"Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off,...more"Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it."
"For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men."
3/4 of the way through Perfume, I was going to tell you all in my review that if you're a fan of Dexter or maybe even True Blood, you might enjoy this book. Then I realized at the end that I was being too simplistic. It's for lovers of words, language, history, descriptions and loving to hate a character.
It's a strange thing writing a whole book about smell. Smell is one of our few senses that doesn't translate to images, words, or descriptions. I always find perfume ads amusing, because they have to evoke an emotion they are hoping consumers will feel when they do finally smell the scent. Young mother hanging the laundry! Sexy woman in a bustier in the basement of a Speakeasy! Man on a horse holding jewels!
Yet scent, at its heard, instantly takes us to our memories. I think I've finally figured out that the distinctive smell that infused my grandparents' house in South Dakota was a mix of talc, pine scented cleaner and fresh baked cookies. I might be wrong, but every once in a while I whiff something close to this and am immediately back in their 50's era kitchen with the big round drawer pulls.
I think Süskind succeeded in drawing the reader a scented picture of mid-eighteenth century France. He then layers that with the development of a poor, weird creature who only has his hyper-olfactory nerves as an asset. The story ends up being bizarre, fascinating, and altogether horrifying, with layers upon layers of scent.
Definitely not a book for everyone.
Oh, and by the way, the lead character's name, Grenouille, means frog in French. Do frogs have a smell?(less)
Fantastic! Fictionalized biography of HP Lovecraft, imagining that his horrific creatures were real.
The best thing about the book is the artwork. Enr...moreFantastic! Fictionalized biography of HP Lovecraft, imagining that his horrific creatures were real.
The best thing about the book is the artwork. Enrique Breccia used at least 4 distinct styles to portray the real world, the imaginary and horrific world, Lovecraft's married life, and the fictional Arkham: pen-and-ink, technicolor watercolors, scratched oils, and pastels respectively. What's amazing is when we see the techniques blend, melt and collage in frames.(less)
Whelp! This kept us entertained on a very long roadtrip. We had to read some while we were at our destination to speed things up. But this wasn't exac...moreWhelp! This kept us entertained on a very long roadtrip. We had to read some while we were at our destination to speed things up. But this wasn't exactly my kind of story. King has said repeatedly that this book is one of his "tapestry of people" with a huge cast populating his fictional town. Sadly I don't think he can handle the scope when so many characters are too similar: Barbie/Rusty, Linda/Jackie, Julia/Barbara. Giving them superficial differences doesn't count! I got the impression the narrator (who did a very good job) was struggling to differentiate the characters, because all the dialog, Big Jim excepted, couldn't have been spoken by anyone.
But we're now ready for the TV show, so there's that!
I plan on giving King's The Shining a go, but I think I'll avoid his books after that.(less)
A moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few n...moreA moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few notes on this edition: Although Joyce Carol Oates is the editor, she only selected the included novels and short stories. Sadly, there is no preface or comment from her. Also, the book is printed on exceedingly thin paper, which you can clearly see the type through from the other side. It makes it quite hard to read. I probably won't be reading a similar edition again.
The Lottery: 5/5 An excellent collection of short fiction with recurring motifs and a mysterious and somewhat menacing outlying character, James Harris. Like multi-colored threads through the tales, Jackson unobtrusively challenges the reader to find those connections, and draw comparisons. David Mitchell used this technique in Cloud Atlas, but Jackson is a master weaver. Some stories are outright horrific, but most would be classified as mid-century gothic - full of subtle, eerie charm. The recurring objects, words, names, and motifs were drawn from an old Scottish Ballad "The Daemon Lover," a stanza of which is included as an epigraph.
In an essay included in this collection, "Biography of a Story," Jackson tells about how "The Lottery" (the eponymous story, first published in The New Yorker in 1948) created more hate mail and buzz than the magazine had ever seen. She insists that there is no hidden meaning and allegory in the story. "It's just a story." She republished snippets from these troll-ish letters, and they look so tame and twee compared to today's internet trolls. She was shocked how many people wrote to her insisting on knowing what village, in what State these events took place. With her usual dry humor, she says "...if I thought this was a valid cross-section of the reading public, I would give up writing."
The Haunting of Hill House: 3/5 A fun little haunted house story. A bit divulgative, though. It lacked the subtlety of The Lottery, but quite entertaining nonetheless. It was fun to see a few objects mentioned in The Lottery make reappearances in The Haunting of Hill House. This would be a perfect quick, spooky read around Halloween. You'll spend most of your time trying to figure out "Whodunnit?" and "Who's the red shirt?" Finally, for the last bit of fun, there are lesbian undertones throughout the story, which hints to Jackson's own close relationship to a French student in college. (I'll freely admit, I'm interpolating from the chronological sketch, but it's hard to dismiss.)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle: 5/5 Well, holy crap. Creepy, crazy, wild story. After reading about Jackson's life story, I can understand Jackson's general vitriol towards village residents. In her real life in Vermont, her family was harassed, bullied and house defaced because they were "outsiders." Jackson herself became housebound after social interactions became too difficult to bear.
This story had one of the more interesting male characters - Old, crazy uncle Julian. It's curious how most of Jackson's stories have female protagonists who are either deceptive or going against the grain. Jackson's mother continually referred to younger brother was the "obedient" child and Jackson as the "willful" child. In turn, most male characters are sketches or
Other stories and essays: 3/5 Like most short story anthologies, it's quite a mixed bag here, presented in chronological order. It was fun to watch Jackson's writing evolve and mature - she became sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and a master of twists. The best of the bunch were: "A Visit," dedicated to Dylan Thomas, an admirer of Jackson's; "Louisa Please Come Home"; and The Bus. There are also a few of Jackson's sketches from her own family stories.
After overdosing on Shirley Jackson, if you are only going to read one book of her's, read The Lottery.(less)
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemi...moreO Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.
Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?
I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more filthiness between the lines of the book. I can see why it got Lewis renounced as MP. Naughty, naughty man. But thanks for giving us such a fun book!
--------- I just wanted to update my review with a list of the cool words I found in The Monk:
* probity: integrity and uprightness; honesty. * opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy. * Mountebank: a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc. * perfidy: deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: perfidy that goes unpunished. * iniquity: gross injustice or wickedness. * prolix: extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy.(less)
Just a quick note: Jeckyll & Hyde was fairly entertaining, filled with the archaic Victorian verbal effluv...moreParty of my creepy Halloween reads. boo!
Just a quick note: Jeckyll & Hyde was fairly entertaining, filled with the archaic Victorian verbal effluvia. "It was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture." Oh those lawny textures! As usual with these old stories, the mechanisms of the story telling (from the POV of a 3rd party, the tale in retrospect, and telling instead of showing) feel awkward today.
I skipped most the other included stories - some day I'll maybe come back to them. But I did read "The Body Snatchers." It's a creepy little story about resurrection men, who dug up freshly interred bodies and sold them to medical schools for dissection. Reading this made me look up the weird story of Dr. Knox and his henchmen Burke & Hare who murdered people just to sell them to the 'good' doctor. The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London talks about the resurrection practice at length. They have a fascinating detailed drawing of a typical surgeon's practice, with a dull, unmarked door on some back alley where the bodies would arrive, a prep room for the bodies, tiny places for the in-house receivers/assistants to sleep, and the big dissection lecture hall in front. Weird stuff. And it's not fiction!(less)
Gothic horror, how I love thee, and Ms. du Maurier is your ultimate practitioner!
1 novella broken into two (Monte...moreA creepy Halloween read for October.
Gothic horror, how I love thee, and Ms. du Maurier is your ultimate practitioner!
1 novella broken into two (Monte Verita & Victor), and 5 short stories: The Birds (yes, the one turned into the Hitchcock movie), The Apple Tree, The Little Photographer, Kiss Me Again Stranger, and The Old Man.
The first 3 (novella, The Birds and The Apple Tree) were 5-star reads, the others were 3 or 4 stars, but still fun.
I love the subtle creepiness that slowly builds.(less)
"Johansen and his men were awed by the cosmic majesty of this dripping Babylon of elder daemons, and must have guessed without guidance that it was nothing of this or of any sane planet."
"The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled."
"I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager to loose them upon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave their monstrous stone city again to the sun and air."
"The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." (less)
"What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose... his own soul?"
Honestly, I knew very little about the story of The Picture of Dorian...more"What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose... his own soul?"
Honestly, I knew very little about the story of The Picture of Dorian Gray before reading this. The creepy horror tale is very Poe-esque, but with more description and emotion. It's brilliant!
The dialogue is excessive (more talking than doing) and frequently turns to very long monologues. I read in the reviews here that The Picture of Dorian Gray is really a play written as a novella. Very true. Except the dialogue, while frequently witty, is not particularly natural. My only other quibble is that there are frequent railings against women. Most come from the bawdy Lord Henry, though, so I can forgive him these.
Wilde was clearly obsessed with: flowers, perfumes, fancy side-tables, precious gems, and tapestries. Wilde was the Lawrence Llewelyn‐Bowen of his day! It also appears that Wilde was obsessed with obsession, and describes infatuation to a T.
Oh and this story deserves four stars alone for the most awesomest diss I've ever heard: "Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,"
A few more awesome Wilde-ish quotes:
"The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we credit our neighbour with the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a benefit to us."
"When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy."
"There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids and as subtle in colour."
"Oh! anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often," cried Lord Henry, laughing. "That is one of the most important secrets of life. I should fancy, however, that murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner."
"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame."(less)
I like horror stories. They offer you a glimpse into a terrifying world that you will hopefully never experience. After the story is done, I can conti...moreI like horror stories. They offer you a glimpse into a terrifying world that you will hopefully never experience. After the story is done, I can continue on in my comfortable world without needing intense therapy. For a moment I get to experience life to the creepy extreme.
As there are so few female authors writing good horror fiction, Allyson Bird gives a different, female point-of-view to the genre. Almost all of the short stories in Bull Running for Girls has a strong, young female protagonist. The stories also have a common theme of strong family relationships and ties. What's amazing is that the plots of the stories themselves run the gamut: ghosts, vampires, witches, other occult happenings, and just pure psychological thrillers. If you have a favorite horror sub-genre, you'll definitely find it here. Some stories are in different time periods, and different countries; it's quite a voyage by the end!
A couple of the stories really stood out to me as being interesting and especially well written. "The Caul Bearer" which starts off the anthology, has Lovecraftian overtones. A woman in a mythical British seaside has to deal with the premature death of her fiance. She tries and fails to continue her daily communal fishing-village life, while learning the horrifying realities of the powers of the sea and village. I felt the terror to my bones.
"In the Hall of the Mountain King" is more of a psychological horror tale, with little creepy occurrences slowly dropped into the story until they all come together. A young girl lives with her family in a house where the back garden abuts the back of an Asylum. I probably don't have to say much more than that!
I did find a few of the stories in the middle to be a bit weak or perhaps not as thoroughly thought out. I find this to be pretty typical of such a diverse set of short stories; I didn't expect every one to be to my tastes.
I also really liked the bio-punk and scientific take on horror in "In a Pig's Ear," as well as the creativity of a horror story set in modern-day Pompeii.
What's excellent about an anthology of short, diverse horror stories like in Bull Running for Girls is that I can experience a terrifying fictional reality for 20 pages with the story wrapped up at the end. It's no less freaky or scary, but I don't have to take the dark world with me when I pause in the story to carry on my real life.(less)
Being a vampire is hard! Hambly has created some of the most interesting vampire mythology and characterization I've ever experienced. It was worth re...moreBeing a vampire is hard! Hambly has created some of the most interesting vampire mythology and characterization I've ever experienced. It was worth reading (only just) for a complex take on the hard realities facing vampires, without a silly romance angle. There's also a neat backstory on how a vampire physically changes through the centuries.
However, the language and construction were killing me throughout the book, particularly in the first 2/3 before the action took over. The story gets drug through the mud by the endless descriptions and asides right in the middle of the dialogue. Every line of conversation, or even half a sentence of dialogue is interrupted with a paragraph of some remembrance of things past, or need to describe the scene even further. Luckily at the end as the action picks up, the dialogue is much smoother.
Oh, the never ending similes stand out like wretched piles of horse dung on top of your precious blood-red velvet fainting couch! They are horrendous, and yank you right out of the mood and story. To play at Hambly's game: she uses similes like a 7th grade schoolboy who having just learned about similes, fancies himself a great writer every time he uses one. Not to mention that many of the comparisons really make no sense in an Edwardian-era story.
Don't take my word for it! Here's my list of odd, useless, silly, and otherwise unfortunate similes quoted from the book:
* Pearls [on a pair of gloves] gleamed like maggots in meat. * His body twisted and fought like a salmon on a line. * Her high heels tapping like a deer's tiny hooves on the pavement. * Their horses breathing steam like dragons. * The cheap black bowler floated over the general crowd like a roach in a cesspool. * He knew this area of Bloomsbury the way a jack hare knew its burrows. * He knew [the vampires] were watching and listening... like so many suave and mocking sharks lying just beneath the surface of the water, whose shore he could never hope to reach in time. * Thousands of smooth organic curves [of wall], like some perverted variety of orchid. * Asher caught glimpses of sheaves of ribs, like frozen wheat in the wind. * Beautiful, like a baroque pearl set in Renaissance gold. * The wind drove a swirl of of dead beech leaves over [the gravel], like the whirling souls of Dante's damned, who could not forgo the pleasures of the living. * Blood spattered...like gouts of hot syrup.
These are just the ones that stood out to me as being particularly egregious. There are oh so many more just waiting for you in the pages of this book!(less)
As long as there is something happening with Dracula at the heart of the action, the story is riveting and sensational. When the characters decide to...moreAs long as there is something happening with Dracula at the heart of the action, the story is riveting and sensational. When the characters decide to document long monologues, you’ll want to fall asleep while examining your hangnails and chanting something nonsensical.
Most GoodReaders have noted that much of the story in the second half really starts to fall apart – it’s dull and boring, and Dracula is conspicuously absent. I’ll sum it up as “O, woe is Mina! Whatever shall we do, gentlemen?” It is not coincidental that through these parts Van Helsing, that German-uttering, all-knowing, lover-of-his-own-voice, charismatic Dutchman, is at the center of this latter-half “action.” Thank the heavens Van Helsing didn’t himself keep a diary!
However, don’t let these flaws deter you from reading the seminal Vampire novel! The first half in particular is delicious in its slow build-up of tension. The terror is in the unseen, the unknown. Every little detail that emerges – like Dracula descending down a wall face down – not only establishes the dark mood but also drops those little nuggets that makes the characters and the reader question their reality and sanity. Slowly they build up into the horrifying realization that it is true: this Un-Dead creature has more power and cunning than previously thought.
I was comforted to know that contemporaneous opinions of Dracula agree with our modern assessments:
Athenaeum, June 26, 1897: “The early part goes best, for it promises to unfold the roots of mystery and fear lying deep in human nature; but the want of skill and fancy grows more and more conspicuous. The people who band themselves together to run the vampire to earth have no real individuality or being. The German man of science is particularly poor, and indulges, like a German, in much weak sentiment. Still, Mr. Stoker has got together a number of ‘horrid details,’ and his object, assuming it is to be ghastliness, is fairly well fulfilled. Isolated scenes and touches are probably quite uncanny enough to please those for whom they are designed.”
Specator, July 31, 1897: “Mr. Bram Stoker gives us the impression… of having deliberately laid himself out in Dracula to eclipse all previous efforts in the domain of the horrible, – to ‘go one better’ than Wilkie Collins… Its strength lies in the invention of incident, for the sentimental element is decidedly mawkish. Mr. Stoker has shown considerable ability in the use that he has made all the available traditions of vampirology, but we think his story would have been all the more effective if he had chosen an earlier period. The up-to-dateness of the book – the phonograph diaries, typewriters, and so on – hardly fits in with the medieval methods which ultimately secure the victory for Count Dracula’s foes.”(less)