Jason Pettus's Reviews > Vacation

Vacation by Jeremy C. Shipp
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Jan 04, 2008

really liked it
Read in January, 2008

(My full review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].)

I'm sure some of you must think of it as an insult when I occasionally refer to a book here as "weird;" but believe it or not, so-called "weird fiction" or "weird lit" is in fact a legitimate genre, originally coined by the Romantic writers of the 1800s to describe the absolute strangest of the moody, atmospheric novels they were all pumping out at the time. Let's not forget, after all, that the term "romantic" has changed quite considerably in our society since those days; although now primarily used to describe a gooey love story, in the Victorian Age it meant any story with a gloomy, dramatic, emotional feel, a direct rebellion by that generation against the rational Enlightenment of their parents' and grandparents' times. A direct line can be drawn, weird-lit fans claim, from such projects on the fringe of Romanticism (including such works as Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables, which I'll be reviewing here next week) straight to such modern genre masters as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Mark Danielewski and DB Weiss, often through such 20th-century transitionary writers as HP Lovecraft (the first weird author to add a distinctly otherworldly element to the genre) and William Burroughs (the first to add academic respectability).

One such contemporary weird writer, for example, is Californian Jeremy Shipp, a highly respected genre author who has nonetheless spent most of his career so far toiling in the unglamorous world of fanzines and the like; ah, but now Vacation is out, his very first traditional full-length prose novel, which in a perfect world will finally start helping him get the larger respect he deserves. Because frankly, Shipp is about as great a weird author as weird literature gets, even while acknowledging that there are certain weaknesses to the genre in general as well; that anyone who is a fan of strange stories and off-kilter characters is bound to love this novel, and in fact love it more passionately than the current weird authors they only think they love. This isn't going to stop many of you from intensely disliking it, don't get me wrong -- that's the dice roll you always take with genre work, as I'm seemingly always saying here, is that by its very nature you are simply going to have a split audience going right into page one -- but for those who click with stories about the hidden strange details of the cosmos that are very quietly buried among us all the time, you are sure to love this book with the burning intensity that you currently reserve for your Buffy DVDs.

Set in a world very similar to ours but not quite the same, the central premise behind Vacation is a fascinating one that reflects our times...
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message 1: by Jeremy (new) - added it

Jeremy Thanks again for the awesome review, Jason! :)


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