it is a perfect home, a perfect life. late at night, a man hears a noise. it is a wife talking on the phone, whispering, giggles. domestic bliss darke...moreit is a perfect home, a perfect life. late at night, a man hears a noise. it is a wife talking on the phone, whispering, giggles. domestic bliss darkens into horror story. it is a masterfully written sequence.
it is a horror story, but what stakes? an affair, a foolish relationship? an angry husband? who cares? this is horror? it has minor stakes. but it does become more... it becomes A Christmas Carol. it is the past, the present, the future. it is death in three directions; it is death as the only path.
it is well-written. the author is a writer, a writer's writer. he is no dum-dum. he loves his Dickens. he also loves his David Lynch, his Mulholland Dr. and his Lost Highway. there is a slight nod, a sneaky hint, it is there to be found. but it is both more and less than homage, I think. it feels like theft. that doesn't bother me. "property is theft", or so they say. people, take what you will. but no reviewers notice this Lynch-theft, this Lynch-homage. are these reviewers dum-dums? hard to say.
it takes from A Christmas Carol and it takes from Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway... but what does it give back? what does it make of its own? is the combination and transformation of those sources a reason for being? it brings death to the table, yes. but that is to be expected: this is a horror story.
its Christmas Past: it is an exercise in pathos, then bathos. it is moving, and then not so moving - irritating. it made me itch.
its Christmas Present: it takes from Mulholland Dr, it takes the stage show. and then a gallery of atrocities. it made me scratch.
its Christmas Future: it is time for embarrassingly overripe gore. it has become an open wound. I put a band-aid on it by skimming past that goofy gore, gore for dum-dums only.
it has an ending: it is maudlin, in extremis. shattered lives, the real world, they came through the looking glass and shattered themselves, their lives, their future, during their journey.
it has a perfect old man: who would have, if only, he could have, why didn't they, why couldn't they, why did they have to, what a tragedy, oh the humanity, oh the living death of it all.
it is a unique experience for me. a story I grew to loathe; an author who began to intrigue. its creativity is questionable but the author's skills are undeniable. I throw the story away but not the author. I want to read more: I want to read a story he cared about writing, where he wasn't exercising or playing games. I look through the books he has written. I have found one! will I be rewarded, or will it turn out that I am the dum-dum for continuing this relationship?
build a bridge, bridge builder, build a bridge. to where? to yourself, of course. to other people. build a bridge across the mist, the alien mist, thi...morebuild a bridge, bridge builder, build a bridge. to where? to yourself, of course. to other people. build a bridge across the mist, the alien mist, thick and full of life and toxic to the touch. build a bridge to bridge two lands, to make one empire whole. build a bridge that makes change. build a bridge to the you of your story, build a bridge back into your life, into your past and then out again, to your future. build a bridge to your fellows, to love; build a bridge and keep it, keep the connection, for once. there are all sorts of bridges. make one that lasts. you can do it!
the fantasy elements are minor. the mist is one such element. a river of it, an ocean of it. small un-fish swim in it, big ones too, big ones that rise with the mist, that make things disappear.
looking for action, reader? don't look here. looking for a novella that gets deep into its fully three-dimensional protagonist's head - a story built around character? looking for the kind of tale that has an exquisite sort of tension based on things that may or may not happen to characters that you have come to understand, admire, even love? pick this one, pick it! looking for a whole world that is fully contained in a finite number of pages? a story that actually ends... but the best kind of ending! an ending that promises more, off the page, a bridge to a place that you will have to imagine yourself. you can do it!
The Man Who Bridged the Mist won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella in 2011. a well-earned win.
the story intrigued me, it saddened me, it made me happy and hopeful and it made me think about myself and the choices I've made in my life. it was excellent. smart prose, smart characterization, smart and sensitive author. also, a lot of technical detail about building a giant bridge in the sky, across a strange and terrible and fascinating mist.
"Everything means something," Lyra said severely. "We just have to find out how to read it."
Lyra the little liar is back in full force. she gets to us...more"Everything means something," Lyra said severely. "We just have to find out how to read it."
Lyra the little liar is back in full force. she gets to use her special power of super-lying at least twice, so it's clear that despite the amazing and horrible and life-changing adventures of the preceding trilogy, some things will never change. a witch and an alchemist cameo, and naturally her daemon Pantalaimon remains by her side. all is well in Golden Compass Land, at least for this reader. things are actually especially well, now that I know the author is working on a couple follow-up books that promise to be elephantine in size and scope. yay for elephantine! and yay for little liars and adorable little daemons who are quite handy at sneaking up on other daemons and quickly grabbing them so that Lyra can do some impromptu interrogation.
yay for Philip Pullman too. he really is the best. it's great how a slim children's book like this one is able to cast such an all-encompassing spell on its reader so quickly. the combination of idiosyncratic heroine and perfectly chosen details of her Oxford world all worked out just right. plus some sweet bonuses such as a map and snippets of a catalog, a guidebook, a postcard, etc. overall this was a trifle, but such an appealing one.
oh and the moral of the tale: see first paragraph.(less)
back in 1995, Simon Clark wrote a nifty post-apocalyptic novel called Blood Crazy, featuring the adventures of a young man in England as he meets othe...moreback in 1995, Simon Clark wrote a nifty post-apocalyptic novel called Blood Crazy, featuring the adventures of a young man in England as he meets other survivors and evades groups of murderous not-quite-zombies. I loved it. seven years later, Clark wrote Stranger, an irritating post-apocalyptic novel featuring the adventures of a young man in America as he meets other survivors and evades groups of murderous not-quite-zombies. well I suppose it is true that every writer revisits the themes and stories that define them as a writer, so I wasn't particularly annoyed at seeing the old story given new clothes. nor did I mind its lack of focus; that worked perfectly fine in Blood Crazy and I don't think its presence in Stranger is all that problematic. there's an excitement in randomness and not quite knowing where a story will be going, even if that unpredictability is due to lack of focus. what frustrated me about the novel was that it felt like it was written during one long weekend. a clumsy novel.
perhaps the switch to America served Clark badly. he has no grasp of how Americans talk. for example, few 10-year olds casually use the word "lovely" and use of the word "niggardly" is fairly rare (for obvious reasons). but I don't think it was just the problems with American vernacular because there was so much that was off throughout the entire novel in how the characters thought, spoke, and related to each other. people laughing at jokes that made no sense. a monstrous villain's oddly-timed rant about how he was bullied as a teen. the hero wondering about "mating" with a romantic interest and later flirting with her by saying she has to live so she can give him children. huh? an execution about a third of the way through the book bothered me not just because of its ridiculous brutality but because it was a genuinely ridiculous way to kill a person.
fortunately the novel wasn't a waste of time. I did like the oddly erratic approach to storytelling and Clark knows a thing or two about pacing. a book that features a youthful hero who flies into an uncontrollable murderous haze whenever someone infected is near him made for some surprising scenes. and Clark still has some creative juices. I would say that a room-sized jell-o mold apparently made of blood and other fluids and that contains malevolent floating body parts is certainly creative.(less)
a charming and swiftly-paced romp through 18th century Europe, featuring a fearsome but sweet golem and his skittish but brave fairy companion. painte...morea charming and swiftly-paced romp through 18th century Europe, featuring a fearsome but sweet golem and his skittish but brave fairy companion. painted with bright, vibrant colors with the not infrequent splash of darkness and blood. part picaresque and part uncertain quest. quest for a soul, quest for the meaning of existence? perhaps. and hey, they also visit Hell. yay for traveling and yay for unusual destinations!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3 Stars for the writing. I liked it. Aguirre is a talented writer who is quite at home when detailing the odd and the strange in prose that is often equally odd and strange. I quite enjoyed the off-kilter directions that sentences sometimes went, the unusual phrasings, the quirky quality to the prose. the chapters from the fairy Pomp's perspective are in the present tense, which is a clever way to illustrate her unique view of the world. the writing is not perfect: there was some clumsiness here and there and a rather rushed feeling at the end - things that might have been fixed by a harsh taskmaster of an editor. but I'm not sure I would have wanted them fixed because the clumsiness blends in with the delightfulness in a way that is all of a piece. Aguirre is an idiosyncratic and stylish writer; I was pleasantly reminded of other smart, quirky, and sometimes flawed authors I've enjoyed. I admire those sorts of writers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 4 Stars for the story. I really liked it. I haven't read any other books with this setting and it completely fascinated me. at times it felt like the best sort of travelogue - one from the distant past, set in places I've read about but have never actually immersed myself into when reading fiction. Aguirre has a certain way of describing places like old Prague, Vienna, and Istanbul... a light touch with the description, using just enough for me to feel like I was in the actual place. but the story is not only a travelogue - it has deeper, more emotional goals. Heraclix & Pomp is about two completely different people trying to figure out who they are and what they can be. there was such a tenderness in the depiction of Pomp and the golem Heraclix's journeys and their frequent soul-searching, their need to be good and kind and just. this is a book for adults, definitely, but there was a lovely purity to the underlying theme of the book that often made me feel like I was reading a fable for children.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 Stars for Forrest Aguirre! I met this gent on Goodreads. I think he's the bee's knees. quite a charming fellow, and check out those stylish shoes. charming and stylish, just like his novel. I'm looking forward to reading more from him.(less)
of all the genres I dabble in, Queer Fiction is the one where I often have the most issues with what I am reading. maybe because I am a bad, disloyal...moreof all the genres I dabble in, Queer Fiction is the one where I often have the most issues with what I am reading. maybe because I am a bad, disloyal queer? I hope that's not the case. I like to think it is because I don't have a lot of sentimentality when it comes to my queer brothers and sisters; if anything, my viewpoint is especially critical because I am also looking at myself, as a queer, with the same critical regard. or who knows, maybe it is because I live in the queer mecca of San Francisco and I'm just over it - specifically, I'm over seeing "queer" as especially different than "not queer", and I'm over seeing people defined by who they sleep with. well whatever the case may be, I came to this guide ready to be annoyed.
happily, I wasn't too annoyed. this is an interesting book, even a challenging one at times. although a bit predictable as well.
I want to get the predictable part out of the way first. so by now I'm sure everyone's familiar with or has at least heard of the "Queer Eye"... maybe from the old Bravo show, but hopefully more along the lines of looking at supposedly straight things and seeing the hidden meaning, the secret text, the signs & wonders of what is being looked at - and recognizing the queerness there. and so various classic musicals and cheap sword & sandal epics are queered. macho sports like football can be queered. everything from Flaubert to Art Deco to the entire filmography of Parker Posey can be queered. and hey I just queered the biblical phrase "signs & wonders" in this here paragraph. sorta.
this guidebook does its fair share of queering the text - a fairly common gay sport. we have The Bible (tl;dnr), specifically David & Jonathan. we have Plato and Walpole and Melville and that poor repressed queen, Proust. we even have the Epic of Gilgamesh! that was a new one. but these particular essays were not particularly interesting to me; they suffered from a certain amount of silliness and shallowness. my problem was not with their basic point - i.e. these are also queer texts - but rather with the superficiality of the writing and how overemphatic the authors were when explaining their positions. fortunately those sorts of essays are in the minority.
so back to why this was an interesting book.
one of the hallmarks of classic Queer Fiction (and by classic, I suppose I mean Modern Classics - openly queer books written from the mid-20th century up through the 90s) is that these texts blur the line between Fiction and Personal Narrative. many classics of the genre are stories taken from their authors' lives and feature fictionalized accounts of their own trials and tribulations. being queer has often meant being rejected and so writing a book about being gay or lesbian is often writing a book where the author stakes a claim on their own identity. they are exploring their identity and what makes them who they are, through fiction. every book of fiction, queer or otherwise, is a reflection of their author in some way; because of what queers have had to deal with in their lives - especially in the 20th century - the personal is automatically made political and so queer authors are blessed (cursed?) with automatically having a story to tell. the story of their life, the story of how they came to be the person who is writing a book. the telling of that story, that combining of the author's personal life with a piece of fiction that they are writing, becomes many things: a challenge and a political stance; a personal stance and a way to share stories that emphasize the universality of experience; a rejection of the supposed Objective in favor of the Subjective; and of course a narrative where the author is not just the writer of the piece, they are a character in that piece - the book as a direct reflection and exploration of the author. meta-fiction, of sorts. I do this myself, the insertion of the author's experiences, in many of my own reviews - I have a whole shelf dedicated to those sorts of reviews. but hey, I'm a queer, so self-absorbed self-reflection and of course insertion of myself in all sorts of places comes naturally to me. ba-dum ching?
anyway, I was challenged in surprising, often positive ways by many of these essays. a lot of them are personal narratives about the essay writers, their own experiences as a queer, and how the book in question impacted them on a personal level. this may not be the right guide for the reader who wants a survey of Queer Fiction. but it is a good book for those who are interested in how a book can impact a person, or how a person came to be the person who is loving or disliking the book in question. for a guidebook, it is remarkably personal and at times it reads like a series of journal entries written by a lot of very different people who have one thing in common - namely, their queerness.
and so the book rises or falls on how much interest the reader has in the personality of each essay writer. it was a mixed bag for me. I was enchanted by Brian Bouldrey writing on Ronald Firbank, Jane DeLynn writing on Virginia Woolf, and Tania Katan writing on Audre Lourde - but only because I found each of these essayists to be an intriguing person in their own right. I liked their personal stories. conversely, I found Kevin Killian's, Mark Behr's and V.G. Lee's respective pieces on Rimbaud, Alice Walker, and Jeanette Winterson to be practically intolerable, probably because I didn't especially enjoy the personalities or stylistic decisions on display.
there are a number of straightforward critical appreciations in the book as well. although most get rather lost in the mix of all the personal stories, my two favorite essays were actually standard book reviews. the estimable Edmund White does a splendid job writing on Marguerite Yourcenar. and Eric Karl Anderson's appreciation of Djuna Barnes' brilliant, difficult Nightwood stood out as particularly marvelous. I'll read both of those again; I'm not sure I can say the same for the rest. nonetheless, overall it was an enjoyable experience reading this book. so many voices and life stories - I felt like I was at a retreat for queer authors, listening in on their share sessions.(less)
Marion Black sings: Who knows what tomorrow will bring... maybe sunshine, maybe rain... but as for me I'...moreopen that door, open it. now step through it.
Marion Black sings: Who knows what tomorrow will bring... maybe sunshine, maybe rain... but as for me I'll wait and see... maybe it'll bring my love to me... but several characters in this novel decide to not wait and see. what is tomorrow, what is yesterday? when it comes to love and other obsessions, "yesterday" and "tomorrow" are mere constructs to these characters, to be rearranged as they see fit. why wait for tomorrow when you can do something about yesterday?
do something about it, that thing that obsesses you, fill that empty life, you can do it, solve those mysteries, find that love, find it find it find it, go forward, go backward, time is nothing to you, go go go go
"the Man from Primrose Lane" is a reclusive old gent also known as "the man with a thousand mittens" - adorable, right? this adorable senior is found murdered, shot in the belly, the fingers that filled those mittens chopped off and put into his blender.
there is a killer of children on the loose. children are missing, children have been found, molested and tortured and murdered, ugh. a child is still missing. find the child, find the child.
why did the wife die? why was she so unhappy? why did she smash that car into that wall? why was she so broken? couldn't she have been fixed?
so the novel Man from Primrose Lane is a mystery and a detective thriller that draws on the author's past work as a crime writer. it is a literally timeless love story as well. it is also:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN when you are investigating a crime and it turns out you are investigating your [SPOILER]? do you continue your investigation?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN when a grotesque frogman crawls out of a giant black egg, covered in black gunk, in the dark of the forest, in the middle of the night? do you grab your gun, investigate?
what is happening, what did I just read, wait a second here, let's pause this I need to process, these mysteries this narrative, wtf, where did the rug go, everything needs to slow down for a minute, I need to think about this.
The Man from Primrose Lane is an exorcism of its writer's demons, the obsessions that have driven him. The book is an exploration of the cyclical nature of obsessions.
The Man from Primrose Lane is a tender and compassionate tale of family, a tale told with sweetness and warmth. I wanted to hug that kid whenever he appeared.
The Man from Primrose Lane is a supernatural tale of horror. horrible, horrible, creeping, disturbing horror. sweet Jesus, that fucking cat.
The Man from Primrose Lane is about Ohio today. it is about Ohio tomorrow and Ohio yesterday. many, many Ohios. The Man from Primrose Lane is a science fictional tale as well.
The Man from Primrose Lane is one of the most mind-boggling novels I've ever read. I could feel my mind bending and expanding in unusual directions as I read it. it gave me a headache, or something.
oooooo.... thrilling conclusion to a thrilling series!
teens in danger!
a possessed little boy!
a magical house with a magical history!
a trans-dimensiona...moreoooooo.... thrilling conclusion to a thrilling series!
teens in danger!
a possessed little boy!
a magical house with a magical history!
a trans-dimensional threat wants to rule the earth!
our fathers' sins will always come back to haunt the present!
top-notch writing! superlative art!
things fall apart; everything comes together!
oh, and a bloodbath at the prom after-party!
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: if you haven't read the previous volumes in this series, read them first. or reread them if it has been a while. Locke & Key is one big story with lots of little stories within that big story. except for its two spin-offs, it is not a series of self-contained adventures. even though the series is divided into separate parts, these aren't "arcs" per se. everything connects. and it doesn't try to catch you up either. one big story.
the conclusion to this great series did not disappoint. all questions answered and everyone has their moment. even a little deus ex machina thrown in - but with all of the darkness and death that preceded it, I was perfectly fine with that. it made me happy. the whole series made me happy. which is a crazy thing to say about a series that features so many tormented, wounded souls and so much awful suffering woven into the exciting and darkly sparkling adventures. the fabulous art - with its charmingly expressive characters and constantly creative use of panel and page - certainly helped with the happy-making. but the key is Hill. the apple must not fall far from the tree because Joe Hill has all of his father's wonderful humanism: an innate sympathy with his characters and their trials & tribulations, an innate empathy for humans in general - good, bad, and otherwise. the warm glow of that humanism is part of what sets this series apart, and it made this finale really moving.
but Hill is not only a humanist - his imagination is also something really special. I don't think he accomplished anything particularly new or challenging in this series - but he uses all of the old horror standbys and tropes in such a fun, refreshing way. he refines and deepens them. is this a pastiche of sorts? maybe. but I hate to intellectualize such an achievement by defining it as "pastiche" - the series is a genuinely emotional experience.
I gave this volume and its predecessors 4 stars each, and its two spin-offs 3 stars. but taken as a whole, Locke & Key is 5 stars. one of my all-time favorite comics.
THIS READER HAS A LOT OF MIXED-UP FEELINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Tampa is a gleefully sardonic black comedy about a lovely young psychopath who preys on 14-y...moreTHIS READER HAS A LOT OF MIXED-UP FEELINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Tampa is a gleefully sardonic black comedy about a lovely young psychopath who preys on 14-year old boys in order to attain her primary goal in life: sexual satisfaction.
the first half of the book often made my skin crawl; I squirmed uncomfortably while reading about the cold-blooded machinations of a person - a teacher! - who is completely without empathy or morality, plotting and planning to take advantage of various minors.
THIS READER THOUGHT THAT SEXUAL PREDATOR CELESTE PRICE WAS A FAR MORE ENGAGING AND INSPIRING TEACHER THAN MOST OF THE TEACHERS HE HAD THE MISFORTUNE OF EXPERIENCING IN HIS YOUTH
Tampa is a work of erotic fiction and erotic fixation: the highly talented Nutting fills the novel with page after page of deliriously feverish sexual fantasia, highly pornographic descriptions of enflamed and engorged genitalia, and lovingly detailed accounts of the rituals performed to keep our heroine's body fragrant, supple, and ready to ensnare the male gender.
the second half of the book didn't creep me out to the degree of the first half; after the affair actually started, the devious plotting of the lovely young psychopath somehow unnerved me less - perhaps because the affair was of the sort that I had imagined myself in many times as a 14-year old boy in junior high, staring longingly at various attractive schoolteachers.
THIS READER TOLD HIS FRIEND THE SCHOOLTEACHER THAT HE WAS LESS DISTURBED WHEN THE SEX ACTUALLY STARTED HAPPENING BECAUSE THIS IS A COMMON ENOUGH FANTASY FOR TEENAGERS SO IT FELT LESS LIKE PREDATION, AND SHE THOUGHT THAT WAS REALLY FUCKED UP BECAUSE A PREDATOR IS A PREDATOR NO MATTER WHAT THE VICTIM THINKS
Tampa is not just disturbingly erotic, it is delightfully comic: Nutting knows how to write amusingly loaded but deadpan comments and nastily judgmental thoughts and evilly mean-spirited comic vignettes with all the skill and élan of a master misanthrope who is fully in charge of their powers.
I laughed a lot while reading this book, from beginning to end.
THIS READER THINKS THAT IF THE GENDERS WERE REVERSED OR IF THE VICTIMS WERE YOUNGER THAN TEENAGERS, HE WOULD HAVE HAD A VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE WHILE READING THIS BOOK
Tampa seems to be confused by some readers with a work of serious literary merit or even a work of some psychological depth, when it is actually a work of much lesser scale: a pitch-black, exuberantly erotic farce... fun but quite shallow.
I think this book would have been a different book entirely if its sexual predator were not portrayed as a hilariously one-dimensional monomaniacal psycho... but instead as an actual human being with some seriously fucked up problems; the latter would be a book with actual depth but it would also be a book that sounds so potentially depressing and bleak that I would never have picked it up in the first place.
THIS READER THINKS THE AUTHOR SURE KNEW HOW TO PICK A TOPIC THAT WOULD GUARANTEE SHE MADE A WHOLE LOTTA MONEY(less)