Critical Reception

first review of Tendrilopoliw, from goodreads:

Michael  [Tendrilopolis] was amazing, The spiritual (and sexual) successor to Spanking The Maid, albeit it a much more funny and scintillating gem than Coover’s fantastically lascivious little yarn. Tendrilopolis is a hilarious orgy of wordplay and riposte. 

Review by Zachary Tanner

Mar 18, 2021This is my favorite book from a magnanimous author who gifted me with a fine copy of the Slovene first edition (mine inscribed: SNAKE LORE GALORE) a few days after my rock bottom black out on family vacation. A book for anyone who has ever been drunk, divorced, beshitten, or quite likely a simultaneous combination of all three and now wants to revisit that trauma by the torchlight of a gifted novelist writing autobiographically in the dense fictional jungle of their mind. The bite of the poison is not something in venom, but in Nature…and alcohol. For Arjun’s sake, don’t waste your time with Eddie Vegas if you haven’t read the Good Snake! Then read Eddie Vegas.

João Reis

Feb 27, 2021João Reis rated it it was amazingSo, I want to tell you about Rick Harsch’s The Assassination of Olof Palme. Rick Harsch is indeed one of the greatest literary discoveries of recent years, and… OOPS, HARSCH DID IT AGAIN, HE PLAYED WITH YOUR MIND, DIDN’T GET LOST IN THE GAME… Shut up! What the hell is this crap? I want to write a serious review. But this is serious. You must pay attention to the connections, man, Rick Harsch would certainly appreciate your effort. What are you talking about? This song has a secret connection to Sweden and the mysteries surrounding Palme’s death. How so? You see, the guy who wrote most of Spears’s stuff is a Swede, he’s the one who writes most of these pop hits. Oh yes? I see, so what’s the point? It’s quite relevant! And there’s more. Come on, you read the book, who’s the CIA agent most often referred to in the text? Agent Spear. Exactly. And there are two Spear agents: Spear Senior and Spear Junior. That makes two SPEARS! Holy shit, now that’s something, there’s some kind of messy intrigue going on. You can bet! And… KAN DU SVENSKA, DIN JÄVLA IDIOT? Hey, now what’s this, can I just finish this review? Sure, go ahead, I just.. You’re always interrupting but you’re not even half amusing as Harsch, now there’s a writer who can mingle all kinds of text and somehow pull it off, you see, this novel was written by Harsch et al, and if you know your Latin you should know this et al refers to up to 50 other authors, who contributed with longer and shorter pieces that Harsch absorbed like a cannibal and made his own. You can feel his style all over the book, so far I had only read his Skulls of Istria, excellent stuff, too, by the way, the guy from Skulls of Istria shows up again, he and a lot of characters in a lot of places, and you can find Nancy Reagan and a moronic Ron Reagan and CIA agents, CIA is everywhere, Harsch is a critic of all things American when it concerns to foreign policies and military interventions, CIA and its preference for right-wing dictatorships above all, and so he mixes all these stories with a great sense of humour and lots of freedom and creative pleasure, one must envy Harsch his obvious freedom from commercial constrictions, he doesn’t give a shit, and he’s truly a master of English prose, you can only fully grasp his ingenuity if DU BEHÄRSKAR ENGELSKA… oh, sug av mig, be quiet, but yes, learn your English before you try to appreciate Mr. Harsch’s feats and his work as the mastermind behind this funny, witty, often hilarious, always entertaining, meta-fictional work of art, the proof novels can take any form whatsoever, as long as you do it right. And this is nicely done. Give Rick Harsch some recognition as a writer and publisher, go and visit Corona/Samizdat website. And kudos to all the writers who contributed to this novel.
I’m now waiting for volume 2, let it be known.

“This is the best book I’ve ever read.” James Adler

“One of the top five books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.” Nathan Vetter

“David Vardeman’s prose bites. It bites, it claws, scratches and gnaws at our facade of normalcy, at our belief in superiority. It’s fresh. Surprising. It forces us to face the strangeness of the Other and see, by twist of nature, nurture, or quirk of fate, ourselves. Flawed. Absurd. The characters are strange, twisted, surreal, and more like us than we want to accept, for no matter how bizarre they appear, there is a despairing humanity there – and a great deal of humor — why else would we feel compelled to read. And as I turned the pages, story after strange and lovely story, I couldn’t help but imagine scenes from Waters, Cronenberg, and Lynch, with intimations of Beckett, Ionesco, Sarte, Burroughs and Kafka. These characters – Little Fur Baby, Poor Fat Jackie, Mr. “Pighead” Perlmutter, the Peroxide Bitches, Proust-obsessed Beryl Funk, or Mrs. “Spider” Box – they all dwell in a Vardemanian purgatory, a realm governed by bizarre logic, where God is distant, where this no longer follows from that, many seeking some form of redemption, like nasty Mrs Box in The Last Evil, suffering the horrific loss of self-identity, a literal body-snatching, or sad Patrice, disgraced nun of Tramp on the Street, who still talks to God and draws penguins.

Each story is unique, told in a fresh voice, all clearly residing in the only place that would have them, this one wonderful, eccentric universe of Vardeman’s design.” Michael Kuehn

“Of the growing body of Vietnam fiction, this book has to be one of the most bizarre literary responses to the war and one of the most damning indictments of the American sensibility responsible for that war.” Steven Moore

“Bursey’s most entertaining novel yet.” Steven Moore

“I’ve been thinking of what to say about a book that, as of this writing, has only 1 other review. First, that’s insanity. This is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read. It’s moving, heartfelt and poignant. It’s funny as hell. I was blown away by its writing but I was moved by its honesty.

I love a number of things in my life but 3 of those things are 1) being a father 2) books and 3) baseball. I LOVE those things and that’s another set of reasons why I loved this book. I’ve watched Rick’s ‘Master Class in Fiction’ posts. I follow him on various social media outlets. His books are gorgeous pieces of literature. Walk Like a Duck is not only that but one of the best things I’ve ever read.

Rick literally walks us through that summer with his son and the Ducks. This is not a “look how amazing my son is” recap of his summer in little league. He’s honest. He gives us the skinny on everything about the team and league. He clearly knows his shit on baseball and he treats every single person he encounters with respect. Even bunting, well, maybe not. With brilliant chapters named: ‘Where is the Center Fielder?’, ‘Revisiting the WAR war’, ‘Death and Baseball’ and of course…’Bunt!.’ This is as much about his love of the game as it is about his love for his son, Arjun. It’s insanely moving and it sits alongside the great baseball writers (Roger Angell, Mike Sowell, Roger Kahn…).

Many thanks to Rick for writing this. It made this year and summer much better. Baseball is alive and well. Play ball. Read this. Enjoy.” Kevin Adams



Jan 28, 2021
David Vardeman rated it it was amazingThe three volumes that comprise “The Driftless Trilogy” were published separately in the late 90s, early 2000s in the US by Steerforth Press and have now been issued together by Corona/Samizdat press. It’s the shame of the economic forces that control the publishing “industry” here that these one-of-a-kind gems ever went out of print. Early Harsch is already unerringly confident, uncompromising in its individuality. No reader would mistake his singular voice for anyone else’s. He pays homage to some aspects of the noir genre in both literature and film but creates a twisted Main Street all his own. “The Driftless Zone,” the first book, begins with a failed suicide attempt, emblematic of the unconscious death wish infecting many inhabitants of this LaCrosse. The persons we meet can neither love the small city that limits their range of motion nor transcend and leave it. They barely endure it. Some do not survive it. The best of them are endearing in their states of perplexity, their eccentricities, their search for and adherence to the truth. No matter the cost to their own comfort and ease, even their own lives, they recognize and run afoul of the powers that manipulate this fallen world they inhabit. These persons challenge the fallen state in themselves and in the most powerful representatives of the place, “businessmen,” government officials, dangerous men and women: Spleen in the first book, Billy Verite and Gerard and Eddie in “Billy Verite,” the second volume, Spleen II in the third and, in my opinion, finest volume of the triology, “The Sleep of Aborigines” (though the amazingly engaging character of Billy Verite attains a mythic status by the end of his, the second, volume), along with the writer Rick Harsh in “Sleep,” who is found murdered in the Municipool at the beginning of the 3rd volume but whose last days and words cast a guiding shadow over Spleen II’s last movements. We also encounter incidental persons like transvestite Bette Davis, The Fag With No Eyebrows, Carly, Lola (more than incidental is she), Candida and Thrush Sickles (more than incidental as well), and monster children Max and Livia who are so incisively written that they loom as large as major characters. Harsch simply does not know how not to set the most fleetingly encountered character forever in one’s mind by some wholly original detail. The dialogue is pointed, sharp, funny. And the pause given for reflection, introspection is as involving and direct and seminal as the physical movements and entanglements of these people. Here is one example, from “The Sleep of Aborigines”: “He (Spleen II) had earned his rest without moving, for he had been busy for fifteen years. He wondered how such a life squared with the notion of natural man, so done in at the end of the day he built cities; or, for that matter, with his dead brother, whose indolence was legendary but never an art form, merely a condition that by a single bullet was exalted to unconditional. Spleen’s busy life was, after all, no better than a lower form of indolence. His brother had been thinking away his will to act. Spleen had been acting to avoid having to think. And now that he was suddenly free, dangling his feet in oasist waters, the two topics he had turned his back on had asserted themselves like patient deities: his moral vacuity and the more confusing problem of escape velocity.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

These books, sharing characters, having plot concerns spread across them unresolved, finally resolved, finally share one spine, thank goodness. The Spleen brothers form the two banks of the bridge that spans them cover to cover, as should be. Together the volumes form an epic consideration both funny and horrifying of the force of entropy that forms cities and entraps the spiritual nomads who inhabit them.

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