[REVIEW] Scouting for the Reaper by Jacob M. Appel



Black Lawrence Press

194 pages, $15.15
Review by Max Vande Vaarst



Jacob M. Appel’s Scouting for the Reaper is a masterpiece of human hysterics. In nearly each of these eight collected stories, which shift in perspective across age and gender lines, yet hold firm throughout to their essential self-seriousness, the Dundee-winning biochemist polymath Appel makes a habit of substituting obsession for conflict and the paranoiac for the poignant.

Our first encounter with Reaper’s “Dear Diary” brand of melodrama comes in equal doses through the three adolescent-narrated openers, “Choose Your Own Genetics,” “Creve Coeur” and the title story “Scouting for the Reaper.” The love interests here manifest themselves early, entering their respective scenes accompanied by hammy giveaway lines such as “He was a broad-shouldered, square-jawed teenage dreamboat…his cheeks blossomed like peonies” and “At that moment, the girl – the most alluring creature I’ve ever seen, stepped angelically into our artificial winter.” Continue reading

[REVIEW] Kissing Oscar Wilde, by Jade Sylvan

oscar wilde

Write Bloody Publishing
160pages, $15.00


Review by Max Vande Vaarst


It feels as though nothing could be more Millenial. What better emblem of the “Me Me Me” generational tagline posited by Time Magazine than a memoir written by an author barely on the cusp of thirty, a novelized account of a nascent artist’s ramblings through France and her search for the self in the City of Lights? Yet to fellow members of a debutante generation now nearing the end of its post-recession cotillion – this brief, shared moment of youth, opportunity and national spotlight – Jade Sylan’s dazzling new work Kissing Oscar Wilde can seem, if anything, overwhelming in its urgency. In many regards, it is no more a memoir than a eulogy to one’s twenties, and a prayer for the long, unknowable period of adulthood ahead.

At the center of the novel is Sylvan herself, an up-and-coming poet and all-purpose bohemian presently living in Boston. It is sometimes unclear to what extent Sylvan the author resembles Sylvan the character, a self-styled androgynous, polyamorous, bisexual Dylanphile who wears her wavy knots of hair in perfect mimicry of the folk legend during his mid-‘60s Don’t Look Back days. Perhaps there’s no point in attempting to separate the two. Vonnegut was correct in surmising that “we are what we pretend to be,” and this impulse for projection has never been truer than of artists in the internet age. Continue reading