Tag Archives: Non-fiction

“Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here.”

34. October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween – Richard Chizmar & Robert Morrish, eds.

October is one of the months that I always wish I could take entirely off my day job – at least, pre-climate change. Now it usually has a crappy hot week and some not really all that fallesque weeks and way less of what I expect – not enough crisp air and insect and plant death to make my allergies just a bit easier to manage. Also, it should come as no surprise that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I may have even mentioned that before on here. I’m not sure, but it’s still my favorite holiday.

It’s also the month when I adopted Horace, the heart of my herd and the sweetest guinea pig. He was so excited to find out there were other guinea pigs in my house when I brought him home that he didn’t stop vocalizing for half an hour. It was the best. Although I did not get him on Halloween, it was close, October 24th, and so essentially, adopting him is one of my favorite Halloween-adjacent memories.

October Dreams has an interesting structure. It goes back and forth between short stories and “My Favorite Halloween Memory” segments from horror authors. Some of the memories are better than the stories as they truly give a picture of Halloween and they really break up the experience of reading this 660 page long collection. I’m not going to discuss them further beyond saying that they are the full size Snickers of the reading experience.

You could say that Horace is the full size Snickers of guinea pigs. He was a big pig and incredibly sweet.

Dean Koontz – “The Black Pumpkin” – Once again I found myself really enjoying the work of Dean Koontz. A kid buys a super gnarly pumpkin from a super gnarly man despite his reservations and because of some taunting from his jackass brother; and it, well, had the exact ending I expected.

Poppy Z. Brite – “Lantern Marsh” – Before the immense life changes, and really, still after, you could always count on the swampy and mysterious to work their way into a Brite story. This is no exception and plays a little off the weirdness of coming home and reacting to how your hometown doesn’t stay frozen just because you left.

Thomas Ligotti – “Conversations in a Dead Language” – An off-kilter selection covering the ins and outs of handing out candy.

Thomas F. Monteleone – “Yesterday’s Child” – This one had great atmosphere and some creepery to go with.

Peregrine is creeping up on Horace who thinks he’s creeping up on that pumpkin. This herd can handle some creepery.

Simon Clark – “The Whitby Experience” – A vacation gone wrong in the best way. Misty…confusing…pizza gets burned – they’re going to have a bad time.

Ray Bradbury – “In-Between, A Halloween Poem” – It’s a poem. I’m fine with poems. Poems about Halloween are fine.

Jack Ketchum – “Gone” – Sometimes it seems like letting strangers knock on your door for candy really is opening yourself up to psychological punishment. Especially if you’ve lost a child that you’ll never see through the opposite end of the experiment.

Gahan Wilson – “Yesterday’s Witch” – This was just cute.

Paula Guran – “A Short History of Halloween” – Non-fiction interlude! I appreciated this because, to a librarian, there are no celebrations of anything without helpful, verified information.

Horace runs from my nerdery. He did not want to know the illustrious history of pumpkin photoshoots.

John Shirley – “Mask Game” – Family conflicts played out without those helpful puppets you see in movies with family counseling scenes sometimes. The classic example being What About Bob? This story also reminded me of all those times on Supernatural when young people inadvertently summoned old gods or goddesses.

David B. Silva – “Out of the Dark” – It’s always good to be nice to that immortal entity you trapped in a trunk.

Ray Bradbury – “Heavy Set” – I did not expect this kind of a story from Ray Bradbury, I really don’t associate him with assholes who lift weights in their mom’s yard.

Richard Laymon – “Boo” – An interesting twist on the “Bet you can’t go up on the creepy porch” story. He added stalking.

Douglas E. Winter – “Masks” – My strongest anxious memories are about waiting. So this story was very effective for me.

Horace is waiting for me to stop taking pictures so he doesn’t have to establish a new residence atop this pumpkin.

Caitlin R. Kiernan – “A Redress for Andromeda” – I read this story previously in a different collection of hers and I have to say it’s a bit more to my taste than most of her work. A little more plot and less reliance on atmosphere to carry everything.

Lewis Shiner – “The Circle” – One hell of a time travel tale. It also involved those super awkward feelings that happen when you tried to get all your friends to like your new boyfriend and he sucked and then you broke up. Tail between legs.

Gary A. Braunbeck – ” ‘First of All, It Was October…’ An Overview of Halloween Films” – Non-fiction interlude two! This was a great list. But I do not agree about Ernest Scared Stupid. I was in fact scared stupid by that movie. Some of us are scared of trolls. And rolling over to find one in your bed is just well, let’s just say it kept me up at night for years, despite the overall stupidity of the whole enterprise.

This one time I made Horace come with me to investigate whether or not something else that scared me stupid was still in the basement. It was. Horace was a valiant pig, he totally helped me be less terrified.

Tim Lebbon – “Pay the Ghost” – Very reminiscent of True Crime. Loss, weird journeys, pits full of dead things.

F. Paul Wilson – “Buckets” – One time I was grading this beginner college course on philosophy. It actually didn’t really fit my idea of “philosophy,” but anyway, one assignment was an argumentative paper. A student turned in a paper full of the images that anti-abortion zealots use on their posters, images of bloody fetuses and about one page saying she wasn’t a fan of abortion in the least objective terms possible. That was a fail and from my perspective, so was this story.

Stephen Mark Rainey – “Orchestra” – This was an unexpectedly clever story. It was interesting to see old dude pro musicians as the protagonists and it does not have a nice ending.

Charles L. Grant – “Eyes” – Another disturbing story. Damn, dude. The things some people do for their kids.

Horace and Peregrine took a long time to be proper friends. Horace would’ve done a lot for her, including endure many sharp nips until she let him skritch her chin with his face.

Dominick Cancilla – “Deathmask” – Super creepy teenager and mom paranoia story. I really enjoyed this one.

Michael Marshall Smith – “Some Witch’s Bed” – “He will never forget her” – you’re damn right.

Ramsey Campbell – “The Trick” – Not a very nice story at all. There’s a dog involved, just a warning for those of you who want to be warned about that sort of thing.

Peter Straub – “Porkpie Hat” – So, I have to admit that whenever anyone mentions jazz I immediately think of white middle aged men snapping their fingers and trying to seem cool in record stores. I also think “Just play the right notes!” and I can’t even remember where that quote came from anymore. However, Straub managed to suck me in by saying Hat, the main character, was from Mississippi. Fine. We’ll see what you do with it, man. We’ll see. Of course, this is a Mississippi I do not know, one that feels closer in kin to Joe Lansdale’s East Texas than my Hattiesburg, I’m also, like, way younger than the characters, so, that has an effect. Anyway, it was a really solid, image-invoking, page turner of a story. Thankfully, not too much jazz description had to be endured.

Horace had his MA in telling stories to ladypigs.

Stefan Dziemianowicz – “Trick-or-Read, A Reader’s Guide to Halloween Fiction” – Non-fiction informational interlude number three! SO helpful. I loved this list because it allowed me to check things off and to find new books.

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“Thou art to be hanged and then burned over a basket of living cats.” (Warlock)

34. Witchfinder General: The Biography of Matthew Hopkins – Craig Cabell

It took me a very long time to finish this because it includes full representations of pamphlets from the time period which are extremely hard to get through. So little punctuation, so many block paragraphs…I will be forever grateful for the invention of indentation. One of those pamphlets, the short one, is by the subject, who is listed in the Dramatis Personae (yep, that’s how he put it) as “Matthew Hopkins, Son of James Hopkins: shipping clerk and witchfinder.” Nice dig, Cabell.

The longest pamphlet is by Hopkins’ assistant John Stearne and it is all about teats. Seriously. Teats- it could have a protrusion, but it could not have too much of one, or there could be a dark circle in it or a pinprick, but it might not be too obvious because they can like suck them back in after their Imps suck blood out of them and it might have a darker circle around it and it could be anywhere – anywhere – on their body. His pamphlet was endless and the reason why I put the book down for months at a time. All block paragraphs, half-teat coverage, half half-assed justification and confessions. He’s like the toady of the head dickface who wants you to think he’s a nice guy (TM) while he cops a feel checking for “teats.” If fedoras had existed in that time, he’d have been wearing one. Matthew was wearing the most ostentatious hat, after all, like Mystery on the Pick Up Artist reality show formerly on VH1.

The weirdest element of the witchfinder situation to me is that he only worked for a few years – 1645-7 – and he “sent over 200 people, mainly women, to their death for the crime of witchcraft.” That’s a hell of an impact. By the way, only one was burned. One. Her name was Mary Lakeland, of Ipswich, and apparently she was also a Royalist agent.

He also died at age 28, of consumption, which is the most inaccurate part of the film starring Vincent Price. Apparently the whole depiction of “accusation, torture, and forced confession” is pretty accurate; also, the film was shot in the original locations. It definitely added more authority to have Vincent Price as opposed to your average peacocking 26 year old “wallowing in his own self-glorification” for a fee. Thankfully he did get to experience at least one of his own torture methods before he died – the “swim test,” he was proven to be a witch based on his own ideas about water and witches. Why there’s no statue of him in his home town that’s just labeled “Total dick” for people to spit on I will never know. It might help future generations as we go backward through time morally.

Yes, Pere and Merri, we would all be hanged as witches if we lived then…fun. Hopefully before we had to hear a witchfinder say the word “fleshie,” which was an overused teat-description in the pamphlets.

 

Salem’s version is a lot cuter and maybe more sassy too.

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Happy “Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary” and “Deathday” to a LOT of people! Second most had birthday! Fall break!

41. Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson – Judy Oppenheimer

The “private demons” of the title turned out to be more along the lines of “communal” demons to me. I related quite heavily to a lot of what’s presented in a pretty novelesque fashion in this biography. And that’s both good and bad. Referring to oneself as “gratuitously difficult” is definitely something I understand wholeheartedly. I also understand trying to save or fix yourself through writing; dating someone who legitimately believes in you but also can’t stop trying to be the center of attention; moving to a new place and having some people make it a point to make sure you never forget you’re not one of them (Outlander! I’m only from one effing state away.); and collecting objects other people find morbid. Bones! Usually not human! I don’t think any of the ones I have are human! Many are fake! Anyway, I’ve always seen myself and what I could become reflected in Shirley Jackson’s work – particularly We Have Always Lived in the Castle’s Merricat (if I was left completely alone it would probably take about a week for me to start ritualizing, just replace Jonah the cat with my pigs, I do not keep sugar on hand though, just for reference).

It really shouldn’t have surprised me that I’d relate to her. I guess I just didn’t expect her to be so utterly relatable. After all, she actually had a career that involved writing as her main occupation, and she had children, and I hadn’t realized that I totally have depression when I first read this. I have not been able to get near the level of writing career I want (not unlike most writers), and I also have yet to become addicted to barbiturates. I am pretty into Lemonheads though. Not making light of addiction, just relating to the fact that Shirley Jackson was also heavily into candy. So, for me, this was essential reading because it’s yet another example of how I’m not entirely delusional about who I’ve always thought I am and how hard I keep trying to do the work that means something to me. Some people aren’t easy and don’t have it easy, it’s a thing; it’s not just me – or you, or anyone who doesn’t give up just because someone else wants them to be nicer.

Apparently there’s a newer Shirley Jackson biography. Swell. We’ll see if I still find myself in that one, it supposedly has a lot of information gleaned from previously unpublished sources and maybe won’t be quite as novely as Private Demons. I hope I do.

Murderface and Pickles. Ladies of ritual and discerning taste I also admire.

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The cover has a warning: “No Inspirational Life Lessons Will Be Found In These Pages.” How could I resist?

60. Half Empty – David Rakoff

A friend of mine bought this book for me and told me that when she saw it, it “reminded her of me.” What she didn’t know is that when we worked together at the public library, I came across this book several times while shelving, thought about checking it out, and then didn’t get around to it…so it also reminded me of me.

Starting with the essay “The Bleak Shall Inherit,” Half Empty demonstrates a lot of truths that the more pessimistic among us will recognize, sort of like a New York-centric, more amusing version of the message from the wildly popular to interlibrary loan book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (Side note, I tried to skim this because of the appealing title, it said something about being fine with being normal and I had to close it. I’m abnormal and I like it, sir, and not just in an “Oh, I’m so unusual, I drink coffee with four shots of espresso and am writing a screen play at Starbucks because I MUST express myself” kind of way, more in a “What did you just say? Why do you like talking about that?/Did you really just glare at me for saying ‘hamster’?” coupled with side glances and grimaces from other people when I talk kind of way.).

One of my favorite passages had to do with the musical RENT. I don’t like paying rent even though I’ve been doing so for what feels like thousands of years now, but that’s a digression mainly meant to set up the fact that I have never actually seen RENT and despite not seeing RENT, I have had that “525,600 minutes/How do you measure/Measure a year” line stuck in my head before (and now, so do you). Rakoff mentions that the super-creative creatives of RENT don’t really spend much time creating and then mentions the songwriter “noodling on his guitar,” which has long been one of my least favorite things. I hate guitar noodling. I don’t have all day, I’m dying here. We’re all dying. Stop noodling. Anyway, a short while later in the essay he talks about the creator of RENT dying the day before RENT opened, which is awfully sad, but also something that seems like a truism of creativity at this point (especially if you have to do something else to pay rent). You have to have a blind cocky optimism in order to be willing to create because it’s unlikely that it will become popular while you’re still alive. Sometimes you have to die to be popular. Or win a Putlizer. Posthumously. Also, you have to actually follow-through with making something in order to have created something that won’t be recognized until after you’re dead. Whee! Half empty!

Morty is the friend who gave me Half Empty’s favorite guinea pig. Here’s his cute little nose. He never paid any rent.

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This is dedicated: “To lovers of all ages, especially young ones” Ewwww.

28. Morals and Microbes – Theodor Rosebury

I found this book on the blog Awful Library Books , which is excellent and basically sums up the main reason why I enjoy working in libraries – you find the weirdest books. It’s mind-boggling looking through what’s been published and purchased by libraries and Awful Library Books really has some solid highlights. It’s also where I found out the Satanic Panic children’s book Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy   existed. #blessed

Morals and Microbes is just as “surprisingly readable” as Awful Library Books indicated it was. It’s from 1971, so a few things have happened since it was published, a few scientific things and some attitudes towards different kinds of people…but I learned a lot that I wasn’t already aware of about syphilis (Yay!) and gonorrhea and I had a good time doing it. Especially when I was reading the chapter called “Shakespeare and VD” on a plane and the person in the seat next to me noticeably tried to inch away – Thanks, Morals and Microbes! He smelled like cologne, which bothers me to no end, so, I’m happy just reading about VD made him want to flee from me.

Syphilis is basically the best venereal disease, or maybe just the most impressive. It’s an insidious plague that’s been around for a very, very long time. Apparently the lepers of the Bible probably really had syphilis as it has symptoms (the collapse of the nasal bridge known as “saddle nose,” what a phrase) that seem like leprosy but leprosy is less contagious than syphilis. Tons of cool artsy people had it, but I knew that, tons of not-cool artsy people also had it. In chapter four, “Syphilis or the French Disease,” Rosebury goes through a long list of Europeans blaming other people for syphilis. Columbus, of course, blamed Native Americans, one more reason why he’s a jerk. He brought it with him… Everybody knows it. The Italians blamed the French (“The French Disease”), the French blamed the Italians right back (“Mal de Naples”), the Germans also blamed the French (“French pox”), the English also blamed the French – no surprise there-, the Portuguese blamed the Dutch, the Persians turned around and blamed the Portuguese, the Polish people blamed the Turks, and Russians called it “The Disease of the Germans,” bringing the seriously weird line back to Europe. Nice.

And while I really like reading about diseases in a not-so-clinical volume such as this, the word “chancre” was used so many times that it started to gross me out. As did the mention of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster, dying of “putrefaction of the genitals” attributed to “carnal copulation.” That mental image left a mark.

A fun note written in the library’s copy on page 166 – “If Man’s law could control the sexual habits of man – it is quite doubtful man would prevail.” Man dies out, Finny inherits the earth.

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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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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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Cooper: “Well my symptoms suggest the onset of malaria, but I’ve never felt better in my life.”

54. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So – Mark Vonnegut

If you went to undergrad where I went to undergrad, you could be essentially excommunicated from the English department if you didn’t love Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The unwavering adoration for his literary genius seems like the kind of thing he wouldn’t have appreciated, but it was the status quo. I never got into any deadly pretentious conversations about Vonnegut, thankfully, and I do love his work, but I do not love most of the people who love his work enough to be important in the English department social scene. And I had no idea until I read this memoir by his son Mark that he couldn’t write for long periods of time (I…didn’t do the supplemental reading…sometimes…) because of depressive bouts. Woo!

One of the major things going for this memoir is that it doesn’t really offer any perfect solutions. There are a lot of mental illness-based memoirs where you read through certain situations and then suddenly the person writing is “fine” because they got married or are in a new relationship and I just can’t really stand those bits. They’re not that helpful. Mark Vonnegut’s strategy involves trying to find a balance that will help him avoid severe episodes and it’s not just “being married” or “working too much,” it’s obvious that many aspects go into recovering and trying to stay functional. He also demonstrates how easy it is for a psychotic break to happen to a successful person – see, you can be successful or creative or both or also a pediatrician or not and bad shit can still take you down, it’s not a personal failure to have mental illness. Vonnegut also makes sure to make it clear that being perfectly mentally well is not really a thing either, and I like that. It takes that whole “aspire to happiness” bullshit down; in my opinion, taking that down is half the battle for maintaining levels of functionality.

“Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a [guinea pig].” – Kurt Vonnegut, “I Love You, Madame Librarian” (inthesetimes.com/article/903)

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Act 4 Hope is a Demon Bitch – Hamlet 2

13. Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression – Nell Casey, ed.

To an extent, shorter essays can help make the symptoms, the coping mechanisms, and the general feeling of depression much more comprehensible. When reading longer memoirs I’ve had a harder time finding pieces of what I experience and part of that is just the lack of differing viewpoints. A first person story is never going to have the thoughts of the person watching the one with depression, the friend or significant other trying to understand what they’re going through or helping them, and that’s not enough when trying to root through all the possible rabbit holes of information on the disease. It’s not enough to know the pain of one person, even if there are bits of that pain in all persons with depression. I’m very glad the Unholy Ghost collection was put together because of all of the viewpoints represented.

In the first essay, “A Delicious Placebo” by Virginia Heffernan, I found the description of her endlessly trying to get to the root of her depression incredibly jarring. It hadn’t occurred to me that finding more and more information about Why wouldn’t fix the situation or stop much of anything. I’m used to research, I’m used to figuring things out as a method for solving problems, I am not used to simply accepting that there is a problem to be coped with instead of fixed. Another essay I found incredibly useful was Meri Nana-Amah Danquah’s “Writing the Wrongs of Identity,” in which she mentions that “For every twelve joys, I had twenty-five sorrows… So much wasted time.” I can relate to that way more than I like.

Another aspect of depression that came up for me when reading these essays was class. There are certain classes of people who are not allowed to admit to themselves or say to others that they have depression. They don’t have money or time to deal with it the way someone of a different class would. They basically have to pretend that there’s nothing wrong with them and if that becomes impossible, they feel weak and are presumably seen by others of the same class as weak. And there is a lot of class warfare in this country that goes under the radar because people don’t even realize they’re being classist. I am sort of in between classes for a few reasons and I’ve found through dealing with my depression that those class barriers when you can’t “perform” are as solid as a steel door. If we want people to be able to get the help they really need, we as a country need to admit that healthcare is a right and that all illnesses are illnesses, not personal failings. No one asked to have their brain broken. No one.

Ozma displays extraordinary self-care and also owner-care skills by grooming on top of a pumpkin mid-photoshoot.

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“Surveillance does. I hate those.”

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."

I could’ve named Danger Crumples “Star Beast” and it would’ve made more sense than calling Alien “Star Beast.”

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