A cartoonish, fluffy piece of brain candy, "The Mall of Cthulhu" is a snappy but frustrating read, going some interesting directions but weighed downA cartoonish, fluffy piece of brain candy, "The Mall of Cthulhu" is a snappy but frustrating read, going some interesting directions but weighed down by awkward writing, a rather boring plot, and some heavy handed attempts at social commentary. An action-horror-comedy, with emphasis on the comedy, the story remains very self aware, leading to some tonal issues as it attempts to make jokes, parody Lovecraft and supernatural horror, milk character's emotion for drama, and even make some points on racism and sexism all at the same time. The author's sense of humor is evident throughout, but how funny it is relies on your own tolerance for puns (at least two or three a page) and poop jokes.
The novel follows the misadventures of the slacker geek vampire slayer Ted and his unlikely friend Laura, a lesbian FBI agent, as they stumble unto the plot of a group of white supremacists who hope to summon Cthulhu at a mall in Providence. It seems that Lovecraft's tales are actually real, as per usual, and Ted and Laura find themselves the last two people standing between unsuspecting humanity and the madness of Cthulhu, but first they need to find dates. Still not really sure what vampires have to do with any of this, but oh well- it's the type of world where all myths are true. Laura and Ted bumble through the plot making bad jokes, feeling sorry for themselves, and solving their problems through random happenstance and deus ex machina. Characters are introduced, made to seem important, only to be dropped several pages later.
For me, I felt the novel had a very superficial, rather puerile understanding of Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos, with Cthulhu kind of shoehorned into the story without any real feel for Lovecraft's style. I guess I am a bit of a purist when it comes to this, admittedly. The author's riffing on Lovecraft's racism by flipping the typical Cthulhu cult on its head and having it consist of "angry white men" is refreshing but rendered a little impotent through the author's continued juvenile, sexist humor. Still, this is a first novel and it does have its funny moments so it might be a fun, quick read for around Halloween if you have the right sense of humor....more
Little Fish, a graphic memoir by Ramsey Beyer, was a really fun and nostalgic read. Beyer pieces together and expresses the experiences she had duringLittle Fish, a graphic memoir by Ramsey Beyer, was a really fun and nostalgic read. Beyer pieces together and expresses the experiences she had during her first year of college back in 2003, moving from small town Michigan to Baltimore, and illustrating all of the hopes, fears, and excitement of living by herself for the first time. Drawing on her journal entries and lists of personal likes and dislikes she wrote in zines at the time, Beyer explores how college challenged her teenage experiences in a larger, more diverse world and really captures the amazing dynamics of this time, in which so much can happen in the space of a few weeks. In particular, I loved how Beyer wrestled with these new challenges to her previous ideas of self as she begins to become interested in politics, relationships, and where she wants to go with her artistic studies. It really brought me back to me own early college experiences and, with a sigh, made me want to go back to college....more
One of my earliest childhood memories of Halloween involved attending a Halloween party for kids held at the house of some of my parent's friends whoOne of my earliest childhood memories of Halloween involved attending a Halloween party for kids held at the house of some of my parent's friends who I don't recall (and they too have no memory of who they could be, or when this actually took place). I was taken into a basement with a lot of other children who I didn't know and a man read this really odd, creepy story about a kid lost in the woods who saw a lot of things "too terrible to tell," including a dancing skeleton, a witch who turned children into spider creatures, and a ghost who enjoyed watching TV. The story was illustrated with wonderful, cartoonish, evocatively detailed pictures. Along the edges of the events, all sorts of stuff was going on; evil eyes peered out of the darkness, weird little creatures romped and devoured each other, each page seemed to have a million things going on. It was both really creepy and also really funny, in a way that kind of complimented each other.
Though I can't remember anything else about that night, the story stuck with me and these weird images of a story night, old cabins with sacks of bones, huge werewolves, and all sorts of bizarre, grotesque creatures running around became synonymous with Halloween. A few years later, this also became the favorite holiday read of our resident wonderful elementary school librarian and its place was set. Of course, as the years went by, though I still recalled the delicious chills and spooky laughs delivered by being read the book, I could not remember what it was called and it faded into the background of my Halloween subconscious.
Recently, though, through the magic of the internet, I thought, hey, why not look that book up? So I googled spooky Halloween book with skeleton and "Grandpa's Ghost Stories," popped up right away. Awesome, a quick ILL later and I had it again, the memories came pouring back, and it still does not lack its funny, spooky, almost subversive picture book fun. Written and illustrated by James Flora, best known for designing the covers of jazz albums during the 1950s, Flora's idiosyncratic drawing seems very suited to this spooky tale. Flora packs within its 30 pages three horrible but good natured adventures, amazing lush ink-work, and tons of eerie style. Still a perfect picture book for kids and adults alike, though the only problem is that it is long out of print and seems to average around $100 used on Amazon. Fortunately, there is a very nice adaptation available on Youtube here! Definitely worth checking out if one is unable to get a copy of this nostalgic Halloween treat. ...more
A breathtaking graphic novel collection, Jeff Lemire’s opus of rural Canadian life is steeped in the unstated pains of existence and human feeling, aA breathtaking graphic novel collection, Jeff Lemire’s opus of rural Canadian life is steeped in the unstated pains of existence and human feeling, a seamless blend of the normal with the surreal. Consisting of Lemire’s trilogy of stories set in rural Essex County, Ontario, and including a few extra tales and deleted scenes, this collection follows a group of loosely connected characters through time as they live their lives in Essex County or in big city Toronto. I had read and enjoyed each of three main books before, Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories, and the Country Nurse, and enjoyed them a lot, but reading them all together in one volume completes the brilliance of their understated elegance, Lemire's crisp dialog and evocative artwork. From the ten year old superhero fan, Lester, to his elderly grandfather, a former hockey player lost to memories of the past, each explores life’s joys and tragedies. Lemire in particular illustrates an evocative picture of the Ontario farmland from the vivid summer to the bleak winter and and include such Canadian themes as hockey, maple cookies, as well as universal themes of rural life, loneliness, and the human condition. The linework is stark and simple, but drenched in emotion. I can’t help but think that Collected Essex County makes a great pairing with the music of one of my favorite bands, the Weakerthans, and as I read Lemire’s work, I could not help but think of lyrics and riffs from the Winnipeg folk punk band, as they explore similar themes of personal existence, rural and urban life. I’d recommend each for a snowy night....more
I really was not expecting something so, er, rife with the “liveliest awfulness” (to make a pointless reference to a Lovecraft story, to which this co I really was not expecting something so, er, rife with the “liveliest awfulness” (to make a pointless reference to a Lovecraft story, to which this comic is also rife). I was not aware of the censorship issues with this title, nor the “controversial” aspects of the plot- I guess this was a very good reading choice for Banned Books Week, even if I did not plan it that way! After reading “Neonomicon,” a collection of a few Lovecraftian stories by famed comic book writer Alan Moore, I can definitely see why, as I have rarely seen anything quite so vile; I guess I’m beginning to see that I’m really not the biggest fan of Alan Moore.
“Neonomicon” rips into it’s analysis of Lovecraft’s sexual and social subtext with all the subtlety of a shoggoth gulping down two dozen giant albino penguins and a few Antarctic explorers. The stories follow the investigation of a xenophobic racist asexual FBI agent (HPL?) into a series of brutal, senseless murders that are linked by some odd, minor coincidences. He encounters a weird goth-punk band, the Ulthar Cats, and a drug dealer who just might be Nyarlathotep. Later, after the agent goes completely mad and joins in the killings, another pair of FBI agents take up the investigation but stumble upon a cult of racist yuppies in Salem, MA who introduce them to some of the more horrifying denizens of the deep. There are some kernels of interesting ideas, taking Lovecraft’s work in new directions, but oftentimes boils down to ham-fisted analysis of Lovecraft’s foibles, using the old cliche that Lovecraft was really writing about “the truth.” Little is explained, which can be a plus in such stories, but here just comes off as obtuse. In many ways, for instance, the setting itself seemed really dated (the club they visited included young scenesters dressed in fashions not topical since the mid ‘90s) while the FBI looked right out of the X-Files. On the other hand, there are weird futuristic/alternate world elements that are never explained, such as references to a President Farrakhan and the huge domes over the city skylines.
Then there is the matter of the utterly over the top sexual violence and racism that, I feel, add little more than rote shock value. I can see Moore’s intent was to comment on the latent racism and misogyny seething below the surface of Lovecraft’s horror, but how is this served by ratcheting it all “up to eleven” and making something even more racist and misogynistic than anything in Lovecraft? Lovecraft was racist, right? Let’s hammer the reader over the head with so much ugly racist pablum they can’t tell if it is not better that Cthulhu does devour all of foul humanity. On occasion, such analysis go past the boundary of mere commentary on violence, racism, and rape culture to the point where there is really no difference between itself and the subjects it is trying to criticize. However, I can say that I was happy that my local library carries a copy of this graphic novel for its patrons to make up their own minds as to its artistic merits, as I would not really want to have to purchase it myself....more
Lately, I have been revisiting the old Books of Lists, feeling really nostalgic about their random trivia and fun lists of stuff people liked in the l Lately, I have been revisiting the old Books of Lists, feeling really nostalgic about their random trivia and fun lists of stuff people liked in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I was then intrigued to see that this more recent book of lists, The Book of Lists: Horror, has been compiled, and on such an interesting topic, so I quickly acquired it from the library. While it is still chock full of fun stuff about the horror genre, including lists by a variety of “movers and shakers” in the genre, it is a little difficult to compete with the sheer variety available online these days. More than half of the book is taken up by movie lists, generally along the lines of director’s “top tens,” some more interesting than others though providing some interesting titles I had never heard of before, particularly among the international films. However, this emphasis on movies is still a little bit of a disappointment to some one whose interest is more in literature. In conclusion, while not reaching the heights of past books of lists, The Book of Lists: Horror still provides more than enough to keep the interest of anyone with a passing enjoyment of horror literature, movies, music, and other topics. ...more
Creepy, weird, and whimsical, The Grave Robber’s Daughter is fun, frothy macabre mystery-horror comedy perfect to read as Halloween approaches. A[3.5]
Creepy, weird, and whimsical, The Grave Robber’s Daughter is fun, frothy macabre mystery-horror comedy perfect to read as Halloween approaches. A fairly straightforward spooky plot involving gothic tropes such as grave robbing, mysteriously empty towns, creepy old carnivals, and the occult, it is not the deepest work but it uses its material well and Richard Sala’s art has a great style.I had not read the previous appearance of the amusingly foul mouthed “girl detective” Judy Drood but it quickly became apparent that she took no guff from anything, not even undead clowns, and it was hilarious how she kicked and clubbed her way out of the horrifying situation she found herself in without batting an eye. By the way, this might not be the best thing to read late at night for anyone who finds clowns more than a little creepy as it will certainly not help this!...more
You've heard him on Wits and Obsessed, you've watched him rock the Rockstar Storytellers, you've seen him in acclaimed Fringe Fest shows like An[4.5]
You've heard him on Wits and Obsessed, you've watched him rock the Rockstar Storytellers, you've seen him in acclaimed Fringe Fest shows like An Inconvenient Squirrel and plays like Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical; now read the book! After having sampled and been very impressed with all of these wonderfully delicious offerings from the fecund imagination of Joseph Scrimshaw, I was looking forward to dig into this hotdish of nerdy humor. "Comedy of Doom" is a highly amusing and compulsively readable collection of the wit and wisdom of the “geek flavored” writer, comedian, and Minnesotan, Joseph Scrimshaw. For Scrimshaw, it is a flavor seasoned perfectly with just the right amount of absurdity, introspection, and pop culture references, proving that Minnesota might just be a state slightly geekier than most.
These stories, essays, and asides are chock full of self-depreciating personal stories, ruminations of Lovecraftian hopelessness, vampire ponies, and a whole bunch of Star Wars/Dr. Who jokes. I particularly appreciated the writing advice. While not every piece is a masterpiece, most hit a glorious level of geekitude without becoming so widely obscure that a tourist into geekdom might be lost (though, by the end of it, the reader will have become deeply steeped in “nerdlore,” as Scrimshaw terms it). In particular, I enjoyed his definitions of the term(s), some of the most inclusive, positive explorations of geek culture I have seen and one that I think I’ll stick with; “an intelligent person who likes something.” I also really liked the checklist of geek topics at the end of each essay, as, of course, it draws in my own obsession with lists and cataloging stuff. I, for one, am really looking forward to the “Tragedy of Hope!” ...more
I was surfing my favorite internet waste of time, StumbleUpon, the other day when a rather old school website popped up, circa 2005 or something. I waI was surfing my favorite internet waste of time, StumbleUpon, the other day when a rather old school website popped up, circa 2005 or something. I was going to skip right through it when the name of the article caught my eye; The Wal-Mart Story, an account of minimum wage vengeance and Black Friday mayhem. It turned out to be a nostalgic and hilarious account of late ‘90s suburban life written by a man named Joe Peacock, who apparently has since become pretty big online and even has his own book of short autobiographical stories out, including the Wal-Mart Story. I said, why not read more, so I requested the book from the library.
Whether through bad luck or just bad ideas, weird and uncomfortable escapades have a tendency to happen to Peacock throughout his life and he has a gift in be able to turn these trying times into snappy, amusing stories with just a little bit of heart; whether a little poetic license has been taken is beside the point as the tales often have a confessional vibe, showing off Peacock's flaws and triumphs as a human. Laughing at/with Peacock as he wrestles with high school, relationships, and the working world (and SNES, of course) made for a fast, mildly humorous read. ...more
Like its setting, the apocryphal North American city of Newford, this collection of short stories hugs the borders of existence and invention, realityLike its setting, the apocryphal North American city of Newford, this collection of short stories hugs the borders of existence and invention, reality and fantasy. Newford feels like a real place, with distinct neighborhoods and history, somewhere in Ontario or maybe Michigan or maybe someplace completely different but it’s location remains elusive and cannot be found on any map. It is a perfect backdrop for Charles de Lint’s stories that likewise hover around the familiar but elusive world of mythology and folklore. City and stories, both exist in between our world and that of "faerie."
I had been interested in reading more in de Lint’s groundbreaking urban fantasy set in Newford after reading a couple of short stories in the Urban Fantasy Anthology and Dreams Underfoot is a great place to begin, compiling de Lint’s earliest short stories set in the city and fleshing out its feel and the recurring cast of characters who call it home. Being written mainly in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the stories have a bit of a "new agey" feel consistent with the time period and follow a diverse cast of artists, street people, writers, musicians, and other citizens of alt-culture as they encounter a variety of strange, beautiful, and unnerving things intruding into their daily lives.
The stories themselves create a refreshing variety of feelings; from dread, to whimsy, from sadness, to joy; they highlight the versatility of the genre, treading on the borders of horror, fantasy, and even the surreal everyday of magic realism. In spite of this diversity of themes, all feel grounded in this place, though little is explained as to how many of the elements coexist, whether ghosts, the fae, or things stranger. For the most part, I enjoyed all of the stories though they do have some definite repeating themes; people being lost in the cracks of society, belief, and the self. I will be reading more from this author....more