First, before I say anything else, I have to offer a huge thanks to Anna for my copy and for keeping me in Snuggly's book-release email loop.
Simply pFirst, before I say anything else, I have to offer a huge thanks to Anna for my copy and for keeping me in Snuggly's book-release email loop.
Simply put, this book is beyond excellent. I'm still a relative newbie in the world of French, fin-de-siècle, and decadent literature, and a name that has kept popping up is Léon Bloy. So I was over the moon when Anna asked me if I wanted to read this book, a collection of 32 short stories which, in the words of Brian Stableford in the introduction to this volume, reflect Bloy's
"search for a particular naturalism of his own -- a naturalism which, not in spite of but because of its cruelty and its infusion with religious conviction, was markedly different in stripe from the Naturalism of Émile Zola." (xxiii)
Let me just say that if it's realism he was striving for, it shows in these tales in so many ways, especially in his interest in the more marginalized elements of society.
The Tarantulas' Parlor and Other Unkind Tales is a delightful blend of dark fiction, dark humor, savage storytelling and often outrageous observations; a majority of these little gems turns on the idea of exposing "someone who is not, or might not be, the person one supposes," an idea which is carried throughout the book. I will also say that some of these stories are wicked funny, subtle, laugh-out-loud worthy, and actually bringing forth a belly laugh in one case, "The Tarantula's Parlor." I also appreciate the way Stableford translated these tales -- there are a few instances where he'll leave a phrase or a word that doesn't fully translate well from its French context into English, and in footnotes he explains why. Personally, I find that a very smart way to handle translation issues that arise, and I do wish more translators would take the same sort of care in their work. And as an added bonus, each little tale begins with a dedication from Bloy to someone in his personal orbit, and Stableford gives the reader footnotes containing a brief background on the connection between the author and the person to whom the story is dedicated. It is a superb collection that serious readers do not want to miss.
Spellbinding - no. I grudgingly finished this for my book group and it reads like it's meant for teen girls. If you're in the US and you want my copy,Spellbinding - no. I grudgingly finished this for my book group and it reads like it's meant for teen girls. If you're in the US and you want my copy, I will gladly give it to you free and I'll pay postage. ...more
I absolutely love this small indie publisher, and Valancourt's done it again with Volume One of The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, which, as the dustjacket blurb says, is a "new collection of tales spanning two centuries of horror," and is a mix of stories that range from "frightening to horrific to weird to darkly funny." It is exactly as described, and given how much fun I had with this book, I can only imagine the great time James and Ryan must have had in choosing the stories that went into it. As an added bonus, at the beginning of each chapter there are informative notes about each story, the author, and the titles that Valancourt has published by each writer making an appearance in this book.
This book is tailor made for someone like me who thrives on vintage chills. Some of these stories I'd classify as true horror, some are more on the psychological side, there are ghostly tales, and one even made me laugh out loud. While I get that not everyone appreciates or shares my old-fashioned horror-reading sensibilities, and that horror is indeed in the eye of the beholder, for me this collection was just about perfect. I'm a VERY picky reader, so that says a lot.
Please bring out a Volume Two! I loved this book!!!!!!...more
I absolutely have to thank the publisher for my copy. I was on the edge of buying this book when I got the email, so tactually, like a 3.75 rounded up
I absolutely have to thank the publisher for my copy. I was on the edge of buying this book when I got the email, so thanks very, very much.
I didn't actually read this book in two days, so don't let the starting/ending dates fool you. I don't think you can read this book in that amount of time since there's a wealth of information to sift through here. There is a more expanded version of this post at my reading journal, so feel free to go long or to take the short road.
This is certainly one of the most informative books American history books I've read this year; quite frankly it was an eye opener. If someone had told me that Thomas Jefferson referred to the white underclass of his own time as "rubbish" I probably wouldn't have believed it, since he's revered as a founding father of this nation. But he actually did use that label, and he wasn't the only founding father or American politician to use that sort of term to describe the "wretched and landless poor" that have been part of our history and our culture since this country began. And that's just for starters. But that's the point here -- as the dustjacket blurb reveals, the author
"explodes our comforting myths about equality in the land of opportunity, uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present poor white trash."
Just very briefly to summarize, Isenberg poses the following question in her book:
"How does a culture that prizes equality of opportunity explain, or indeed accommodate, its persistently marginalized people?,"
and it is this question, answered through an examination of an incredible array of source material, that is the focus of this study. As the dustjacket blurb notes, "white trash have always been near the center of major debates over the character of the American identity," and here she examines just how this has been the case over the last four hundred years. She does this by careful examination and analysis of several sources in contemporary politics, literature, scientific theory and various policies at different moments of America's history.
I will say that while it was very informative and I found myself going long stretches of time without being able to put the book down. This isn't a pop history for the masses sort of thing, and I would find myself repeatedly going to the back to read her notes, iPad at the ready.
I also happen to agree with many of the major points she makes here, most especially her statement that
"We are a country that imagines itself as democratic, and yet the majority has never cared much for equality... Heirs, pedigree, lineage: a pseudo-aristocracy of wealth still finds a way to assert its social power." (316)
This is a dominant theme that carries on throughout her work, and she does prove her point over and over again.
As fascinated as I was with much of what she has to say here, I do have some issues. My biggest problem here is when she says that "class has its own singular and powerful dynamic, apart from intersection with race." I'm not so sure I quite buy that statement as it pertains to class in America. Second, I didn't find the book to be an actual "400-year" history per se, since a large part of her focus is on the South at the expense of understanding the history of the poor white class in other regions in this country. It's tough to be fully comprehensive when writing a history spanning so much time, and given how intensely she makes her case for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, aside from a brief discussion dealing with a few modern presidents, a bit on the eugenics movement, and "white trash" in books and on television, there is little depth of discussion regarding the white underclass in the twentieth century.
Regardless of its flaws, though, I would certainly recommend it because it is a valuable study that really does debunk some of the myths about the idealized conception of white equality in America as well as the reality behind the American dream itself....more
Between September and October of 1912, all but a very few of the 1,098 African-American citizens (according to the 1910 census) liviIt's a 4.5 for me.
Between September and October of 1912, all but a very few of the 1,098 African-American citizens (according to the 1910 census) living in Forsyth County Georgia had been run out of the county. The idea of "sundown towns," or communities which purposefully excluded African-Americans from living there, is nothing new, but this book reveals that not only were these people driven out of the county, but also that a "deliberate and sustained campaign of terror" on the part of white residents kept African-Americans out until the last few years of the 20th century.
in September, 1912, three young African-Americans were accused of the rape and murder of a white girl. Just about a week or so earlier, the screams of another white woman had aroused people to the fact that she'd woken to find an African-American man in her bedroom. Four young men were arrested, and a black minister horsewhipped for casting aspersions on the woman's character. The second crime, however, unleashed a coordinated campaign to get rid of every black citizen in the county -- involving "night riders," threats, arson, and worse -- any kind of terror imaginable at the time was utilized here to run these people out of the county completely, including threats against the more upper/middle class white residents who had black household help. As time went on, white people just sort of laid claim to land previously owned by the former Forsyth residents so that soon any vestiges of what were African-American homes, farms, churches, etc. soon disappeared, and life went on in a now-all white Forsyth County, basically erasing the fact that black people had even lived there. Things were so white that even the once-in-a-while visit by other African-Americans to the county would result in threats, which often included loaded guns pointed at the faces of black chauffeurs of visitors. Scariest yet -- none of this changed at all until determined marchers in 1987 came to Forsyth county to hold demonstrations; even then law enforcement wasn't enough to control the white anger and hatred, and even afterwards when Forsyth made national news, things were very slow to change.
There's so much going on in this book and obviously I can't possibly say everything I want to say about it here. It's an incredibly difficult book to read and just damn scary because here it is 2016 and we're doing a backslide into this sort of intolerant, ugly and just downright frightening behavior yet again as white supremacy once again raises its head in this country. Just a few nit-picky things: not keen on the connection between the ouster of the Cherokees and the African-Americans -- this part needed a whole lot more, in-depth comparison to make it work for me. Secondly, even though Phillips did a great job in revealing how the president of the United States at the time reneged on campaign promises he used to gain the black vote leaving many African-Americans poor, without hope of jobs and often fired from the positions they held in Washington DC, I wouldn't have exactly labeled that as "racial cleansing" in the same sense he uses it regarding Forsyth County. But once again, the best part of this well-researched book lies in how he traces the sad history of events to give his readers an insight into "the process by which racial injustice is perpetuated" here in the United States.
Personally, I think everyone should read this book.
In a nutshell, the central focus of News of a Kidnapping is the story of ten abductions, the victims' experiences in captivity, and the4.5 rounded up
In a nutshell, the central focus of News of a Kidnapping is the story of ten abductions, the victims' experiences in captivity, and the families' efforts to get these people released, but to tell that story, the author places these kidnappings in the wider context of Colombia's troubled history of politics, narco trafficking and terrorism. It also follows how Pablo Escobar went from being host to "Politicians, industrialists, businesspeople, journalists..." at his Hacienda Nápoles to becoming "the biggest prey in our history." Of Escobar, Marquez writes that "The most unsettling and dangerous aspect of his personality was his total inability to distinguish between good and evil," which is shown here in terms of the wave of violence aimed at presidential candidates and other political officials, cops murdered for the bounty on their heads, and explosions in the streets that killed innocent victims.
For me, this book is anything but boring, as some people have said it is, and I read it perched on the proverbial edge of my chair as the victims' stories were recounted. It's downright harrowing to try to even imagine what these people went through, not knowing whether they're going to live or die at any given moment, and the author doesn't spare any pain or fear in the recounting. Also - if you're expecting the same type of magical realism and writing as in his One Hundred Years of Solitude, forget it -- it's not that kind of book.