Ben Newell


drug story cover

Low Rent Less Than Zero: u.v. ray’s drug story

Imagine Bret Easton Ellis’s debut taking place in the early 90s, narrated by drug dealer Rip (albeit a philosophical, much less moneyed Rip), and set in Birmingham City, England as opposed to Los Angeles for an approximation of u.v. ray’s latest novel from Murder Slim Press. Rendered with the author’s trademark disregard for punctuation, drug story is an audaciously underground book in both content and style.

Narrator Mark Costine is an alienated young man who sells drugs at bars and nightclubs. He refuses to work a straight job as this would entail doing “sum thing i don’t give a flying fuck about.” On the surface he couldn’t care less about the big issues.

The narrative is a hedonistic romp interspersed with frequent arias in which Costine espouses his non-participatory ethos, attacking politics and capitalism with equal vehemence. Utterly disgusted with the mainstream, he opts for various escape routes. He drinks, takes drugs, sells drugs, has sex, and views a lot of porn on VHS. When he watches the news or reads a newspaper the stories are invariably grim, ranging from race riots to a “little piece about sum motherfucker called George Hennard in Texas who’s shot 23 people dead in a Killeen city restaurant.”

Costine lives in a flat above a “closed down an boarded up” restaurant. His druggie friends are named “Superfast” and “Electric.” When the former dies of an overdose, Electric and Costine shoot speed at their deceased pal’s wake.

Still, for all his jadedness and punk nihilism, Costine is an intensely passionate individual. He claims to not “give a fuck bout anything” but this doesn’t jibe with his many extended rants. He most definitelydoesgive a fuck. Otherwise, he wouldn’t spend so much time ruminating on what he sees as a sick society. A man of contradictions, he likes “man made things more than nature,” yet marvels at “undeniably beautiful” stars and a “beautiful sunrise of amber.”

Early in the novel Costine says he “never had anyone to share anything with, an never wanted no one either,” but the morning after having sex with ex-girlfriend Samantha he betrays his vulnerability: “. . . the following cold morning after she’s gone again her lipstick stain left on the wine glass sitting on the table next to the bed compounds my sense of loneliness. i feel utterly alone an empty . . .”

His need for female companionship is more than just sexual. Losing his mother to “a brain tumour” at the age of “6 months,” Costine spent his youth in a “care home” characterized by “imposing walls” and “gothic stone edifices that seemed cruel.” Of course drug-addled Amy and uni student Sam will never be able to fill that void, nor will the drugs and porn, but temporary relief is better than no relief at all: “we are the narcotic generation, the generation that finally found our escape.”

There’s a crime subplot concerning a bouncer who confiscates Costine’s product and is subsequently whacked in a drive-by shooting. This neo-noir element adds a sense of impending doom to the proceedings. Costine’s supplier, a one-eyed thug named “Slant Eye Joe,” is responsible for the hit; perhaps our narrator will be a marked man if he ever tries to leave the business. Not that this is likely to happen. As Costine states: “drugs are not the contagion. drugs are the antidote.”

ray has stated that this is his last novel. If this proves to be the case, then he has definitely exited on a strong note.

Trash Panda, by Leza Cantoral


Trash Panda, by Leza Cantoral
104 pages
Clash Books

Leza has written some very good poems here, most of them themed after the titular Trash Panda — at once cute and lovable while also fierce and nasty. Many of these poems are sad or humorous or both at the same time, and, as other reviewers have pointed out, they’ve been written without a trace of poetic pretension. Apparently Trash Panda has no shame, either, as evinced by their inclusion of some poems from back in HIGH SCHOOL. I literally had to burn half the shit I wrote in COLLEGE it was so bad, so big bravas there! Of these early offerings, I especially enjoyed “Plastic Life”, transcending the banal teen angst to say some things many of us would still agree with in our middle age.

This book has it all — tears, laughter, masturbation for Satan; echos of Sylvia, Marilyn, and Jackie; pretty pics of the author (with and without her Trash Panda head); meditations on porn, poetry, and social media; and, as mentioned previously, Leza’s “TOP 5 MOST EMO HIGH SCHOOL POEMS”. It also has one of the most fitting copyright notices I’ve ever read in a book (“Don’t rip me off fuckface. I’ll find you & eat your face.”)

So, if you’ve never read anything by Leza before, do yourself a favor and pick this one up — the Trash Panda in your own heart will thank you.



Ben Newell

oui jan 84 cover

Skyjacking Sleaze with Sci-Fi Chaser:
Charles Bukowski’s “Fly the Friendly Skies”

There’s no stroke mag like an 80s stroke mag. Long live big hair and bountiful bush. Also, this was a time when such publications featured fiction on a regular basis.

Throughout the decadent decade Charles Bukowski contributed a number of short stories to Oui. One of these, “Fly the Friendly Skies,” appeared in the January 1984 issue before fading into obscurity. Virtually forgotten until its reemergence thirty-one years later in The Bell Tolls for No One (City Lights 2015)—a collection of stories edited by notable Bukowski scholar David Stephen Calonne—“Fly” is a noteworthy piece in that it exemplifies the author’s Romantic tendencies, particularly his melding of stark realism with the fantastical.

This lurid skyjacking thriller features a trio of terrorists intent on diverting an L.A.-bound flight to Havana, Cuba. The plane is well on its way, boring through “almost clear skies” when Dak makes the first move, ensnaring a stewardess with “wrapping twine” and forcing her into the cockpit. This leaves Kikid and Nurmo in the cabin where the entire narrative unfolds.

Kikid is particularly sadistic as he attacks a mouthy male passenger with a can opener: “He gouged the pointed end into one of the young man’s eyes and twisted. The scream of pain almost shook the aircraft. The young man held both of his hands to his head where the eye had been . . .” As if this weren’t enough, the terrorist adds insult to injury (literally) by stepping on the eye, effectively “crushing it like a snail.”

Being a story in a hardcore mag, it’s only a matter of time before the assaults turn sexual. Kikid continues his reign of terror, forcing a stewardess to fellate him: “Tightening the twine just a bit about the girl’s throat, Kikid reached down and unzipped his fly. He pulled his penis out. It hung there, limp and ugly.” In typical “Roughie” porn fashion, Kikid degrades the woman as she gobbles his knob: “I love you, you cunt! Oh, get it, get it ALL! Swallow it, you bitch, get it all!” After having her ingest his wad, the lowlife compliments her oral skills.

Then the story shifts in a big way, veering abruptly into sci-fi territory with the arrival of a flying saucer. And it isn’t long before an alien materializes in the airplane’s cabin: “. . . before them appeared a creature quite globular, almost all head with eyes as bright as 500-watt electric bulbs.” The extraterrestrial makes short work of the villains, zapping both terrorists with a death ray: “. . . a beam shot out from one of the Thing’s 500-watt eyes.” Relieved passengers interpret this as divine intervention. One woman actually believes that the alien is God: “I had no idea you’d look like this!”

But there is no God in Bukowski’s universe, no God and no valorous hero showing up to save those in peril. In fact, the alien turns out to be just as cruel as Kikid when it uses mind control on the stewardess, commanding her to suck its “pole-like antenna” of a prick. No match for the space creature’s superior intellect, the poor flight attendant acquiesces and gives her second hummer of the flight: “She lifted the whole apparatus upwards, then stuck the end of it into her mouth. Her ears quivered and the saliva ran down her jaws.”

This over-the-top tale concludes with several loose ends. What happened to Dak, his captive stewardess, and the flight crew? More importantly, what will become of the flight as a whole? Clearly, these folks are not in good hands. The space invader eliminated two of the three terrorists, but it has definitely not come in peace.


Book of Dreams, By Jon Konrath

A Review By Wayne F. Burke

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168 pages, Paragraph Line Books

A smart non-stop fun house ride shot through with a rich hip stratum referencing the cultural zeitgeist of late 20th century Americana. Celebrities and their look-alike’s flit through dream-scapes funny and ghastly. An irrefutable dream-logic gives verisimilitude to the dreams. Less dream-log than work of imaginatively constructed fiction makes moot a psychoanalytical interpretation. The prose unfailingly true to ethereal states of R.E.M. sleep. Whacky unexpected non sequitur’s, absurd yet plausibly skewed irreality: “A cluster of Eastern island-style big head statues, except all the heads are Richard Nixon.” “I’m getting ten teeth drilled by a fat dentist eating a sausage and pepper sandwich…” “She calls the police…The band ‘The Police’ shows up.” The narrator inhabits an eternal present and the driven superficiality that ensues perfectly captures the zeitgeist of pop/schlock culture. The work oddly impersonal as dream-log–few the mentions of family or friends–a notable absence of sex. Libido is subsumed by blatant and joyfully described gustatory feasts, the dreamer a connoisseur of junk food and constantly salivating for the caloric-inducing, plaque-building, aneurysm-causing offerings of chain-restaurant food…Dark hilarity rivals verbal shtik of Sam Kinneson and Bill Hicks. “An NBA riot in Los Angeles halts the filming of THE GOLDEN GIRLS for the Necrophilia Network.” “The job paid in NYC MTA subway slugs.” “In a restaurant…glass display cases on the walls contain an extensive collection of pieces of food that patrons had choked on and then had heimlich’ed out.”  Dr. Benway meets Ferdinand Destouches on nearly every page.


Pushing Away the Hours, By John D. Robinson

A Review By Wayne F. Burke


“Police and ambulance sirens…everyday, everywhere,/just listen”


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I like these poems by John D. Robinson. Poems that give no quarter, expect none. Poems as explosive, in some cases, as sucker-punches. A hard-arsed narrative voice also, but with a tinge of romanticism, and some nostalgia (not much) over loss. Poems in the raw, like life lived on the other side of the tracks. Life and verse unfiltered. Think Camels and Lucky Strikes instead of Marlboro Lights and TRUE (air-o-dynamically engineered). The first handful of poems–from the opening, and great, “A Day Off,” to “The Profit”–roll smoothly down the road, like on the Interstate. The 2nd handful (this a 2-handful chapbook) a rougher ride, due to Robinson’s dependence on the colon. The reading experience analogous to driving through a town that has a STOP sign every corner, a stylistic switcher-roo that changes the pace somewhat, though not the quality of the language, which is excellent throughout.




Varinia Rodriguez

“Kissing Toads”

Hop came the toad
He told me
“You are gorgeous.”

He sang me punk rock lullabies
“Baby, baby, baby
Won’t you be my girl?”

So, I kissed the toad.

He became a punk rock boy.

I stayed a punk rock girl
but punk rock boy wanted more.

so I learned to give up my thighs
before I was ready.
When my gift was too far in between
I was replaced by faster girls
in back seats.

So, I never believed that fairytales were meant for me.


Varinia A. Rodriguez is a Frida Kahlo painting: surreal, divine and unexpected. She is an amalgamation of ten thousand jellyfish all swimming together, forming something that almost resembles a form in its unity, but always changing. Reading Rodriguez’s poetry I’ve never felt like I’m in the same place twice. Her poems feel like déjà vu, familiar but somehow brand new. Her poems feel like ten strangers shoved together inside of a hostel and forced to reconcile their songs of the open road. Her poems feel like getting home from a trip and finding sand in the back pocket of your favorite pair of jeans. Her poems feel like photographs, urgent to grab the small intimacies of a big world. Varinia speaks of trauma, and heartache, and missed connections. She speaks of magic and wanderlust and love. Some of her poems wash over you like a cool wave on a hot day. Some burn on the way down like a shot of rum on an empty stomach. All of her poetry is worth cherishing, and the kind of thing that will catch you in your own holy moments, and having you questioning just where you keep the passion in your life, and how do you manifest your own dreams?” ~Brice Maiurro


Get your copy of “The Jellyfish Dream” at the link below!

Brain Lace, By Karina Bush

A Review By Wayne F. Burke


Brain Lace, by Karina Bush
Publisher: Bareback Press. 46 pgs

The speaker of these poems comes on as machine, technological and teleological. A disembodied voice fiercely feminine, ferocious of appetite (“I am the archer/And the arrow”). A voice of sibylline quality, wise and patient: the voice of conjurer and magician who takes the reader on an eroticized journey that touches, almost incidentally, on archetypal foundations of instinctual nature (symbolized in the verse by horse, spider, and snake).

Poems emerge from an ether, like erotic narcoleptic dreams; like fecund hypnopompic reveries…Karina can tell it “slant,” through use of metaphor and indirection, like an Emily Dickinson, or tell it otherwise–like it is–without allusive language. In the poem “Disease” we get fellatio by any other name; in “Act I,” and elsewhere, the beast with two backs appears; in “Four Faces” cohabitation consists of “Bastard You/Ugly Me/Nice you/Nice me…We throb perverse/The four of us…” Conditions indistinct described in “The Tint” as “Months of/Fuck blur…” More overtly poetic lines–“This hot satin afternoon/Room evaporates into”–mix with less overt: “In my head/Fuck You/Too much…”

Both Eros and eroticism are found here. A powerful collection mesmerizing in its primal energy.