New books in English
I have a new favorite author and his name is Poe Ballantine. A genuine American wanderer, he writes first-hand reports, or “personal essays,” from an America too seldom written about by anyone with any first-hand knowledge – the factory, the road-side motel, the Greyhound bus station.
These stories will both entertain you and inform you, and if you’re open to it, enlighten you. We follow Ballantine around the U.S.A., from a car antenna factory in Kansas to day labor unloading dog food in New Orleans to abusing amphetamines back in his old San Diego neighborhood, a twenty-something loser living with his parents while he is supposed to be working on his novel. I almost never say this, because it’s almost never true, but there is not a wasted sentence in this entire book.
Too many writers today go from university to a writing program to a teaching gig at a writing program and never get out in the real world and live. Their stories sound the same because they’re all concocted in the laboratory with the same formula and not lived. Such is not the case with Ballantine. These stories are sad and funny and surprising and it’s a toss-up as to what’s best about them – the subject matter, the language, or his truly unique world-view, magnificently communicated in a style that, while undoubtedly his own, also brings to mind writers such as Denis Johnson and Charles Bukowski, and even a little Hunter S. Thompson.