Caleb J. Ross' booklikes

The official booklikes blog of author Caleb J. Ross.

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

"Am I the only resident of a new limbo?"

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

Maybe that aliment isn't a sickness at all. Maybe you're just evolving. Unfortunately, doctors can't write prescriptions for evolution.

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

Do you sometimes feel like the non-human aspects of life make you feel the most human?

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

True Crime? Not quite. But still a great read.

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

I'm not exactly how this book could be sold as a non-fiction true crime book when about half of the book is from the perspective of the killers, filled with dialog that only the two of them could know (and by the, the dialog is much too detailed to be recounted via interviews).


All that aside, I definitely support the idea of fictionalizing an actual crime. There's something very interesting about supposing the lives of the guilty parties of a crime.

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross
from As a Machine and Parts: a novella by Caleb J. Ross

Sometimes it's worth reminding myself how stupid I think spoiler alerts are.

The book lover's dilemma.

James M. Cain’s “Pastorale” vs. Chuck Palahniuk’s “Guts”



A few nights ago, when reading the James M. Cain short story “Pastorale,” I was struck by a scene that seemed very Chuck Palahniuk-ian[1]. A dead man is pulled out of a frozen lake; the man fell through the thin ice atop the lake when trying to retrieve the severed head of a man he helped kill earlier in the story.


But unlike a Chuck Palahniuk story, “Pastorale” kept going. The shock was not the climax. shockValue


I’m not sure why I immediately forced a comparison to Chuck Palahniuk. The writers, and their work, are completely different. I suppose the use of shock, which I consider a very Palahniuk thing, was used in “Pastorale” in a way that I wasn’t ready for.


It’s important to state up front that I love Chuck Palahniuk’s writing. I’ll read every novel he writes, even if they continue to be as bad as his last few. This post isn’t a condemnation of his writing, but rather a critique of his storytelling by way of comparison to the author of, what some have called, one of the best novels of all time.


For a shocking image to resonate beyond the original ick value the story context, specifically the characters within the story, must be able to exist beyond the shock. Yes, the image of the frozen man/severed head in “Pastorale” has inherent potency, but the story around it beautifully builds to the image, and more importantly continues on afterwards without the reader ever feeling like he is simply enduring an unnecessary, extended denouement.


By contrast, a Chuck Palahniuk story is, well, Palahniuk-ian, partly because the shock value plays such an important role in the overall experience. Again, that’s why I love him. But when it comes to straight storytelling, with characters a reader is meant to empathize with, Palahniuk has nothing on Cain[2].


Let’s compare the context-supported icy severed head image in “Pastorale” with what is perhaps the most well-known Palahniuk story, “Guts." Like “Pastorale,” “Guts” contains a very shocking image, so shocking that it has caused more than 60 people to faint. That image: a boy forced to chew through his intestine to avoid drowning in a swimming pool.


The intestine boy image is supported not by the character of the boy himself, but rather by a series of unfortunate events that leads up to the image. Palahniuk’s trademark rhythm of minimalist, straightforward commentary underscored by poignant observations contributes significantly to the experience. Take this example:


Knotted inside the snake, you can see corn and peanuts. You can see a long bright-orange ball. It’s the kind of horse-pill vitamin my dad makes me take, to help put on weight. To get a football scholarship. With extra iron and omega-3 fatty acids.


It’s seeing that vitamin pill that saves my life.


It’s not a snake. It’s my large intestine, my colon pulled out of me. What doctors call “prolapsed.” It’s my guts sucked into the drain [Guts, pg 18]


This is this literary version of that horror movie cliché. What’s that noise?...Oh, it’s just the cat…[villain suddenly appears]…STAB! Nobody cares who the victim is. Likewise, nobody cares about the identity of the boy getting his intestines sucked out by a pool filter. We want to see blood. We want to see undigested corn kernels.


“Pastorale,” by contrast hinges around a man and a woman’s illicit affair and the somewhat mentally deficient accomplice, Burbie. See how I described that? It’s possible to describe the story without even mentioning the severed head. To describe “Guts,” however, requires a mention of underwater organ gnawing.


To be fair, perhaps Palahniuk’s intention all along was to simply be shocking. Perhaps he’s not as concerned with crafting a character the reader cares about (and hasn’t been since Diary). Perhaps narrative arc isn’t a primary concern. I respect that for what it is. Here’s proof:


Chuck Palahniuk book shelf


I'm not immune to the lure of shock. In fact, I leverage the inherent power to shocking imagery in most of my work. My goal isn't to leave a reader with only the sense of shock. My goal is to make the story itself so compelling that the shocking image can almost be forgotten. Check out my work. Spend just a few small dollars to read one of my books. Then tell me in the comments how dumb I am. Click over to my novels page to read more about what I write.


Or, bypass my novels page and head straight to my author page to buy one of my novels. Might I recommend Stranger Will, As a Machine and Parts, or I Didn't Mean to be Kevin?


[1] Yes, I know that Palahniuk came way after James M. Cain. Still, the scene reminded me of Palahniuk.
[2] I haven’t read every Cain story. I have read almost every Palahniuk story. If there are some shitty Cain stories out there, let me know.

Banging the Berlin Wall

You probably don’t know this, because I rarely talk about it here on this blog, but my novella As a Machine and Parts has been re-released.  You probably also don’t know that bitches be crazy. Case in point: Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer loves the Berlin wall. And I don’t mean loves as in respects it because it represents Cold War oppression (which would be a weird thing to respect, I agree). I mean loves as in wants to fuck it because it represents Cold War oppression.



Meet the Cold War kids, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Berlin Wall

Meet the Cold War kids, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Berlin Wall


To be fair, I don’t know if that’s why she loves the wall. Maybe she’s a WWII era East Germany sympathizer. Maybe she’s a synesthete who associates the rough texture of concrete with her father’s hug. But again, of course, let’s not rule out that she’s possibly an aforementioned bitch who be aforedescribed crazy. No matter what issues she has, the relationship between a person and a non-organic object is something I write about in my book As a Machine and Parts, and something I write about here, on my blog. I hope you’re a synesthete who associates my book with awesome. You should buy it. It’s funny.


Ick! I’ve Bin Enside Her

So this Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer has been married to the Berlin Wall for over 30 years, which means if you’re doing the math that Mrs. Berliner-Mauer was involved with the wall when it was torn down in 1989. If it’s not already obvious that her priorities are a tad misaligned, her reaction to the wall’s destruction should cement that observation. Rather than join the world in collective celebration, the widow-in-making declared instead “What they did was awful. They mutilated my husband," marking the first time in the history of Schadenfreude that German husband mutilation resulted in legitimate, unqualified sadness.


I now pronounce you man and disappointed in-laws. I now pronounce you man and disappointed in-laws.


After the non-organic wall’s demolition Eija-Riitta turned to something truly crazy: smaller non-organic wall love. What! Gross, lady. Mrs. Berliner-Mauer keeps a model miniature depicting the former glory of her fallen husband. It’s the same way some women marry Hitler action figures except that in the case of the mini-Hitlers that never ever actually happened and would definitely be frowned upon by every person capable of frowning.


Does this count as a dildo?

Does this count as a dildo?


This isn’t the first time the Berlin Wall has caught the eye of an under-medicated woman. Erika Eiffel, who later traded up to the Eiffel Tower, once dated the Berlin Wall. Her reason for their break-up: The Wall just couldn’t divide her East and her West like it used to. At least that’s what I imagine the reason being. In truth, it was probably just an extension Erika Eiffel’s crazy college years, experimenting with the female Eiffel Tower after having been disappointed by the male Berlin Wall. Stayed tuned to this blog for the next installment in this series of posts that I wanted to call “Humping the Berlin Wall and Other Primitive Techniques for a Hairless Vagina,” but I’m a man, so I don’t know much about vaginas. Rather, I forgo an official name for the series and instead just tell you to get my book, As a Machine and Parts. There’s isn’t any Hitler humping in the book, but I agree, there should be.

As a Machine and partsAmazonBuy


Porking the Eiffel Tower

As a Machine and parts

I wrote this book, a short novella called As a Machine and Parts, about a man who finds himself slowly changing into a machine, a la Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis but with fewer traveling salesmen and cockroaches. The As a Machine and Parts titular machine is concerned that as he becomes more metal and less human, he will eventually lose his ability to love his girlfriend (“awwwww” is the correct response to that plot).


At some point before the start of my story the Machine, before he went full toaster, was 100% human, and therefore entered into mutual relationship with his human girlfriend. In real life, this isn’t always the case. A lifestyle called object sexuality forces literally 10s of buildings, rollercoasters, and concrete walls into unhealthy relationships with crazy people.


Object sexuality is a real thing, apparently, and is defined as “a pronounced emotional and often romantic desire towards developing significant relationships with particular inanimate objects.” It’s perhaps important to acknowledge just how one-sided and kind of rapey object sexuality is.


It’s only fair to acknowledge the potential emotional ramifications and give voice to the vocal chord-less in this, a series of posts that I really, really wanted to call “Shut Up About the Dogs, Sarah Mclachlan! Buildings Are Getting Raped Out There!” but I’m not sure Sarah Mclachlan is relevant anymore.


Read the full (hilarious, I might add) post here:

The True Stories Behind Missing Pet Posters

As a Machine and PartsIn my newest novella, As a Machine and Parts, a character named Ferret seals a pet llama for the purpose of creative taxidermy (he turns the animal into an IED of sorts, though only for show, not for explosions). The resulting missing llama posters that pepper the neighborhood are heartbreaking, in a sense, as most readers can sympathize with a missing pet.


But too often we allow sympathy to cloud rationale. Maybe the pets aren’t missing at all. Maybe the pets escaped. Maybe the owners didn’t deserve the pets to begin with. With that in mind I bring you The True Stories behind Missing Pet Posters

The 5 Most Painful Masturbation Techniques You’ll Probably Still Try Because, Let’s Face It, Men Are Gross, and Sometimes Romance Can Be Just As Painful

As a Machine and Parts novellaThe inciting incident of my newest novella, As a Machine and Parts, involves a woman’s unfortunate hospitalization after unwittingly having sex with a machine. I promise you, the situation is nothing like you’re imagining…unless you’re imagining that this woman got her leg crushed by her boyfriend who is slowly, and inexplicably, turning into a heavy hunk of metal. In which case, I’m impressed.


So, what happens if you don’t have a cyborg boyfriend handy but you still yearn to hospitalize yourself in an incredibly embarrassing way? Do what these dummies did.