Tag Archives: libraries

There are so many things to make us cry, or even crye, nowadays.

1. Who Made Stevie Crye? – Michael Bishop

Odd title + residence in a locked case of the library = I’m interested. In order to get to the area of the library where this book is held, you have to ask for an item (Pfft, normal patrons), or work there and have the ability to sign out a key, take the elevator up past several mezzanine floors, then unlock a door that’s just a little bit too short for your average bear with a security grating for a window. The secretive spaces of libraries are my favorites- you never know what all is in them and if you haven’t committed yourself to the work in some way, you’ll never get to see the weird stuff, or the bound volumes of Playgirl. Yes, academic libraries are hiding their porn from you, patrons; we just keep it for posterity, do not want to let it get it all sticky, and we library staff only use it for the articles. Literally. There’s this Chris Burden (you may know him as the performance artist that crucified himself on a VW Bug and let someone shoot him in a gallery, that’s how I know him) article in a 1970s issue of Playgirl that actually gets asked for a lot. It’s a pretty interesting interview and a bit of a letdown for all the staff in my department who were wondering if we were actually being asked to scan some guy’s (Chris Burden not the household name I figured someone who nailed themselves to a Bug would be) pictures from a skin mag – not so much.

What I gleaned from skimming through Who Made Stevie Crye? (no dust jacket, academic library) the beginning and intermittent illustrations was that there’s a monkey involved, someone loses all their flesh, and there’s what appeared to be a possessed typewriter in the story. It also said “A Novel of the American South” on the title page and any long time readers, first time callers know that I lived in the South and I miss many parts of it.  I figured it was horror, and it was published in 1984, I also love 1980s horror so it seemed like I might have found a diamond in the rough, as they say.

Well, that whole “set in the South” thing kept popping into my head as I read about how cold it was and the repeated turning on of the heater in Stevie’s writing room. It’s set in Georgia, but in winter, which is something that could have been easily changed and doesn’t truly contribute to the plot beyond being confusing. The humidity makes people crazy down there, which is helpful when you’re writing a horror story; a thick atmosphere is a tense atmosphere… It is just as easy to turn on a space heater in Wisconsin (where the publisher is, and the reason why this book was behind a locked door) and have the same level of haunted typewriter and monkey involvement and not make me wonder why you set the story in the South.

What Made Stevie Crye? also reminded me of one of my least favorite things about female main characters written by dudes, they are hysterical. A lot. Stevie super needs to get some writing done (I do believe in the 1980s there’s a shred of a chance one could support two children with a freelance writing career.) and her typewriter shits the bed and she doesn’t want to pay its actual manufacturer to fix it. It’s so fun reading about customer service calls. The true horror was making me read about how much it costs to fix an electric typewriter. So, of course, she ends up taking the typewriter to some nutball genius who has a pet monkey he named Sucrets (Seriously? Somebody’s shitty at pet names and that person is Michael Bishop.) and will NOT STOP VISITING after he “fixes” her typewriter. Stevie freaks out about her kids, at her kids, about the monkey, about the monkey’s finger-blood sucking habit (Ew.), about her dreams (The one with the man body with a monkey head is worth freaking out about, also the incest one, ew.), about her typewriter becoming sentient and teleplaying her dreams, about visitors, about the heater, about the stereotypical magical fortunetelling woman she finds to help her (The fortune teller has a manual typewriter. Typewriter fight! Note, typewriter fighting is way less interesting than it sounds…at least in this book.), about her book proposal, and basically betrays the majority of the sense of competency I believe a real woman would have so she can freak out. She just didn’t ring true to me and so I didn’t really care why she was so upset about having a monkey in her house, eating an egg sandwich. The horror! Plus the “reasoning” behind the whole enchanted typewriter thing sucked and even Stevie seemed to have a sedated reaction to it, most realistic thing she did.

I did a little research and found that this was supposed to be one of those “unexpectedly funny” books, but, it really didn’t work for me. I enjoy oddness for its own sake, I’m a fan of both Splatterpunk anthologies I’ve read and they’re a great example of truly bizarre things that can elicit a smirk. Maybe it would be funnier if the setting made sense and the main character seemed a tad realistic before things started making her go off the rails. Horror and comedy do have a lot in common. Or if they gave the monkey a mint julep instead of a fondness for Sucrets and finger-blood; actually, I believe that in the South, Capuchins drink a sweating glass of sweet tea before they invade your home and tear up your daughter’s stuffed animals and unzip their monkey skins to reveal their tiny little man bodies. Afterwards they fan themselves on your porch swing.

Finny just realized he left his space heater on...but he lives in Wisconsin...and it's still winter...so that's pretty normal beyond the improbability of me letting my guinea pigs manage their own space heaters. He also left his typewriter on...

Finny just realized he left his space heater on…but he lives in Wisconsin…and it’s still winter…so that’s pretty normal beyond the improbability of me letting my guinea pigs manage their own space heaters. He also left his typewriter on…

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“I’m not even supposed to be here today.”

73. Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix

Several people saw this book and thought of me. It’s droll, involves the supernatural, and has an amusing title. I also thought of me from both my existence as a writer of that sort of thing and a reader of it when I read a review and then by happy coincidence I found it in the stacks while looking for a different book that was misplaced sometime in the last two years – I hate it when things are misshelved and have no history of being checked out; it just makes me think the first person to shelve it did it wrong and set off a horrible chain of events.

Anyway, I read it in an evening and I did enjoy it quite a bit. I returned it to the library and was told about how I might like this “book with the weird name” by someone, and then later it was given to me for Christmas. I wanted a copy, so I was happy about that, but my aunt was not as pleased that I’d already heard of it and read it. Sometimes things attract me for reasons I cannot explain. The right kind of horror comedy will find me. Preferably. I’d rather the right kind found me early on in its existence, but I have no control over discoverability …as much as I try to be both discoverable and discover things.

Not surprisingly based on the title, it’s a take off on Ikea and the drudgery of working at a giant store. The book is set up in a catalogue format, with a particular product advertisement at the beginning of each chapter. The descent into madness with those products is one of my favorite things about the book – the design of this book is absolutely excellent. It’s quirky as hell, which, being published by Quirk books, makes sense. I have also always been pretty fond of reluctant anti-hero types forced into ridiculous circumstances, as both a writer and a reader (one might say a squirrelpocalypse qualifies as a ridiculous circumstance, they’d be right) and Hendrix does a good job of pushing the reluctant heroine in a believable way. There are a lot of familiar things in Horrorstor, the co-workers, the policy issues, the dead wanting to make their way back into our world, the convenient storage solutions, and I was very amused by how everything came together.

If you need to improve your Kleenex storage options or if you have ever had a guinea pig as inclined to take out Kleenex boxes as Miss Pickles...perhaps there is some sort of haunted store near you.

If you need to improve your Kleenex storage options or if you have ever had a guinea pig as inclined to take out Kleenex boxes as Miss Pickles…perhaps there is some sort of haunted store near you.

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12 – Poor Condition

51. The Uninvited – Dorothy Macardle

Dinner parties! Ghosts! A painting model named Caramel! Endless weeping! Play writing! Dramatic gestures! These are the things people heard me complaining about while I tried to finish reading this book on a variety of lunch breaks at work. I requested it from a university in the same system as the one I work for and my first clue that my experience with it wouldn’t be great was that it came in a manila folded box. That means it’s fragile and no one wants to have it bound. I, usually, do not circulate items like that, even if I know they’re coming to librarians like me, who respect the books, because it’s hard not to damage items like that further, no matter what you do with them – especially if you drop them in irritation, which, I did not do. Not once. Not even on accident. The cover was completely loose, which made for a complicated and delicate reading experience, almost as complicated and delicate as everyone in the story seemed to think Stella the teenager was. She’s lost her mother, and she won’t stop showing up at her old house – she should probably lie down, and oh, p.s. since I, narrator and a grown man playwright, have moved to the country with my sister, I think I should date this hapless teenager who has lost her mother (that part happens later on, but still, I squinted in displeasure at it). The séance scenes were pretty amusing though, I will give Macardle that.

The Uninvited is also a movie and I saw some comparisons with The Haunting somewhere that made me interested in reading this book, but, it just wasn’t for me. It’s nowhere near as foreboding as The Haunting of Hill House. I hope that if I ever get around to seeing the movie it’s more like The Haunting, which is good, and that the comparison wasn’t based around there being ghosts in a house with ladies in both stories.

Oh, and I could not help but want someone to scream “STELLLLAAA!” ala Stanley Kowalski every time someone called for the hapless teenager as she wandered into dangerous situations looking for her ghost-mom.

“Is there a ghost up there?” – Danger Crumples “The only ghosts here are us.” – Ozymandias “For the love of anything please haunt me, my little piggies.” - Me

“Is there a ghost up there?” – Danger Crumples
“The only ghosts here are us.” – Ozymandias
“For the love of anything please haunt me, my little piggies.” – Me

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Skin tags, the Pacific Trash Vortex, and a nuclear standoff cannot stop the pursuit of a vintage Cure t-shirt

13. Worst. Person. Ever. – Douglas Coupland

The department I’m currently a part of is stationed in the basement of the main branch of the 11th largest university library system in the country (last I checked). I spend most of my time in the main branch searching either virtually or physically for books and articles and one of those searches led me to a reshelving room where I found this book peeking out from underneath the Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990. I didn’t even know he had one coming out this year! So, I promptly stole it away and checked it out. Finders keepers and also, sorry, person who was trying to secretly keep these two books in the second floor reshelving room, but now I’m done with it so I might just check it in and return it right back to that spot like library magic.

Anyway, this is the second Coupland book that I was a mite disappointed with. I adore Generation X and there was some level of flashback to that in this with all the little explanatory aside paragraphs – some did mimic what I was wondering and that was sort of fun. My problem with it is that although I get the book’s purpose and was generally having a good time reading it, I don’t understand the purpose of bringing in pristine sixteen year olds. Also, the poop fixation was not my cup of tea. I also found nothing useful about any of the female characters, but at least there were several – although there’s a problem with the best one and that problem is a little annoying when considering this book is written by a man. I guess that’s the only way to be a relatable character, be a man. Neal was great and the description of Neal in the beginning was one of the most disgustingly tangible smell scenes I’ve ever read. I usually don’t review anything remotely close to when it came out – just City of Devils and this one, maybe a Charlaine Harris, um, tangent- and so I’m trying not to spoil things, sort of, technically I don’t care if I spoil literary fiction for anyone [maniacal laugh] (if I was in this book, I’d now be explaining why a ‘maniacal laugh’ is the right end to that sentiment).

Perd Hapley? More like Turd Crapley. – Reading this made me want to re-watch that episode of Parks and Rec where Ben melts down on Ya Heard? With Perd.

“Ozymandias’ World” A photo in which Ozymandias the guinea pig contemplates living in a world where women are fully allowed to explore the same range of ideas in their writing that men are and be published without impunity. There’s a reason why his rump is positioned toward the camera.

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