28. Night Film – Marisha Pessl
I had some level of trepidation coming in to reading this book. I noticed a bit of hype about it and there was some award winning and hype about her first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (which I haven’t read) and to be frank, hype and the lack of horror indicated in her first novel’s title made me wary. Whenever non-horror people write horror, there are usually narrative problems that super annoy me because I am a total horror person. I’m not a total horror snob, but I get a bristly feeling when it seems like someone’s dabbling and they keep giving you cliché after cliché that they would know were clichés if they knew the horror genre better. Also, I’ve had a lot of bad and somewhat angry feelings after Ryan Murphy decided that he invented the horror comedy genre that effect my interest in possible dabblers. What an asshole, he definitely had his head up his ass when he said that. Calling it “comedy horror” just trips the tongue and does not make it a new genre. And I’ve liked more than one season of American Horror Story because it was so batshit, but, that has a lot to do with the fact that he’s not the only one writing the episodes and the fact that it’s batshit camp. Maybe if he had done some research, I wouldn’t have to blame him for wasting New Orleans as a location or being incapable of sustaining a reasonable seasonal story arc that sorts out and uses all the random moments instead of just throwing them at the audience and never using anything, or anyone (Angela Bassett could have had so much more to do. SO much more to do.) properly. It is more than possible to coalesce batshit elements into beautiful garbage. Like Doomsday. Or Gremlins II, which is really just beautiful, and it could have been more beautiful if somebody was a tad nicer to Gizmo.
I ended up liking this book quite a bit. It was definitely not as horror themed as I thought it would be, in fact, I ended up getting more of a Lars Von Trier meets the seventies vibe from the descriptions of the movies, the whole thing was much more suspense thriller, which is totally fine. There was a smattering of horror elements and they weren’t overplayed to me, it was actually a bit like reading Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon; if you know the tropes you’ll end up amused but not necessarily surprised at the outcome. There was even a genuinely scary moment in there for me, so good show.
My darling little Merricat had a couple of things in common with one of the main characters that made reading this at the time I did very hard. She was such a beautiful tiny demon with perfect ears and such bright eyes.
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22. Dark Harvest – Norman Partridge
Carrie for the Pumpkinhead set. It’s not an epistolary work and it’s taking elements from The Long Walk and “The Lottery” as well (of course, Carrie also had that incident with the rocks); but, for the most part the shifting perspectives, the matter of fact tone, the destruction of homes and businesses, and especially the “we’re ending this shit tonight” element of The October Boy’s journey through the town were very reminiscent of Carrie. If it had been just a bit longer or dwelled just a bit more on the reality of the town perhaps I would have felt more like the characters had some stakes they were up against though. So, the Guild doesn’t like people leaving town, huh? Why? Consequences and their evil motivations didn’t feel fully discussed to me. At least not to the point where I felt something original was happening.
When you use tropes from two Stephen King books and toss in some Shirley Jackson I want some depth because I’m being asked to treat this as an original story as opposed to an homage and it’s not a movie. The thing is, in a novel you have the space to establish stakes, establish why the reader should care, establish a person or persons for the reader to care about and for me this was light on all of those things and at 169 pages, I’m not surprised. I would have appreciated more. Maybe more people should have been allowed to speak out loud to each other, I can’t help but think that the lack of dialogue might be what’s not working for me. Basically though, this is the kind of book where I want to say “it was really cool” or “this part was awesome” because I do like a good pumpkinhead and I enjoy the ideas of ancient rites or creepy traditions in small towns and I really like reading about small-town America in time periods where help is not a cell-phone call away, but I didn’t take much from this besides immediately wanting to describe it as I did in my first fragment, “Carrie for the Pumpkinhead set.” So nice I said it twice.
Look, Ozymandias already won. He gets to leave the town. At one point I believe the town was facetiously referred to as “Corncob,” I am not sure what its real imaginary-town name is.
30. Ruined – Paula Morris
I definitely count Ruined as one of my favorite young adult books. It’s a New Orleans ghost story that provides some history and very helpful information about what the deal with the Krewes is instead of well-worn New Orleans tropes. Morris did not rely on the enchanting nature of the city or some of its people to propel her story and does not talk down to her audience or expect them to just go along with anything due to the inherent enchantment possibilities. Like I’ve said before, I love New Orleans, but it has some very, very well-worn tropes about how magical it is and a city cannot get by on those alone; especially not when some of the coolest places in the city have disappeared, been replaced by a suit store, and then there’s the card reader who constantly checks his phone – he is not projecting an air of mystery, my future cannot be found on the internet. And sometimes it seems like people under the influence of those tropes decide they don’t have to pay attention to traffic signals because they are going to Café Du Monde. Um, there’s a walk signal. Look for it. It’s where it is everywhere else in the US and yes, you do have to pay attention to it because I will not feel bad about running you over on my way to the street I park on. I don’t care if you’re different there.
Anyway, Ruined also helped me out with my goal of wandering through one of the cemeteries (the walking tours don’t usually comply with my schedule or goals while I’m there) in a manageable fashion. The Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is right next to Commander’s Palace (a restaurant I will probably never eat at for a variety of reasons like poorness and an abhorrence of seafood) and the Garden District Book Shop. I’m really surprised that I didn’t notice the walled cemetery across the street the first time I went to New Orleans as a kid looking for signed Anne Rice novels. It’s a fine example of cemetery architecture and has a nice tomb for destitute orphan boys where people have offered action figures and I think that’s nice.
Duncan, as a ghost, does not have to obey traffic signals. She’s different everywhere.
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