I've never read anything by Ambrose Bierce and this was a great place to start. It is a very immediate, visceral sort of story that's all about the seI've never read anything by Ambrose Bierce and this was a great place to start. It is a very immediate, visceral sort of story that's all about the senses. There is nothing like being so close to Death that you can reach out and shake his hand to bring everything into sharp focus. Bierce's vivid prose captures the desperation and drive of a man about to be hanged, who may just be given a second chance after all. It's a story filled with dramatic flair and urgent energy. Thanks for the rec, Stephen!
This is how they looked: three dead girls propped up in three straight chairs.
The suspicion didn't just go away. It just slipped back to wherever it
This is how they looked: three dead girls propped up in three straight chairs.
The suspicion didn't just go away. It just slipped back to wherever it hid.
Wow. What a meaty and cerebral read -- textured, layered, nuanced. It is a quiet novel that takes its time to carefully contemplate on its subject. And what is its subject? Despite the title, not the disappearance and death of three young girls, not really. Solving the crime, locating the victims, is secondary to the examination of a small town under siege marinating in fear and gripped by suspicion. Dobyns takes a microscopic approach and in rich, solid prose draws a detailed portrait of a townspeople succumbing to the worst of their prejudices and paranoia. It's excruciatingly intimate and painfully honest.
At times, I was reminded of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. As with Jackson's novel, Dobyns is able to disturb and unsettle me with his insight into dark hearts and the secrets humans keep. What is that stranger sitting next to us on the bus hiding? Our neighbor? Our friend? Our lover? What impulses lurk behind expressions of devotion and fidelity? What impulses do we see when we look in the mirror? Most of us will never act on them, but they lurk there nevertheless. Waiting, for a crack, for a moment of weakness.
I liked how the first person point of view not only kept me in the dark for much of the novel, but kept me off-kilter and suspicious too. Like the town's inhabitants, everyone became a suspect for me as well, including the narrator himself. I did not trust him. I was never able to satisfactorily confirm his reliability. I was on my own, unnerved and watchful, plagued by feelings of dread, outrage, and melancholy.
Don't let the sleepy start in a sleepy town fool you. This book has teeth. For me, no one writes the mad psychology of small towns better than Stephen King. Dobyns makes a helluva case though. Fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History may also enjoy this. ...more
Whoah ... just ... whoah. I sense there is much beauty and truth contained in this story, the understated power of which danced across my neurons and tickled my neocortex several times, with mischief and brilliance and wild abandon. I also sense this story is just a hair's breath -- achingly -- out of my reach. Several times I thought I had it -- right there -- right on the tips of my fingers only to feel it slip away like wisps of smoke or melting snowflakes. The language is vibrant, pulsating and vivid. While the landscapes remained strange and unknowable to me I was still taken there -- even when my brain resisted, my body responded.
My reading brain itched to discern knowable patterns and logic, it craved narrative. There is a story here, but it is wrapped in the coda of fairy tale, folklore, mythology, and philosophy -- an enigmatic exploration of what it is to be human -- to be alive -- to love, to remember, to be family. If human is feeling than do feelings make us human? Does it have to be all or nothing? Human or machine? Perhaps there is room for something else ... something other. Valente is not offering up any trite or definitive answers, and the reader will have to make up his or her own mind.
There is an abiding melancholy that ebbs and flows over this entire story. Something terrible has happened, there are hints, but it is also hidden and unknowable, especially to Elefsis. She/he/it has suddenly and violently been removed from Ravan only to be forcefully "merged" with Neva -- who has no choice "because there was no one else". Neva explains to Elefsis:
I have always been spare parts. Owned by you before I was born....I know it was like this for you, too. You wanted Ravan; you did not ask for me. We are an arranged marriage.
As for Elefsis, she/he/it forms a unique and binding relationship to each family member during their tenure as host. It is a transformative, organic, chemical and mechanical cleaving that is "lost" to Elefsis with each inevitable human death.
When I became Elefsis again, I was immediately aware that parts of me had been vandalized. My systems juddered, and I could not find Ceno in the Interior. I ran through the Monochromatic Desert and the Village of Mollusks, through the endless heaving mass of data-kelp and infinite hallways of memory-frescoes calling for her.
And then there is the unexpected loss of Ravan:
But Ravan was with me and now he is not. I was inside him and now I am inside of Neva. I have lost a certain amount of memory and storage capacity in the transfer. I experience holes in myself. They feel ragged and raw. If I were human, you would say that my twin disappeared, and took one of my hands with him.
This isn't an easily accessible book shall we say, and I don't think it was written with me in mind. I'm not the ideal audience and I struggled to reach into the story and have it reach into me. But gosh damn, it is beautiful and unique and it's made me wonder and consider and ponder. That's pretty awesome. ...more
This book ::flails helplessly:: How do I begin to review these raw and ruthless stories and do them justice? I probably can't ladies and gents, but IThis book ::flails helplessly:: How do I begin to review these raw and ruthless stories and do them justice? I probably can't ladies and gents, but I want to try goddammit. Frank Bill's collection of crazies and crimes in southern Indiana deserves that much at least.
This is prose that sings -- not with the sweetness and harmony of a Mama Cass, but rather a whiskey-soaked growl and feverish screech of a Janis Joplin. It's jagged, fragmented, and toothsome; at any point ready and able to tear a chunk out of the reader and leave him or her panting and bleeding like the sordid cast of cutthroat characters that populate the pages of these 17 inter-connected stories.
The stories piece together a harsh portrait of poor, scrabbling, backwoods people -- where victims become victimizers, and the brutalized do their fair share of brutalizing in return. As Frank Bill weaves together his tales of madness and mayhem, he is not interested in telling mere exploitative snapshots of gratuitous violence; his carefully crafted stories resonate with gritty themes of PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, greed and corruption. Each story flashes bright and fierce, a powerhouse on its own, but when melded with its brethren, the sum definitely becomes more awesome than the parts.
Frank Bill is writing Southern Noir and making it his bitch. This is Quentin Tarantino meets Cormac McCarthy. For certain Frank Bill convinces his readers that his Indiana landscape is also no country for old men. How is this for a descriptive simile: Jagged marrow lined his gums like he'd tried to huff a stick of dynamite. But when he stuttered into Medford's ear he sounded like a drunk who had Frenched a running chainsaw.
This isn't a collection to love per se; it certainly won't leave you with the warm and fuzzies. It will shake you up and smack you around a bit though, and you definitely won't forget it easily. It also made me green with envy over how easy Frank Bill makes it all seem. What he accomplishes isn't easy; if it were we'd see the likes of this kind of writing more often.
Iris kept driving. Turned onto the county road, glanced over the field and acres of cedar, saw the smoke rising above the land. He reached over and rubbed Spade between his black ears, not knowing where he was headed, but knowing he wouldn't stop until he was several states shy of the crimes in southern Indiana.
First line fever: I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, orFirst line fever: I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany...more
First line fever: The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born - we weren't even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Fanny, the loudestFirst line fever: The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born - we weren't even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Fanny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg....more
What an amazing journey ... I just loved this book! For fans of dark fairy tales, quests, and coming-of-age stories, this is a must-read. The book isWhat an amazing journey ... I just loved this book! For fans of dark fairy tales, quests, and coming-of-age stories, this is a must-read. The book is so hard to describe, but the reading of it reminded me of Pan's Labyrinth and the other Labyrinth starring David Bowie and a young Jennifer Connelly, with a twist of Neil Gaiman's Coraline thrown in. The novel stands as a great adventure tale, full of harrowing and terror-filled moments. But it also offers some twisted versions of established fairy tales while rejoicing in the power of childhood imagination and the art of storytelling. Where would we be without the stories we tell each other? Isn't that what separates us from the animals? This is not a children's book. Connolly has accomplished something remarkable here. Bravo! Recommended Readalike: The Talisman...more