Tag Archives: weird stuff in libraries

“Is that a guy following us with a knife? Maybe it’s a chupacabra.” (Kyle Kinane)

83. Tales of the Otherworld – Kelley Armstrong

In the introduction to this collection, Armstrong mentions that although she put these stories up on her website for free essentially as a thank you to her readers, they were still consistently pursuing her to publish them traditionally…which is one fun aspect of the great ebook debate. Currently at the university I work for, they mention repeatedly that the ebooks they’ve bought are being used. In the department I work for, if you let a patron know we already own a book in eform, they send you an email saying they want a copy they can hold in their hands. It’s an ouroboros. Armstrong’s solution to feeling like she had to sell something she was trying to give away on purpose was to make it a charitable endeavor and to add a new story – a lovely compromise. Tales is the second volume of previously free tales and although the other collection dealt exclusively with the male werewolves in her oeuvre, this volume still deals with some of werewolves, thankfully.

My “reward” for my readers involves these adorable photos of my guinea pigs. Look how free and adorable Ozma is. Freely enjoy

“Bewitched” – After Elena, my second favorite character of Armstrong’s Otherworld is Eve Levine. She’s a witch, so my favor surprised me because I really enjoy her werewolf stories more than any others, but she’s an ornery witch. “Bewitched” is the new, non-already free story in this collection and it’s about her relationship with Kristof Nast, the before-time of Savannah’s story. Yay!

“Birthright” – Logan’s introduction to his pack, of course, he didn’t even know he was a werewolf…oh, those absentee dads. He comes to Stonehaven and tells Clay he looks like he’s in a frat. I like Logan, he was much more levelheaded than some of the other wolves and so it’s nice to get a few more snippets of his character.

Ozma is pretty sure her birthright involves not being stuck on a couch with Horace and Peregrine. She’s not wrong.

“Beginnings” – I thought this was also the title of that two part Buffy finale where she has sex with Angel and he goes evil-Angelus. That’s “Becomings,” but in Googling to double check myself, I found that there’s some Buffy fan-fiction called “Beginnings;” I forget about fan-fiction sometimes… Moving on, it would have been a nice coincidence that both this story of Elena and Clay meeting and Buffy and Angel falling apart would be called the same thing, but they’re not, so… Moving on again. Elena struggling for money in college and being underestimated and antagonized by Clay at first is quite fun to read. It also really grounds Clay in his anthropological background, which always seems like it might be a put-on when reading some of the books. It’s there, mentioned randomly, but as someone who has studied both art and anthropology sometimes it feels like when they make Tara Reid a scientist in a horror movie. The words are there, but do they understand them? Having Clay act like that toward Elena proved to me that he is a solid visiting faculty member at a university. Throw in a scene of finding a book they said they lost a year ago in their office and calling the library to ask that they be reimbursed for the bill and it would be complete.

“Just bring your books back, Finny!” Ozma, as a librarian.

“Wedding Bell Hell” – Paige and Lucas get married. It’s like a reunion of all kinds of fun characters and a little mixed up but positive and that’s how Paige always seems to me anyway.

“The Case of El Chupacabra” – I never really expected Armstrong to branch into mentioning Chupacabras. Ever. They seem far too far south for her Canadian characters, but then again, there’s some stories in Miami, but it’s still weird to see Mexican goat suckers involved in one of her stories. I mean, it’s not really there, but, still. Weird. This one is a case for Paige and Lucas and of course gets in to all the Cortez Cabal intrigue and those aspects of the Otherworld have always bored me. I’m just not super into corporate/mobster/overly powerful dudes in suits doing shitty things or Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate-ing. I would’ve been happier if a real Chupacabra was in charge, which is why I keep capitalizing that word when I don’t think I need to.

Ozma escapes the plastic alligator skull, the closest thing I have to a chupacabra.

 

 

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“Strong as I am!”

16. Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

I’ll just start by saying I love Manhunter. It’s super 80s, Tom Noonan is awesome in it (“Do you see?”), Brian Cox does a non-camp and actually intimidating (pre-Mads, that is) Lecter, William Petersen is an angsty but indelicate Will Graham, and there are so many iconic moments. It looks great, it sounds great, it’s just one of my favorite movies. After 2017’s plethora of shit, I sincerely hope that I will not soon find out that making this film was a nightmare of sexual harassment. It probably was. Nothing gold can stay.

Anyway…although I love Manhunter for all its 80s-ness, it did sort of leave quite a few things out that I now know after reading Red Dragon. Red Dragon is a great book.

And I must say, the William Blake print-eating scene bothered me infinitely in the version with Ralph Fiennes. I wanted that archivist to wake up and punch him in his face repeatedly. You are not supposed to eat the priceless pieces of printmaking! Fuck your becoming – you leave that Blake print alone! Bad serial killer. Bad. Very bad. (They’re fictional, which allows me to be mostly bothered by the librariany parts. That print is real. And thankfully uneaten. Don’t hurt the library materials. No touching.) It also bothered me in the Hannibal TV show, which I also love. But I agree with all the people who said Dolarhyde was too attractive and not very menacing in the show. Having Rutina Wesley as Reba was really good though, she was great.

This picture of Finny stretching reminds me of Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde. SO much stretching. This is not Finny’s becoming.

 

Here’s Finny’s parody of the Hannibal (I mean Finnibal) TV show’s wendigo, or, *cough* Findigo. Available on stuff and things – along with the other works I’ve uploaded this Finnybruary, Samurai Finny and Raspberry Finny! Also, I did love the swapping of Dr. Chilton for Lounds on the show and the whole “You put your hand on my shoulder like a pet!” thing. Nice work. Holy shit.

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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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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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“That’s your plan, Ray? Get her?”

15. The Unseen – Alexandra Sokoloff

Psychology! Sealed records! A shhing librarian! A haunted house! A situation that must be recreated so the house explodes with bad ghost energy! Wait, aren’t you, like, psychic and possibly the key? There are many elements here that mirror Ghostbusters and The Haunting of Hill House and that was sort of what drew me into this story in the first place. That and Ms. Sokoloff’s writing, while it may deal with very familiar tropes of the horror genre, is fun to read and very quick. Also, I truly enjoy stories where people are almost prevented from doing things by librarians protecting their collections from deteriorating. Perhaps public libraries are supposed to be about access, but academic libraries tend to be about keeping things and keeping you from information you shouldn’t be touching with your dirty little hands and inquisitive tendencies. There are more librarians that feel this way than you think. There are also more who feel the opposite way. I miss non-circulating things. I also vaguely recall that the librarian in this book may have had a bun and glasses, to which I say, really? Even that trope must be attended to?

Twiglet’s response to ill conceived research projects and haunted houses: bury her head in her mother Pammy’s side until it goes away.

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