Mike Thorn’s Favorite First Reads of 2021

Bleedthrough and Other Small Horrors, by Scarlett R. Algee (2020)

The Flowers of Evil, by Charles Baudelaire [edited by Marthiel and Jackson Mathews, multiple editors] (1857)

The Unnamable, by Samuel Beckett (1953)

Selling the Splat Pack: The DVD Revolution and the American Horror Film, by Mark Bernard (2014)

The Brigadier and the Golf Widow, by John Cheever (1964)

On the Heights of Despair, by E. M. Cioran [translated by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston] (1933)

The Trouble with Being Born, by E. M. Cioran [translated by Richard Howard] (1973)

Porno Valley, by Philip Elliott (2021)

Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)

The Rules of Attraction, by Bret Easton Ellis (1987)

American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

The Informers, by Bret Easton Ellis (1994)

Glamorama, by Bret Easton Ellis (1998)

Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis (2005)

Imperial Bedrooms, by Bret Easton Ellis (2010)

The Shards, by Bret Easton Ellis (2021)

Carmilla, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)

The Queer Art of Failure, by J. Jack Halberstam (2011)

In the Presence of Schopenhauer, by Michel Houellebecq [translated by Andrew Brown] (2017)

Humanimus, by David Huebert (2020)

The Damned, by J. K. Huysmans [translated by Terry Hale] (1891)

The Europeans, by Henry James (1878)

Washington Square, by Henry James (1880)

The Bostonians, by Henry James (1886)

Ghost Stories, by Henry James (1898)

Billy Summers, by Stephen King (2021)

The Wingspan of Severed Hands, by Joe Koch (2020)

Straydog, by Kathe Koja (2002)

The Blue Mirror, by Kathe Koja (2004)

Dark Factory, by Kathe Koja (2022; forthcoming)

I’m from Nowhere, by Lindsay Lerman (2019)

Shock!, by Richard Matheson (1961)

The Birds and Other Stories, by Daphne du Maurier (1952)

The Running Trees, by Amber McMillan (2021)

The Seventh Mansion, by Maryse Meijer (2020)

Circles, by Josiah Morgan (2020)

The Barrens, by Joyce Carol Oates (2001)

1984, by George Orwell (1949)

White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)

The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, by Arthur Schopenhauer [translated by Judith

Norman and Alistair Welchman] (1818)

Wes Craven: Interviews, edited by Shannon Blake Skelton (2019)

Of One Pure Will, by Farah Rose Smith (2019)

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt (1992)

A History of Touch, by Erin Emily Ann Vance (2022; forthcoming)

Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West (1933)

The Ax, by Donald E. Westlake (1997)

Josiah Morgan’s Circles Pushes Boundaries

With the 2019 release of Inside the Castle, Josiah Morgan announced himself as a transgressive and exciting new voice, and Circles is further evidence. A freewheeling blur of poetry, film criticism, and visual art, Morgan’s latest work urges its readers to question what defines a text, and even what it means to read. Morgan pursues these complex problems through the attentive and varied use of typography, offering a mixture of blank-verse, concrete poetry, and essay fragments that gesture to the book’s title shape and its implications of auto-cannibalism and endlessness.

The content is as fascinating and rebellious as the form. Morgan draws on disparate media, religious references, and allusions both coded and explicit (I was particularly pleased to see one of my favorite lines from Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” and a reading of the vegan ethos in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). The author lays bare his frame of references in an appendix labeled ASSISTANCE [IN RESEARCH AND ERASURE], and his array of sources is fascinating and unique.

The result is not nearly as daunting or unapproachable as it might sound. In fact, I easily devoured the book in one quick sitting. Morgan’s work is energizing, animated by a vital and authentic voice, threaded with both coldly ironic observation and real despair. The author engages in some hilarious interplay between artificial designations of “high” and “low” art. Consider, for example, a prose-poem near the end of the book that describes a speaker masturbating to urolagniac fantasies of shock-punk icon GG Allin before reading Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Plath.

Much like Morgan’s excellent Inside the CastleCircles is a powerful testament to this brilliant young writer’s talent. Keep your eyes on him.

Darkest Hours author Mike Thorn talks to Josiah Morgan about writing, genre and influences

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Josiah Morgan and I have been online acquaintances for several years, bonding initially over our mutual passion for film. I recently read his debut poetry collection Inside the Castle and was stunned by its formal sophistication, thematic complexity and breadth of reference. I sent him a message asking if he would like to publish a chat with me about writing, genre and influences, and he kindly agreed.

Our conversation is now available to read on Kendall Reviews.

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