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Brad Phillips' collection of short stories adeptly walks a very thin line between taboo and propriety, with rigorous self-awareness and generosity. By confusing ideas around fiction and autobiography, Phillips writes with painful sincerity about shame, addiction, trauma, and the more troubling outreaches of sexual desire, with wit that is at odds with the subject matter. " Brad Phillips' collection of short stories adeptly walks a very thin line between taboo and propriety, with rigorous self-awareness and generosity. By confusing ideas around fiction and autobiography, Phillips writes with painful sincerity about shame, addiction, trauma, and the more troubling outreaches of sexual desire, with wit that is at odds with the subject matter. "Searingly honest, brilliant and disturbing . Brad Phillips peels back the skin and bone and stares right into the human soul." —Anthony Bourdain "Brad Phillips says, at the beginning of this incredible book, that honesty eludes him. Obviously, that’s a lie. When you read Brad Phillips, you understand why nice women write love letters to men on death row." —Sarah Nicole Prickett "Last week, Giancarlo Di Trapano turned me on to Suicidal Realism, a short memoir by the Canadian painter Brad Phillips. It’s not exactly an edifying book. Phillips’s main themes are drugs and sex, in that order: “People who like to get fucked up with other people are not people I like to get fucked up with.” But Phillips has a watchful intelligence and self-knowledge, and an impatient sincerity, that sneak up on you (or at least, snuck up on me). He doesn’t ask to be liked, even by his groupies, but he does want to communicate: “I’m not interested in the ones who are drawn to the creator of the work, I’m interested in the ones who are drawn to the content.” —The Paris Review


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Brad Phillips' collection of short stories adeptly walks a very thin line between taboo and propriety, with rigorous self-awareness and generosity. By confusing ideas around fiction and autobiography, Phillips writes with painful sincerity about shame, addiction, trauma, and the more troubling outreaches of sexual desire, with wit that is at odds with the subject matter. " Brad Phillips' collection of short stories adeptly walks a very thin line between taboo and propriety, with rigorous self-awareness and generosity. By confusing ideas around fiction and autobiography, Phillips writes with painful sincerity about shame, addiction, trauma, and the more troubling outreaches of sexual desire, with wit that is at odds with the subject matter. "Searingly honest, brilliant and disturbing . Brad Phillips peels back the skin and bone and stares right into the human soul." —Anthony Bourdain "Brad Phillips says, at the beginning of this incredible book, that honesty eludes him. Obviously, that’s a lie. When you read Brad Phillips, you understand why nice women write love letters to men on death row." —Sarah Nicole Prickett "Last week, Giancarlo Di Trapano turned me on to Suicidal Realism, a short memoir by the Canadian painter Brad Phillips. It’s not exactly an edifying book. Phillips’s main themes are drugs and sex, in that order: “People who like to get fucked up with other people are not people I like to get fucked up with.” But Phillips has a watchful intelligence and self-knowledge, and an impatient sincerity, that sneak up on you (or at least, snuck up on me). He doesn’t ask to be liked, even by his groupies, but he does want to communicate: “I’m not interested in the ones who are drawn to the creator of the work, I’m interested in the ones who are drawn to the content.” —The Paris Review

30 review for Essays and Fictions

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sommer

    Ever have a book you like so much that you slow your pace towards the end so that it lasts longer? This was one of those for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Rauch

    it is jan 29 and i am formally announcing that this is one of my top five books of 2021

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Here is an excerpt from my 21 January 2019 review at 3:AM Magazine: "As a project that stands somewhere between fiction and nonfiction, one might wonder if Phillips’ debut is more satisfying as a set of stories or as essays. I found it satisfying as both. As essays, each is focused on memories and meaning-making. These are all very personal, particular experiences that speak to the larger human experience. Yet Phillips is also freewheeling enough to follow where his mind wanders. There is, for i Here is an excerpt from my 21 January 2019 review at 3:AM Magazine: "As a project that stands somewhere between fiction and nonfiction, one might wonder if Phillips’ debut is more satisfying as a set of stories or as essays. I found it satisfying as both. As essays, each is focused on memories and meaning-making. These are all very personal, particular experiences that speak to the larger human experience. Yet Phillips is also freewheeling enough to follow where his mind wanders. There is, for instance, this scene in “Boo Hoo in Three Parts” where he encounters and parties with his junky father’s decaying corpse. Believe me, that story haunts. But these are essays that clearly evoke places and times, populated with characters who are inconsistent in the way good fiction should be. Phillips is a fiction writer, writing in a style so close to what we often expect from nonfiction, that a reader cannot tell what is true or not." For the whole review, visit 3:AM can be found here: https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/coper...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Benoit Lelièvre

    Both great and grueling. This is a collection of short stories/vignettes where it's impossible to tell what actually happened to Brad Phillips and what is fiction, hence the title. It's a reflection on emotional flaws, self-destructiveness, drug addiction and how warped life can become when you lose control. Phillips stories all begin in realistic enough setting, build a relationship of trust with the reader and then wham! They swerve into weird Ballardian territory and shine a whole new light o Both great and grueling. This is a collection of short stories/vignettes where it's impossible to tell what actually happened to Brad Phillips and what is fiction, hence the title. It's a reflection on emotional flaws, self-destructiveness, drug addiction and how warped life can become when you lose control. Phillips stories all begin in realistic enough setting, build a relationship of trust with the reader and then wham! They swerve into weird Ballardian territory and shine a whole new light on what it's trying to accomplish. Thanks to Troy James Weaver for the recommendation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    cyma سيما

    Theres something about Brad's writing in this book that is at once abrasively pretentious and sincerely heartfelt, in the best way possible. The book lives up to its name, drawing attention to the performativity of writing in all modes of "truthfulness". Solid self referential read Theres something about Brad's writing in this book that is at once abrasively pretentious and sincerely heartfelt, in the best way possible. The book lives up to its name, drawing attention to the performativity of writing in all modes of "truthfulness". Solid self referential read

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rachael Wehrle

    I want to read this book forever

  7. 4 out of 5

    Phil Kramer

    Made me realize I need more love and passion in my life

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michel Ch

    the play- make believe of the chapter suicidal realism has struck a nerve and would recommend everyone to read at least this chapter. a genetic void, one you make your life's work to fill it in increasingly ingenious ways. then death makes you embody the void. clinging to intensity to give and create meaning, finding yourself among people who equally as much are escaping their emptiness. Drugs as their own entity start to consume you, you are coursing through his veins. an endless path to self e the play- make believe of the chapter suicidal realism has struck a nerve and would recommend everyone to read at least this chapter. a genetic void, one you make your life's work to fill it in increasingly ingenious ways. then death makes you embody the void. clinging to intensity to give and create meaning, finding yourself among people who equally as much are escaping their emptiness. Drugs as their own entity start to consume you, you are coursing through his veins. an endless path to self erasure led by monumental self hate, essentially making every thing you do part of one big suicide note

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gubly

    I feel kinda bad giving a bad review to an author who has a goodreads account. I mean no harm: Writing about sex and drugs is a really difficult task in 2021. That's because they shouldn't be the forefront of any relevant novel. The whole binary of drug use (addict into hard line sober) feels incredibly outdated. People now are "LA Sober", theyll quit drinking but still smoke weed and do psychedelics. Drug use is a fluctuating thing as everyone in 2021 is on small subtle amounts of every substanc I feel kinda bad giving a bad review to an author who has a goodreads account. I mean no harm: Writing about sex and drugs is a really difficult task in 2021. That's because they shouldn't be the forefront of any relevant novel. The whole binary of drug use (addict into hard line sober) feels incredibly outdated. People now are "LA Sober", theyll quit drinking but still smoke weed and do psychedelics. Drug use is a fluctuating thing as everyone in 2021 is on small subtle amounts of every substance imaginable. A million little pieces couldn't be published now. Do people really care about drugs? I don't think I do. Maybe I'm just speaking for myself. I like when drug use is incidental, an enhancer to prose, once the piece centers on drug use or sex or worse of all sex addiction (sex is kinda like drugs man? get it? and drugs, drugs is kinda like sex), I find myself wanted to read erowid forums, not this sappy shit. That's what I like about tao lin, hes not an addict in the classical sense, he's a freak, constantly measuring milligrams. That's not "cool", I like that stuff. I'm writing this frustrated because I actually think brad phillips is a good fiction writer. The first story is really strong! But most of the autobiographic stuff falls flat. I really love the story about the online relationship with the woman in scotland though, that was really beautiful. I think Brad phillips would be the last person to want pity or sympathy for his woes, but if you write about how fucked up you are / your life is you are inadvertently asking for it. The reader doesn't want to just leave you rotting on the sidewalk. And that gets tiring after a while.

  10. 4 out of 5

    michal k-c

    occasional lows offset by some serious highs that a lot of contemporary fiction struggles to // never reaches. Phillips writes like it was his unfortunate obligation. The "Unexpurgated Craigslist Ad" story alone was almost enough to call this a new instant favourite. occasional lows offset by some serious highs that a lot of contemporary fiction struggles to // never reaches. Phillips writes like it was his unfortunate obligation. The "Unexpurgated Craigslist Ad" story alone was almost enough to call this a new instant favourite.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mack

    I really fucking loved this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Levi

    Brad Phillips’ honesty (and/or his ability to mimic the inflections of honesty) is quite remarkable here. It’s great that a book so ostensibly concerned with what truth’s relationship to art is(/isn’t) is actually just a book about a man’s drug-and-sex-riddled coming-to-terms with The Truth, which, as it happens, cannot be found within libraries’ doors and between books’ pages, but which can be found beneath the bolted hood of that industrial dumpster in the alley off the corner of Hastings and Brad Phillips’ honesty (and/or his ability to mimic the inflections of honesty) is quite remarkable here. It’s great that a book so ostensibly concerned with what truth’s relationship to art is(/isn’t) is actually just a book about a man’s drug-and-sex-riddled coming-to-terms with The Truth, which, as it happens, cannot be found within libraries’ doors and between books’ pages, but which can be found beneath the bolted hood of that industrial dumpster in the alley off the corner of Hastings and Main where the addicts shoot up during the day and the hookers lurk during the night. Herein lies The Truth – don't lose it. Sidenote: the cover for this book is an obvious ode to the 1956, Garnett-translated edition of Crime and Punishment (see below); Phillips is not at all unlike Dostoevsky, but I wonder what the specific inspiration was here...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Inge

    Thought I liked it, in the end I didn't. The first story really promised something good and something I would like, but I guess this book is not for me. Thought I liked it, in the end I didn't. The first story really promised something good and something I would like, but I guess this book is not for me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle

    lots of drugs, sex, and insanity, but didn't feel like "another drug book". grim but also funny. brad might be insane but he's a good storyteller. lots of drugs, sex, and insanity, but didn't feel like "another drug book". grim but also funny. brad might be insane but he's a good storyteller.

  15. 5 out of 5

    christina

    Mixed feelings. I finished this book with no particular section/theme/story sticking with me. As this is how I personally judge the quality of a book, based on how long it affects me in my thoughts after finishing it, the conclusion is just eh. It is vapid of any real substance, and could be boiled down to a troubled, yet privileged, male artist's attempt at making some deep meaning out of his fucked up past and traumas. I do love addict books, but this one was just boring. Near the end, all the Mixed feelings. I finished this book with no particular section/theme/story sticking with me. As this is how I personally judge the quality of a book, based on how long it affects me in my thoughts after finishing it, the conclusion is just eh. It is vapid of any real substance, and could be boiled down to a troubled, yet privileged, male artist's attempt at making some deep meaning out of his fucked up past and traumas. I do love addict books, but this one was just boring. Near the end, all the stories began to get jumbled. Maybe because each chapter wasn't long enough to explore a full theme? I will admit Phillips has a way with words that makes you want to write them down and remember the exact structuring to say for yourself in the future. A stand out quote going something like "I am a leopard and you are a gazelle. Show me your underbelly, and know my teeth are made of feathers". In summary, fucked up artist writes fucked up book. Has a little too much fun with abstracting himself from the typical story format. Kinda makes you lose interest near the end. Good to read the short stories independently once in a while, but nothing to really make of it as whole.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Si Bemol

    I read the last two essays of Essays and Fictions in a Parisian metro car, returning from a long-needed therapist visit, sweltering in 30 degrees heat in a season-inappropriate outfit, complete with an obligatory covid19 mask. As the mask slowly absorbed my third-coffee breath and as the salty sweat dripped down my nose, I sensed a smooth wave of velvety nausea up my throat and a shiver down my spine. I looked up to see if I’d missed my stop, stared at the strangers each a safe meter away from m I read the last two essays of Essays and Fictions in a Parisian metro car, returning from a long-needed therapist visit, sweltering in 30 degrees heat in a season-inappropriate outfit, complete with an obligatory covid19 mask. As the mask slowly absorbed my third-coffee breath and as the salty sweat dripped down my nose, I sensed a smooth wave of velvety nausea up my throat and a shiver down my spine. I looked up to see if I’d missed my stop, stared at the strangers each a safe meter away from me, and looked back down at the book. They didn't understand what had just happened. For a split second I thought I understood everything. Never had nausea felt so cathartic, so exhilarating. Never have I been more inspired to turn what cripples me on the daily into an opportunity to heal. If anyone's wondering, yes, this book is severely triggering and yes I'm deeply triggered, in that I feel like a gun of possibilities ready to blow.

  17. 4 out of 5

    emilie :)

    3rd time around 💔 still my fave. i love when he talks about taking cultural cliches and inserting his own life into them so he can consume for his own pleasure in the context of his life whenever he wants and also i too hate post modernism ultímate pervert book for all my perverted lovers. i love a good mind fuck conceptualizing internet relationships and all their pros & cons is really difficult and something i try to do and i’m impressed by how mr phillips is able to with such clarity only book i 3rd time around 💔 still my fave. i love when he talks about taking cultural cliches and inserting his own life into them so he can consume for his own pleasure in the context of his life whenever he wants and also i too hate post modernism ultímate pervert book for all my perverted lovers. i love a good mind fuck conceptualizing internet relationships and all their pros & cons is really difficult and something i try to do and i’m impressed by how mr phillips is able to with such clarity only book i can’t help but read in 1 day

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom Buchanan

    I think I used to see this guy at YMCA? He racked em out pretty good for a guy with so much going on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    meganelizabeth

    heart breaking while being heart warming and much more beautiful than I had anticipated

  20. 5 out of 5

    Drgnkingdom

    Normally the kind of thing I would actively stay away from, the writing in this book is so great I was glued to it. Disturbing and wild and good.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aysia

    God yes

  22. 4 out of 5

    CK

    I hate you Brad Phillips.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anshul Aggarwal

    Essays and Fictions is an anthology of several pieces that serve the overwhleming theme of Love, Drugs, Sex, and Life. What's incredible about this anthology is that it consistently bends what we consider reality by inserting small tidbits (you're born in 74 in one section 71 in the other? Brad Phillips u troll) that always has you questioning whether something happened or not. But that's not the point, the essence of these stories is what it tells us about their experience. From the depths of d Essays and Fictions is an anthology of several pieces that serve the overwhleming theme of Love, Drugs, Sex, and Life. What's incredible about this anthology is that it consistently bends what we consider reality by inserting small tidbits (you're born in 74 in one section 71 in the other? Brad Phillips u troll) that always has you questioning whether something happened or not. But that's not the point, the essence of these stories is what it tells us about their experience. From the depths of depravity to the clearest mental states the creativity and intensity of communication in this book haunted my memories for a while. A scene involving the writers perceived father incapable of holding down a job, his drug usage, and a ceiling fan has ricocheted around my brain for days after. This novel is incredibly well written, raw, depraved, disturbing yet enlightening. I felt changed having read this, lead a life that may as well have been fiction but one I could only vaguely remember as if through a haze. Some of the writing comes off as shock value, or overly descriptive of "drug slang" almost like the author shoving the readers face into it screaming "DO YOU KNOW THIS? I BET YOU DONT YOU NORMIE". This draws the reader out of the story slightly, but in most occasions its an effective vehicle to the deeper purpose and emotion at the heart of the story. Brad Phillips himself may disagree that his book has any deeper meaning, but it does.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert Hudder

    I've been trying to write a couple of books. I have one draft of one done. It is about fiction of this sort. In this case, a writer writes bravely about sex and drugs. Since this is Tyrant, there is a lot of fun in the sentences. Sometimes. There is this pseudo bored tone and matter of factness in the lies and lying. Sometimes this writing bores me. That's not fair. It isn't the writing. The writing is good. It is more the tone. I think Brad Phillips and I would get along and share some great st I've been trying to write a couple of books. I have one draft of one done. It is about fiction of this sort. In this case, a writer writes bravely about sex and drugs. Since this is Tyrant, there is a lot of fun in the sentences. Sometimes. There is this pseudo bored tone and matter of factness in the lies and lying. Sometimes this writing bores me. That's not fair. It isn't the writing. The writing is good. It is more the tone. I think Brad Phillips and I would get along and share some great stories over beer. Part of me is envious but part of me is just not interested in what is being said. If you have friends who are junkies or perverts, then this is just a backdrop. You are waiting for profundity and instead you get a diarist with some embellishments to make a story of sorts. It is written well. To the plus side, the 'truest' explanation or description of D\m dynamics lies in these pages. A metaphor that is very close to one that makes sense to me. The rest of the story around it is supposed to be titillating and for people who have played in power exchange, maybe it is. Anyway, YMMV.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Like, I don’t know, it’s well-written and I liked imagining Anthony Bourdain reading this if the front cover blurb is to be believed. One of the central conceits of this book comes from its title, Essays and Fictions, and wondering obliquely whether what you are reading is in fact fictional or not. If we’re to believe Phillips when he states even a suicide note is a work of fiction, then we can probably assume only some of this was exaggerated. While DiTrapano’s death signals the end of Tyrant Bo Like, I don’t know, it’s well-written and I liked imagining Anthony Bourdain reading this if the front cover blurb is to be believed. One of the central conceits of this book comes from its title, Essays and Fictions, and wondering obliquely whether what you are reading is in fact fictional or not. If we’re to believe Phillips when he states even a suicide note is a work of fiction, then we can probably assume only some of this was exaggerated. While DiTrapano’s death signals the end of Tyrant Books and the type of literature it was producing, it’s hard for me to justify whether books that disclose fetishistic sexuality and rampant drug use are important or valuable. Parts of this book were truly enjoyable and interesting to read. But I wasn’t particularly moved by this one. Good drug lit, but drug lit can only seem to hit one note. If you like that sort of thing, this is probably one of the best.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    i had some good words to say about this but i forgot. you don't know what's true and what isn't, but it doesn't matter. everything is Brad Phillips and even at its most absurd everything feels plausible. to avoid saying "raw", it's "filthy". at moments it's rigidly repetitive and technical (positively impacting realism), at other moments it's beautifully written (not purple). extremely clever throughout. it's so matter-of-fact that you feel all at once insulted and comforted by its honesty. this i had some good words to say about this but i forgot. you don't know what's true and what isn't, but it doesn't matter. everything is Brad Phillips and even at its most absurd everything feels plausible. to avoid saying "raw", it's "filthy". at moments it's rigidly repetitive and technical (positively impacting realism), at other moments it's beautifully written (not purple). extremely clever throughout. it's so matter-of-fact that you feel all at once insulted and comforted by its honesty. this book is an old friend who is completely fed up with you so they blow up on you and give you some advice that hurts your feelings at first but makes you look back on how you've been behaving. really amazing work

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Berger

    An honest, no-frills look at addiction, depravity, and mental illness. Philips write with jaw dropping honesty. The book is aptly named: you can never, ever tell where the fictitious Philips shows up and where his real self is signaling to you. Rather than forfeit trust, you have no choice but to trust everything. That's done through incredible writing. There's nothing glamorous or wild about this the same way I might get enjoyment from a Hunter S Thompson binge. There's romance here, but not in An honest, no-frills look at addiction, depravity, and mental illness. Philips write with jaw dropping honesty. The book is aptly named: you can never, ever tell where the fictitious Philips shows up and where his real self is signaling to you. Rather than forfeit trust, you have no choice but to trust everything. That's done through incredible writing. There's nothing glamorous or wild about this the same way I might get enjoyment from a Hunter S Thompson binge. There's romance here, but not in the way that you might think. One of the best short story collections I've ever read but one of the most difficult recommendations I could probably make. Keep a distance if graphic descriptions of sex, drugs, and depression are a thorny subject.

  28. 4 out of 5

    William John Wither

    100 pages too long. The first three stories seem to lay the groundwork for the collection as a whole, but it more so just ends up repeating itself as opposed to branching off into new territories of exploration. If this was a tight 115-page novella, it would have been an excellent collection, much like something David Wojnarowicz could have written, and a further novella could have explored something new. Unfortunately, the collection gets diluted which lessens the overall impact of the stories. 100 pages too long. The first three stories seem to lay the groundwork for the collection as a whole, but it more so just ends up repeating itself as opposed to branching off into new territories of exploration. If this was a tight 115-page novella, it would have been an excellent collection, much like something David Wojnarowicz could have written, and a further novella could have explored something new. Unfortunately, the collection gets diluted which lessens the overall impact of the stories. Notable pieces: Suicidal Realism Unexpurgated Craigslist Ad Nothing Personal Boo-Hoo in Three Parts

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maria Guinnip

    The person that gifted me this book broke up with me when I was 75% through it. I have finally finished because it took me a month to pick it up again without wanting to bash my head into a wall. Or at least wanting to slightly less. I have never read something so honest while also being a complete lie. The cadence was beautiful. And most things were necessary, which I can’t say about a lot of collected works. The parts that made me uncomfortable caused a visceral reaction of hysterical laughte The person that gifted me this book broke up with me when I was 75% through it. I have finally finished because it took me a month to pick it up again without wanting to bash my head into a wall. Or at least wanting to slightly less. I have never read something so honest while also being a complete lie. The cadence was beautiful. And most things were necessary, which I can’t say about a lot of collected works. The parts that made me uncomfortable caused a visceral reaction of hysterical laughter and blushing. The parts I hated were because they reminded me too much of myself. Or maybe those I love too much. 4 stars because the tortured artist trope lost it’s irony at some points.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stevie Topper

    This book was pretty masturbatory but I don't know what else I was expecting. Brad Phillips instagram is cool and I thought maybe his writing would be interesting but it was pretty hard to get through. I usually really enjoy short stories and essays like this but the first person narrative got so out so quickly. The game of "is he telling the truth or not?" is played out and not even done in an unreliable narrative sort of way and more boring. He is written like a bad Chuck Palahniuk character b This book was pretty masturbatory but I don't know what else I was expecting. Brad Phillips instagram is cool and I thought maybe his writing would be interesting but it was pretty hard to get through. I usually really enjoy short stories and essays like this but the first person narrative got so out so quickly. The game of "is he telling the truth or not?" is played out and not even done in an unreliable narrative sort of way and more boring. He is written like a bad Chuck Palahniuk character but with somehow less edge and grit.

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