56. Harvest Home – Thomas Tryon
The story this book tells has been imitated enough that I knew exactly where we were heading. Like Deathstalker, I’ve seen it all before and could shake my eighties haircut with hubris at it (if I had an eighties haircut). And really, the problem of the main character is hubris. He thinks he’s smart enough to figure out what’s really going on in Cornwall Coombe and stamp out those “old ways” he keeps hearing about. He thinks. He’s no rural sexpot postmaster, or frustrated outsider who should really go to college, and he’s certainly no blind elderly neighbor who just goes with the flow. No, he’s Ned, incredibly pompous narrator, so he goes forth into the corn-based fray (watch out though, corn will sneak up on you when you least expect it), with all the self-righteousness and obsession he can muster.
Finny, you don’t want to cross the Widow Peregrine when she’s looking up at you like that. Don’t get sassy.
Filed under Books, Review
63. NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
Victoria McQueen felt very familiar to me, and not just because we’re both good at finding things. When I originally read the description for NOS4A2 before the book came out, all I could think about was Regan, the main heroine of my Squirrelpocalypse trilogy . I know that Joe Hill and I aren’t working on the same level, but we are working within the same territory. We’re a little bit like the two camps in The Thing. I’m the Norwegian one, for a variety of fun reasons. And it’s little comparisons such as that one that give me the indications that Hill and I are neighbors. Allusions are part of the fabric of our writing. The Thing is, heh, if you know what one of us is alluding to, you’ll either love the whole story more or start to resent it.
I recognized many things in NOS4A2 just as I have in other Hill works. The one that most significantly sparked for me was the bridge. I knew I’d seen it before. The vision that Vic crossing it put in my head was straight out of something that, at the time I read this, I hadn’t seen in a very long time – In the Mouth of Madness. It’s that bridge. Those lights between the boards. That rickety slapping. NOS4A2 is a masterwork of allusion and it’s also just an amazing damn original story- always what I’m aiming for as well. Christmasland reminded me a little too easily of his father’s work, which is neither here nor there, as it mostly made me worried the ending wouldn’t be satisfactory.
Merricat would’ve burned down both camps. She was a finisher and fierce little pig.
31. Silk – Caitlin R. Kiernan
I’m not going to lie, there are parts of me that just wish I was a lot cooler in the 1990s. And by “cooler” I mean, older and able to get into clubs where I would have died quickly of an asthma attack because there weren’t any smoking bans back then. Sigh. But I would have seen so many more bands I like in person (surely!) and worn my leather pants with purpose. (I had one pair. They were a very important Christmas present for my psyche. I am proud to report that they didn’t squeak when I wore them, but I did not have nearly enough opportunities. I still have them, but I’m not sure if they fit as they were last deployed on my birthday in 2005.) I probably would have said a lot of really annoying things about how “maybe I’ll just, like, write a novel about vampires or some shit and like, send it in to some random horror publisher,” that totally would have worked out. Totally. Maybe I would have developed a taste for coffee. Perhaps I would have seen Slayer in a much smaller venue than they play now – and developed permanent tinnitus early on. Dreams. As Mitch Hedberg said, “I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask them where they’re goin’ and hook up with them later.”
Anyway, all I could think about while reading Silk was the 1990s. And how ridiculously familiar many of the characters were to friends I’ve known since I did become old enough to get into music venues. Yes, let’s all hang out in the parking lot and speak way too loudly for no reason at 2AM. Let’s. Let’s also never shut up about coffee, oh wait, that’s STILL HAPPENING. Also the smoking. I have one terrible ex-boyfriend who fancied himself a filmmaker who did that thing that everyone who smokes and had a video camera when they weren’t ubiquitous on phones does where they film someone smoking in black and white and linger on the smoke. Linger. Soundtrack it with Portishead. I know I would have loved this book and considered it to be somewhat aspirational when I was in middle school – because I had no idea how annoying most people were going to turn out to be. Even me.
Silk is a little more plot conscious than some of the other Kiernan works I’ve read, but reading it as a jaded, cynical adult with some failure under my belt I had very little ability to care about the characters – partly because they’re interchangeable, partly because the genesis of Kiernan’s atmostpheric, impressionist writing style is here and it doesn’t give much room for fully developing her people.
Pickles imitates the Hype Williams’ music video staple – fish eye lens. She’s all nose here, and not too long ago someone told me guinea pigs are “all nose” and I’m a little irritated to find proof as I don’t like how he said it. Damn it, Vincent.
4. Them or Us – David Moody
Welcome to the post-post-apocalypse, where if you can’t get your mental shit together, you’re doomed. Then again, you always were doomed, even if you could get your mental shit together because there’s some probably tiny handed dictator waiting to only give you food if you’re fittingly sycophantic and brutal. Sheesh. How do these people gain power? Oh wait, regardless of country, sometimes they get voted in.
Them or Us is a fittingly bleak and mildly brutal end to the Hater trilogy, set in Lowestoft, and yet, The Darkness’ fate was not mentioned. I assume Justin and Dan and co. are fine and were in a bunker when the bombs fell – after all, bombs are really only supposed to fall on Slough, isn’t that how the poem goes?
It was the coming of the …Belvedere. Damnit, too many syllables, and “Bel Bel” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Black Shuck.” He was certainly “a curious beast” though. Oooooooh.
35. Shock Value – Jason Zinoman
Short essays on horror movies that gave me the impression that a lot of horror directors act like dicks. That’s actually not too much of a surprise. There’s an accepted attitude of dickishness that has been at work in creative enterprises for an extraordinarily long time, and if you take the lack of opportunities for women into account, it gets even dickier. And sometimes that dickishness works in the favor of the horror audience, sometimes it doesn’t. Too many cooks. Also, there are apparently several factual inaccuracies in the book and that is an important thing to consider if you are into serious film criticism. I’m not that serious, but I do like accuracy so I’m at an impasse. My favorite fact from the book was easily verifiable, so you know I’m trying not to lie to you.
Anyway, I learned many interesting little tidbits from Zinoman’s work and I really enjoyed the chapters on Alien and Texas Chainsaw Massacre in particular. One name that I didn’t know before reading this that I really should have is Dan O’Bannon – although leaving Dan out seems to have been kind of a thing back in the day. Apparently he and John Carpenter ended up frenemies and he worked on that failed Jodorowsky version of Dune and is responsible for the chestburster scene from Alien existing and H.R. Giger being involved in Alien. He is not specifically responsible for my very favorite fact from the book, the one I didn’t know and committed to memory because I knew I would need to repeat it as much as possible – one of the working titles of Alien was “Star Beast.” I cannot imagine how little gravitas Alien would have had if it stayed “Star Beast.” Holy shit that is a terrible title for a horror movie. Or a thriller. Or anything that is supposed to have dark suspense. It evokes the He-Man cartoon for me. The over-projected voices, the furry half-there clothing, the complete lack of suspense…that’s what Star Beast says to me.
I could’ve named Danger Crumples “Star Beast” and it would’ve made more sense than calling Alien “Star Beast.”
Filed under Books, Review
54. My Secret Admirer – Carol Ellis
Isolated teen sparks the interest of local maniac, rejects common sense, lives to tell the tale. It’s hard when you move to a new town and your parents immediately abandon you to fend for yourself in your extremely isolated home. Perhaps, if you were a teenage girl who had never seen a single news report or experienced other humans, you might think that suddenly having a secret admirer leave you gifts when you are completely alone in an unfamiliar place would be fun, perhaps cute, and it wouldn’t set off every internal personal safety alarm you have even though you keep acting like you have those on your trips to town. The ominous rocks aren’t calling you, Jenny, and they certainly aren’t leaving you presents. Yeesh.
1. Burden in My Hand – Soundgarden
2. What’s a Girl to Do? – Bat for Lashes
3. Comanche Moon – The Black Angels
4. Get Found – Bass Drum of Death
5. Too Real – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6. Crazy Love – Chelsea Wolfe
7. Deep Blue – Arcade Fire
8. A Brief History of Love – The Big Pink
9. Behind the Wheel – Depeche Mode
10. No Direction – Logan 5
11. Length of Love – Interpol
12. Kalopsia – Queens of the Stone Age
13. With My Eyes Closed – The Raveonettes
14. Something I Can Never Have – Vitamin String Quartet
Merricat asks, “Really? Listen to the dog, Jenny. Peaches knows what’s up.”
7. One Evil Summer – R.L. Stine
A long time ago, in a land about one hundred miles away from the land I am currently occupying, I settled in to a long afternoon of playing while sort of watching TV and stumbled upon a movie where this weird lady took a baby into the woods and gave the baby to a tree. It seemed interesting and so I watched the rest of it -and this was before the internet, before the little guide on the television, and we had no subscription to TV Guide, and so it took me a REALLY long time to figure out that it was The Guardian. Bastard film of William Friedkin who would scare me half to death by creating a relatable situation in The Exorcist – he took his name off The Guardian for cable, not that I saw the beginning where it also explained that Druids worshipped trees (but- but- when were they building henges in danger of being crushed?). I saw some wolves, I got confused, and I am now never surprised by evil nanny stories. One Evil Summer is an evil nanny/babysitter story and it needed more wolves. And a creepy tree.
1. I Am the Sun – Swans
2. Black God Forest – Those Poor Bastards
3. Are You Okay? – Dum Dum Girls
4. Anything, Anything – Dramarama
5. Jinx – Snakefinger
6. Lady Shoes – Jesus Lizard
7. 1985 – Kvelertak
8. Cat Claw – The Kills
9. Vacation – Absolutely Not
10. The Serpent & The Pig – Zebras
11. Two Hearted Woman – Electric Citizen
12. Drawing Down the Moon – Blood Ceremony
13. Nothin’ – Rowland S. Howard
14. Charmer – Kings of Leon
15. Superstition – The Kills
16. Wide At Midnight – The Wytches
When they film Ozymandias’ story, which might involve creepy trees prior to my having acquired him, it’s likely that Sam Raimi will sign on to direct initially, but then we’ll have to settle for William Friedkin.
51. The Drifter – Richie Tankersley Cusick
Mrs. Baxter could have used a nice visit with the Sexual Harassment Panda from South Park before starting on her business plan. When your daughter says the man you hired as a live-in handyman after he just showed up one day at your door in your new town and has been giving her the creeper eyes and you imply that she should stop asking for it -that makes for a saaaaaad panda. Just a reminder, Mrs. Baxter, you should be glad your daughter told you about it BEFORE anything criminally prosecutable happened.
1. Sinking with the Sun – The Raveonettes
2. Shallow Water – Electric Citizen
3. She Cried – Rowland S. Howard
4. Wild Charms – The Kills
5. Goodbye Gemini – Blood Ceremony
6. The Deserters – Rachel Zeffira
7. Constellations – Black Mountain
8. Nothin’ – Rowland S. Howard
9. Headed Nowhere – Those Poor Bastards
10. Big Dark Love – Murder By Death
11. Hollow Earth – Zebras
12. Four Teeth – True Widow
13. Black Eyed Dog – Swans
14. Lonely Sunday – Reignwolf
15. Calla – Russian Circles
Belvedere doesn’t take kindly to age based power imbalances being used to the advantage of walking jean jackets.
62. Lights Out – R.L. Stine
Stine getting epistolary up in here. Yes, villain of the piece, it is amazing that you think turning “Camp Nightwing” to “Camp Nightmare” is a clever bit of wordplay. I don’t know how anyone overlooked your genius. I know main character Holly was too busy being scared shitless by virtually every outside-based beast that could be at a summer camp. Suck it up, Holly, solving the mystery is going to require more than startled screams. Or…maybe not.
I went to two summer camps in my time as a youth. At the first one, my cabin was awoken in the night by mating wild turkeys – that was loud and also confusingly terrifying. Plus we had to walk danceably to “Tears in Heaven” and put up the flag. When we were voting on songs I had not heard “Tears in Heaven” and if I had I would have vetoed that so hard. At the second one, I was awoken by a mouse running sideways up the plywood between bunks (not my bunk, I was in the middle, terrified) and into, then back out of one camper’s sleeping bag – it was one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen. My fellow witness and I never told her.
1. Young Men Dead – The Black Angels
2. We’re All Swine – Those Poor Bastards
3. Sin Is In 10 – Bass Drum of Death
4. Hallucinations – The Raveonettes
5. Deep in the Woods – The Birthday Party
6. I Remember – Suicide
7. Houses in Motion – Talking Heads
8. In Your Wildest Dreams – Reverend Horton Heat
9. Girl Afraid – The Smiths
10. Treat Her Like a Lady – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
11. Suffer No Fools – The Sword
12. Been a Son – Nirvana
13. Running Joke – Queens of the Stone Age
14. Moonlight – Lonesome Wyatt & the Holy Spooks
15. Angelfuck – The Misfits
16. My Buried Child – Swans
17. Bad Blood – Ministry
It’s not her fault she can’t hold a flashlight to tell spooky stories.
46. Chain Letter – Christopher Pike
Who hasn’t, accidentally, done something with six other friends that they must keep a secret – only to find out someone totally saw whatever it was and now will make you all pay. Make you all pay. In this case that would be the very ominously named “Caretaker.” The “Caretaker” is NOT Grumpy Bear of the Care Bears in disguise, trying to paradigm shift the Care Bears’ organization.
1. Rich Kids – Evil Cowards
2. Sprawl II – Arcade Fire
3. Sour Cherry – The Kills
4. Sin Is In 10 – Bass Drum of Death
5. Blitzed – The Raveonettes
6. Killing for Company – Swans
7. Slutman City – GWAR
8. Mouth Breather – Jesus Lizard
9. Teen Age Riot – Sonic Youth
10. Don’t Lie – Snakefinger
11. Houses in Motion – Talking Heads
12. Lee Did This to Me – Electric Six
13. Black Sun – Kadavar
Horace likes the Care Bear Cousins, but not enough to commit. When you ignore guinea pigs, you’re working in a silo. [Ed. Using “silo” instead of “vacuum” is one of the stupidest business-language ideas ever – unless you plan on drowning in corn.]