June 12, 2013

Review: How to Shake the Other Man

How to Shake the Other Man By Derek Palacio
Available now from Nouvella
Review copy

I'm not just into novels.  I love short stories, for their complex conciseness.  And I love novellas because they best ones are not too long, not too short.  They just tell their story and leave it, no bloating.  And the internet is great for novellas - an ebook novella is perfect for a lunch break.  I've been curious about Nouvella Books for awhile, and when they offered review copies of HOW TO SHAKE THE OTHER MAN, I jumped at the offer.  (I enjoyed the excerpt in Electric Literature's Recommended Reading.)

And this is a great time for ya'll to give them a try too.  HOW TO SHAKE THE OTHER MAN is .99 in ecopy from Amazon and 25% off direct from the publisher, which includes the paperback.  Look, $11 is a touch high for 63 pages.  But Nouvella does make the package as sexy as possible.  The cover has that velvety matte finish I love, and it's wee size is just perfect for tossing in a purse.  Novellas may be perfect for ereading, but print will never die when the package can be this touchable.

Marcel is a coffee vending entrepreneur who came to New York from Cuba to live openly and happily as a gay man.  His brother, Oscar, followed.  When Marcel is murdered, Oscar is stuck with Javier, Marcel's lover.  Oscar was teaching him to fight, in order to give him a reason to stick around, and now his debut is about to come.  But neither Oscar nor Javier is sure to go on with their partnership.

I loved how deeply drawn the characters and their relationships were.  They're often ambiguous, each character unable to know any of the others' thoughts and feelings.  I felt the plot wasn't as strong.  Now, this is not a plot-driven story at all.  It's about character and culture and connection, but there's still a plot.  It's pretty thin, although I like that it moves back and forth in time to juxtapose the past and present.  And, okay, I was a little let down by the predictable ending.  (Is this how every boxing book must end?)

Derek Palacio's writing is wonderful - he's got a gripping, passionate style.  He brings Marcel's boisterous, consuming presence to life in a way that illuminates his absence from the present story, how things drift apart without his magnetism.  I'm interested in seeing what he'll write next.  I'm not sure HOW TO SHAKE THE OTHER MAN was a home run, but it was more interesting than watching baseball.


  1. Another press for shorter books, always good to hear. There does seem this trend for such presses to produce expensive books but as the accompanying trend tends to be that every book is stellar and the item itself is lovely it does balance out in the end.

    1. That's very true. Most of Nouvella's authors have signed with bigger houses and their works have been very well received by critics.

  2. I do like short stories; I should read more. I don't know how many novellas I've actually read before, either. I'm glad you enjoyed this for the most part. Sounds like an intriguing character story.

    1. You've probably read at least a few for school. Herman Melville's got some novellas. (Not that I recommend them. I am not a Melville fan.)


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