REVIEWS FOR Nanny Knows Best
"Nanny Knows Best is the finest short story collection I have read since Benjamin Weissman's Headless and twice as smart. [...] "Burr is a satirist of the first order, the type of cat who takes aim at everything in sight, from the laziness of our leisure-obsessed culture and the ineffectual nature of government employees to the ways in which we all delude ourselves in order to survive, and he does it all with a nonchalance befitting a seasoned showman."
Read this review in full at The Modern Custodian
REVIEWS FOR Ugly Stories For Beautiful People:
"Burr's stories are hard to categorize, as they're not strictly horror or fantasy per se. However, all are imbued with a dark flood of macabre images that continue to disturb and haunt long after reading. The stories carry a core psychological reality (even the more surreal), layered with pathos and fatalism wrapped in punkish sensibilities. Each narrative in Ugly Stories feels like a complete and nuanced world inhabited by isolated souls walking a dark, lonely road.
As difficult and uncomfortable as it is to see ourselves sometimes in the darker aspects and recesses of art and literature, we are somehow compelled to stare into that abyss. Burr's collection just happens to make it all worth the pain."
Read this review in full at THE HARROW.
Garvan Giltinan, The Harrow
"How do I describe these stories? They do not fit easily into any particular genre. Bizarro Fiction? ... perhaps. These tales are urban fiction with pain, conflict, intimations of horror, fantastical social dramas, satirical humour, on occasion a little pornographic but always with excellent observations of the mundane; a turning of the ordinary into the extraordinary, sometimes disturbing and often disorientating. The poet in Burr is concerned with the rhythm of the journey his reader takes and the shifting pace and tone. [...] Life’s What You Make It, was quite a complex and intriguing story once I’d got into it. Many of James’ stories involve drug abuse, paranoia, schizophrenic outlooks on reality and this particular story also had my mind playing with ideas of a parallel universe; perhaps there is a nod here to Phillip K Dick. [...] These stories are well written, original, quirky and well worth a read. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was the best short story collection I’ve read for a long time."
Julie Bowden, RAW EDGE
Read this review in full at Raw Edge.
"This is a collection of short stories that steadfastly refuses to be shoehorned into any genre niche, though those who enjoy horror will assuredly find much of what they like within its pages. If you pinned me down and asked for a writer James Burr is similar to, my answer would be Russell Hoban, though even that may be stretching a point, with perhaps a hint of the early Vonnegut. These stories are not ugly, though they often touch on aspects of life that are, and you don't need to have model girl/boy looks to read them, just an open mind and a willingness to embrace a young writer whose work is that little bit off the wall, but refreshingly so."
Peter Tennant, Peter Tennant's Case Notes, BLACK STATIC.
"..... Burr is not merely a "new" voice, he is a fresh voice – a different and disturbing voice - and one deserving of your attention. His work is not easily categorized, which may, or may not, be a good thing. There are certainly horrific elements to Mr. Burr's fiction, but also what can be more readily described as "dark fantasy" and even, perhaps "Bizarro" fiction. .....There is also a dry, sardonic, and often satirical humor running through much of the stories in the book. The stories in this collection worked, for me, because they were not merely "different," but because they truly were disturbing to me, as a reader, and many of the stories stayed with me long after I'd finished reading it. Be forewarned - these stories ....... require, perhaps, a bit more effort on the part of a reader; but those looking for something a bit different and challenging, will be handsomely rewarded. This book is highly recommended.
Read this review in full at Horrorworld
Norm Rubenstein, HORRORWORLD
"Ugly Stories for Beautiful People feels like a book in its own little world. I don't mean to suggest that its stories never joined the party – a glance at the list of previous publication credits will reveal that they did – but there is a certain sense that this book stands to one side, that it's doing its own thing, as it were. The collection begins and ends with a story called BobandJane and its postscript, about a couple who are so very much in love (Burr's prose conveys this superbly) that, yes, they don't perceive reality as it is – and, at the very end, their bubble may just be starting to burst. Not just a neat story, it serves as a summation of the whole book, a book which covers a range of human emotion, precarious relationships and equally precarious realities (and there may not be much difference between the two); and whose intriguing constituent parts form a complete, intriguing entity."
Read this review in full at WHISPERS OF WICKEDNESS.
David Hebblethwaite, WHISPERS OF WICKEDNESS
"This reviewer has read countless collections of fiction, in many genres, many eras. That being said, Ugly Stories has got to be one of the oddest. That could be a negative, yet in this case, Burr's strong imagination and plaintive, yet very effective prose manages to pull it off. Odd, unique, very cool, and extremely readable, this collection is recommended for anyone looking for something different - or for one of us who isn't one of the beautiful people!"
Read this review in full at Hellnotes.
David Simms, HELLNOTES
"It's always a pleasure to find an anthology that's well written and unique and that strikes a chord long after turning the final page. Ugly Stories For Beautiful People is just such a collection.
These loosely linked stories begin with Bob and Jane, A Fable in Two Distinct Parts, about a couple whose adoration for each other is all-consuming. Foetal Attraction is deftly narrated by a pregnancy kit that wants nothing more than to deliver the happy news of impending motherhood to its rather unsavory owner. In The Dada Relationship Police, a man discovers that a shadowy group seems to know every aspect of his life and his relationships. In The Byronic Man, a man must decide how far he'll go to make himself attractive to the opposite sex. Burr takes a satirical look at what could happen when humans' proclivity for pretentiousness suddenly runs amok in It. And in the "postscript" story, Bob and Jane make a final disconcerting discovery…
From the darkly twisted, to humorous to stories filled with illuminating social commentary, Burr's innovative speculative fiction is an insightful, and sometimes disturbing exploration of the human psyche. Read Ugly Stories For Beautiful People in its entirety for its full effect -- James Burr's work exemplifies what a well crafted short story is all about."
Rating -- 3 out of 3 books
Martina Bexte, BOOKLOONS
"Burr brings to life an almost zoological variety of characters, a sweeping menagerie of insipid drug dens, high art soirees, faltering romances, madness, and the ever-present reggae. Burr convincingly weaves together the various societal strata of London and Barcelona from beggar to bureaucrat, acid-head to activist, and brings them to life to co-exist side by side in the same heartbroken, disillusioned universe.
Ultimately, Burr's view alternates between the sentimental bitterness of failed romance and a sweeping image of modern life in all its sickness and beauty. Burr's writing, like his characters and his world, fluctuates from the simple to the complex, from the vulgar to the sublime. It is as if Burr cannot decide whether he wants to indict society or glamorize it.
And because that's the point, Ugly Stories for Beautiful People is worth a read."
Scott Gabriel, SUSURRUS
"And when the pages finish sucking you in so you can raise a stained face, you'll be grateful such beautiful stories exist for such ugly people, the poor saps."
Kendra Sims, SUSURRUS.
"These stories offer a wry sideways look at modern life and culture, twisting and turning the quirks of everyday life into something recognisable and yet entirely odd - like a caricature, perhaps. There are common themes: is what we call reality really real? How can our own minds fool us? Can simple statements and thoughts help use see the true reality from within our mindless everyday haze? There is also an obsession with relationships - and specifically what happens when they come to an end.....Ugly Stories for Beautiful People is a good collection of entertaining speculative fiction, which I would recommend without reservation. "
Karonda Barker, DARK FIRE
Read this review in full, HERE
"This is the first time I've read anything by James Burr, and if these short stories are any indication of what he has up his sleeve, I'm betting many more people will be hearing about him soon. FOETAL ATTRACTION is just a fantastic piece of storytelling, told from the point of view of a (I don't want to spoil this!) . . . its heartbreaking and features very realistic characters. The BEST piece here is titled IT, a gem of a bizarro outing that features an amazing piece of social commentary you won't soon forget. I DEFINITELY have my eye out for more from this guy . . . where's he been hiding all these years?
Nick Cato, HORROR FICTION REVIEW
"The most interesting thing about James Burr's stories, in my mind, is the use he makes of urban fantasy. In Burr's stories, the mundane creates the fantastical. When a real-life issue is loaded enough, when the mundane pressure grows and grows, then reality will twist and expand, and the impossible will occur. What Burr really pulls off well, then, is resonance. His stories are powerful because they are about pain, conflict, and emotions, and he tries to pick the ones that will be so powerful the reader will believe they are strong enough to warp reality. The impossible happens because the characters desperately want it to—and so Burr grants their wish. The bleak, depressing nature of these stories shows us full well how much confidence Burr places in humanity's desperate desires."
Ziv Wities, THE FIX
"Burr's short stories defy categorization. The stories vary in length and range in type from a tale told from the point of view of a pregnancy stick to the story of two people who are so in love with each other that they literally become one. The format of the book is also unusual. It has no table of contents, and the stories just sort of flow into each other. If there is a theme to the collection, it is about how the characters' perceptions prevent them from seeing the reality around them. Burr is a talented storyteller with an impressive imagination. His stories will be appreciated by readers of horror, bizarro fiction, and those who just like good writing. Recommended."
Dale Kowalewski, MONSTER LIBRARIAN
"The majority of the book is brilliantly written, with the basis for many of the stories involving relationships between wives/husbands, boyfriends/girlfriends, people/drugs, that range from the perverse (BOBANDJANE) to the bittersweet (Ménage Á Beaucoup). My personal favourite is probably ‘Life Is What You Make It’, involving as it does a woman dealing with grief in such a bizarre way that she’s fundamentally altered the structure of reality. [...] It might not be too bold to say the world needs more writers with fresh and weird ideas, and James Burr falls firmly into that camp."
Rev Austin, QUIET, PLEASE!
"This collection could just as easily have been called Ugly Stories For Unsettling Contented People, for to enter the world of James Burr is to step into a region where reality is fluid and to be happy, or at least settled, is to be in incomplete possession of the facts. Once you enter, reality fractures in surprising and innocuous places. It was the shortest tales which for me had the greatest impact -- the delusions and, ultimately, kindness revealed in Mutton Pie; the pace and linguistic inventiveness of The Byronic Man; and best of all from this collection, It, which is a gem of a story, at once hilarious and horrific, a story which leaves you envying the author its premise while admiring the perfect balance with which that premise is developed. The best test of such a collection is the success with which the author inveigles you into their world. In this case, I finished the book in the food court of a shopping mall, put it down, looked around me, and waited for the cracks to show. "
Mithran Somasundrum, THE SHORT REVIEW
REVIEWS FOR INDIVIDUAL STORIES:
On "It" -
"I write to say how very much I enjoyed “It” - it pleased me greatly.” -- Tom Paulin on “It”, (Personal Correspondence ‘99).
"'It' by James Burr. This should be mandatory reading for all contributors. If it makes you feel uncomfortable then hopefully you will have learned something today." - Stormy Petrel, ABCTales.com
On "Blot" -
“In this issue [of Raw Nerve #7] the quality of the fiction rises and falls in a classic curve, peaking somewhere around “Blot” by James Burr..... Much better - in terms of originality [than the issue’s previous story] - is the aforementioned “Blot”. The use of diagrams within the main body of text was I thought very effective.” -- J. Gould, ZENE: The Guide to the Independent Press # 18.
“What a good and zestful writer you are...... Your ideas are brilliant, original and fun.....” -- Fay Weldon on “Blot”, (Personal Correspondence ‘96).
On "Life's What You Make It": -
"I was impressed by the quality of the stories and their writing. "Life's What You Make It" by Featured Author, James Burr, is an example of superlative speculative fiction." - Geoff White, Futurenoir
On "Mutton Pie": -
“Fortunately, James Burr’s “Mutton Pie” gives a much needed kick [to Strix #7] proving that a short story is a product of craft and skill, not a clapped out vehicle for a recycled idea; this witty account of a sexy pub meeting has a brain behind it.” -- S. Dennett, ZENE: The Guide to the Independent Press #14.
On "The Byronic Man": -
“....it may interest you to know that of all the comments I’ve received via readers’ letters, two stories have been particularly well received. One was “The Furious Walnuts” by Rhys Hughes (Issue #2), while the other was “The Byronic Man” in Issue #4)” -- S.E. Bennion, Editor, Planet Prozak.