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Synopsis: Trapped in a rural Oklahoma town fueled by meth and doused in codeine, Arlo Clancy has made it his life's goal to keep his troubled younger brother, Sepp, out of prison. Poverty and the lure of easy drug money were pressure enough, before a gruesome discovery beneath the waters of their favorite fishing hole sent their lives into a tailspin.
Torn by cowardice and conscience, the brothers make a fateful decision which will bring them ever-closer to Danny Ames--a vicious enforcer for the local meth trade--and a nightmare world where their only chance of escape might be...
Author: J David Osborne lives in Norman, OK with his wife and dog. His work has appeared in Warmed and Bound, John Skipp's Demons, and several other online and print publications. He is the winner of the 2010 Wonderland Award for Best Novel for By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends.
I know I say this a lot, but I'm stoked for this one. Osborne's first book, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends, is one of the best books I've read in the last couple years. His story in Warmed and Bound was one of my favorites from the collection. So, yeah, you could say I've been excited for this book to come out.
J David Osborne will be checking in. So get your questions ready.
Buy it from Amazon here
Get to reading!
Can't wait for this discussion. Here's a batch of related links for LOW DOWN:
At Amazon, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca.
Reviews at OUT OF THE GUTTER, MANARCHY, SPINETINGLER, and BOOKED.
An excerpt at MANARCHY.
Also, if any Portland LitReactors are interested, Powell's should have copies of LDDRE by the end of this week.
And for people on the East coast, J. David will be doing a reading from LDDRE this Monday, March 11th, in New York, along with Sam Pink, Scott McClanahan, and Cameron Pierce. Here are the details at TIME OUT NEW YORK.
THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN.
Hello, Litreactor. I've lurked here for awhile. How are you?
Welcome to LitReactor, J David Osborne. It's good to have you here.
I was lucky enough to win this book, thanks to Jeremy Robert Johnson, and decided today to bump what I am currently reading in favor of Low Down Death Right Easy.
This is exciting because in the last year there have been two books that I have been irresponsibly excited for: The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones and this one, and The Last Final Girl did NOT disappoint one bit. It's a nice feeling to be genuinely excited for the release of a book.
I've not really joined in on the book club discussions before. Do you need a degree to participate? I'm hoping to have enough free time in the next few days to read this from start to finish, but I assume I can come in periodically and ask questions/throw out opinions?
Sean - I'm glad to hear that you're pumped. You can AMA. As for degrees, I feel like we could all use 98 of them:
Now we're all warmed up and ready to kiss.
I just burned through this book yesterday in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it.
My only complaint is that I wish it was longer or a bit slower paced or more fleshed out or something. It felt like things just raced by too quickly.
Or maybe that's just my fault for not taking my time with it.
And I just purchased By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends which I've heard is also very good.
Thanks LizardKing. King of Lizards. One issue that I struggle with when writing: do I know these characters to the point that I assume others do as well? Am I not spending enough time with exposition and shit? I hear you. I'm planning a couple sequels and hopefully once they're both done it'll add up to a legit-sized novel. I like hanging out in this grimy world, but I get to do it for a few years whereas readers only get to spend, well, however long it takes to finish a novel just shy of 200 words. And thanks for picking up BTTWL, it's a very different book but I hope it hits all your hot buttons.
I think it's good to leave readers feeling this way:
I do prefer shorter books. 300 pages is probably the ideal length for me. I feel like most stuff longer than that has too much filler and drags along for too long.
On the other hand, if something's really enjoyable, it could be 800 pages long and I'd still enjoy it.
And the time it takes to read a book probably reflects on how enjoyable it is. I wouldn't have been able to finish your book in two sittings if I wasn't really enjoying it.
Extra pages for the sake of extra pages wouldn't bet a good idea.
What kind of books are you into? Like, what's your favorite book?
I like a bunch of different stuff. It's really hard to pick a favorite book but some favorite authors would be Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, Don Delillo, Irvine Welsh, Hubert Selby Jr, Jay McInerney, James Ellroy, Ira Levin, Philip Roth.
David Foster Wallace, James Ellroy, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison. Those are the four that normally come to mind. I also LOVE Brian Evenson's stuff. I'm kind of picky, I guess. But not really. I don't love everything, that's for sure, but there's so much good stuff out there.
Those are all great authors, but who is the better lyricist? Aesop Rock or Eyedea?
(I have nothing to add to the book discussion yet, only 20 pages in)
Nah seriously though Gucci's awesome but Aes wins it hands down. I don't know if a better lyricist has ever been in the game. The working title to the follow up to LDDRE is lifted from an Aesop Rock song. He has a copy of my first book but I don't know if he's a big reader.
Really? Aesop Rock over Eyedea, huh? I'd say Eyedea, but easilly put Aesop in my top three. Although I could easily listen to Labor Days and By The Throat on constant repeat until my last days, so maybe it is a closer contest than I'm imagining...
Okay, last night after everyone else was comfortably asleep, I stayed up and delved further into the uncomfortable world of LDDRE, so I'm about halfway through and will be finishing in the next day or so.
Initial reactions: this is really good. The descriptions of everything, both the characters and their surroundings, are very vividly written. Not to mention the best description of a panic attack I've read since finding out what one felt like. Thinking also here about your advice-to-writers article over at Bizarro Central...I don't know if this is something you'd want to admit, but how many of these characters do you know in real life?
I also really like that this is a depressed and dangerous environment, but it's not overdone. It's kept real, where the characters do still enjoy things about their destitute lives. Having read too many stories where the writer goes overboard to show how dark and dirty the setting is, then creates one-dimensional characters who are nothing but dark and dirty, the writing in LDDRE is a breath of fresh-meth air.
I haven't had a chance to read By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends yet, although you mentioned it is a very different novel. But as I'm reading LDDRE, I keep expecting someone to run into Tamer or Angela from your Warmed & Bound story (or maybe even John Wily if this happened to be in the "prequel" category). And you mentioned sequels to this book, so I wonder, are you creating a universe of characters in a Quentin Tarantino or Stephen King kind of way, or are these completely separate stories set in very similar but different worlds?
To anyone who hasn't read this yet, and is thinking about picking it up for this discussion (which should be a lot of you) DO IT! It's very much worth it!
I don't know, man. They're both fantastic lyricists. What pushes Aesop over the edge for me is 1) Labor Days and 2) Skelethon. He got so real on that last album that I got chills and cried, which is something I can't say for any other emcee.
I know most of these people. Danny Ames is a composite character, for sure, based on this guy I went to school with. I used to let him copy all my shit because of course I did. I was rolling around in my buddy's truck one day and we see this girl waving her hands and looking pretty chewed up. Some Texas Chainsaw shit. We stopped and she jumped in and said, "Fucking drive. I owe [Danny Ames] money." He was a scary dude. He's in jail now for murder. Sepp is a guy I moved furniture with. A lot of the shenanigans these characters get into, I'm not sure what the statute of limitations are on these kinds of things, so I'll plead the fifth on that, mostly.
I really have a problem with exactly what you're talking about, as of late. Too many folks in my genre seem so in love with the grime that they couldn't have actually lived in it. As a poor person in a rural area, you spend so much time trying to have fun (so you don't kill yourself) that for the most part life is a series of misadventures punctuated by the ugliness that's around you all the time. I read a lot of stuff where it reads like a 100 Days of Sodom laundry list of filth. I'm not about that.
This book is in the same universe as the other story, though the names don't match up right. When I put Three Theories in a short story collection, I'll have fixed a character name to fit in more solidly. There's a character from my first novel that shows up in this one, briefly. It's self-indulgent stuff, but I love building big subtle worlds and seeing old characters.
I feel like I missed something. How did you guys start talking about lyricist? Or was it just a random question not tied into anything?
Random question, I believe.
Awesome that you were able to answer it so well then. That's what threw me! haha
Okay, just finished...I'm not going to say anything about the ending yet, seeing as how it's only the 3rd and other people are probably still reading. But damn, son, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I'm going to collect my thoughts and say more later, but I have to ask (without spoiling anything): there is a description of something happening to a pet on page 126...did THAT really happen too?
@LizardKing - I hear you when you say you wished it was longer because you didn't want it to end. But I think this is the perfect length for this story. It reminded me of a perfect hardcore punk show; it was intense the entire time, but when it ended, it was complete but it left me wanting more.
@Pete - excellent choice this month sir. This is kind of fun, and I hope to get involved in these discussions more often. And sorry about the hip-hop question...it was more a placeholder while I finished the book, but it reminded me that I hadn't heard Skelethon yet, so it added value to my life.
Don't apologize. Talk all the hip-hop you want! I was just curious how that discussion started.
SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT!!!! Thanks, dude.
As for the dog, that really happened, but I lifted it from David Simon's "The Corner". Great, depressing book.
I don't steal often, but when I do, it's from David Simon.
Oh, man, you've got to go back through his Balto Sun archives and read some of the lengthier pieces he did. Fan-fucking-tastic. Lots of great character sketches too.
I already gushed about LDDRE over at Spinetingler so my knees are worn out. But it most definitely rules, and I highlighted a few things I wished I'd've written.
Dude I feel like you may have just opened the can of worms. THE can. I have things to do. This is...I don't even. David Simon kiss me.
After an emphatic recommendation from Sean, I'm going to go ahead and read this now. Expect me back by Monday at the latest. (you've all been warned?)
@JDO - toni morrison, huh? surprising. i just read a bunch of her books for my MFA, and MAN did i really love it. BELOVED was so dark and strange, so sad. i really am a big fan of her work. i expected you to love Cormac. I assume you've read BLOOD MERIDIAN, have you read all of his work? i still have a few of his books left. Evenson, yeah, i either LOVE a story, or don't get it. Reading WINDEYE right now and the title story just blew me away.
been meaning to pick up your book, i'll see if i can't wrangle a copy and jump into the discussion, but i'm a little behind, whoops.
I haven't read everything by McCarthy (alias Carthymac McCorm). SUTTREE is one that I still need to tackle. Also the Border Trilogy. But BLOOD MERIDIAN (which should really always be reffered to as "fucking" BLOOD MERIDIAN) is one of my favorite books. Just a big biblical thing.
>I also really like that this is a depressed and dangerous environment, but it's not overdone. It's kept real, where the characters do still enjoy things about their destitute lives. Having read too many stories where the writer goes overboard to show how dark and dirty the setting is, then creates one-dimensional characters who are nothing but dark and dirty, the writing in LDDRE is a breath of fresh-meth air.
Amen. On that same note:
"Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it."--David Foster Wallace
And I think LDDRE, esp. in the Jen and Arlo chapters, does just that. It feels human and empathetic, but it still hits these great pitch black crime notes.
The length of LDDRE is relentlessly precise, to the point where every sentence counts and you have to be very present and paying attention to all the details. It's weird, because it feels both very terse and complex to me at the same time. Like a mini-epic. But yeah, it does leave you wanting more, which I think is a credit to JDO's writing, and there are some very subtle, wonderful things that you pick up on a second read through. Once you know some of the secrets and are focused less on the mystery, all these little moments and metaphors pop out at you. I love it.
Re: Aesop v. Eyedea--I land in the Aesop camp, just by virtue of variance in flow and content. I've seen both live and Eyedea's sets were electrifying, but a little repetitive (though Abilities DJ stuff always killed), whereas Aesop could follow a story rap with a Zodiaccupuncture acapella that just made you hold your breath to hear how crazy he flipped it. I give major credit to both for writing very insightfully and courageously about mental illness. And obviously Eyedea was much better on the battle front.
Eyedea killed it in the battles I've seen online. His opponents just weren't ready. I often think about this: how much of a rap battle is written shit and how much isn't. The battles I've been in (3), which I lost (once against someone I thought was retarded, it was very humbling) have been pre-written punchlines that I have stored in the cranium, mixed with some off the dome stuff about you know, their shoes or their glasses or some shit. Always felt like cheating. Eyedea struck me as a writer. Which, still. Kudos to being able to essentially madlib long ass poems.
Finally got to finish this last night. I wish I could have read it faster, but life has been a clusterfuck lately. I hope things calm down in my world, because I'm not sure how much more I can take.
I loved the book. No surprise there though. By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends is one of my favorite books still.
I think I'm going to have to reread it some time soon though. The fact that it took me forever to read really broke up the story too much. I feel like I missed some things.
I really liked how the chapters were these little snippets of life. And they were going back and forth between the characters. I'm sure Osborne is gonna love this - but it did kind of remind me of Crime Shows. The fast pacing just really worked for the story.
I always wonder if those battles are pre-written too! I think no way they come up it with it then and there with everyone watching - though for some that is a great creative rocking trigger maybe for their semiautomatic, rapid fire wit.
My guess even if this gets them going and fuels them most are still drawing on at least half formed ideas...
Going to read this and been meaning to read about the "kid" as well. Playing a bit of catch up.
Anywhere, thought I'd I'd check in and let you know you have some "older" fans as well. lol
Yeah, I think you're probably right. The people who I believe truthfully go off the dome are artists like Lil B. It can occasionally be so, so bad, but I love it for the small moments where you can feel the spontanaetiy and sudden "connectedness" with the beat. It all feels very dangerous but I can understand how a lot of folks might see it as very stupid. Battle rappers, I'm convinced, are like an archive of pre-writtens. They have writing sessions, then they memorize their flows, then they arrange them accordingly. However, I did see a battle once with a dude named Mark Grist, and a lot of that seemed legit improvised. I dunno. I'm on the fence. Super great to meet you, Amy!
I actually forgot this was a book club choice and coicindentally finished it yesterday.
Overall- I liked it. It was hard to get into at first because there was no exposition, no slowing things down to show the reader anything, so if you weren't paying attention and if you didn't stick it out, you were just fucked as far as following the story. I think about 40-50 pages in is when things started to kind of click for me and I found myself reading faster because I wanted to find out what happened next.
There were a lot of surreal elements in this story, things that kind of come and go and are never quite resolved. Some of that functions in favor for the novel as a whole since it sort of contributes to this meth lifestyle a lot of people are entrenched in. It was sort of a white-trashy meth David Lynch kind of thing, so as tempted as I am to ask about this or that, I have a feeling there's no satisfying answer to "why this happened', or "who was this character".
But, the hell with it- what was the deal with the "devil character" that kept showing up at that bar? Did he show up anywhere else in the novel? Were there any other similar recurring weirdos and do they mean anything significant or was it just weird for weirds sake (which can be a good reason to do something weird).
YES! That and the teeth falling out definitely reminded me of David Lynch-ish stuff, and I thought they fit perfectly in the story to add to the eerie factor.
I'll agree that it is a little tough at first to get into it, but not in a way that frustrated me or ever had me thinking I didn't want to finish. I think while it was a little confusing, the writing was strong enough to push through, and once it started to all come together, it was well worth it.
Okay, I didn't finish it yet. But i said I'd come back, so here I am. I'll get through it, and it wasn't because it was bad that I didn't finish, although I'm not sure it's entirely my taste, but that's neither here nor there.
I'll echo the above and say the opening was hard for me. Just being thrown in frustrated me, as I couldn't fully enjoy what was happening bcause I didn't know who the people were or where they were or...much of anything. But it is a fast read and it didn't take much actual time to get the thirty or forty pages in that I needed for things to start clearing up.
I completely adored the way the character's ethnicity was given to me long after I'd already developed my mental picture of them. That worked, in my opinion, and I liked being thrown and put slightly off guard.
The book has this rural noir/crime novel feel that reminds me of Elmore Leonard. It's like there's dirt on everything. I don't know a better way to say it, but every scene I read, in my mind it seemed to have a light layer of dirt on it and was tinted brown.
I'm glad the ethnicity thing worked for you. I think I was reading about how Hunger Games or something, racist honkies were mad because they missed a line in the book that said a character was black, so when the movie came out they flipped their shit. I wanted to be like, "well, what made you think they were white?" Because I think it's a fun question.