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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

4 books I read recently & loved … Cassandra Troyan Freedom & Prostitution, Edwin Stevens Seagulls, Stephanie LaCava The Superrationals, Joanna Koch The Wingspan of Severed Hands

 

‘I am a curious interlocutor wanting to watch and fervently consume everything to discover pinnacle moments in previously ignored spaces, and affective instability encountered through daily disturbances. My work develops out of a deep curiosity for uncovering situations of trauma in the everyday. To reveal the supposedly hidden structures of our desires by rendering visible how we find ourselves in relation to others. I like to focus on everyday spaces, places, and objects: the roads, architecture, furniture, or daily ephemera we pass by, touch, or live with on a daily basis as a way to investigate how the attention we give to the world, is the attention we return to each other. I demarcate these spaces for experience through exploration of myths, historical legacies, and cultural influence in site-specific projects as a means to re-organizing agency in the disorganization of daily life. I use this method as a cinematic framing device, and find inspiration through inhabiting and performing in highly charged personal spaces, everywhere from the bedroom to the suburban backyard, and creating tension by conflating the private with public realms. Who gets to have certain attachments and claims to history or culture?

‘Within this expansive web of knowledge I am drawn towards difficult, obscure, marginalized spaces in film, literature, philosophy, and music along with the artists and writers who engage with the production and consumption of this work. I seek to map new paths through the avant-garde cannon as an attempt to reclaim its vital impetus, rather than purely fetishizes the practices therein. As a desirous voyeur who wants to reanimate the most gorgeous impulses in the unlikeliest of places, I view myself as a trans-historical operator instigating an enlivened meshing of visual culture in everything from rap, popular culture, Gothic fetishism, 90s music videos, supernatural phenomenon, horror, and obscuring the lines between them.’ — Cassandra Troyan

 

Cassandra Troyan Site
CT’s blog
A Theory in Tears (ANNOTATIONS & CASES FOR FREEDOM & PROSTITUTION)
Cassandra Troyan @ goodreads
Buy ‘Freedom & Prostitution’

 

Cassandra Troyan Freedom & Prostitution
The Elephants

‘Cassandra Troyan is a writer and researcher whose work explores the intersections of gendered violence, radical histories of resistance, sex work, and capital. They are the author of several books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently KILL MANUAL (Artifice Books, 2014) and A Theory in Tears (Kenning Editions, 2016), and have presented, performed, or screened their work widely. They live in southern Sweden and teach creative/critical writing practices in the Department of Design at Linnaeus University.’ — The Elephants

‘Name the dead. Mourn the dead. Defend the dead. Sociality does not end at death. Cassandra Troyan’s Freedom & Prostitution asks survivors to avenge the dead by striking a blow to the patriarchal power structure that renders sex workers disposable. Here is a poetics of sex work against work, one that does not shirk from conflict but instead enters the scene of brutality to lay bare the violence that constitutes the category “woman.” By moving through that pain the poems are transformed into a guttural shriek that summons the chorus of insurrectionary whores to “strike from the sky.” Refusal takes the form of a swarm. To put it bluntly, this book makes me want to fuck shit up.’ — Jackie Wang

Excerpt

Extras


87.4 13th March 2019 Cassandra Troyan


WHERE THE SUN NEVER SHINES, excerpt

 

 

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‘In a time of near instant possible exposure, it can feel surprising to experience the discovery of the out-of-leftfield musician. Though much of the money has been sucked out of the industry, there have never been more opportunities to create, produce and connect with an audience. Of course much of that is a myth and for every Youtube video that won over thousands of fans overnight, there are hundreds more artists still out there earnestly creating.

‘Wonderfully toiling away in his corners of Wales and Scotland, Edwin Stevens as Irma Vep might be Great Britain’s best kept modern secret. His latest album, Embarrassed Landscape mixes feelings of anxiety and assurance, depression and carefree ease – building and deconstructing over two to ten minutes, whatever that song needs. Just how good it is feels like a simultaneous confirmation of how rare – and at the same time everyday – great music is.’ — Off Shelf

Off Shelf: I hope you’re well in these frightening and uncertain times. How are you holding up?

Edwin Stevens: I’m doing fine, thank you. I hope you and yours are too! I’m pretty good at being by myself, I just worry for the people who aren’t.

OS: Are you under mandatory stay at home orders currently? I’m wondering if you’re writing any music in the midst of all of this and what you might be trying to get out musically.

ES: I guess, yeah, but the Tories aren’t helping by being super fucking weird and vague about it all. Me and Mattie have been staying home and watching films and cooking and that for a week or more now? Occasional bike ride but not going out or socialising or nothing. It’s weird.

 

Edwin Stevens/Irma Vep @ bandcamp
The Intrigue of Irma Vep
Edwin Stevens @ discogs
Edwin Stevens/Irma Vep @ allmusic
Buy ‘Seagulls’

 

Edwin Stevens Seagulls
Very Bon Books

‘A6, 270 pages, black and white printing, perfect bound with red handstamp image on the cover, edition of 100, 2020

‘A new major work from Glasgow’s Edwin Stevens. From behind the myth of musical outputs of Irma Vep, Yerba Mansa and countless other fine acts, Edwin has graced us with a piece of fiction which is stated as ‘NSFW’. Local regional stuff which is character driven, funny-not-funny- and funny again, add a little bit of dark. This comes extremely highly recommended. The first book from new Glasgow publisher Very Bon.’ — Good Press

Excerpts

Extras


IRMA VEP – Standards (Official Video)


IRMA VEP – King Kong (Official Video)

 

 

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The Superrationals’ minimal plot is in some ways far less important than its structure, which plays fast and loose with time, certainty and perspective. Details, malleable as taffy, shift according to its mood. Narrators are not merely unreliable, but interchangeable: Gretchen, Mathilde’s best girlfriend, is another smart and skinny art-world chick with illustrious parentage, making the women difficult to tell apart. Both grow tired of their partners, bicker bitterly, make up in borderline-romantic ways and feel dwarfed by their family histories. When a character named Robert calls his love affair with Mathilde’s late, great editrix mother, Olympia, a ‘fantasy pas de deux’, he coins a phrase that is applicable not only to the relationship between Gretchen and Mathilde, but between Mathilde and the reader: since we read more about what she does and what she wears than what’s she’s actually thinking, we are left to guess the rest. As in David Lynch’s spooky and elliptical Mulholland Drive (2001), the Girl proves to be more emblematic than she is charismatic, illustrative of her gender more so than her actual self. Men are rarely called ‘mysterious’ because their thoughts and their opinions have for so long been the subject of all culture; women, frequently pegged as unknowable, remain so because it is easier for the consumer to devour them without the tiresome inconvenience of seeing them as people, flawed and needy and desirous.

‘Aside from its bitch-chorus of gallery girls, who speak in one voice and appear to share one mind, the novel’s wittiest conceit is its inclusion of various excerpts from Mathilde’s deliberately middling graduate thesis, on the subject of ‘Memory, Mannequins, and The Contemporary Reliquary An Exploration of the Unsaid, Unseen, Uncanny, Space, the In Between’ [sic]. ‘Success is found,’ she writes, riffing on Eve Babitz’s ideas about film stars, ‘when the projection of the audience can fit comfortably in the body of work or the pretty little body of the avatar.’ The Superrationals is certainly successful as a novel, both in its canny, uncanny figuring of a pretty little avatar and in its sly, slow-drip elucidation of its message through her academic paper.

‘In the last few pages of the novel, Mathilde is assaulted by one of the many men who finds her quietness and offbeat prettiness so captivating, a superior at work. ‘I get it, you’re a shy girl,’ he informs her, moments before unbuttoning his belt. Her blankness, previously her greatest asset, is mistaken for consent. It is the cruellest joke of all, an ingenious underscoring of an inconvenient truth: that the Platonic ideal of the young-girl heroine, much like an image in a magazine, is so inert and un-self-actualized that she’s incapable of saying no. The novel, already uncertain in its timeline, appears to return to its first page – a feedback loop that damns Mathilde to an eternity spent as someone else’s fantasy, an empty vessel for insertion.’ — Philippa Snow

 

Stephanie LaCava Site
Stephanie LaCava @ Twitter
 STEPHANIE LACAVA AND CHRIS KRAUS ON “THE SUPERRATIONALS”
Anagrams of Self
Buy ‘The Supernaturals’

 

Stephanie LaCava The Superrationals
Semiotext(e)

‘Over the course of a few days in the fall of 2015, the sophisticated and awkward, wry, and beautiful Mathilde upends her tidy world. She takes a short leave from her job at one of New York’s leading auction houses and follows her best friend Gretchen on an impromptu trip to Paris. While there, she confronts her late mother’s hidden life, attempts to rein in Gretchen’s encounters with an aloof and withholding sometime-boyfriend, and faces the traumatic loss of both her parents when she was a teenager.

‘Reeling between New York, Paris, Munich, London, and Berlin, The Superrationals is an erotic and darkly comic story about female friendship, set at the intersection between counterculture and the multimillion dollar art industry. Mathilde takes short, perceptive notes on artworks as a way to organize her own chaotic thoughts and life. Featuring a bitchy gossip chorus within a larger carousel of voices, The Superrationals coolly surveys the international art and media worlds while exploring game theory, the uncanny, and psychoanalysis. Written in the “Young Girl” tradition of Michelle Bernstein’s All The King’s Horses, Bernadette Corporation’s Reena Spaulings and Natasha Stagg’s Surveys, The Superrationals confronts the complexity of building narrative in life and on the page and the instability that lies at the heart of everything.’ — Semiotext(e)

Screenshots
from Garage

‘There’s a section in the novel where the main character, a girl named Mathilde, talks about her own writing, about having collected images, both pictures and scraps of text on her phone over the years. (“Sometimes they have been screen-shotted from the original, so that the time stamp of the digital file betrays its revisitation.”) She compares all the little squares to the childhood matching game Memory, but is careful to cite the difference: “these images do not match up objectively when laid on top of one another, rather they explain corollary phenomenon,” she says. “Gamer’s choice. Pick your story.”

‘It would be too easy to put together a grid of images of the art cited in the half-baked thesis that also runs throughout the story, a work in progress for Mathilde. Instead, here are [some] images that may have been found on her phone and some words on how they tell her story.’ — SLC

From Shuji Terayama’s film “Throw Away your Books, Rally in the Streets,” 1971
The spirited school girls here seem to be considering questions akin to the woman in the above painting. Still, they are protected by playing at adulthood while being part of a group. There’s an innocence to them and their sailor-like uniforms even though some have stripped off their shirts. I love the colors of this film too and its style, so saturated and quick.

Martin Kippenberger, “Dear Painter, Paint Me” (1977)
I love the knowing title of this painting, again about a kind of exchange, the promise of muse-dom?

Isabell Adjani shot by Hervé Guibert, 1980
This is one of many photographs taken by artist Hervé Guibert of his at one-time friend French actress Isabelle Adjani who he writes about in To the Friend Who Didn’t Save My Life. Another image from this series is on the cover of the book. They were taken in 1980, a year before Andrej Zulawski’s Possession came out. In the cult film, Adjani stars in as woman unraveling as she asks her husband for a divorce.

Still from Eric Rohmer’s “Conte de Printemps,” 1990
This picture makes me think of Mathilde and her best friend Gretchen when they go out to Saint Germain en Laye. Rohmer’s interest in looking at French life and sexual mores is echoed in parts of the novel.

Tina Aumont clipping on set, 1968
This is a picture of the actress on set of the film L’Urlo. The caption describes the plot of the film as “a girl takes off with a young man for a week before facing a conventional marriage—the ending is tragic.” Again, beautiful young actress in a story where her romantic desires lead to disaster. I saw another stock image of her once with one boot off, throwing her hair back and washing thigh-high stockinged feet in the fountain.

Extras


An Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie LaCava


REALISM DEFICIENCY book trailer

 

 

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‘Stories, like hunger, drive us to fulfill them.

‘Outlining, researching, free-writing, and editing are tools we use to hunt for the story’s essence, but the joke’s on us. We’re constructing our own traps. We’re the prey. The story hunts and catches us.

‘I’ve become aware of the hunt as I’ve gained more experience writing. Story for me is more action than object. I want to go on a journey when I write, and the stories—the good ones—chase me out of my comfort zone.

‘I’m willing prey. I want them to come after me. I’m practically wearing a steak around my neck. …

‘Hunting started when pre-human primates on the African savanna left the trees. There’s a pretty good argument that hunting necessitated language because of the organizational and cooperative skills required to succeed. And by succeed, I mean not starve. Our ancestors had to compete with stronger, faster predators like hyenas and lions to survive.

‘Imagine planning a strategic group action without words. First, you might act out what you remember from the last hunt, or what you want to do in the next one. Then, you might draw pictures of your memories and plans to communicate them to others. These pictures and actions, and the noises you make while sharing them, become mutually accepted as specific names for things, and the development of language is off and running. Evolutionary magic.

‘I’m a bit romantic about it. I like to think the origin of all the arts (and religion) resides in the prehistoric drama of the hunt.

‘If story is the hunt, language is the weapon.’ — Joanna Koch

 

Joanna Koch Site
Joanna Koch @ Twitter
Joanna Koch @ goodreads
‘When Mona Lisa Speaks’
Preorder ‘The Wingspan of Severed Hands’

 

Joanna Koch The Wingspan of Severed Hands
Weirdpunkt Books

‘A world gone mad. Cities abandoned. Dreams invade waking minds. An invisible threat lures those who oppose its otherworldly violence to become acolytes of a nameless cult. As a teenage girl struggles for autonomy, a female weapons director in a secret research facility develops a living neuro-cognitive device that explodes into self-awareness. Discovering their hidden emotional bonds, all three unveil a common enemy through dissonant realities that intertwine in a cosmic battle across hallucinatory dreamscapes.

‘Time is the winning predator, and every moment spirals deeper into the heart of the beast.’ — Weirdpunkt Books

‘I’m awestruck by Joanna Koch’s nonstop spellbinding, almost paralyzingly inventive and yet propulsive, ultra-focused prose. The Wingspan of Severed Hands is a truly amazing find.’ — Dennis Cooper

‘Koch’s latest novella is what might have happened if Robert W. Chambers had been a surrealist with a penchant for body horror. A strange trip to Carcosa offered in thickly evocative language, The Wingspan of Severed Hands is a highly original hallucination.’ — Brian Evenson

Excerpt
from Fright Girl Autumn

Pink petal vomit, blue acid bile, bone ivory foam. The party thumped on the restroom wall while Adira sank in her stall. Convulsions came like clockwork, hours of labor that birthed tangible nothingness. An invisible entity emerged from Adira’s empty belly, stripping unnecessary flesh from inside. Something more than biological, it lingered in the yellow pall of the spotted dance-hall mirror, crept closer in the clenched anesthetic tingling that spread on her tongue.

The angel revealed itself to Adira three hours after checking in at the hotel. Adira honeymooned alone with the toilet while the boy dozed off to porn. Emptied out, Adira’s gullet unburdened her. The opposite of feeding, she nurtured neither dragon nor mirror, but some innate, ineffable monster. Her body reversed, and a double formed from bloody mist. A red Hiroshima silhouette burned to life on the hotel bathroom wall.

Adira divided. Angelic cells split inside her embryonic egg sac. Her double hatched: a nude, semi-transparent, red-tinted, skeleton girl. Shadows of bone haunted unfleshed holes within the figure’s outline. Suggestions of heart and vein pulsed first in silence, then in a soft murmur as rough sketches rendered substance under elastic skin. Arteries grew with slow deliberation, red roots seeking paths in dark soil, seedlings reaching high, craving light. The skull hung down with hair long and disheveled like Adira’s. Ankles crossed, toes hovering above the floor, arms bound behind her back, the twin’s shoulders sprouted enormous hands that spread open like owl wings. Fingers flared like feathers with open palms forward.

Adira reached for the tips of the terrible fingers with her small, human hands, feet on tip-toes, arms spread. On contact, the double looked up. The skull sprouted flesh. Lips opened in a mute gasp. Adira flattened her breasts and belly against the double on the cool tile wall. Where she pressed her tongue, depth created a warm open mouth.

More fullness erupted where Adira made contact. Vein, sinew, and skin wrapped the bones with life. The double clutched Adira with its powerful wings. Feathers threaded fingers, whispers wedded flesh. Twin tongues circled. The tile wall melted into a red silhouette seared into liquid with menstrual excess. Liquid sought liquid. Mouths and groins spiraled. In the morphology of their melded kiss, the wings slicked with gore and lost their grip. Adira fell to the floor. The bloody twin disintegrated; a myth of angel meat, an unstable presence, a quotient reached by imbalanced belief.

The blood it left behind filled Adira with the rich, red, vibrant power of death. Red in every cell, hair thick and dripping dark; red in arms and thighs, in melted muscle and bone. Her dissipating liquid twin sloughed back into thought and left Adira alone with the blood and the boy. One hand in his boxers, the other on his slender chest, he dozed on the hotel bed. His lips lost their sneer when he was asleep.

Adira climbed on top of the rapist and attacked with her mouth, copying his violence. The blood of twins poured onto the white hotel sheets. The boy struggled. She clamped him in her teeth. Slippery and stained, he was on top of her quickly, hands around her wrists, pinning her down. He didn’t care that she was awash in blood. He said it was time to teach her a lesson. The boy pushed Adira’s arms back and over her head and pressed his fingers down into her pale, putty-like flesh. Her arms squirmed like thick snakes, softer, softer. He crushed her wrists like wet clay.

He squeezed. Her arms collapsed into stumps. Her hands hit the floor like dead fish.
Not screaming, silenced by shock, Adira heard nothing after the loud, sickening slap when her amputated hands fell off. Uncertain how to breathe, she struggled to see through the crawling static that clouded her vision.

Behind the boy, wings spread. Monstrous hands opened wide, fleshy dragon wings that aimed an armory from the shoulders of a spatiotemporal anomaly. The angel-twin’s mouth hung slack. It dripped with yellow bile. An egg formed like a bubble in its mouth. The boy churned his cock inside Adira with his head thrown back. The egg dropped and cracked on the boy’s frontal lobe. His cranium fissured, and his spine split in half. Raw egg and boy innards slopped over Adira. Wings like hands closed over him as organs dropped out of the boy, bisected.

When police responded to calls from the neighboring rooms, the boy was gone. They found the maimed girl unconscious in gore, and a snow angel of menstrual blood smeared on the bathroom wall.

Extras

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** G, Hi Golnoosh. Oh, I’m so very sorry to hear that, my friend. It’s a rough time to be peaceful. While I’ve never been on meds, well, except antibiotics if that counts, I know lots of very good writers and artists who are on anti-anxiety drugs and/or antidepressants who flourish and seem to be doing great, art- and life-wise. I guess obviously it depends on the biology and the drug, but I know that it can be a positive thing. And you shouldn’t suffer, especially if relief is possibly as relatively ‘simple’ as a pill. It’s sad to hear you not feeling vibrant and excited. I hope all of that can get sorted for you in the best possible way. I’m happy to talk anytime you want. Love from wintery Paris and less wintery me. ** David Ehrenstein, Bug chasing is still around and still cult popular at least among the slave/master set, maybe even more so now that Prep has made it more fantasy based, that I can tell you. ** Milk, My pleasure, Milk. Very happy you like his work. ** Lawson Desrochers, Hi, Lawson. Welcome to here. It’s a pleasure. Well, I made that post some years ago, and I think that text I co-opted must’ve been way out of date even then, so I guess that explains it because, yeah, Raymond is no spring chicken. Thanks for coming in. Please do so again anytime. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I agree very, very much that his videos are great and very underknown. ** Misanthrope, We did have some fine blog dinners there, or I thought they were fine. Or I mean I even thought the food was fine. If I were a billionaire, I’d throw some serious green at your body too. Wow, that sounded weird. From a respectful distance, I mean. Get that shit sucked out. Jeez, that sounded weird too. Well, well, well, I must say I figured there had to be the opposite of a silver lining to David’s newfound adultiness. At least those probs are solvable. Happy b’day to your mom a bit of advance. She’s really hanging in there. That’s something, that’s awesome. ** Bill, I’ve got no small number of them too, no surprise. In LA. Yes, that’s quite a very cool Colquhoun piece. Now I’m really on it. I need to go check the updates in my local illegal site’s horror section. ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. Glad you liked the Pettibon, I think he’s a seriously great artist. Mm, I can see why someone would compare ‘HotW’ to a horror movie in his context, yes. Its very him, but also a bit of an outlier. And short: only an hour long, if I remember. My least favourite Bergman is everybody’s big fave — ‘The Seventh Seal’ — basically for the reasons you mentioned. I found it really heavy handed. Well, please pass along to your brother that I highly approve of his list too, and all of his faves are high on my faves list as well. I don’t know if it works for everyone, but I learned and still learn a lot about how to structure narrative and use spacial stuff in my fiction from video games. I even wrote a novel largely based inside a video game: “God Jr.’ It’s a pretty incredible medium, but you have to enjoy the fiddling and hunting and bashing and general very time consuming nature of it. My Tuesday wasn’t bad. It’s getting more and more like winter here, and for me that’s a huge bonus. Enjoy Wednesday’s booty. ** Okay. As you already know if you’ve reached all the way down here, I’m recommending 4 books I read recently and liked a whole hell of a lot. Check them. See you tomorrow.

6 Comments

  1. Interesting writers. If I only had the time . . .

  2. Ah, just tried to snag a copy of Seagulls but it’s now sadly sold out. A shame, Good Press is a reliably great stockist too. Yuck ‘n Yum and The Call have been among their zine wares.

    There’s a Glasgow native just won the Booker Prize, Douglas Stuart with Shuggie Bain. That’s been added to my Xmas list so I’ll see if it’s a worthy winner.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations above. You are doing a great service for these new books. It’s really hard to get attention to new literature. On a personal note, I’m going to go into strict lockdown mode for awhile. Over 7,000 new cases yesterday of the virus in the County of Los Angeles. Silver Lake now has over 1,000 cases. The good news is plenty of time for me to read the authors on this blog today! Also, somehow I missed your blog about Connie Converse. What a talent! She’s incredible. And of course, her backstory is equally amazing. What is there not to like?

  4. Picking up on what Tosh said, the situation in the US right now is really terrifying, and I can only imagine what it will be like in a few weeks. Someone close to me had a COVID scare recently (and it might still be possible that he’s positive for it.) I don’t really feel like leaving my apartment, as bad as I know that is in the long run.

    But I took a friend’s joke about someone producing an EDM banger based on samples of a 2016 Trump speech about “hitting the speakers so hard” (referring to that year’s Democratic convention), and actually did it: https://callinamagician.bandcamp.com/track/hit-the-speakers-so-hard. I think it came out quite well.

    I plan to watch the anonymously made found footage conspiracy/paranoia film MURDER DEATH KOREATOWN later tonight.

  5. Brian O’Connell

    December 3, 2020 at 4:24 am

    Hey, Dennis,

    Intriguing book recommendations as always. Extremely curious as to what happens next in Stevens’ circumcision story. The Robert Chambers comparison—from Brian Evenson, no less!—for “The Wingspan of Severed Hands” piques my interest too. I used to read a ton of weird fiction, not as much anymore (save for some Evenson, Bartlett, Bulkin, etc.). In any case, I’ll have to make room for both of those. Just need to finish “The Kindly Ones” (which, though it did bore me for a long while, is finally staring to click for me).

    “Hour of the Wolf” is just under ninety minutes: short indeed. Also on the streaming service my school uses to provide us with necessary films, so I’ll probably find time to watch it this week. I agree about “The Seventh Seal”; I do think it’s a good film, but so self-consciously weighty. It didn’t really grab me at all.

    The main obstruction with me and video games really is time more than anything else. I’ve got plenty of time now, though, so I really have no excuse. Of what I’ve actually played, they’ve been either extremely narrative based games (a la “Night in the Woods”) or light mini-games (a la “Mario Kart”), neither of which (so I’m told) offer the full range of the form’s strengths. I have to play something a little more engaged. Yes, that’s so cool about “God, Jr.”. I actually asked for it (along with the other novels of yours that I haven’t yet read) for Christmas, so I’m hoping to find it under the tree in a few weeks.

    The winter atmosphere is indeed a boon. Not a lot of booty for me this Wednesday, but let’s cross our fingers and hope Thursday brings all the best.

  6. Right now I’m reading FAKE ASS LAWYERS, a short novel by Justin Isis published by Raphus Press earlier this year. It’s very good so far!

    Oh, Dennis, I sent you your card last week, let me know when you get it please!

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