If you're a Lovecraft fan, this beautiful new annotated edition is a dream come true. It's not comprehensive of HPL's short stories, but includes a niIf you're a Lovecraft fan, this beautiful new annotated edition is a dream come true. It's not comprehensive of HPL's short stories, but includes a nice selection of his best, as well as the novella-length "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," and "At the Mountains of Madness." It's also chock-full of historical, biographical and scientific notes, as well as reproductions of a number of original "Weird Tales" covers and illustrations.
It's big, and it's heavy, but it's well worth the back and eye strain a reader could incur. (And surprisingly affordable at a $40 cover price.)...more
I hadn't reread "AtMoM"* in years, and it turns out, remembered less than I thought. Oh, the majesty of those uncanny ruins half-submerged in ice! Oh,I hadn't reread "AtMoM"* in years, and it turns out, remembered less than I thought. Oh, the majesty of those uncanny ruins half-submerged in ice! Oh, the screeching of the benighted penguins: "tikili-li!" Close encounters with a shoggoth! But seriously, sometimes old HPL does go on (and on), however "AtMoM" is a masterpiece of narrative tension.
*As I noted earlier, I'm actually reading The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, but "AtMoM" is pretty much a novella, so I'm crediting a full book for it. If you are a fan, you need to check out this beautiful edition; in addition to maps and original "Weird Tales" illustrations, it also includes quite a number of restored sentences, some of which add significantly to the feel of the stories....more
In the small but powerful book In The Country of Last Things Paul Auster evokes a distressingly plausible dystopia. Nothing catastrophic seems to haveIn the small but powerful book In The Country of Last Things Paul Auster evokes a distressingly plausible dystopia. Nothing catastrophic seems to have occurred -- just a general collapse of public services, utilities, education, government, military, industry, the environment . . . basically all that represents "civilization" as we know it has ground to a Dark Ages crawl. Our narrator Anna came to the city (which could be Manhattan, or D.C., really any major metropolis) from somewhere better. She came, stubbornly, searching for her brother, an investigative reporter gone missing. Finding her lead less than useless in the chaos, but unwilling to give up, Anna soon becomes caught in the maw of the city.
Like the majority of people there, Anna is homeless. She stuffs her clothes with rags and newspaper against the cold and works as an "object hunter," combing the skeletons of the city for useful items to sell or barter for necessities. There are some semblance of systems -- waste and corpse disposal operate, and food does make its way in. But graft, theft, forced eviction, murder, and worse are the order of the day, and hope is a luxury nobody has time for. Life is putting one foot in front of the other, minute to minute.
This is how Anna's story begins, and we follow her struggle to survive in the form of a letter/journal she writes to those she left behind, and as a kind of comfort to herself. Anna is an everyperson: she could quite easily be you or me. She's also an eloquent and empathetic narrator, even in the extremes of her duress. Obviously, this can be rather depressing, given the realism of her situation. (I live in a big city, and I see lots of things that look like the leading edge here. Not a big leap.) So let's just say it's not exactly a feel-good book. (Here's a quick test: did you find The Road engaging? If so, proceed.)
But really, as we drown in a sea of dystopian novels, Auster's writing is what should compel you to read this one. I marked at least a dozen brilliantly turned phrases in In The Country of Last Things; as grueling as Anna's story gets at times, it pays off in gorgeous craft and emotional resonance. A modern master, Auster has written a brutally prescient, absolutely relatable tale about the extremes of hope and hopelessness and the difference between surviving and actually living. His is a dystopia unbearably easy to believe in, likely to give me nightmares. A must-read for any connoisseur of the genre. ...more
I have a long and devout love affair with hungry, haunted house stories, from classics like The Turn of the Screw to Ki Longfellow's pomo weird-out HoI have a long and devout love affair with hungry, haunted house stories, from classics like The Turn of the Screw to Ki Longfellow's pomo weird-out Houdini Heart. I love them (almost) all. But these kinds of tales have evolved a great deal since Burnt Offerings was written in the early Seventies, which makes it seem stylistically dated in certain key points. That's such a backward view, though, because it's also immediately obvious how much influence this book had on tales yet to come.
On the plus side, the narrative is fast-paced -- I was surprised at how short the book felt -- and the dread builds, steady and sneaky, until you almost don't want to see what, literally, is behind that door. In the minus column, I don't feel like I got to know the characters particularly well. I see symbolic echoes of Hill House's Eleanor in Marian (though the acquisitive weakness is all Mrs. Rolfe), and seeds of Jack and Danny Torrance in Ben and David. But, unlike the more contemplative pace of The Shining, Burnt Offerings doesn't allow a lot of time to get to know, or build sympathy for, the Rolfes before things conspire to turn them into different people. (Though I feel like I know the house pretty well, which is something.)
Ultimately, though, it's a lush, creepy tale, and it stands the test of time and literary hindsight far better than Richard Matheson's Hell House, which I found quite disappointing. ...more
Even if, as rumor would have it, Dahl loathed children, he certainly wrote cracking good stories for them. I guess I was a little too old when this onEven if, as rumor would have it, Dahl loathed children, he certainly wrote cracking good stories for them. I guess I was a little too old when this one came out . . . I'm sure I'd have loved/been terrified by it as a child. (I had quite a complicated relationship with James and the Giant Peach, I recall.) Despite its goofy "witches hate kids because they smell like poo" plot*, The Witches can be disturbing and intense, and the illustrations by Quentin Blake only accentuate the uncanniness of the titular menace. But of course the brave narrator and his Van Helsing-level witchhunter Grandmamma win the good fight in the end, though not without a whimsical twist of fate. And a slight whiff of genocide. Oh, Dahl. You scamp.
*Not to mention the totally fucked up selective misogyny. Grandmamma is not down with the sisters....more