writer of crime noir literature. Michael Hemmingson has been labeled an author of literary erotica. Michael Hemmingson has been cast into the waters of the AvantPop School of Prose Writing. Michael Hemmingson has edited anthologies, zines, and newspapers. Michael Hemmingson has composed literary criticism and collected ethnographic data in the qualitative inquiry school of social science research. Michael Hemmingson has written speculative fiction and weird westerns. Michael Hemmingson sometimes dashes off a poem. Michael Hemmingson is not Michael Hemmingson. Michael Hemmingson is Michael Hawthorne.
When I first read the back cover blurb for This Other Eden by Michael Hemmingson, I was hesitant about plunging into the story and novella collection. "Terrorism, crack cocaine, and rape. Failure, miscarriages, and suicide." Though I've read plenty on these subjects, I didn't feel up for disillusionment about life. Maybe I'd been having a bad day.
I'm so glad I opened the first pages. These tales are not about disillusionment, though they almost seem that they should be. They're about surviving all the things that happen in our lives, even as we plug along in the repetition of bad luck and bad choices.
The titles of the three stories and three novellas in the collection all feature the word "happen" in some way: "Nothing Like That Ever Happened," "What Happens When Things Happen to People," and "Where He Was the Day It Happened," to name three. "Happen" suggests that our lives are not in our control, that we're part of events that we react to and adjust to and quarrel with, and the characters in these stories all follow the same patterns of letting life pull them along, coping or not coping as life "happens" to them. Yet, in each tale, I was surprised by genuine love that unfolded, by quiet emotions that surfaced, and the feeling that something good could still happen.
In "Nothing Like That Ever Happened," the narrator tells the story of his prodigy child who writes successful novels at age nine. The tone is a rather contented resignation. He says, "I'd given up on my dreams ..." and "I'd convinced myself I was better for it." He sits alone in his chair "and watches everything," while the reader get glimpses of what the daughter writes about, the story she needs to tell.Read more ›
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Few writers can pull me in like Michael Hemmingson. Once I start I cannot stop. The language in his books are shaved down to the bone. No fluff, no verbose digressions, just raw, tight sentences that burn into your brain. I read THIS OTHER EDEN over the course of two days. And then I read it again. I plan to share my copy with friends. The back cover copy says THIS OTHER EDEN is Hemmingson "at his most brutal." I disagree; this is Michael Hemmingson at his best.
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The back cover copy of Eden promises that "here is Hemmingson at his most brutal." While technically this could be true it is only because Hemmingson's deft use of language is so streamlined and precise, the resulting impact is often not easy to take. There is no buffer between you, the reader, and the story being told. And more often than not, bad things are happening to unsuspecting people. But Hemmingson navigates the mire of helplessness and ignorance with skill; creating characters that we want to see rewarded with some sort of peace. And when the peace is at last bestowed upon them, we experience that peculiar chill shooting straight down our spines; that tiny shout of rejoicing.
For that very reason, my favorite story in this collection was the novella, "Now That I Know What Happened, Could You Hold Me, Please, and Say This Is Love?" where the protagonist, Paul Augustine, searches for something -- anything -- that might make sense in his world. He misplaces his affections in the lovelessness of empty women; he even loses an eye. But in the end, his determination to survive his struggles lead him to the simplicity of a loving family, finally, and the birth of his first son. It was a beautifully balanced story whose hopeful ending was crafted with a confident touch. For me, that's what stands out about this entire collection: Hemmingson is a damn good storyteller who will carve his way into you with considerable skill.
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***PROBLEM FIXED. LEAVING THIS REVIEW UP FOR POSTERITY. THANK YOU, TIM LIEDER!***
I debated about whether or not to write this review. On the one hand, I really enjoy Michael Hemmingson's writing. I read through several of the author's stories in other formats and I really enjoyed them. I even skimmed through the paper copy of this book with Amazon's "Search inside this book" function, and everything looked great there too.
On the other hand, the Kindle version of this book of short stories is absolutely awful. I am not entirely sure who is to blame for the state of this electronic edition, but there really is no excuse and they are only doing the author a disservice. I have a feeling that the problem lies with Dybbuk Press. I downloaded a copy of Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre, also put out by Dybbuk Press, and it had some pretty major formatting issues as well.
The quote by Gordon Lish at the beginning of the book was doubled for no reason. Every line of dialogue has two sets of quotation marks, so that it looks like this: ""Can you imagine how much fun it would be to read a book where the dialogue looks like this?"" he asked. Except that one set is curly while the other is straight. There were misspellings and stray punctuation strewn throughout. At one point in the first story, a sentence ends with a period which is followed by a semi-colon. It really was a mess.
And it is a shame. Like I said, I love Michael Hemmingson, but this electronic edition is an absolute disgrace to the man and it also makes Dybbuk Press look bad.
I know Tim Lieder likes to hang around Amazon, so I hope he gets to read this. Tim, the book is fantastic and the price is a steal at $2.99, but there is no excuse for the way this e-version turned out.Read more ›