I happen to be a great fan of the modern novel. And not just those of Wolfe, Irving, Hoffman, Tyler, and Oates. I especially love those of “my generatI happen to be a great fan of the modern novel. And not just those of Wolfe, Irving, Hoffman, Tyler, and Oates. I especially love those of “my generation”: McInerary, Easton Ellis, Janowitz, Chabon, and yes, Douglas Copeland (he of Generation X fame).
Some wild plots border on the ridiculous; this book proudly crosses that border and holes itself up in a seedy motel in the capital city of Ridiculous.
In All Families are Psychotic, a grossly dysfunctional familial unit travels to central Florida to watch their handicapped daughter launch her career as an astronaut. While they’re here, the entire clan gets caught up in a ring of international theft, smuggling, adultery, murder, and baby-selling. All in a three-day trip.
Did I mention that the plot was far-fetched?
Also, there’s AIDS involved.
I scoffed in disbelief a LOT while reading it!
Copeland succeeds more than he should be able to, given how preposterous the plot is and how incorrect some of his details of central Florida are. (This is land better-traveled by Carl Hiassen and Elmore Leonard.) But Copeland’s modern reference points have the ability to connect the reader to the story, and his comedy is wry and sharp. Also, the author’s novel may be full of stupid contrivances, but it is also rich with well-drawn characters.
Pick it up for a nice read, but try to keep your suspension of disbelief from stretching to the breaking point....more
I wanted to like this book so much more. I wanted it to have the same poetry and effect as Neil Bartlett’s Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall. I was noI wanted to like this book so much more. I wanted it to have the same poetry and effect as Neil Bartlett’s Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall. I was not overwhelmed; I was not even whelmed; I was under-whelmed.
The Celibate is the story of a novice priest who suffers a nervous breakdown at the altar one Sunday. In fact, he is dealing with a subjugated sexuality and the advances of another, more radically gay, novice priest. The church, fearing for the unnamed young man’s sanity, sends him to a psychiatrist – thus begins chapter after chapter of first-person stories to an unseen and silent doctor. Get it; it’s like a Catholic confession – 300-some odd-pages worth….
Actually, it’s not necessarily a bad idea. The execution just sucks. The monologues are long and self-indigent and boring. The priest gets wrapped up in homeless gays and hustlers, one who in an act of self-protection commits murder and is not assisted at all by the priest. Feeling guilty and searching for forgiveness, the priest falls for another hustler and ends up being peed upon by the hustler and his unknown boyfriend as a form of repudiation and absolution. This leads to an attempted suicide and then to an affair with an AIDS worker who is also a radical queer. On top of leaving the priesthood, the priest helps with a man dying of AIDS, the priest also refuses to bottom for his ACT OUT lover, and then he slowly wakes up to his social and sexual freedom. …yay…
Oh, and he was once Jewish, but by himself and with a message from Jesus, became a Catholic. Oh, and he was born rich. Oh, and for a while he led street tours on Jack the Ripper, and later he led tours on the Plague (these two themes have something to do with the priest’s own struggle. I get it - the plaque/AIDS connection is obvious. Less obvious, repressed sexuality – like the priest’s – is also an aspect in serial killers’ lives. However, I found it hard to believe that this specific priest ever had a chance of becoming a madman. This seems added for drama).
Are you getting a picture of the ridiculously self-indulgent plot and drama and happenstance all over this book?
On top of that, the young priest elucidates every story, loading it with Christian imagery as if he were being graded on an essay in seminary. The author also loves getting a little scatological and gross with sex, as if this priest would have no problem whatsoever describing being peed on or having butt sex for the first time to his unresponsive doctor. Also, his narration is delivered with a snobby, self-important intellectualism that made me want to punch him in the trachea.
Ever since I read it in the late 80s, I have loved this rambling, indefinable book, which may make me a hypocrite. But I’ve learned human beings are nEver since I read it in the late 80s, I have loved this rambling, indefinable book, which may make me a hypocrite. But I’ve learned human beings are nothing if not contrary in taste. I tell people I dislike science fiction and fantasy books, and that I have very little taste for gory horror (as opposed to psychological horror, which I love). Weaveworld wanders around a LOT in its 700+ Odysseus-like pages, but there’s something phantasmal and strange about this mystical world Clive Barker has created that just sucks me in.
That being said, the long and complex Weaveworld isn’t pure science fiction or fantasy. It has moments of horror and moments of pure human drama. The story also has a sense of the mythological about it, borrowing from and twisting old Celtic and Druid stories into an entirely new invention. In the Old World tales, witches and wizards could sew up their corners or portions of the earth, making them invisible to others.
In Weaveworld, a whole magical landscape has been sewn into a rug to guard it from humans and supernatural creatures that would destroy it. Two people find out about this rug just as forces are coming together to unweave and undo it. One is a woman with buried witch-like powers; her grandma has been guarding the rug for decades. Another is a man – the grandson of a poet – who finds in the threads an escape from his dreary, aimless life. Together they wander our own world and the undiscovered world of the rug several times, trying to save the creation from its apocalypse.
Clive Barker (yes, he of Hellraiser and Books of Blood) creates a whole planet with mythical creatures, epic battles, political and social themes, and plenty of the gory horror he’s known for. That being said, each element is held in decent perspective; even the grisly parts seem less cruel and more fascinating and magical than he’s rendered in his other books. In many ways, Weaveworld is a horror writer’s nod to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as to mythologist Joseph Campbell. Because Barker is such a good writer, his book is an elaborate weaving from many other sources and styles, yet Weaveworld still maintains the author’s signature style. ...more
Well, I haven’t read as much in February, because I wanted to knock out some longer books. Gah, it DID feel like a task after a while.
The Great and SeWell, I haven’t read as much in February, because I wanted to knock out some longer books. Gah, it DID feel like a task after a while.
The Great and Secret Show (1989) is a 600-plus page Clive Barker novel. Like much of his writing, it’s a combination of fantasy and horror. Some of his work – Weaveworld and Imajica – I love. This one just felt padded as Hell. There is a good 200-page section where people face great evil only to have it give up because they lock themselves in a bedroom. (???) Evil doesn’t really return for 204 pages…
TG&SS is about people searching for an alternate universe that is populated by creatures physically, mentally, and spiritually evolved from Earth. A man, Jaffe, first finds out about Quidity, this alternate universe, in 1969, in the US Post Office’s Dead Letter office in Omaha. Jaffe uses what little he learns to get money and power to learn more. He hires another man, a scientist named Fletcher, to create the mystical substance Nuncio that will speed up their evolution and allow them access to this secret world. Jaffe and Fletcher war over the created Nuncio, and they both are transformed. They battle for a long time in spirit form, and then they get tired. Their worn-out spirits rape four girls in order to create allies and soldiers to fight for them. The kids of these girls – who were also fathered by humans the girls were compelled to copulate with – then meet. Then there’s more war and stuff.
There are TONS of side characters who are transformed by Nuncio to know about the secret world Quidity, and the Ephemeris surrounding it like a sea. They also are either good or evil to varying degrees. There are also other humans caught up in the mix.
Barker is a great and interesting storyteller, but this is epic for epic’s sake. Small human dramas are filled in between in order to cover up the stuffing. The human drama does lend itself to the larger, metaphysical fantasy, but only barely. Both sections feel overlong. Many chapters feel like we’re spinning our wheels. Once we get to the end, it’s quite clear that many, many well-written pages were unnecessary to succinct, clear storytelling.
TG&SS is supposedly one part of three books. The second book, Everville, was put out in 1994. I also read that. The third book has never been finished. I suspect it’s currently probably 2146 pages long and about half finished. ...more