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Tales of Woe: Blog Archive

early praise for

Tales of Woe:

John Reed’s Tales of Woe presents a sprawling landscape of contemporary apocalyptic vistas painted in the sweeping vignette brushstrokes of a master artist’s hand. Reed, whose previous All the World’s a Grave alerted the world to a timbre of postmodern genius never before seen in American letters, cements his historical legacy with Tales of Woe.

—Rami Shamir, Evergreen Review

Tales of Woe is a macabre compilation of 25 true stories of misfortune, pain and suffering presented in their naked, stark reality without resolution or justice. ...  Tales of Woe violently strips the silver lining off of tragedy and presents it as it is most often experienced—without hope.  —Sean Patrick Kelly, New York Press

Novelist John Reed set out to write a book about abject misery and he has succeeded. This month MTV Press is publishing Tales of Woe, a title so appropriate to the unrelenting suffering the book details that there’s little to tell you beyond that. ...  Powerful, disturbing and unforgettably painful.  —Calvin Reid, Publisher’s Weekly

An imaginative, eloquent and even funny way of expressing outrage about human behavior  ... truly an accomplishment.  —David Winner, The American

Fictionaut loves it LOVES IT ... True stories without any redeeming character whatsoever—just bleak, bleak, unremitting, and undeserved. —Fictionaut 

Tales of Woe is epic.  —Nicolle Elizabeth, The Faster Times

Stories are so dark that they cast no light. Don’t expect happy endings here. 

—Lauren Betesh, West Side Spirit

Tales of Woe, a book that will undoubtedly come define our generational zeitgeist, in it's overturning of the thrall of commercialist catharsis. ...  after Friends and The X-Files, Boston Legal, House and The Corrections, reading Tales of Woe feels like a beginning, like the fertile soil of a generational nightmare has at last been properly tilled and readied for something to grow.  —Shathley Q, Popmatters

These stories are especially horrifying since all of them are true. No happy endings, no redemption, just bad things happening to good people for no reason. Reed, like the ancient Greeks, brings catharsis to the reader through observation of others' suffering so that we may feel better about our own lives (and relatively trivial burdens).  —David Gutowski, Largeheartedboy

So twisted and perverse, and so TRUE that even the editor of a horror blog walks away feeling a little sickened. ... Tales of Woe is nearly two hundred pages of strange and twisted tragedy without even the slightest inclination to serve up a single happy ending. It’s a sickening look at the horrors of real life from around the globe, and while I’m hesitant to recommend it, I have a feeling I pretty much just have.  —Marc Patterson, Brutal as Hell

Reed’s dispassionate reportage combines with illustrations that nearly leap off the page, and grabs the reader by the throat, screaming “Unfair? Unfair doesn’t begin to define life!” ... Tales of Woe is not a book to be ignored. It is startling, scary, and relevant. It chills because the reader knows this is the world in which we live.  —Miss Bob Etier, Blog Critics

A dark and deeply disturbing examination of injustice and misery the whole world over. That's a pretty fair assessment of the book Tales of Woe by John Reed. ...  The titular tales are clearly and deftly expressed, and its quite a handsome little package: a slightly-larger-than-paperback hardcover with white and red text printed on slick black paperstock, punctuated by occasional illustrations provided by some deeply-disturbed outsider minds. ... I have a feeling that, much like my VHS copy of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Tales of Woe will have a long and lonely shelf life, leering at me and hungrily licking its lips, just daring me to partake in it again. And, just like with Henry, I will occasionally succumb, only to feel guilty and dirty in its wake.   —Jonny Metro, Midnite Media

A universe of sin, suffering, pain, dread, perversion, and depravity. ... If you like romance novels and happy endings, this might not be your cup of tea. If you are into horror, anthologies and want to read something different than the norm, hit your local Barnes & Noble or visit Amazon online.  —Geofree Capodanno, Enter the Caveman

There’s a new book of the illustrated macabre hitting shelves today that contains some of the most depressing, unbelievable, gore-soaked, abusive, disturbing and generally unacceptable stories you’ll ever hear … and they’re all TRUE!. ...  If you’re fascinated by or a fan of the Faces of Death movies, this book is a no-brainer: It’s ugly, disturbing and unapologetic. Definite stocking-stuffer material for the nihilist on your list.  —Andy Swist,

In Tales of Woe, John Reed assumes the role of a modern day Crypt Creeper and shares tales of shocking horror and absurd tragedy. The stories are nearly as strange as anything E.C. Comics ever published. ... Except, unlike the Crypt Creeper, the stories John Reed tells are all true.  —John Struan, Superpunch

The stories are dark, disturbing, disgusting, and horrid...yet I couldn't stop reading! From the first story of a baboon mistaking an infant for a meal, to the story of what albino humans are used for in Tanzania, to the tale of a man having too close of a relationship with animals. ..this book is a great read (if you can handle it).  —Rhonny Reaper, Dollar Bin Horror

Tales of Woe is a depressing and harrowing success. ... I must warn you, however.  Tread that road carefully.  —The Mike, From Midnight, With Love

praise for

A Still Small Voice, Snowball’s Chance, Duh Whole, All The World’s A Grave:

John Reed excels in the realm of the strange.  —San Francisco Examiner

The literary trick of the year!  —New York Post

Likely to offend almost everyone. … Witless parody.

—David Futrelle, Money Magazine

A dizzying feat of writing and scholarship, and uncannily contemporary in its brew of constant trouble.  —Lynne Tillman

Free John Reed!  Free the piggies!  —New York Press

A pig returns to the farm, thumbing his snout at Orwell ... the world had a new evil to deal with, and it was not communism.  —Dinitia Smith, New York Times

We haven’t experienced this much haughtiness since college.  —Timeout New York

A wicked illusionist.  —Graham Reed, Los Angeles Journal

It will take a great deal more than a fortnight's work by a smart-aleck anti-corporatist to undermine the most brilliant satire of the 20th century.

—London Telegraph

Orwell’s sacred pigs get a proper roast. 

—Paul Duchene, Portland Tribune

Philip K. Dick, Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs and T.S. Eliot come crashing together!  —Jason Pettus, CCLaP

I can’t quite believe “All The World’s A Grave”: such an original idea.  —Ian McKellen

Reed has managed to take a dated masterpiece ... and revive it for the odd, casino-like social and political world we're mired in today; in the process he's created his own masterpiece.  —John Grooms, Creative Loafing, Charlotte

I had just decided to name my new play “A Year Without Shakespeare,” to express my weariness with the recurring unimaginative return again and again to the Bard. Then I came upon John Reed’s NEW/old play, and I feel fired up!  —Richard Foreman

Reed has brought music's remix culture to literature with stunning results.  —largeheartedboy

Charming but obnoxious.  —Lisa Nuch Venbrux, Popmatters

Reed's tale, crafted amid ground zero's dust, is chilling in its clarity and inspired in its skewering of Orwell's stilted style. Whether you liked or loathed the original, there's no denying Reed has captured the state of the farm today.

—Jay Macdonald, Fort Myers News-Press

This book has something to upset almost everyone who reads it, just like a good book should.

—Dennis Loy Johnson

This send-up of the bard is both new yet familiar; by using a literary form of montage, Reed plays with our understanding of some of the best known characters from Shakespeare's oeuvre and creates a work that is eerie in its timeliness.  —Finn Harvor, Rain Taxi

Written in lucid, wise, funny, fable-prose, this book brings to mind Spiegelman’s Maus—the use of a playful metaphor to reveal truths we might otherwise refuse to see.  —Jonathan Ames

As brainy as it is base, destructive as it is innovative.  —Los Angeles Review

A swift and satisfying read, viciously funny.  —William Georgiades, New York Post

In other words: What did the victim do to deserve it?  —Cathy Young, Boston Globe

John Reed has woven a historical novel about hope and love that is touchingly told; A Still Small Voice verifies that if one has true faith in what one desires, anything is possible.  —Suzan Sherman, Bomb Magazine

A Still Small Voice has discernible power. … Truly magnificent.  —Randall W. Allred, Civil War Book Review

Satire at its most inventive and buoyant. ... It would have made Boris Vian grin and Lewis Carroll blush.  —Donald Breckenridge, Brooklyn Rail

An inspired bit of bricolage ...  Reed fashions from this familiar material a story containing enough surprises to delight even those well versed in the Bard.  —Jack Helbig, Booklist

Reed shows real brilliance.  —Neil Chethik, Lexington Herald-Leader

A volatile new novel.  —Arthur Salm, San Diego Union Tribune

John Reed’s A Still Small Voice is a beautiful and poignant novel.  It lives in the details, which are so vividly and authentically right that they become part of our own personal experience ... our own memory.  Reed has distilled and concentrated the Civil War into the joys, sorrows, and faith of a girl coming of age during a dark and dangerous time.

—Jack Dann

The New York author has ignited a fierce literary debate; is it ever right to write a book modeled on a classic, that twists the original message into unrecognizable form?  —David Robinson, Jacqui Goddard, Scotsman

Snowball’s Chance parodies Orwell’s Animal Farm, dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  —Edward Nawotka, Publisher’s Weekly

First-time novelist Reed leads us poetically through ... two decades, setting vivid details of the Civil War against the passions of a girl saying goodbye.  —Glamour

Who would have thought that a 21st century Yankee could write such a lovely book about the 19th century South?  John Reed’s prose style is a heady mix of restraint and exuberance.  In A Still Small Voice, Reed combines the attentiveness of a naturalist, the factual accuracy of an historian, and the compassion of, well, a really good novelist.

—Matthew Sharpe

With gorgeous writing and a powerful sense of history, John Reed makes a stunning debut.  You'll fall into this remarkable novel from the first sentence.  Reed is a heartthrob of a writer, and A Still Small Voice shines with his passion.

—Molly Peacock

John Reed ... is getting what he never knew he wanted, hate from right wing groups!

—Daniel Robert Epstein, SuicideGirls

Reed skewers our early 21st century (edgy, tragic, absurd) with a marvelously precise wit.

—Faren Miller, Locus Magazine

This is the Frankenstein's monster of Shakespearean tragedy. It raises the Artistotelian emotions of pity and fear to a new level as the audience agonizes over the uncertainty of which catharsis John Reed's play is heading toward.

—William S. Niederkorn

[Reed] not only shanghais Orwell’s story, but amps up and mocks the writer’s famously flat, didactic style–that fairytailish simplicity that has ensured Animal Farm a place in high school English classes for the last 50 years.

—John Strausbaugh, New York Press

Fearless, provocative, and both reverent and irreverent at the same time.

—Robert Lopez, WordRiot