Dictionaries Out of Order

51v-iMqTFqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Dictionaries Out of Order defies simple description. Its stories, which intersect at Portland’s “City of Books,” range from the silly to the sublime, veering expertly from philosophy to farce. At its heart, the book is a love letter to the awesome and mysterious power of words. As comical as it is profound, this unique and unforgettable collection confirms that David Michael Slater is one of the most versatile authors writing today.

Amazon indie bound

 

REVIEWS

Amazon review
A highly entertaining and thought-provoking collection of short stories. Through each of the vastly different characters and scenarios he creates, Slater explores and plays with questions about the role of words and language in our reality. By turns the stories are funny, painful, surrealistic, always creative and a pleasure to read. For those familiar with his popular young adult adventure stories (Sacred Books series), Dictionaries Out of Order brings Slater’s excellent writing, fascination with language, and talent for creating a good story to an adult audience.

Amazon review
David Michael Slater’s Dictionaries Out of Order is a trip. It is a mystery. It is a tour. It is a flight around the world from Powell’s Books to Mikhail Bulkagov’s backyard bathroom at midnight; from John Wesley’s Georgia to Three Rivers Stadium–with stops in Warsaw and the Vatican–and with visits by Comenius and by the author himself– that writer of picture books and historical psychological reflections, Mr. David Michael Slater….”Dictionaries” is a dark, hypnotic peek into the unbreakable entanglement of the Human and her prime tool–Language.

Amazon review
The great thing about short story compilations like Dictionaries Out of Order is their ability to take the reader on various satisfying journeys and outstanding single-serve adventures. They’re perfect for popping open and drinking down in both small doses or all at once. Oftentimes, jumping from one story to the next in one sitting is like riding the metaphorical roller coaster so many writers aim to create in their larger works, and when an author manages to pull off those emotional peaks and valleys multiple times over the course of a compilation it makes for a pretty great ride.

What’s even better is when overarching themes and subtle subtext is liberally spread throughout the entire collection, and the many love letters author David Michael Slater has compiled here share a common curiosity and awe in the written word, a hodgepodge of symbolisms and moralities from Greek mythology, and various acts of creation. It’s obvious Slater feels the power of prose exists and influences on multiple levels, and he tries to share his insights and observations through what ends up being an entertaining, if not educational, collection. It would be interesting to know if he set out to intermingle these adventures and anecdotes with the common theme always in the background, or if Dictionaries Out of Order was a coincidental collaboration between shorts he’d written over the years.

Aside from the thread that worked its way through the various pieces, I really enjoyed the introduction story that set up the compilation’s contents in a uniquely ambiguous way. It’s fun to think about reading a book so amazing it’s driven sane men to insanity, and Slater set up his collection with a simple-yet-imaginative framing device that lent itself to some pretty cool speculation. Fans of the written word and all the magic behind the strange symbols and swirls we assign to different emotions and aspirations, this book was written for you.

Fun & Games

The 1980’s: it’s the time of Dungeons & Dragons, banana clips, and Atari. Jonathan Schwartz is growing up in a family like no other. His sisters, Nadia, the dark genius, and Olivia, the gorgeous tease and temptress, manipulate Jon and his friends for their own entertainment. And his Holocaust survivor grandparents? Their coping techniques are beyond embarrassing. A disastrous visit to Jon’s class by his grandmother unhinges his famous father, setting off a chain of events that threatens to send the dysfunctional Schwartz clan up in flames once and for all. Fun & Games is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of faith, family secrets, betrayal, and loss—but it’s also a tale of friendship, love, and side-splitting shenanigans.

 

“David Michael Slater’s 1980s coming-of-age story fuses intense family dysfunction with literary intelligence. Mr. Slater throws all kinds of crazy against the wall—and not only does it stick, it works brilliantly…Fans of David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, and Augusten Burroughs will crown David Michael Slater their new king.” –THE NEW YORK  JOURNAL OF BOOKS

Amazonindie bound

 

REVIEWS

New York Journal of Books
Getting through high school is difficult enough—especially when you’re a Dungeons and Dragons geek like Jonathan Schwartz. Add in two sisters who lean toward the cruel and sadistic, a famous father who shuns his Judaism, a Holocaust-survivor grandmother who tells incredibly offensive Jewish jokes, and his father’s zealot “inkwhores” showing up at the house begging to be impregnated. Poor Jonathan doesn’t have a chance. After a calamitous meeting with the family rabbi, Jonathan’s father runs off to Israel to live with an ultra-orthodox sect under the guise of writing a new book. But the family only sees it as abandonment. Shortly thereafter, the Schwartz family train begins to derail. It’s a wild and sordid ride to its final conclusion. David Michael Slater’s 1980s coming-of-age story fuses intense family dysfunction with literary intelligence.Fun and Games is like a 1980s Jewish version of The Wonder Years, except with more confusion and heightened teenage awkwardness.

Though seemingly a tale rife with the depravity and debauchery of hormonal youth, Fun and Games author Slater deftly balances out the storyline with a deep, dark emotional flair that disguises the heartbreaking truth hovering just below the surface.

Fun and Games is a multifaceted story full of wit, wonder, and blind corners—just like real life—perfectly reflecting the average American family in its many relatable moments followed by sighs of relief. In this very commendable effort, David Michael Slater throws all kinds of crazy against the wall, and not only does it stick—it works brilliantly. Fans of David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, and Augusten Burroughs will crown David Michael Slater their new king.

Publishers Weekly
Jon is a normal teenager about to start college, but in Slater’s novel he finds that he can’t move forward in life until he comes to terms with his family’s past. While his grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, his father vehemently avoids religion. Jon’s two older sisters are a handful: Nadia is a manipulator, with her fingers in everything the family does, and Olivia is toeing the line between virgin and professional soft-porn star. When an incident at Hebrew school sends the rabbi to Jon’s house, it precipitates a crisis of faith that causes their father to abandon them for Israel, where he is killed. As Jon departs for college, accompanied by two of his best friends, the lies and intrigues get deeper, and the more he learns about his family, the more he realizes he doesn’t know them. When he returns home for a wedding, tragedy strikes and forces the family to reach a reckoning with their lies. The characters manage to be both familiar and well-realized individuals, and beneath the banal suburban setting hide deep troubles…Slater has painted an intimate and memorable family portrait.

Heeb Magazine
*BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR LIST  A Holocaust-survivor grandmother who makes macabre jokes. A famous father whose anti-religious books attract sexually-desperate groupies. Sadistic sisters, an alcoholic mother, an unusually high body count for a novel this funny, and a plot that encompasses Hebrew school, porn producer thugs and a faltering orgy for literary deconstructionists without missing a beat. Even more remarkable, David Michael Slater’s Fun and Games is a male coming-of-age story that doesn’t rely on shock humor or gratuitous offense for chuckles–it’s hilarious because it’s tragedy happening to somebody else, a boy named Jonathan, who in terms of teen hormones and bewilderment could have been us…Fun and Games is the funniest book about growing up Jewish since Portnoy’s Complaint.” –Judith Basya, HEEB Literary Editor

San Diego Jewish Times

Jonathan Schwartz has a common Jewish name and, one might think, a not uncommon adolescence as he and his friends binge drink and talk about hoped-for sexual encounters with hot girls.
But all is not what it seems in this novel exploring how people of all ages grapple with their identities.

For example, Jonathan’s father, a well-known author, rejects religion in favor of rationalism. But his doubts take him to study with an Orthodox group in Israel.
Two of Jonathan’s friends wonder about their sexuality, while one of his sisters tries to become a virgin porn star. An older sister feigns disdain for her family, but separation from them is the last thing she wants.
A grandmother, who survived the Holocaust, makes obscene “jokes” about the fate of the Jews under Hitler.

Through it all, Jonathan seems to be the only one without any internal conflicts. As the world goes crazy around him, he is a rock of stability. Girls find his lack of inner turmoil attractive, and just by being his uncomplicated self, he gains a popularity he never seeks.

Humor glues this tale together. It begins with an uproarious scene when the gentle Rabbi Glickman comes to visit the Schwartz household amid the tumult of his sisters’ growing awareness of their sexuality, along with the appearance on the sidewalk outside the Schwartz home of a star-struck fan who believes Jonathan’s author father is the messiah.

Sexual and alcoholic escapades of teenagers, we are led to believe, are diversions—acts of procrastination, if you will—enabling them to put off, at least temporarily, the painful process of finding out who they really are.