Archive for the 'books and stuff' Category


Some cool new news and stuff of mine on the web…

Hey All–

I got asked by David at the Largehearted Boy Blog (a GREAT blog you should check out often, as it’s always updated with cool stuff…unlike the infrequent posts here) to do a play list to go with WORKING BACKWARDS FROM THE WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE. This is a great idea…and a lot of the other writers did some VERY cool choices. Anyway, here’s mine:


Also, WORKING BACKWARDS was named one of the notable books of 2010 over at The Nervous Breakdown. It’s a real honor to be on this list, especially with the quality of the other books. And, not only that, I’ve now reached a career goal of being mentioned in an article with Keith Richards. So I can retire happy now.


Truman Capote’s lost novel

My good pal a fine writer Kate Maruyama has a great take on the lost Truman Capote novel SUMMER CROSSING up at the cool site Annotation Nation. Check it out:


New Mailer for the Book!

Until I figure out how to cut and paste it, here is the new mailer for the new book of stories, WORKING BACKWARDS FROM THE WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE–coming OCT 1st from Red Hen. Feel free to print it out, pre-order copies and/on, pass it around. Thanks!


Working Backwards (Mailer)

Here are some of the blurbs:

“These fiercely original small works explore the roughest off-road trail of men’s lives, a place where the road to redemption has long ago been left behind, and all that’s left is grief and violent action. Bathed in a prose of sensual texture–the taste of barbed wire, the roar of rusted engines, the scent of blood and dust and madness–Roberge’s collection blooms in the mind long after the last page has been turned.” Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black.

“Rob Roberge is a modern master of the down-and-out-that-just-got-worse. His stories are dark and thrilling. They take hold of the reader like some bad, bracing dope and don’t let go until you feel the full measure of your own humanity. Prose this carefully wrought and true puts him in the tradition of Bukowski, Hammett, and Denis Johnson.”  Steve Almond, author of My Life in Heavy Metal, Candyfreak, The Evil BB Chow and Not that You Asked: Essays.

“Subtly, deftly, Rob Roberge elevates the ordinary to the extraordinary.  His surprising, often darkly humorous stories take the reader to places rarely visited by even our boldest writers.  The prose is clean and tough and powerful, marking Roberge as a truly fine and formidable talent.”  James Brown, author of This River and The Los Angeles Diaries

“These stories make me want to climb right up inside of Rob Roberge’s head and ride around looking out at his weird, dark world.  His broken people are riveting and strange but deeply familiar. Beautiful and funny and heartbreaking in one breath — everyone should read this book.”  Katie Arnoldi, author of Chemical Pink and The Wentworths

“The characters populating Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life exist on a perpetual edge: of transgression, addiction, no-win decisions, desire, the law, and sometimes survival itself.  Rob Roberge possesses an unflinching eye, rendering perfectly the intensity, hilarity and numbness of small moments that often double as last chances.  This is a rollicking read, so fast and enjoyable that by the time the punch of sadness hits you, you’re too far gone to go anywhere other than where Roberge leads.” Gina Frangello, author of My Sister’s Continent and Slut Lullabies

“WORKING BACKWARDS FROM THE WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE confirms what everyone should already know: Rob Roberge is one the finest short story writers working today. His vision of life is something like Denis Johnson’s, with Neil Young and Crazyhorse as the soundtrack, provided both dipped their toes into the surreal every now and then just to get some relief from the pressures of the world. A nuanced, violent and, ultimately, deeply felt collection of stories.”  TOD GOLDBERG, author of Living Dead Girl and Simplify.

“Having moved to the East Coast 15 years ago, I don’t spend nearly as much time in Southern California anymore.  But the words of Rob Roberge bring it all back to life for me-the sounds, the sights, the smells and the tastes.  And it’s not always a pretty ride.  I like that Rob never takes the easy way out.  Real bad things happen to real likeable people and while I would never wish that on anyone I know it sure makes for a good read.”  Steve Wynn, of The Dream Syndicate, Gutterball, and Steve Wynn & the Miracle Three.


Katie Arnoldi’s POINT DUME

Once, years ago, when my first book came out and I was enormously excited about said book coming out, a much more experienced writer told me,

“One’s a good start, but it’s not a career until you have three out.”

“Really?” I said.

“Over fifty percent of first-time novelists never publish a second,” he said.

This scared me a bit, since it had taken me ten years to learn enough to write my first and I’d thrown away at least two bad novels before finishing my first (or, third, depending on how one looked at such things). “So why isn’t two a career, then?”

“Well, it’s like in math. One doesn’t mean anything. Two can be a coincidence. Three’s a pattern. Until it happens three times, it’s not a pattern. And a pattern is what constitutes a career. It means that’s what you do, for better or worse. You’re a writer.”

I’d never, at that time, heard of this fifty percent deal with first-time novelists, but it turns out, according to various studies in publishing, to be true. A lot, if not a clear majority of writers have only one book in them—which stunned me when I first heard it and still surprises me now. Why would you go through the effort and labor of learning the very difficult craft of putting a book together only to stop after the first? But I guess some writers only have one in them—one thing to say, and then they get on with the rest of their lives.

And the second book not making you a career writer? I suppose that’s open to debate, but it is true, in both math and in publishing and murder (you’re not a serial killer, after all, until you hit three, either, though I heard that is being challenged by certain FBI profilers, among others) that three is a pattern and it means that you’re probably in it (whatever your “it” happens to be) for the long haul.

So, enter Katie Arnoldi’s POINT DUME (Overlook Press, publication date, May 10th), which is as you may have guessed from this preamble, her third novel. Arnoldi, best known, perhaps, for her first novel CHEMICAL PINK (which was a long running LA Times bestseller) has returned, in many ways, to the overall feel, characters, structure and pace that made that first novel such a hit. In between, she published THE WENTWORTHS, a dysfunctional family drama/satire about a wealthy Westside LA family from 2008, which showed a growing confidence and ability in her craft.

POINT DUME is, in short, a combination of the best aspects of her earlier two books. It has the edge and grit and unconventional characters and unexpected scenes of CHEMICAL PINK along with the refined craft and narrative chops exhibited in THE WENTWORTHS.

The novel, while brief and breakneck paced, takes in a wide range of subject matter and characters. It is, in fact, one of the longer short novels you’re likely to read this year (in the best sense—the way THE GREAT GATSBY is a long short novel, surprising for all the ground it covers in a relatively few amount of pages). Arnoldi balances five major POV in the novel—from the memorable self-reliant surfer Ellis, the eccentric pot-dealer Pablo, Janice a bored and quietly despairing homemaker and one of Pablo’s main clients, Janice’s husband Frank (who’s mid-life crisis infatuation with Ellis he misreads for love), and the sad and trapped Felix, who’s been recruited (forcefully) by the Mexican drug cartel to grow pot in the public lands around Malibu in the hills around all of the other character’s homes.

This unlikely cast of characters is brought together in a series of events that always arise organically out of character desire—never because they’re forced into action by the author. Arnoldi writes in a manner that Flaubert talked about—the writer being invisible, filing her nails while the characters act of their own accord. There are two dominant schools of thought about the author’s job. Some believe the author, like a good baseball umpire, should remain unseen. That the only time he or she is noticed is if they’ve blown a call or made a bad move. Then, of course, you have the overt stylists, calling attention to themselves (either in obvious ways, such as in the metafiction of writers like Ray Federman, or the high-wire “look no hands” prose styling of someone like Lee. K. Abbot, who reminds you he’s there by showing off the conscious beauty of his own prose). Arnoldi falls into the former category—never showing the puppet master’s strings on the movements of the characters.

And it works very well. The book hits on a lot of major issues—obsessive love and desire, the death of surf culture invaded by materialistic trend seekers…people who used to be called yuppies (god knows what name they carry these days), illegal pot farms on public lands (an increasingly large issue in California), the savage, dangerous and thoughtless use of human trafficking, the increasing presence of Mexican drug cartels in California, and the environmental cost of it all.

In the end (without giving away the plot twist that brings all these character’s lives together), Arnoldi’s realistic novel takes a turn toward the Naturalistic novels of Zola and Frank Norris. The book’s climax, in many ways, is reminiscent of Norris’ amazing (and, sadly, largely forgotten) 1902 masterpiece THE OCTOPUS (a Naturalistic history of the building of California in the late 1800’s), with the earth re-establishing its dominance and its inevitable lack of concern for the petty desires of humans.

Along the way, you get a rollicking ride. The book is full of memorable characters, tight, lean prose, better sex scenes than most people seem to write these days (why is sex so awful in most books?) and filled with some downright funny and harrowing scenes. It’s, in the best sense, a well-paced, well written page-turner. Check it out.

For more info on Katie Arnoldi, check out her website: