Monday, November 27, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Not only do I love the way Jim Ruland thinks and views the world, I love the way he makes me think and view the world. Seriously, if you want to read a book of short stories that kicks ass and takes names, Jim Ruland's debut collection BIG LONESOME is it.

These stories are far from the usual fare--they're a breath of fresh air. Okay, wrong metaphor. They're a breath of smoke-filled, honky-tonking, tough-loving beer and animal sweat air. But trust me when I say you'll go there with him, and you'll like it.

I was captivated by Ruland's writing from the very first story, Night Soil Man, in which a group of World War II Belfast men--a zookeeper, a zoo curator, and the official shit-shoveler (through whose eyes the story unfolds)--are assigned the odious task of destroying all the zoo's animals ("specimens" as the higher-ups label them) before another German air attack sets them loose, wild, onto the city streets. The men don't relish this directive, and how they manage to carry out the orders will break your heart--in the most manly way, of course.

By the time I worked my way through The Previous Adventures of Popeye the Sailor (Bam!), Kessler Has No Lucky Pants (Pow!), A Terrible Thing in a Place Like This (Oof!), Pronto's Persistence (Unh!), Still Beautiful (Ouch!), and Dick Tracy on the Moon (Socko!), I was thoroughly hooked. I'm talking swallowed-the-lure, using-the-needlenose-pliers, guts-ripped-out-into-the-river hooked.

Then he gave me Red Cap. This one, wow. This one tore me up. Poor war-torn little skinny Ilse who gets mistaken for a boy in her favorite red cap...until she finally gets back to the one place she thought of as a refuge...finds it, too, invaded by the horrors of war...and then she isn't mistaken for a boy. And it's too bad. It might have saved her.

As for the final five stories? Well, I'll just whet your appetites with a few of my favorite lines:

From The Egg Man:

"The dancer winks at me and only an idiot would miss the message encrypted in the torpid descent of those lashes. She oozes closer, introducing a thousand possibilities in the curve of her lips, possibilities ten folded by the light grace of her hand on my shoulder."

From Big Lonesome:

"The bounty hunter stood at the trailhead and surveyed the expanse of desert before him. Nothing but crusty scrubland as far as he could see. To the west: a salty sink crawling with snakes and scorpions; the the east: a wasted plain stippled with sun-bleached bones. It was hotter than donkey piss and dry as beans. He had a fair piece to go and this was the way to get there."


"Boticelli Moon, the harlot, pushed her way to the front of the crowd in a ridiculous dress that exposed a fair portion of her oft-handled charms. "What," she asked, "do you require in return for your services?""

The voice in these 13 stories commands your attention, much as a good prizefighting tournament would. Clearly Ruland-the-writer has the skills of both an inside-fighter and an outside-fighter, with the occasional brash moves of a brawler thrown in for good measure.

With all this talent and diversity, here's hoping he stays in the ring all the way to the final bell.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Help save the bluefin tuna

This is from the World Wildlife Fund:

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is an amazing creature. A warm-blooded fish, it accelerates faster than a Porsche and covers thousands of kilometres in its lifetime.

But the fish, which swims into the Mediterranean each year to reproduce, is facing a crisis. Prized for sushi in Japan and across the world, the high demand for this valuable fish has led to huge illegal industrial overfishing. This has been fuelled in turn by the massive expansion of tuna farms in the Mediterranean in the last ten years, where wild tuna are caught, put in cages and fattened up for export.

Please sign our petition asking the European Union (EU) to support urgent measures to save tuna – before it is too late. Clickity

If this unscrupulous fishing continues the species could be biologically and commercially extinct in a few years.

There is one last chance to save the bluefin tuna. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is meeting this month in Croatia and will decide how to manage the fishery in the Mediterranean over the coming years.

Most of the illegal fishing of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is by EU fleets – yet Europe's representative at ICCAT is still resisting a strict recovery plan.

Please sign the petition!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Birds of Providence

Read the first installment of an excellent new short story by Jim Tomlinson available at Velocity Weekly. (This will be a regular feature.)