Krautmeyer

19. The Girls – Emma Cline

Suburban girl goes wild…still basically gets out of everything…and it’s kind of a slow stroll to get there. This was fine. It reads fine, it’s got some nice, hazy Southern California imagery, and easily invokes the Manson family and Cline does pay attention to a lot of the senses. Her writing easily allows the reader to be in the scene smell-wise – rotting lettuce, mildewy clothes, musty outbuildings, that very specific smell that screams “mice have been here” (shudder).

But, not unlike many coddled lives and other stories where a privileged person takes a walk on the other side but doesn’t stay, it’s not that interesting. Too safe. Her life almost gets fucked up by being associated with this version of the Manson family, but then it really doesn’t. She has her bad memories and a stigma that hurts her when she runs into people even more privileged than she is, and that’s realistic but I guess I don’t care about Evie the narrator because Evie doesn’t care about Evie either.

That’s right, my girls Murderface and Pickles, nothing much to read here.

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The blurb says “Dark and droll” and that’s about right.

73. Raylan – Elmore Leonard

Timothy Olyphant’s influence on the Raylan character is definitely at play in the first Raylan-focused novel published after Justified hit the screen. It’s fair – Olyphant’s Raylan is exactly who I want to picture as Raylan Givens. When reading Raylan, it’s interesting to see the differences in how Leonard deals with his characters after the show, including those who barely got much time on Justified (like Jackie Nevada), and how he deals with the changes in the timeline. It’s a good thing Justified was such a damn good show – would’ve been hard to live up to Elmore Leonard’s legacy otherwise. The saga of Dewey Crowe-take on the kidney theft storyline from this book is one of my favorite things Justified has done. Dewey fucking Crowe.

Reading about Raylan Givens is like Horace settling in to his willow bridge with a nice, comfy blanket and a friendly squirrel to lie on – comfortable, enjoyable, worth it.

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Face Your Demons – Supernatural starts now, on TNT

36. Skin of the Soul – Lisa Tuttle, ed.

This beautifully titled short story collection is subtitled “New horror stories by women” and was published by The Women’s Press, London, in 1990. It features some familiar writers like Karen Joy Fowler, Joyce Carol Oates, Tuttle herself, and Joan Aiken (who I mainly know from her Edward Gorey illustrated Wolves of Willoughby Chase and other wolf books); it also features several writers I’ve never heard of and two of those are from Texas and their stories in the anthology are some of their earliest professional publications. That’s pretty cool.

Peregrine is basically a professional model for paintings and photos. That’s also pretty cool. Muse pigs are cool.

Here are some of my thoughts about the stories that stood out to me:

Melanie Tem – “Lightning Rod” – A literally horrific exploration of that martyr complex women are societally bred to have. Oh, I’ll do this thing that hurts – No, I will! And so on and so on until someone collapses under the weight of trying to please everyone. This story was both scary and exhausting.

Suzy McKee Charnas – “Boobs” – A very fun little werewolf story.

Karen Joy Fowler – “The Night Wolf” – Different kind of wolf. Not fun.

This is as close to howling at the moon as Pere’s going to get.

Ann Walsh – “Getting Away From It All” – Very reminiscent of Jack Torrance at the bar in The Shining, except, in this story, the mom isn’t blaming everyone else for her own issues. It’s vague and surreal and also quite grounded in that “I was trying to do something nice!” feeling that can exhaust and overwhelm us.

There are quite a few pieces in this collection that really pick at parts of me and so for once I’m reviewing a horror collection that actually got under my skin. Nice work/Damn it, ladies.

Lisa Tuttle – “Mr. Elphinstone’s Hands” – So much mucus in this story. SO much. It’s slimy and sticky and evokes the shame of hyperhidrosis and living in the spiritualist times and paranoia and, well, yuck.

Peregrine knows which dead piggies she’d like to conjure with mucus hands but…no one in this house has ectoplasmic abilities. Sorry, Pere.

G.K. Sprinkle – “Serena Sees” – Quite the tense evening over the psychic lines. The anger that people use as an excuse to hurt other who haven’t actually done anything to them comes through in this story – especially the anger of an entitled dude who didn’t get what he wanted. A smile. A correct psychic prediction. A date. All resulting in some dude who thinks he has the right to hurt women.

Melissa Mia Hall – “Listening” – The earring tells her things. Things that no one will listen to…like the many times I have correctly predicted something bad happening (a broken window, for instance) that wouldn’t have happened if the persons involved had just listened to me. I don’t even have a magic earring. My ears aren’t even pierced. Still no one listens.

Anne Goring – “Hantu-Hantu” – A Barb and Nancy for 1990. Except in this story, Nancy gets the roaches. She goes after the guy, gets “chosen” in the swampy tropics, and gets the roaches. Barb…well, she still basically gets to go the Upside Down and she kinda gets the roaches too.

You just go ahead and try to give Pere the roaches. She’ll come out of the log tunnel and cut you. With her mind. Also maybe her very sharp incisors.

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“The Gift of the Magi,” it’s not, but, whatever. Be like the squirrel.

21. Darkness Visible – William Styron

One last post for the year… On a holiday that can be a really bad time for a lot of people. I generally have a hard time around Christmas, last year’s was particularly hard for me and I ended up coming back from my time at home in quite a bad place, which would not have made any sense if you saw me on my last day at work before the holiday. I was in a ridiculously good mood, also for no particular reason beyond having had one very amusing conversation the night before and getting “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk stuck in my head. I also listened to the whole of the True Story of Abner Jay that day. Vacillating back and forth between “Get Lucky” and Abner Jay doesn’t sound like a good idea on paper, but I do love a random juxtaposition and The True Story of Abner Jay is so fucking good. So good. I love that mule song, damnit. After work I drove through a solid whiteout snow storm for three hours to my original home land and I couldn’t listen to either song in the car; but, I don’t even remember what I listened to because I was concentrating so hard on not sliding off the road, or into anyone else, or losing where I was, etc. Inclement weather driving is not fun, but I have a lot of experience with it.

Anyway, I tend to feel quite lonely in places I’m not supposed to, at times I shouldn’t, and it seems like almost any time I have one really, really good day or feel actual happiness, soon after my brain thinks the other shoe’s going to drop. And it does, regardless of whether or not it really dropped. It’s like it wants to make sure I know “nothing gold can stay.” I know. I get it. So, by the time I was driving back to my current city of residence, it wasn’t possible for me to be remotely pleasant. I was definitely under the impression I was going from feeling bad to another place to feel worse with nothing to look forward to, clearly, any amusements were already completely over. Quite hopeless. And then when I got home I checked my little internet messages and got really, really, really upset, because I was trying to confirm I had nothing to look forward to and that my brain was rightly despairing. Nothing super-bleak can stay, either, it turns out, as I had one from someone I never expected and they did something I never expected in that message and additionally, they clearly wanted to see me soon. What a bastard. I made sure to mess up their hair when I drove to them immediately after letting them know I read it by calling them a bastard. They didn’t even know what they were doing – which is exactly how my depression breaks every time, some unexpected, tiny, usually absurd thing. So keep waiting it out and maybe your own grumpy metal Santa will come for you.

As for Darkness Visible, it’s another stone cold classic – and very short. I didn’t think it would be that short considering the number of times I’ve seen it mentioned in other writings about depression.

Instead of really discussing it, I’m just going to share some random chunks I related to and enjoyed or saw someone else I know in:

“…being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world.”

“…in the absence of hope we must still struggle to survive, and so we do – by the skin of our teeth.”

“…unwilling to accept its own gathering deterioration, the mind announces to its indwelling consciousness that it is the body with its perhaps correctable defects – not the precious and irreplaceable mind – that is going haywire.”

“It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk.”

“Most people in the grip of depression at its ghastliest are, for whatever reason, in a state of unrealistic hopelessness, torn by exaggerated ills and fatal threats that bear no resemblance to actuality.”

Mini-playlist, my gift of absurd juxtaposition for you, gentle reader –

“My Mule” – Abner Jay
“Get Lucky” – Daft Punk
“Little Acorns” – White Stripes
“Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley

 

These boys “love” their sweaters.

 

All four of my Christmas pigs (Horace, Ozma, Peregrine, and Danger Crumples) and their tree.

 

Horace, Ozma, Peregrine, and Danger Crumples are sort of stuck, but, like, festively stuck.

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Not quite horror, but there are horror elements. Several. Enough.

1. Greywalker – Kat Richardson

Harper Blaine is the “Just the facts, ma’am,” type of P.I. with a supernatural edge. She really reminds me of Rhona Mitra, so if there’s ever a film version, that’s my actress suggestion. In a way, she’s quite cold as a heroine and I really liked that. A lady character doesn’t have to be overly empathetic and it’s nice to see some emotionally distant main characters who know they are emotionally distant. Her best connection is with her ferret, Chaos, and I wholly support that as a reader. The importance of pets is often overlooked. I cannot say that I wasn’t worried that Chaos would then die in the story as that tends to happen to animals that resonate, but, I’m now seven books into the series and Chaos is still going strong – her care is still specified in a sentence or two, never just overlooked for plot speed. That’s good.

This is the first in the Greywalker series and so there’s a lot of world building, but it didn’t get boring. Harper does make a lot of phone calls and does a lot of parking, though. Sometimes the logistical details can make things a bit dry, but the way Richardson writes, it seems to me that the logistics are there to settle your senses for the unrealities – which are quite easy to visualize. It’s also set in Seattle, which really works as a setting for anything with “grey” in it and mist…

Duncan comes in on little guinea pig feet. She sits- well, she’s standing here, but we’re parodying Sandburg so- she sits, looking over bedroom and beyond, on silent haunches, and then moves on.

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“Won’t you take a ride…ride…ride…On heavy metal”

Today only! Redbubble has a 20% off sale (and express shipping gets things to you by Xmas) if you use the code: GIFTNOW

And, may I add, I have added two new parody paintings to my portfolio that are available on things and stuff:

 

And

 

I saw somewhere that Porgs are based on puffins and I must call shenanigans. They look just like Pere. And she’s not a puffin. So I showed them who is boss in this parody painting, heavy metal-style.

 

Again, I have called shenanigans.

 

Finny is a pretty emo pig, he’s got a lot of emotions, and he could turn to villainy at any time.

 

See? Villain potential vs. my little valkyrie

 

I have many of my other paintings available on things and stuff too. You can have the weirdest home imaginable (next to mine, that is). My portfolio page, it’s FULL of piggy goodness.

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“When you grow up, your heart dies.”

44. Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead

The design of the movie version of this book is excellent; especially the color choices for the marketing materials and the soundtrack. It’s very process red and neon green and that’s great for what it is – a so deep it’s shallow friends and vampires story with some sex and violence.

It’s easy to tell that Mead did some significant mythological research and I feel like maybe she researched traits for sassy heroines as well… The connections in teen novels are often built on life or death overdramatics, and in Vampire Academy they didn’t feel earned to me. I still don’t entirely buy Rose’s devotion to Lissa, in part because Lissa felt like a total cipher of vampire royalty to me and also because I don’t buy Rose. Maybe all vampire royalty are total ciphers. Maybe all sassy teenagers who are full of themselves just don’t work for me, even though I did enjoy Holden Caulfield when I read Catcher in the Rye (which might have a lot to do with the writing and angst being palpable instead of told…). In the film I didn’t buy Rose and Lissa’s relationship either, even with emotional facial expressions. In the book, I felt like I was being told a lot of emotionally significant to the narrative things by a narrator who wasn’t actually capable of accessing their vulnerability (even without knowing it, like so many good narrating characters), so it just didn’t ring true- which is one of the problems with the YA boom. Don’t write down to teenagers.

Danger Crumples, guinea pig royalty with excellent, nay, immaculate design.

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Moral of the story: Don’t go to your neighbor’s parties if you live in a named building in New York City.

12. Audrey’s Door – Sarah Langan

Some of this reminded me of Rosemary’s Baby and The Sentinel. Move in to the wrong apartment building, especially by yourself, and all hell breaks loose. Or, more accurately, the slowly creeping hell breaks loose. Audrey is in the middle of dealing with a break up and moves into The Breviary and finds that she has weirdo neighbors and fun new building compulsions – just the thing for an architect.

Finny is a different brand of slowly creeping horror. The cute kind. The adorable creeping horror.

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It’s certainly not a “Dance Epidemic,” baby.

17. The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic – Jonathan Rottenberg

One of the most important sentiments that I found in this book is that humans “are not wired for bliss.” Rottenberg makes the argument that it isn’t normal to constantly be happy; it’s actually an evolutionary detriment to be happy all the time. And we as a species would totally not survive if we were constantly happy. Somebody has to notice the cliff instead of just happily whistling as they walk right off it.

The Depths presents its discussion of mood science with equal helpings of scientific detail and patient anecdotes and it was immensely useful to me. I love that Rottenberg is discussing mood. It seems like a really obvious aspect of depression to discuss, but it hasn’t been that prevalent in my own readings. I’ve often felt like whatever I was experiencing wasn’t “enough” to be considered depression because I’m otherwise pretty functional. I’ve even been told I’m “high functioning” by a counseling professional. I have had those weird days where I can’t stop crying and I don’t know why, but I’ve never gotten to the stage where I literally could not get out of bed, not even in acute grief-based depressive periods. When you aren’t similar enough to some of the narratives or symptom descriptions, and you feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere in the spectrum…it’s a strange situation. In The Depths, I see more of myself (and someone else I know, that was weird, seeing someone else in a depression narrative more clearly than I saw myself) and the trajectories that I face that I know are depression and involve consistent low mood. I also saw a lot of my own coping mechanisms and of course that makes one feel a little better about the path they’re taking. It meant a lot to me to see these experiences and to be able to characterize these situations in more logical terms. I’m not the most dramatic person, I like practicality, and I enjoyed The Depths.

Ozy and Danger are not trapped in a prison of their own minds, I stuck them in a laundry basket. They coped by gnawing and whistling at me until their cages were clean. Use those rootless teeth! It’s evolutionarily advantageous and a laundry basket is no Château d’If.

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The body of an angel and the head of a wood owl

  1. My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

Hendrix has definitely made some novelist progress since Horrorstor. There are many details in My Best Friend’s Exorcism that really work – the descriptions of Charleston and summer activities in the south in general, the extreme specifics of cassette destruction, and lots and lots of fluids (although I can’t say I ever associated pickles with cadaver labs and I frankly don’t want to, I’ve never thought formalin and pickles had a similar scent either). The description of Margaret in her bed was stomach churning. And I very deeply understood what Abby’s mom was on about when she told her that her rich friends would use her as a scapegoat. I understand that position better than I ever wanted to, the powerful trying to keep the powerless in their place. The book also reads like a shot and I did stay up to keep going to find a non-paranoia inducing scene the second night I was reading it. I have very specific memories of the first time I watched The Exorcist that were invoked reading this (damn it, Regan-me similarities, you still bother me!) and those never make me feel comfortable going to sleep. My imagination is very strong and will not be denied.

On the other hand, the sense that I was being told too many things bothered me at several points. These characters were stronger than the ones in Horrorstor, but they’re still being written with a sense of remove – like they were conceptualized as types and not people and there’s some fight against that but the distance won. The exorcism itself also didn’t work for me; it seemed to go by really quickly and there was a lot of time and build up of what was going on with Gretchen that just didn’t square with the way the exorcism happened. Maybe if WHAM! had been involved instead of Phil Collins. You know Phil Collins made some kind of deal…you know it.

“The power of Phil is not compelling, Belvedere! I didn’t even like ‘Sussudio’!” Pickles will not be exorcised. She was never possessed, so it makes sense.

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