Drama in Fabulous Toledo
Have you ever wished your life could be instantly otherwise? Have you ever worried that if you wait one more second, you can never be a child prodigy? Never change your life? Never be fabulous? Meet Ellen. She just got engaged, and she's worried it just might be the end.
A fast-acting antidote to reality, High Drama in Fabulous Toledo is a novel about characters on the brink of impossible chaos. When Ellen, a postmodern every-girl, daydreams her way out of monotony and into the hands of inept kidnappers, she finds she prefers captivity to her own predictable future. Life, for her, is a box to be filled. But by what or whom? Ultimately, faced with defining herself either as victim or manipulator, Ellen opts for both, igniting a chain reaction of volatile identities that levels everyone around her.
Ellen's kidnappers, a bouncer named Stef, and his gal-pal Molly, imagine themselves a barbarian warrior and electro-sex princess. They deliver Ellen into the hands of Jay, a cybergeek who needs a bride to fulfill his suburban dream. Against all logic, Ellen agrees to marry Jay, fearing that this may be her last chance to avoid a collision with lifelong normality.
From the book jacket
Martin wants to jump off a grocery store sign and Ellen wants to swallow her engagement ring. Jane wants a good beating and stef wants a castle to himself. Jay wants a bathrobe with a hole in it and Molly wants a cyborg upgrade. When these six characters find themselves embroiled in a kidnapping gone wrong, reality jumps its tracks and Toledo, that rust belt bastion of disrespect, becomes a playground for fiction and fantasy.
James' postfeminist fiction is smart and accessible; it skips along like a flower girl in moon boots. Still, her trippy narrative packs a wallop with its wry, skin-tight prose, at once insightful and corrosive to reality. Like a postmodern Flannery O'Connor story, High Drama in Fabulous Toledo is unafraid to shake the balance of order and chaos, or toy with our most private fantasies of escape.
"Lily James' deal with the devil has paid off. High Drama in Fabulous Toledo presents a fresh take on the art of fiction that is knowing, sad, funny, thoughtful and extreme. Put it in your brain and let it entertain you."
"Hilarious and tragic, High Drama reverberates with questions about the nature and place of fiction and fantasy in human experience in a parody and exaggeration of that ultimate oxymoron: realistic fiction."
"High Drama in Fabulous Toledo is a savvy social satire with style to burn."
Valerie MacEwan reviews High Drama in Fabulous Toledo in Pop Matters.
"James' densely packed prose propels the reader forward from the first paragraph to the last. Her imagery creates a superb background for the insane actions of the novel's self-indulgent inhabitants who gallop across the plot like Sooners running for Oklahoma territory. I found myself re-reading descriptive passages, shaking my head in appreciation of her vivid narrative style. Here's a small example, just a part of her explanation of childhood development:
Around the age of six he shifted from the Ptolemaic conception of the solar system to the Galilean. That is, he came to understand that the universe didn't revolve around him, goddammit, that there was a great big Milky Way out there, with lots of stars, and that his planet body was just one of several, revolving around one of many, revolving around ten thousand billion of same and different, and he was very small. The forgotten and dark ages of eight, nine, and ten were followed by the enlightenment and romanticism of the pre-teen years.
High Drama in Fabulous Toledo is an engaging literary experience. Poignant moments slam into comic prose compelling the reader to go forward, into the soulful depths of James' extreme characters. The other side of this fence is intellectual and should be experienced at all costs. Despite some vivid sexual references, I'll leave this book out on the coffee table."
From Clark Humphrey in MiscMedia:
A raucous, giddy little novel that lives up to its title with nary a tinge of irony. Our heroine is the bored, easily distracted fiancee of a borderline-suicidal bar owner. She gets kidnapped from a 7-Eleven parking lot one night, and turned over to become the captive bride of a rich computer genius completely lacking in social skills.
After the initial shock she comes to like the adventure of her predicament; but soon becomes bored again as she realizes her captor's domestic-suburban plans for her life. Meanwhile, her distraught boyfriend is consoled by a mysterious policewoman with, shall we say, personal issues of her own. To tell any more would spoil the ride.
High Drama is a great light-comic caper story that also happens to be classifiable as "post-feminist" or "genre-deconstucting" (the genre here being romance-novel ravishment). It's also a highly accessible, engaging read that, in a better world, would bring wealth and renown to James and to the literary-press publisher FC2, which put it out.
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The Great Taste of Straight People
Read the book that had readers across the globe hollering for more... Valium. This book puts the "mad" back in "madcap" and the "ant" back in "antics." Better than drinking shoe polish straight out of the bottle. Better than a weekend at the in-laws. Better than ancient maraschino cherries in weak vodka. Literary fiction with a sense of humor.
While academics argue over who actually invented the word "postfeminism," writers like Lily James are engaged in the task of creating what comes after the feminist movement. Beyond the Buzz, chick-lit postfeminist writing has created some of the hippest eye-catchers in contemporary fiction. This fiction is funny, wry and new. As Eurudice commented, "It is a must-have for girls that have considered selling out."
In The Great Taste of Straight People, Lily James spanks the eternal theme of Chaos vs. Order. Her characters are True Believers, obsessed with the desire to organize relationships, behaviors, and entire lives around earnestly illogical systems. These stories are sincere yet always surprising, brainy yet always entertaining.
"James is trying on different masks, indulging in a form of unseriousness that's really as serious as can be. James will do anything it takes. She's excessive, she's not afraid to spew or flirt with self-indulgence -- to multiply words and images and motifs and to compound densities until the reader's on the verge of either frustration or exhilaration. Creepy and funny stuff."
-- New York Press
When you're on a trip to Buffalo, sometimes the best you can do for yourself is reconceptualize your life as a chapter in high school math textbook. Lily's story, "Chapter Nine," appeared in Degenerative Prose, a Black Ice Books compilation publisher in 1997. Buy it right here and support avant garde fiction and the lucky folks who publish it for profit.
What happens to the guy who graduates from the impotency support group? He has to observe the group from a skylight in the snow, balancing on his fully erect penis. Read Lily's story, "Up There," in Chick Lit: Postfeminist Fiction, published by FC2 in 1995. Buy it right here immediately and support girls who wear lipstick and short skirts and still manage to have brains.
Lily's most recent story, "Horse," is about a girl whose injuries prevent her from having a horse show career. So she trains her husband as a show jumper and makes the best of things. It's also about the special relationship between salesmen and executive secretaries. Go here to see the magazine and support independent publishing.
Note: While I realize that Amazon is very convenient, I would really appreciate you taking the time to visit my publisher directly and buy the books from them. Small presses need our support, so they can keep publishing brilliant young voices like mine. Heh. Seriously, they make more money if you buy directly, so here is the link.