We’ve Moved

Chamber Four is closing its doors at the end of the year. In the meantime, we still have new posts and reviews rolling out. You can find all our content, old and new at this address:



It’s Almost Time To Say Goodbye

Dear C4 friends and supporters,

After months of deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to shutter Chamber Four at the end of 2014. We would like to thank each and every one of you for your support for and contributions to the many evolutions of our endeavor over these past five years. We are sad to say goodbye to the site, but life has pulled the staff in too many directions and we can’t bear any longer to allow our pet project to limp along like it has been of late.

Most of the content we’ve published will still be accessible, as we’ll be archiving ChamberFour.com on a free WordPress site in the coming months– and the Page Count podcast will continue for the foreseeable future–but unfortunately the magazine site won’t be able to come with us. Hopefully, the digital press page—where we host copies of all the lit mag issues and the anthology—will still exist on the archived WordPress site. But we can’t guarantee that just yet.

Ebook copies of all four issues and the anthology will still be available at Smashwords at this link, but we encourage you to download the handmade PDF that you can find through our digital press page. That page will be up at least through the end of September, but if you miss it, feel free to email Sean or Nico at clark.sean.p AT gmail.com or nicovreeland AT gmail.com. Thanks again and keep being awesome. .

The C4 team

Albums as Texts: the Misfits, Static Age; Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Punk is Undead)

“Come sweet death, one last caress”—the Misfits
Althusser, Louis; On Ideology
the Misfits, Static Age
Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotten Vegetables
Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

 [Are you thinking enough to be reading this webpage?  Start:

This is a column about album lyrics as text, not a music history column.  We will analyze album lyrics for meaning, examining with close readings album titles, song titles and close reading of lyrics.  How do social, economic and political moments effect Youth Culture, and how are these interpreted through Youth Culture?  We are looking, reading and listening for the microcosm of the album, and the broader macrocosm of Youth Culture in the 1970’s, 80’s and more recent decades.]

The misfitsWhat kind of television was Glen Danzig of the Misfits watching in ‘70s New York?  Where can I get some?

The Misfits’definition of Ideology is simple: television.  “We are a static age…a T.V. Casualty.”  This televised Ideology could be broadened to include: schooling systems, religious systems, medical/psychiatric systems, family systems and governmental systems.

Louis Althusser begins his writing on Ideology like this, “As Marx say, every child knows that a social formation which did not reproduce the conditions of production at the same time…”  Break it down, now, Althusser:

In Althusser’s fully developed document, On Ideology, he simplifies, “Ideology, then, is for Marx an imaginary assemblage…the pale, empty and inverted reflection of real history.”  Althusser implies that Marx underemphasizes the importance of Ideology in framing, indeed creating, real history.  But what is real history?  He explains, “The Communist Manifesto defines history as the history of class struggles…class societies.”  In a Marxist and post-Marxist understanding, it is the exchange of goods, money and shifting of people across classes that marks real history.
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REVIEW: I Kill Giants

[This touching, character-driven graphic novel is a C4 Great Read.]

Writer: Joe Kellyi kill giants

Artist: JM Ken Niimura

2014, Image

Filed Under: Graphic Novel, Literary, Fantasy

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 7
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 9
Art...... 8

I think it might be more difficult for graphic novels to walk the line between the poignant and the maudlin than other media. Or maybe it’s just not something most of us have come to expect from “comics,” even those of us reared on Calvin & Hobbes. They tend to either be primarily fun, or stylish, or serious, or whatever else. My favorite stories are those, like Calvin & Hobbes, that blur the lines between imagination and reality, and if they can push the emotional envelope at the same time–without going too far toward the aforementioned maudlin or shlocky–then I’m enamored.

I Kill Giants is about a young girl named Barbara whose imagination and role playing takes over her waking life. Obsessed with protecting her home from fearsome giants and titans, she sets traps on the nearby beach and carries around in a heart-shaped handbag a tiny rock hammer which she believes capable of transmogrifying into a mighty war hammer (which she has christened Coveleski, after an obscure Phillies pitcher nicknamed “The Giant Killer”).

Barbara wears rabbit ears to school, and prides herself on being a ruthless Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master. She has friends but none particularly close, and so when a friendship buds with the her new neighbor (who is, by default, not a social outcast, and by experience not much of a geek like Barbara), Barbara struggles to know exactly how to approach the relationship. Bullies hound Barbara, and even when her new friend comes to her aid, or the school psychologist offers her authentic compassion, Barbara struggles to concede any real trust in another person.

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REVIEW: Exiles and Expatriates

Author: Eleanor Swansonexiles

2014, Hollywood Books International

Filed Under: Fiction, Short Stories

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 9
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 9

Alienation and adjustment are central themes in the dozen stories that make up Eleanor Swanson’s fine new collection, Exiles and Expatriates, just as its title implies.  Often, characters are coping with the death of a son, a sister, a fiancé, or even just a person they knew casually at work.  How the characters come to terms with their loss is the source of the tension in these stories; often there does not seem to be a resolution, just further exile and continued sorrow.

In “Solitary,” the protagonist Beth has come home to her parents in Florida from where she lives in Colorado, to tell her family that her marriage has fallen apart.  Ever since her brother Jess’s death in a traffic accident she has not been the same and this has taken a toll on her marriage – her husband has gone off with another woman.  When Beth goes to visit Noah, Jess’s best friend, who is likewise shattered by his death, she breaks down crying, but while this may be cathartic, it doesn’t seem to solve anything.  Indeed, when her husband tried to make her forget the tragedy, Beth thought: “But he’d never understood that she wanted to remember everything.”

Similarly, Katrina, the girlfriend of Pavel, the protagonist of “The Singing Mistress at the Window,” which takes place in Prague, has just broken up with him – probably because he is such a depressive.  Libby, an American who is in Prague researching a book on Kafka, sees the same haunted look as Kafka’s in Pavel’s face.  As it turns out, Pavel’s sister Martina threw herself in front of a train, and his mother, the singing mistress in the title, went mad with grief.
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REVIEW: Snowpiercer (Vols. 1 and 2)

Snowpiercer vol.1Writers: Jacques Lob (vol.1) & Benjamin Legrand (vol. 2)

Artist: Jean-Marc Rochette

2014, Titan Comics (originally published in 1984 by Casterman, France)

Filed Under: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 6
Entertainment..... 6
Depth..... 7
Art...... 6/9

Snowpiercer, a series of graphic novels by Jean-Marc Rochette, Jacques Lob, and Benjamin Legrand, has only just been released in English thirty years later, but its critique of late capitalism remains potent. In fact, the optimism of the premise – that humanity would find some way to survive a climate disaster, even in a compromised way – seems quaint today. Rochette, Lob, and Legrand seem to have intended Snowpiercer as a warning, but reading it now it feels more like a lament.
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Albums as Texts: Garbage Gives the Finger (‘90s rock)

“Sex is not the enemy” — Shirley McClain


Garbage, Garbage
Garbage, Version 2.0
Garbage, Beautiful Garbage
Garbage, Bleed Like Me
Garbage, Not Your Kind of People

[This column is about lyrics as text, not a history of music column.  We are listening through close readings for the microcosm of the album and the macrocosm of Youth Culture.]

The band Garbage is the rare group that unerringly creates albums with textual unity.  Headed by Shirley Manson, but backed by drummer and groundbreaking producer Butch Vig— responsible for the enormous sound of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters— Garbage not only creates unified albums every time, but has a meta-arc to their career when considering all the albums together.

The eponymous first album creates the structure and vision— explicated below; Version 2.0 continues this, with even broader pop-rock results, and Beautiful Garbage— though decidedly less successful— follows the same formula.  However, when their record label Almo Sounds was overtaken by Universal Music Group, Garbage was assigned to the Geffen label.  David Geffen is infamous as one of the biggest jerks in the music industry, suing Neil Young in the mid-eighties for not sounding enough like himself.

So Mansion and Vig gave him the finger.
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The Week’s Best Book Reviews: 6/3/14

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]

Holy crap it’s been a while.  Any-who, now that I’m free to read again, let’s get sharing.


bugjunkNature’s Nether Regions, by Menno Schilthuizen. Reviewed by Tess Taylor (Barnes and Noble Review).

Yup, it’s a book all about the diverse rainbow of animal junks in the world. Read the review.


Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan. Reviewed by Sarah Harrison Smith (New York Times).

The best kids’ books, to my mind, are the ones people might think are too heavy for children. Seems like a solid indicator that the book is asking children to consider something of more consequence than sharing on the playground. So I love lines like this in a review:

Though boys in the real world play roughly, and like to imagine adventures in which they are the lone survivors of a catastrophe, the dystopian setting of “Rules of Summer” may disturb readers more than they — or their parents — would like.

Tan’s The Arrival is a beautiful picture book that came out years ago and manages to touch on some heavy themes without a single word of text. Also this one’s got demonic rabbit monsters with fuchsia eyes hunting down the world’s children or something. Awesome.


Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert, by John Drury. Reviewed by Michael Dirda (Washington Post).

There’s actually nothing special about this review of a book that’s basically lit-crit of a relatively obscure poet who died 5 centuries ago. I just really like that Dirda has reached the point where he basically reviews whatever he feels like for WaPo. Good on him. 


Quickly: This Amazon – Hachette thing is getting pretty ugly. Maybe I’d care more if it were somebody else and not Hachette, I have a hard time drumming up any sympathy for the James Patterson factory. British schools aren’t teaching books by American authors anymore, instead are doubling down on the whole dead white (British) man thing, which will surely do wonders for their students’ world views.

REVIEW: Books of the Dead

Author: Alan CatlinCvr_BooksDead

2014, Pure Heart Press/Main Street Rag

Filed Under: Poetry, Memoir

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 8
Entertainment..... 7
Depth..... 9

Alan Catlin’s poignant, grim memoir, Books of the Dead, is a two-part reflection on the death of his mother in 1985 (The New York City Book of the Dead) and his father and stepmother in 2004 (The Central Florida Book of the Dead).  The total effect is sobering. Both narratives, with verse, involve heartache and reflection on the ultimate destiny that faces us all.

Anybody familiar with the small press surely has read Alan Catlin’s work.  He’s all over the place with poems, stories, essays, reviews, chapbooks, etc.  Catlin’s memoir here feels like it could have been plucked straight out of The Chiron Review, and indeed, parts of this book were published in different forms elsewhere in the samizdat press.  Which may be a clue as to what to expect.
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REVIEW: The Red Knight

red-knightAuthor: Miles Cameron

2012, Gollancz

Filed under: Fantasy

Find it at Goodreads

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 7
Entertainment..... 7
Depth..... 7

[This review contains mild spoilers regarding the premise of the novel.]

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a review, mainly because I’ve been run ragged working on my new business, Ruskin Woodshop. I have been reading, though, or at least listening to audiobooks while I work. I mentioned my bang-for-the-buck audiobook buying system in my review of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, which, like The Red Knight, is an epic fantasy novel that I bought primarily because it was long and cheap.

The Way of Kings was an amazing book, and led me to believe that I’d been missing something by not reading fantasy since my dabblings with The Sword of Shannara in seventh grade. As it turns out, I wasn’t. I’ve listened to a handful of other, highly touted fantasy novels in the months between The Way of Kings and now, but none of them have delivered the same punch.
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