The tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel playsThe tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel plays with Gothic conventions masterfully. An attempt to patch together the story of those dark years, The Accursed is the manuscript of amateur historian (and descendant of a "Cursed" family) M.W. van Dyck II. He presents a series of excerpts from journals, letters, newspapers, even a coded diary, written during the time of the "Curse," in an attempt to piece together the strange and horrible events that appear to have begun with the abduction of the innocent and beautiful Annabel Slade from the church on her wedding day.
Between the covers you will find demon lovers, murderous jealousy, miscegenation, beckoning apparitions, even a fairy kingdom. Also, an absolutely enormous cast of characters, some entirely fictional, like the sorely afflicted Slade family; others "real," like Woodrow Wilson (at the time President of Princeton University); ex-U.S. President Grover Cleveland; and Socialist writer Upton Sinclair. What I did not expect to find was a darkly satirical commentary on Christian piety, ivory tower backstabbing, gaping class division, the rise of Socialism, and, of course, the "Gothic novel" itself.
If you are familiar with Chris Adrian's work, you will already know that it's beautiful, unsettling, and pretty much impossible to categorize. Is it mIf you are familiar with Chris Adrian's work, you will already know that it's beautiful, unsettling, and pretty much impossible to categorize. Is it magical realism? Literary fantasy? Modern fable? Certainly the recondite and sensitive subjects of illness, faith, and apocalypse are never far from the surface in his tales; sometimes bringing tragedy and other times visionary ecstasy.
The tales in A Better Angel nearly all feature children or teens, most carrying some kind of "mark" which separates them from their peers: a young boy becomes dissociative (or perhaps he's possessed?) after his mother's death; another mourns his dead twin in a peculiar way; and a 19th century farm boy has debilitating visions of angels and burning towers. There are also some funnier moments: In "Why, Antichrist?" a teenage boy grudgingly comes to accept that he is, in fact, the Antichrist; a sassy young woman with "short gut" delivers reports on life and death from the pediatric ICU; and in the hilarious title story, a man recalls his experiences growing up with an overly-critical guardian angel.
September 11th also hangs heavy over this 2008 collection, with the burning towers haunting it in both concrete and symbolic ways. Adrian's characters grieve loved ones lost that day, speak for its dead, and obsessively watch the unreal video footage of fiery blooms and people falling from the skies. It could be grisly, in lesser hands. Instead, Adrian is concerned with something infinitely more interesting than mere shock value. He's examining how we, as a culture and as individuals, cope with the paralyzing specters of illness and death, how faith might work for (or against) us, and how we begin to heal from tragedies both personal and universal.
I might knock off half a star just because, thematically, A Better Angel often covers very similar ground to Adrian's 2006 novel The Children's Hospital. It could easily feel repetitive, but Adrian's ability to bring the surreal into tales of daily life, with wit and honesty and crystalline prose, really blossoms in the short form. A truly weird and gorgeous book....more
An excellent new-Lovecraftian anthology. Each of the tales is unique; none of them lean too heavily on a mythos pastiche, instead largely paying hommaAn excellent new-Lovecraftian anthology. Each of the tales is unique; none of them lean too heavily on a mythos pastiche, instead largely paying hommage to Lovecraft in the form of evocative squirmy things and an enormous and mindlessly carnivorous universe. Highlights come from Laird Barron, Caitlin Kiernan, Michael Chabon, and Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear....more
Meantime, I will say that no matter how scary this book is (and it is), Joe Hill is a completely good egg. I waWow. Thoughtful thoughts to come soon.
Meantime, I will say that no matter how scary this book is (and it is), Joe Hill is a completely good egg. I was lucky enough to hear him read and meet him at a signing last night in San Francisco. In addition to being one of the best writers of this generation, Joe is also very funny, amazingly nice to his fans, and draws groovy little pictures in your books when he signs them.
That being said, NOS4A2 is not a nice book. In fact, it pings the disturb-o-meter on about the second page, and rises from there throughout the remaining 687. NOS4A2 is relentless, in both pacing and subject matter. It's a giant ball of unease. It's also not actually about vampires, despite what the title might imply.
I always love Kiernan, and am going to go 4.5 stars on this one. As always, her approach is unique (trilobite palentology and elder things) and her chI always love Kiernan, and am going to go 4.5 stars on this one. As always, her approach is unique (trilobite palentology and elder things) and her characters flawed but relatable. There were scares, and gore, and an actual resolution of the main journey. My only complaint is that Kiernan's generally beautiful prose is still a tiny bit of a work-in-progress in this early novel, and she sprinkles the text with dozens of quasi-Joycean portmanteu words, which I found drew unnecessary attention to themselves. (They were seriously distracting.)
Well, I did it. I read it. Much like narrator Davy, I really wanted to stop at several points, but couldn't help but go just a(NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.)
Well, I did it. I read it. Much like narrator Davy, I really wanted to stop at several points, but couldn't help but go just a little further.
The Girl Next Door is -- both in storyline and in how I experienced it as a reader -- like the old adage about a frog in a pot of water: if you heat up the water gradually, the frog won't notice it's in mortal danger until far too late. Set in an utterly normal suburban neighborhood during the repressed-but-ready-to-blow 1950s, the book begins as a classic of a coming-of-age story about the neighborhood kids finding ways to fill the long days of summer. But from that benign place, The Girl Next Door begins a slow, inexorable dive, deep into dark psychological territory: savagery, complicity, guilt, sexual perversion, power, repression, moral responsibility, and of course, stark, gut-wrenching fear. (I'm not even going to start on the actual violence. Body horror is maybe the only horror genre that still deeply disturbs me.) And, in Ketchum's carefully crafted first-person narrative, you get to experience it with all the immediacy of a 12-year-old boy struggling to make sense of his own feelings, and swept up in events so monstrous they can hardly be real.
The effect? To make the reader feel fully complicit in the atrocities in the pages of this book. The main reason I wanted to stop reading The Girl Next Door is that I felt guilty turning every page. But my curiosity compelled me. In this, Ketchum pulls off a very neat trick, and my hat is off to him. I won't say this book was enjoyable -- because, ew -- but it certainly is impressive writing. Pick up this book at your own risk; you'll find it very hard to put down.
A stellar new voice in the literary weird, Karen Russell writes stories that will stick in your brain. In fact, there isn't a forgettable piece in VamA stellar new voice in the literary weird, Karen Russell writes stories that will stick in your brain. In fact, there isn't a forgettable piece in Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Sometimes the tone is whimsical, as in "The Barn at the End of Our Term," which finds a number of ex-Presidents experiencing the afterlife as horses, or the quite literally titled "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating." The charming title piece, about the problematic nature of "forever," is gently elegiac.
There are darkness and pain here as well, though. "Reeling for the Empire" is eerie body (and soul) horror, as is "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis." And in "The New Veterans," the most resonant of the stories for me, a massage therapist and her tattooed and damaged Iraq vet patient develop a strange relationship which deeply changes them both.
If you enjoy the stories of Dan Chaon, Kelly Link, Margo Lanagan or Chris Adrian, or any of the authors of what I like to think of as the "adult whimsical," the wonderful Vampires in the Lemon Grove will not disappoint....more
3.5 really. Black & Orange won the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in a First Novel in 2010. My first reaction says the concept is f3.5 really. Black & Orange won the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in a First Novel in 2010. My first reaction says the concept is fresh and the writing and characterization are excellent, but aspects of the hierarchy and politics of Ethridge's world are less clear than they might have been. In that way, Black & Orange reminds me a bit of The Night Watch (etc.) books by Sergei Lukyanenko, which I had a hard time warming to for similar reasons. If Ethridge is planning a sequel, which I'd read, maybe the aggregate exposure will bring the Church of Midnight and the Church of Morning into clearer focus. Still, I'm curious to read more from him. ...more
I normally love Burke's writing, and recently raved about the collection The Number 121 to Pennsylvania and Others, but this one is just a "like" for me. Still better than a lot of stuff out there, though! Many of these stories seem as if Burke is experimenting with the craft in various ways -- creating atmosphere with really dense descriptive passages; several very abrupt or open-ended (as in "huh?") endings; and some themes that get a persistent working-over. The stories are listed as copyright 2001-2011, and I'd wager many are from the earlier end of that spectrum. While it's interesting to watch a writer you respect at play with his craft, I don't think these are Burke's best . . . mainly because you can see the puppetmaster at work.
Short version: I *really* enjoyed Hide Me Among the Graves, but don't even contemplate reading it if you've not yet read The Stress of Her Regard, firShort version: I *really* enjoyed Hide Me Among the Graves, but don't even contemplate reading it if you've not yet read The Stress of Her Regard, first published in 1989 (and one of my perennial faves). While HMAtG isn't billed as a sequel per se, the reader definitely needs TSoHR to set up the unique type of menace our protagonists (who include Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti as well as descendants of characters from the 1989 book), are grappling with. As a stand-alone, it might confuse, but as a sequel, it's a long-awaited treat.
My advice? Read both. Also? Don't take the word "vampire" at face value....more
Dreadful, beautiful and unexpected. The story is lovely and real and moving, but Jim Kay's drawings really bring it to life. A Monster Calls is a chilDreadful, beautiful and unexpected. The story is lovely and real and moving, but Jim Kay's drawings really bring it to life. A Monster Calls is a children's book, but it's a story for everyone who has ever been truly afraid....more
Oh, yes he did. Kiefer has written a rollicking apocalyptic thriller based on a uniquely blasphemous premise: God is not humanity's creator, but its cOh, yes he did. Kiefer has written a rollicking apocalyptic thriller based on a uniquely blasphemous premise: God is not humanity's creator, but its creation . . . and, locked away by spells for millennia, It has become a hateful, barely-contained psychotic as a result of the mixed messages it receives from us every minute of every day. Now, two factions as old as time are at war; one wants to contain God, the other to unleash It. Caught in the middle of the apocalyptic muddle is our hero Kirt Tucker, a chronically depressed used-car salesman . . . and a (very surprised) sleeper agent for the forces of humanity. Will Kirt and friends prevail, or will God be unleashed to destroy Its tormentors?
I bought God Attacks! as a lark -- loved the goofy title and the unusual premise -- and was surprised to find a very good book. Both funny and dark, and crazy action-packed, with battling secret societies, marauding, body-thieving angels, a healthy dollop of gore, and a main character so well-drawn that the reader can feel his gob-smackedness emanating from the page. I was, however, slightly annoyed to discover, as the gripping action mounted, careening toward a climax . . . that there wasn't one, because God Attacks! is only the first of two parts. (Read the fine print much?) Anyway, I'll be back for part two, but I'll hate the wait. ...more