Richard Matheson is a pillar within horror fiction. But unlike some of today's over-the-top horror writers (I will omit names, but you know of whom IRichard Matheson is a pillar within horror fiction. But unlike some of today's over-the-top horror writers (I will omit names, but you know of whom I speak), Matheson's approach to writing horror was a stripped down, psychological endeavor. His stories unnerved readers. His stories made readers think. Combine these two attributes--unnerving and thinking--and it is not a stretch to say that Matheson was successful because even when the reader was to "justify" a story within their mind, Matheson "rewired" the reader to experience a new way of thinking and deciphering and displaying the world. In this collection, SHOCK II does this in spades. From the opening story "A Flourish of Strumpets," a story about man's unquenchable desire of the flesh, to the story "No Such Things as a Vampire," a story that might be one of the best revenge stories I have ever read, Matheson takes the fantastic and embeds it into realistic settings.
But Matheson doesn't just look at the fantastic. In the story "Descent" Matheson takes a look at the status of the Cold War, and gives his own commentary about the subject. Normally, I would think a story like this would be outdated; this is not the case...I dare say that this story is more prescient today concerning nuclear annihilation (I'm looking at you North Korea) than when it was written. Additionally, Matheson has fun in his storytelling. Within this collection, there are pieces that are written in the format of a play ("The Man Who Made the World"), and as epistolary ("Graveyard Shift"); and these pieces lose none of their oomph because of these playful formats. That might be because Matheson was a genius with a pen. But I digress.
All things considered, Matheson makes storytelling fun, but he can also deliver a poignant, heartfelt story of family, and the travails of family, as the story "Lazarus II" depicts. When reading this story I was torn between hating the mother, and hating the fact that, as a parent, I sometimes have to remind myself that my children's lives are not my own, they are their's, period.
Thirteen tales. 192 pages. Read them as a whole, or devour them over a few weeks. Regardless how you enjoy these stories, I'm willing to bet that you'll find yourself looking for more of Richard Matheson the next time you decide to haunt your favorite bookshop or library.
I will never look at a porta-potty in the same way again. A great collection of vintage (after van debacle) King with a few throwbacks to his earlierI will never look at a porta-potty in the same way again. A great collection of vintage (after van debacle) King with a few throwbacks to his earlier days.
It's not always easy finding a new author to read within a certain genre. Most fledgling writers seem to think their shit doesn't stink...it does, butIt's not always easy finding a new author to read within a certain genre. Most fledgling writers seem to think their shit doesn't stink...it does, but don't tell them. Anyways, I always like it when I can get a sampling of many authors, scout from afar, and read without some jacket blurb tempting me to think something I have no intention of thinking.
DEADLINES is the exact type of anthology that renders me the chance to do this. Granted, I was given this from one of the author's in this anthology, but if he hadn't given it to me chances are I would have sought this one out myself.
Most of the stories are better than average; a few were downright stinkers. There was one that was especially disturbing, but I'll let you figure that out for yourself. Take a chance and explore. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
I have been a devoted Bradbury fan since I first read FARENHEIT 451 in high school. Some say he is over the top; I say they are too closed in their thI have been a devoted Bradbury fan since I first read FARENHEIT 451 in high school. Some say he is over the top; I say they are too closed in their thinking.
Granted, Bradbury is an acquired taste. His word choice is unique, confounding, and even sometimes bizarre. But after reading one of stories, you will understand why he chose to describe something the way he did.
Some of the earlier reviews about Bradbury's works have stated that he has focused too much on the dying notion of a 40s or 50s childhood, that he has repeatedly mined and recycled his ideas only to make them bland or less impacting. To those reviewers I offer my pity. Yes, he has seemed to stick with a certain age and storytelling that lends him to recycle an idea or two, but that is where the magic happens in his storytelling. Just when you think that you've read something like this before, Bradbury takes your hand and reassures you that this is a different version, one to think about, ruminate over, or discuss with your own imagination.
Bradbury encourages you to look beyond what you think you know and explore different realms of thought and possibility. QUICKER THAN THE EYE not only offers a reader to escape into a world of wonder, but makes a wonder of the known world.
Not all of these stories are the proverbial homerun, but take a look at these ones:
Zaharoff/Richter Mark V Remember Sascha? The Finnegan The Very Gentle Murders At the End of the Ninth Year Bug Exchange
I’m sure that if you read these stories you will see how a true craftsman can beguile an audience through wordplay and story, description and setting.
There is also an afterword, where Bradbury urges everyone to make every moment and possibility everlasting, important, awe-inspiring. (if you’ve ever had any notions of wanting to write yourself, this afterword may be the encouragement and fire you’ve sought but never found.)
You may have had your doubts about Bradbury in the past, but forget about those reservations and allow yourself to become lost in his creation.
We can all use a bit of time in someone else’s playground every once in a while. Don’t you agree? ...more
At work I have the task of reviewing books and then writing short, pithy reviews that normally say nothing more than what a book is about or why I likAt work I have the task of reviewing books and then writing short, pithy reviews that normally say nothing more than what a book is about or why I liked or disliked it. The parameters of my reviews are tight; limited in such a way that I never get to say what I really want to express because of fears something might be said that offends a patron. I understand; I really do. But when did we get so cloistered in our thinking? When did it become wrong to review a book in a manner that truly reflects what the book did (or didn’t do) for the reader?
Steve Martin’s 1977 comedic, absurd romp, CRUEL SHOES, has got me thinking about all this. Why would I review a book older than me that has long been out of print? The answer is simple: We have forgotten how to laugh.
Life has gotten awfully serious as of late: wars; the economy; natural disasters all over the world; and even the obsession of the Big Three (in Miami) has worn thin. We never stop and flip to the funnies anymore. Why? Laughter is the one constant throughout any tumultuous time period.
Okay, to the book. Yes, it is dated. Yes, some of the vignettes are so convoluted and abstract that it is hard to understand some of the points, but every one of the episodes has a flavor to it. If you’ve every read Barry Yourgrau’s A MAN JUMPS OUT OF AN AIRPLANE, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Nevertheless, each abstract thought lends something to the reader. Reading this book is almost like watching Seinfeld. Sometimes it really is about nothing at all; sometimes it’s overtly funny. Look hard enough, and the moral-lesson-thought presents itself.
Basically, it’s about laughing. At yourself. At life. And at life’s impractical unpredictability.
I leave you with this:
The Gift of the Magi Indian Giver
Carolyn wanted so much to give Roger something nice for Christmas, but they didn’t have much money, and they had to spend every last cent on candy for the baby. She walked down icy streets and peered in the shop widows.
“Roger is so proud of his shinbones. If only I could find some way to get money to buy shinbone polish.”
Just then, a sign caught her eye. “Cuticles bought and sold.” Many people had told Carolyn of her beautiful cuticles, and Roger was especially proud of them, but she thought, “This is the way I could buy Roger the shinbone polish!” And she rushed into the store.
Later at home, she waited anxiously as Roger came up the steps of their flat. He opened the door and wobbled over to the fireplace, suspiciously holding one arm behind his back. “Merry Christmas!” they both said, almost simultaneously.
Roger spoke. “Hey, Nutsy, I got you a little something for Christmas.”
“Me, too,” said Carolyn, and they exchanged packages.
Carolyn hurriedly opened her package, staring in disbelief. “Cuticle frames?! But Roger, I sold my cuticles so I could afford to buy you some shinbone!”
“Shinbone polish!” Roger said, “I sold my shinbones to buy you the cuticle frames!” Roger wobbled over to her.
“Well, I’ll be hog-tied,” Carolyn said.
“You will? Oh, boy!” Roger said.
And it turned out to be a great Christmas after all.
With the recent passing of Mr. Ray Bradbury, I wanted to read a collection of his stories. ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD is a great collection. Images drip frWith the recent passing of Mr. Ray Bradbury, I wanted to read a collection of his stories. ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD is a great collection. Images drip from the pages. Scenes radiate long after a story has finished. Sometimes his words seem to be a flash of light, uttered by a being trying to be understood but can't because the limitations of imagination vary between every Reader.
For this, I say thank you thank you thank you. You were truly a pioneer, Mr. Bradbury.
If you don't want to read a full collection, read these ones:
1. Heart Transplant 2. In Memoriam 3. Tete-aTete 4. The Dragon Danced at Midnight 5. The Nineteenth 6. Autumn Afternoon 7. One More for the Road 8. Time Intervening 9. The Enemy in the Wheat 10. My Son, Max 11. The F. Scott/Tolstoy/Ahab Accumulator 12. The Cricket on the Hearth
And if you really like to read about a writer and their writing process, be sure to read the afterword: Metaphors, the Breakfast of Champions.
The stories and essays making up this compliation range from the hialrious to the heartbreaking. But whatBook Giveaways: WINNER! (Thanks Mike Faloon!)
The stories and essays making up this compliation range from the hialrious to the heartbreaking. But what makes these stories and essays so enjoyable is the realisitc personalities that resonate through the words and the voices given to the characters and narrator. In every story I could clearly picture the characters, and relate them to someone in my own life...and, as hard as it is to admit, I've been some of these people, as well.
Oh where or where should I start? Should I talk about how depressing each story is? Or should I rave how wonderful Melanie Rae Thon uses words and desOh where or where should I start? Should I talk about how depressing each story is? Or should I rave how wonderful Melanie Rae Thon uses words and descriptions and settings and characters to convey the perfect emotion, never going overboard, never under utilizing her talents? We’ll come back to both of those issues in a moment.
As Amanda mentioned earlier to me, the Literary Gods have been blessing me with some really amazing reads as of late. The most recent LET THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ERASE YOUR NAME was an absolute joy—albeit, in that strange melancholy I-think-I-am-depressed-but-don’t-really-feel-depressed sort of way. FRIST, BODY by Melanie Rae Thon is definitely another great find that I would never have even known about had it not magically appeared in a donation box a few months back. This lithe volume is composed of seven stories that all gravitate toward the subject of body: real, imagined, created, destroyed, loved or loathed.
But before getting into the book, I want to ask one simple question: Where have you gone Ms. Thon? In 1996, Granta named you one of the “best young American novelists.” That is quite an accomplishment; but since 2001, you haven’t published anything. Why? Your voice is amazing. Your use of images to invoke feeling rivals the best working today. We, as readers, need you. Come back. Please.
So the stories. Well, to be honest, I really don’t know where to begin. I refuse to even discuss the first story, First, Body because by even hinting about how great it is I feel will diminish the magic one gets while reading it for the first time. Let’s start with Little White Sister. This story is about race and drugs and what it’s like to be alone. Full of crisp and sensuous language, images that burn into your mind, and characters that you just know you’ve seen before—but never extended a moment of conversation their way—which brings one to a level of misery never encountered before. Call this hyperbole, if you want, but while reading this story I knew I had in my hands a rich text, a text of thoughts and ideas that brims with possibilities, even if these possibilities are of the sordid, darker variety.
Am I even making sense?
Let’s move on to Nobody’s Daughter. This story recounts the lives of three women. A mother and two daughters. The nameless narrator thinks back over her life and how change—never invited, never wanted—altered what she thought was happiness into a bleak reality that she must now own as if this was all she ever knew. Elements of prostitution and drug usage seep on every page for the first third of the story, while acceptance of being replaced by a different family when her mother remarries takes the story the rest of the way. Death and homelessness and destitution permeate through phrases and descriptions.
This haunting description comes from page 102:
In her pocket, one vial of crack, almost gone. In her veins, strangers’ blood. She possessed ninety-six pounds. I want to be exact. The ninety-six pounds included the weight of skin, coat, bowels, lungs; the weight of dirt under her nails; the weight of semen, three men last night and five the night before.
Brutal--but, strangely, beautiful.
And when the man’s family replaces the narrator, Thon writes from page 105:
How many men can pass through one woman? How many children can one woman have? I tried to count: Clare’s father and Clare, my father and me, two men between, two children never born whose tiny fingers still dug somewhere.
Am I doing this book justice? I feel so confused. Sad. Little, almost.
I am going to end with this story: Snow Thief. As you may have guessed, most of the stories have women as the main characters; me not being a woman I sometimes found the grief of what they felt to be hard to relate to in a physical way. That is until this story. Snow Thief asks the question: Do we become orphaned as adults when our parents die? I’m not sure if there is an answer to this question, but Thon uses some extraordinary images of an elk hunt, the mother’s stroke, and an illicit sexual liaison between the narrator and the narrator’s father’s friend as apt examples of how we change from childhood to adulthood. As the narrator deals with her mother dying, a brother who is only looking for the final financial reward upon his mother’s death, she begins to understand that the older she became the more she realized the less she knew about her parents or herself. In dark, lyrical language, Thon describes these feelings in a dream-like way, smearing the boundary between reality and fantasy…
Reading over what I’ve written, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of explaining myself. (See what you’ve done to me Ms. Thon? I’m a blabbering idiot, smitten with your words.)
I guess the best way I can describe this is: FIRST, BODY is a stark indictment on what it means to be trapped in one’s body. We are who we are, and no matter how hard you work to become someone else, you are always going to have the same skin-suit as you had the previous day. Depressing? Absolutely. But it is also magical and uplifting. Surreal and grounded. This collection of stories challenges and risks the reader to take an inventory of who they are. At least that’s what it did for me.