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Showing posts from November, 2011

My Unpredictable Love-Hate Relationship with Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves was one of the most memorable reads I've experienced over the past fifteen years.

I've been surprised hearing how many people in my online circles disliked it; viewed it as a husk of a book, like some coconut drained of its milk, devoid of depth, vacuous, second-rate writing dressed up in the glitz of precious experimentation to disguise the poor quality of its plot and prose.  The critics cited the over-the-top textual formatting that required the book be turned sideways or upside-down or sometimes reflected in a mirror in order to read it, among other "innovations" or what they'd more likely term "gimmicks," as rationale for their disdain.

When these criticisms laid out above are levied at Mark Z. Danielewski's follow up novel, Only Revolutions, I'd question the critic why exactly he or she were being so nice to what I'd describe as a maddeningly frustrating anomaly of a novel, a book so difficult to parse for pleasure it m…

When I Sink My Teeth into Dracula

Beneath Dracula's ghastly pale skin; beyond the iconic blood lust and delectable gothic horror, lies a far more delicious subtext that ultimately drove a big fat stake through late Victorian ideals as Bram Stoker successfully stalked and skewered that culture's hypocritical heart regarding women.  Men could be sexual scoundrels and yet honored (some things never change), while women who violated just the slightest sexual more (were merely perceived as being "flirtatious" -- oh the impropriety!) found themselves branded whores and ostracized.

What better way could Stoker have commented on just how much that double standard sucked than with vampires: creatures emblematic of not just the demonic but divine, holy devils heralding the end of a repressive and dying Victorian culture that sucked the life and enjoyment out of almost everything, and yet who paradoxically also symbolized a supercharged eternal equality and its attendant sexual liberty for women that made them…

Happy Twilight Zone Thanksgiving!

Thing I like the best about Thanksgiving is The Twilight Zone marathon on one of the local channels.  I've already seen two episodes I've either long forgotten or never saw to begin with; one in which RoddyMcDowell finds himself in a museum-like living room that displays humans in "their natural habitat" -- an idea that George Saunders later blew through the roof in the title story of his collection, Pastoralia; and a rare sentimental oddity in which an elderly couple have the opportunity to "trade in" their old bodies for younger models.

Painting

{***to be read in a monotone voice w/out any pauses (periods excepted) for breath***}

I'm sore.  Painting our house interior all weekend (and I'm about ready to get painting some more today.  Took time off work -- to paint!).  It never ends: taping, cutting in, touching up, reaching with extended rollers impossibly high, climbing up and down the ladder, dripping paint everywhere, cleaning up the paint over and over that dripped everywhere even through drop cloths were laid out, uselessly; cleaning out brushes adnauseum, cleaning out paint pans, opening paint cans, closing paint cans, getting unintentionally high off of paint fumes, stumbling over step stools from getting unintentionally high off of paint fumes, developing raccoon-like eyes from the paint that's misted down off the rollers as they're applied heavily and with much muscular force to the vaulted ceilings so that a second tedious coat of paint won't be necessary. Incessant painting making me crazy like …

The Publishing Triangle's List of the Best Gay and Lesbian Novels

One of my favorite literary resources when I'm hunting for something interesting, different, or an arcane tidbit on classic and/or contemporary literature, is The New York Public Library Literature Companion edited by Anne Skillion.



The compendium is full of stunning surprises.  One such surprise, maybe not so stunning, but nevertheless surprising, since it's a literary list and I was convinced I'd captured them all, but somehow, at least this one (there's undoubtedly others, sure hope so!) escaped my clutches for more than a decade.

It's The Publishing Triangle's list of The Best Gay and Lesbian Novels, a top 100 list whose selections were made by gay and lesbian authors and critics, and intermingles classic stuff with contemporary stuff (at least contemporary to around the year 2000).  Can't say I've ever gone out of my way to seek out gay and lesbian literature (and neither have I avoided it), but a quick perusal proves I'm unfamiliar with many o…

My Two Sentences on Four Novels by Steve Erickson

Reading Steve Erickson's unsettling, reality-bending novels are like following the unscripted scripts of the most lucid yet opaque and intoxicating of dreams that make awakening so acutely depressing that mere consciousness, compared to the kaleidoscopic panorama of soul-fulfilling phantasmagoria comprising sleep and that's too soon evaporated after opening one's eyes, tantamount (thankfully for only a few grief-stricken seconds soon salved after several blinks) to losing everything.



I've never been disappointed by anything I've ever read of Steve Erickson's (four unforgettable novels so far) -- DaysBetween Stations (1985), Tours of the Black Clock (1989), The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999), OurEcstatic Days (2005) -- though I've been consistently confounded, even confused a time or two by what's been termed his "slipstream surrealistic" prose, which more reflects, I'm positive, my own inexpertise as a, nevertheless, hopefully maturing re…

Relative Stranger Redux

{***This piece was originally posted on June 27th, 2010.  Since posting it, I've come into possession of a photo album of my uncle's, given to my father (little bro of my uncle) by my uncle's third wife who was with him when he died.  My Dad had most of the photos already, so he passed it on to me.  I'm glad he did.  I'd planned on sharing several photographs of my uncle; in fact, in preparing them to post here, I spent several hours picking the right pics out of hundreds to choose from -- scanning, cropping, figuring out where to insert them in the text -- but throughout the process, a disquieting sense of unease began pervading me, and I became uncomfortable and ultimately convinced that it would not be in keeping with my uncle's spirit or memory sharing what he preferred keeping private.  I'm confident he wouldn't mind my writing about him, warts and all, but sharing his photo album? ...  He'd be peeved by that -- a fact I'd of never known a…

The Book Frog is Open for Business!

Long time LibraryThing pal, BeckyJG, and her partner, Pete, are now living the dream, having just opened their own bookstore, The Book Frog.  Congratulations to them both!  Read about their bookstore's opening in the link below, or read about it also in today's Shelf Awareness, where it's the top news item.

The Book Frog: Now Exhale

I recommend checking out Becky's month-long "Liquidation Diary" also, featured in her blog from this past August and September, that poignantly chronicled her last days working as a Borders' employee after having been employed by the company for nearly two full decades.  Talk about loyalty.  Talk about going through Hell and now entering what I can only imagine must be some semblance of Bookseller Heaven in just a matter of months! 


I understand The Book Frog will have a webstore up and running in a short week or so, so even if you don't live just an hour away like me, you can still help support two tried-and-true pros stay …

Homage to Anna_in_pdx; or, in which it is opined if not proven Yetis superiority to Sasquatches

Anna, I received your card in the mail.  I was truly touched by it.  Know that the words of your beautiful card made me tear up (I'm not embellishing) even as I literally wanted to tear up the Bigfoot patch it contained (see scanned image below). Strong as my hands are, however, I unfortunately lack the tensile strength of an abominable snowman's grip to successfully rip that blasted embroidered Bigfoot patch to shreds with my bare hands.


I'm confident you can extrapolate from your own personal experience interfacing with men that some men are, in keeping with the parlance of popular U.S. cultural slang, "boob men" or "butt men" or (like me) "YETI men".  But I think you already knew that, Anna, didn't you?, and yet despite this knowledge, you willfully and with malice aforethought, still decided to taunt me with your sordid and pathetic Bigfoot devotion.

I bet this so-called "Bigfoot" of yours doesn't even wear size fourtee…