Don’t Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill – A Book Review

In Don’t Cry, Mary Gaitskill presents ten short stories that are sometimes literally connected and sometimes thematically related.  Some of these stories are firmly entrenched within the real world, and some, while taking place within the real world, dabble with the metaphorical and metaphysical plane as well.  Each of them investigates complex human emotions and Gaitskill proves she is not afraid to tackle any issue.

Gaitskill is a very skilled writer; I have no doubt of that.  Her stories were finely written and she delighted me with her rapid shifts in time and perspective (sometimes within the same paragraph).  However, by and large, I simply could not invest in her tales on a personal level.  I can’t believe I am writing this because it sounds so horribly obtuse, but her work in this collection is distinctly female, so much so that I felt alienated by much of it.  By no means am I calling her a feminist (though if she is, that’s not a bad thing), but generally speaking her stories seemed aimed at women in particular (again, this is not a bad thing).

Now allow me to contradict myself.  Two of her works that absolutely held my full attention and thrilled me were “The Arms and Legs of the Lake” and “Don’t Cry.”

“The Arms and Legs of the Lake” takes place within a train where the point of view shifts from several different people as they interact with one another.  It’s a very interesting technique and, as a veteran from Iraq is the focal point, I also found it particularly significant.

“Don’t Cry” is far more traditional in its execution, but as a new father, this tale depicting a woman trying to adapt a child in Ethiopia during political unrest had me on the edge of my seat and I truly could not put it down until I’d finished it.  Even now, it still haunts me.

So while Gaitskill is a talented and skilled writer unafraid to take risks and investigate sophisticated themes, most of her subject matter simply failed to resonant with me.  However, even with that being said, the two aforementioned stories were fantastic and made the time spent reading Don’t Cry worthwhile.

DMZ: On The Ground (Volume I) – A Graphic Novel Review

I picked this up on a whim while visiting my local library and DMZ: On The Ground grabbed me by the jugular and wouldn’t let go within two pages.

Even though the premise of DMZ has been done before, author Brian Wood delivered his take on a second American civil war with such adrenaline and ferocity that it is unlike any of its thematic predecessors.

The idea is that because our armies our stretched so thinly overseas, radical militias within the heartland separate from the USA and spread all the way to New Jersey.  Manhattan becomes the DMZ while the rest of New York is still the United State’s.  A young intern named Matt (Matty) Roth flies in with a journalism crew and then becomes stranded after the entire crew is wiped out.  Instead of fleeing during the next available extraction, he decides to become embedded within the war-torn DMZ and report what’s truly happening.

I read a lot of graphic novels, and it’s been a long time since one completely captivated me within instants of starting it.  Brian Wood executes a tight, fast-paced, brutal storyline with realistic dialogue.  Wood also impressed me with the sheer logic of what things would really be like if this actually ever occurred.

Artist Riccardo Burchielli draws some of the most detailed, tense renderings I’ve ever seen.  While not meant to be photo-realistic, he amazed me by faithfully depicting a city in shambles.  His half-destroyed buildings, burnt cars, litter, and bomb craters sucked me right into the story and made me feel like I was living it, not reading it.  This is one of the highest compliments I can pay an artist.

Along with Fables and Ex Machina, DMZ has moved to my “must-read” list and I urge you to read it as well.

Come See Me At Hometown Comics On Saturday, May 2nd

I’m so pleased to announce that Hometown Comics in Edwardsville, IL, has invited me to be among their special guests during Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 2nd!

Free Comic Book Day is a nationwide promotional event put together by the comic book publishers and shops to try to reach new readers.  Many of the publishers submit exclusive comic books for this specific day and they are totally free.  All you have to do is come in and grab one.  Some of the comic books are geared towards adults (not pornographic, just mature themes), but many of them are also aimed at young children.  For a list of what comic books will be available that day, visit this link:

Hometown Comics is in downtown Edwardsville, IL, at 110 E. Vandalia Street.  They plan to have local artists drawing sketches for children, a custom motorcycle designed to look like Ghost Rider’s, and are inviting people to show up dressed as their favorite character.  Call Doug at 618-655-0707 for more information and visit their MySpace page here:

The shop opens at 10:00 A.M. and I’ll be there at that time.  All three of my books will be for sale and I’m currently trying to decide which of my superhero shirts I’ll wear that day.  I hope you’ll come out to Hometown Comics on Saturday, May 2nd, grab a free comic for you or your child, take part in the festivities, and say hi.

If you have any questions, email me at

You Must Read Marilyn Best’s Work

I know a wonderful lady in North Carolina named Marilyn Best.  I met Marilyn because she is my brother’s mother-in-law, and I instantly liked her.  Marilyn is hilarious, tough, smart, and honest.  Best of all?  She’s also a book lover.  I’ve had many interesting conversations with Marilyn about books, specifically in regards to Stephen King.

So when I heard Marilyn had a short work published in The Sun magazine, it didn’t surprise me at all.  Most voracious readers have a knack for writing as well, but that doesn’t necessarily equate great writing.  Good writing is nice, great writing is exquisite and rare.

Marilyn, being the humble person she is, never sent me the link to her work, and so even though it was published in September of 2008, I just now read it today because my parents delivered a hard copy to me.

As I read it, I seriously said out loud, “Wow!”  Marilyn created a piece of great writing.

As I’ve already told Marilyn, she immediately captured my attention and her descriptive work is outstanding.  Most importantly, she has a clear, fluid voice that is most enjoyable to read.  Though the work is short, it is impressively potent, and it’s obvious she knows exactly what she’s talking about.

I sincerely hope you’ll follow the link and read the first entry-Marilyn’s entry-of The Sun’s “Porches.”  While I won’t publish her email on the web, if you’d like to send me any kind words regarding her work, I’d be more than happy to pass them along to her.

Here’s the link:

Thanks To Illinois Central College Library

My appearance at Illinois Central College yesterday went very well.  As you know, they invited me to speak and hold a book signing in honor of National Library Week.  The turnout was better than I expected, and it was one of the best question-and-answer sessions for which I’ve ever participated.  We ran the whole gamut from publishing trends to my thoughts on Print-On-Demand technology to what sort of books I like to read.

The audience’s general amiability and politeness, as well as thoughtful questions and comments, really made it a joy for me and more than worth my time.  I wouldn’t hesitate to return to ICC if invited.

I want to thank Heidi Rhea for inviting me to ICC, Cate Parish for giving her my name, the rest of the ICC Library staff for organizing a splendid event, and those generous folks who showed up and were fantastic participants.

Moments such as yesterday fill a writer’s heart with delight.

Visit Me At Illinois Central College On April 15th

Illinois Central College was kind enough to invite me to speak during National Library Week.  I’m honored to be among their special guests and hope you can attend.

Here’s their official write-up found at:

“The ICC Library presents…
Scott Foley — A personal discussion and book signing
Wednesday, April 15
10 – 11 am
Room L307, East Peoria Campus Library

Scott Foley is a local science fiction author who was born and raised in Beardstown and now resides in Bloomington-Normal. His books include “The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume I,” “The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II,” and “Souls Triumphant: A Novel.” For more information on Foley, check out his web site

This presentation is in recognition of National Library Week.”

Of The Farm by John Updike – A Book Review

Of The Farm details the complex relationship between a son in his mid-thirties and his elderly mother.  The son brings his new wife and her son from a previous marriage to his mother’s remote farm, and it’s obvious from the beginning that the mother and the wife are not going to get along.

Though a brief novel, Updike delivers an intricate and dramatic story peeling away the complicated layers that make up relationships.  Throughout the book, the man is constantly on alert, hoping to defuse any arguments between the women in his life, but he refuses to stand up to his mother nor does he seem totally invested in being committed to his wife.

In fact, the man is an incredibly interesting character because he is so flawed, so monumentally incapable of mediating the warring women in a healthy manner, that he almost leaps off the page.  Surely he’ll remind you of someone you know … perhaps even yourself.  The women were also expertly written, something that doesn’t always happen with a male author.  I found the mother and wife realistic, respectable, and equally as flawed as the main character.

Though lacking any real physical action, Updike’s study of mothers and sons and husbands and wives is wickedly enticing and, as always, written very well.