Deal Me In, Week 42 ~ “The Fall of the House of Escher”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Fall of the House of Escher” by Greg Bear

Card picked: Nine of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review: I could not get through this story, despite its intriguing title. Maybe it was because I was reading it during my 17th straight hour of readathon-ing yesterday. Maybe it’s because I have trouble with allegories, which, with character names like Cant, Shant, and Musnt, this probably is. Or maybe I’ve been reading an anthology of speculative fiction stories that are so deftly written that this story felt very clumsy in comparison. If you’re going to allude to Poe and spend time describing architecture, man, you need to be lush in your language. This fell short.

I feel bad bailing on a story which is obviously challenging, but I’m also an adult who can put it aside for a day when I’m not actively annoyed by it. Some other time, “House of Escher.”

About the Author: Greg Bear is an SF writer that I’ve been aware of for years, but have never read.

Deal Me In, Week 41 ~ “Eagle”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Eagle” by David Copperfield

Card picked: Ace of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Thoughts: Each of the Copperfield anthologies opens with a story by the man himself. After starting both anthologies in January for Deal Me In, it’s taken me *this* long to end up reading one!

Adam is a loner. While other third-graders are playing kickball and other sports, Adam is content to make up stories and build things. A favorite among the others is the tale of Adam’s invisible eagle. To avoid being overly teased, Adam tells a lie: The invisible eagle is real. Now all Adam has to do is prove it to them.

While Adam isn’t labeled as such, this is sort of a quintessential magician story. Magicians tell the lie and then make it seem true, whether it’s making cards appear and disappear or devising ways to make an invisible eagle seem real.

The other question, of course, is did David Copperfield really write the story? I’m going to say ‘yes.’ It’s short and simply told. In his intro to the story, Copperfield admits that the story is very much like what happened to him as a kid. If it wasn’t written by David Copperfield, the illusion is pretty good.

Is This Your Card?

I figured it was appropriate to linked up Copperfield’s version of the four aces. I believe I’ve included Ricky Jay’s four queens in the past, but I’m not sure about Copperfield’s aces. In any case, this performance includes a bit about Copperfield’s childhood which dovetails nicely with the story.

Fright Fest Update ~ The New Girl

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I missed the R.L. Stine/teen horror phenomena in the nineties. For me, the nostalgia of these books, or at least The New Girl which I read last week, is in the setting. Published in 1989, it is just *so* 80s. At least in the original printing I have. I’ve heard that new editions have updated references as well as grittier covers. I’m glad my Fear Street editions have the ditto machine still intact! Honestly, I was surprised at how much fun The New Girl was to read. Cory Brooks, our smitten hero, is a bit of a bone head, but still likeable. The plot twist was appropriately sensational and I enjoy the concept of horror novels that are all set in place. I’ll be reading Fear Street #2 next week, probably during Dewey’s Readathon.

The New Girl (Fear Street, #1) The New Girl (Fear Street, #1) The New Girl (Fear Street, #1)

Actually, what is up with the new covers? They’re a little racy for book that only has kissing and non-graphic “excitement.”

Review ~ The Kiss Murder

The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer, Kenneth Dakan (Translator)

Cover via Goodreads

Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer’s home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States. A male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of Istanbul’s most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the “girls”at her club, fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help. The next day Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills. With a page-turning plot and an irresistibly charming protagonist, The Kiss Murder is sure to attract mystery lovers and nightlife mavens alike. (via Goodreads)

I was intrigued by the main character of this mystery: a transvestite amateur detective looking into crimes within her community.

First, I have a couple of issues:

Issue #1 – Somer isn’t a transvestite or transgendered. While obviously a writer doesn’t *have* to have first-hand knowledge of what they write about, I’m taking it on faith that he’s giving me an accurate portrayal of the cross-dressing and trans community in Turkey. It’s a tricky thing when writing outside yourself to get it right.

Issue #2 – The translation. In relation to the above, the concepts of cross-dressing and being transgendered are munged together and used semi-interchangeably in the novel. I wonder if this is a problem in the translation. In general, I found the writing choppy. In the case of dialogue, it weirdly felt like a bad dub, a problem I’m never encountered when reading.

On a story level:

Our narrator’s voice felt a little forced sometimes. Maybe I’m just not enough of a girl, but the continual swooning over fashion and hot-bodied men was tiring. The plot was okay, but the end seemed inevitable despite the main character’s actions. This was an okay book, it read quickly, but it wasn’t super-awesome.

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: December 30th 2008 (first published 2003)
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

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Short Review ~ Film in Five Seconds

This book was provided to me by Quercus Publishing via Edelweiss.

Film in Five Seconds by Matteo Civaschi & Gianmarco Milesi

Cover via Goodreads

In today’s jet-fuelled, caffeine-charged, celebrity-a-minute world, who actually has the time to watch a film from start to finish? Let’s face it, life’s too short. Now, Film in Five Seconds lets you fast-forward to the best bits so you can enjoy all your favourite movie moments in – literally – moments.

Design studio H-57 have taken over 150 iconic films and cut away all the useless details, boiling them down into ingenious pictograms and creating hilarious visual snapshots that are witty, provocative and to the point.

From Batman to Bridget Jones, Grease to The Godfather, King Kong to The King’s Speech, via slapstick, sci-fi and superheroes, you’ll laugh out loud as you identify some of the greatest screen moments of all time. This is the perfect book for film buffs and anyone with a sense of humour or a short attention span. (via Goodreads)

Less a book to read and more a solo party game, Film in Five Seconds presents classic and popular current movies in the form of pictograms. Sometimes the pictogram shows plot, sometimes an iconic movie moment. The fun is obviously in trying to figure out what movie is being represented. After a few “easy” ones, I started to learn some of the pictogram vocabulary, but it might have been nice to have a minor “glossary” of what certain arrows and equal signs meant. On the whole, I think the short-attention-span pitch sells this book short (no pun intended, for once). These puzzles are quite clever, take more than five seconds to solve, and deserve more than five seconds of appreciation. This would be a fun gift for a film buff.

Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc
Publication date: October 7th 2014
Genre: Er…
Why did I choose to read this book? Fun during a readathon.

Deal Me In, Week 40 ~ “A Cascade of Lies”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“A Cascade of Lies” by Steve Rasnic Tem

Card picked: Queen of Clubs

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review:

When Alan and his brother Billy were seven and eight the boys began touring with their father. … their mother had claimed the doctor told her they were too frail. It was the only trick she’d ever pull.

But she could not stall Max forever, and the day finally came when the boys were onstage, dressed as girls, midgets, animals, specters, until Max promoted them to victims: target of the bullet-catching trick, a neck for the Sword of Damocles.

This is a dark story. It begins with a son questioning his father’s lies (because aren’t all magic tricks lies). As he gets older, Alan backs out of performing, a decision which leaves him guilt-ridden when his brother dies during an accident. Alan loses touch with his father, marries, and has a daughter. Unfortunately, he hasn’t outrun his father’s grasp. When his daughter starts asking about her famous grandfather, Alan’s life falls apart. The last several pages of this story descend into a phantasmagoria as Alan seeks out Max. This whole story felt like it could be a much longer work instead of 15 pages in a mass market paperback.

About the Author: Though well-published in the realm of speculative fiction, I’m not sure I’d ever heard of Steve Rasnic Tem before.

Is This Your Card?
The description of Max’s show reminded me of magician Richiardi Jr. His act pulled from a Grand Guignol tradition. Introduced here by the great Vincent Price.

Reread Review ~ The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Cover via Goodreads

Four seekers have come to Hill House, a scary old abandoned mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar who had been looking for an honestly haunted house all his life; Theodora, a lovely and lighthearted girl there mostly on a lark; Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House; and Eleanor, a strange and lonely woman well acquainted with poltergeists and other psychic phenomena. At first their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and slamming doors. But Hill House is gathering up powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own. (via Goodreads)

My Background with The Haunting of Hill House

The first time I read The Haunting of Hill House was in college, probably around twenty years ago. It was definitely during my freshman or sophomore year because I was living on the 5th floor of Pound Hall in a room across from the door to the stairwell. Since I was on the 5th floor, the number of people who used the stairs was nominal, but I could absolutely hear my fellow students coming and going. The room was also supposedly haunted. I’d hear the noise of a ball bouncing and once, as several of my friends were in my room for movie night, we heard knocking from inside my closet. We all noted it with a “well, that’s weird,” but none of us decided to investigate further.

I first heard about The Haunting of Hill House through Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. Happily, UNL’s library had a copy. I checked it out and settled in to read in spare moments. Which is how I ended up reading it one quiet night. And I was at the part where Eleanor and Theo are being terrorized in their room. Bang, Bang, BANG! And a group of my floormates emptied from the stairwell in a cacophony of feet on stairs and doors slamming. I nearly jumped out of my skin.

Notes

I’ve probably read The Haunting of Hill House three or four times since then. I’ve owned two copies. The last time I read it was with an eye on how Jackson creates tension with repetition and rhythm. This time I read it just to see what I could see.

  • Dr. Montague mentions three “real” hauntings: Ballechin House, Borley Rectory, and Glamis Castle. These tales are reflected in what Dr. Montague expects and what his wife “finds” during her automatic writing. Obviously, Jackson knew some of these tales.
  • Dr. Montague reads Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded:

    It tells the story of a beautiful 15-year old maidservant named Pamela Andrews, whose country landowner master, Mr. B, makes unwanted advances towards her after the death of his mother, whose maid Pamela had been since age 12. Mr. B is infatuated with her, first by her looks and then her innocence and intelligence, but his high rank hinders him from proposing marriage. He abducts her, locks her up in one of his estates, and attempts to seduce and rape her. She rejects him continually, but starts to realize that she is falling in love with him. (via Wikipedia)

    Which kind of parallels Eleanor’s journey. Pamela is super boring.

  • Eleanor has a persecution complex, as do other characters in Jackson’s works. (Indeed, Shirley Jackson herself was fairly neurotic and reclusive.)
  • Eleanor is literally damned before she leaves town.
  • I forget how much of this novel takes place outside of the actual house. We have Eleanor leaving home and imagining three separate futures for herself before ever reaching Hill House. Many of the daytime incidents occur outside. It isn’t just the house that’s haunted.
  • I meant to take more notes, but by the last 50-75 pages of the book, I was totally sucked in.

Discussion

  1. Do you see Hill House’s horrors as being different for its male and female inhabitants? Any gender issues at play here? Considering Eleanor’s experience and Theo sort of being caught on the periphery of that, Dr. Montague and Luke get off relatively scot-free. The men sort of have to live with the responsibility of what happened at Hill House, Montague as the planner and Luke as the property owner.
  2. What’s up with the ghostly disturbances in this book? Eleanor’s blooming telekinetic abilities, real-deal ghosties, a big mess of unreliable characters? What say you? Personally, my debate has always been between Eleanor and the house. Aside from some distant narration at the beginning and the end, the novel is told through Eleanor’s eyes. Eleanor is pretty unbalanced, but I don’t think the house is innocent. Even if it’s not haunted, it’s unsettling and that could put a person on edge.
  3. The Haunting of Hill House was first published in 1959. What aspects of 1950s culture or society do you see the novel critiquing, criticizing, or commenting on? It’s really hard for me to decide on what 50s culture is. Any idea I have is based on popular culture which isn’t entirely real. On one hand, Eleanor seems to be the prototypical good girl. She’s innocent and has dutifully taken care of her mother for years. On the other hand, during those years, she’s missed the milestones that her sister has hit: husband, child, house. This would seem to open up the spinster spot for Eleanor, but she still wants better for herself. Unfortunately, that ambition isn’t rewarded. Far from it.
  4. Most Gothic novels are written in an ornate style, but Jackson chooses a simplistic style with a conversational word choice. What does it add to this harrowing tale? Do you find that it detracts in some places? I’m not sure I’ve considered The Haunting of Hill House to be a Gothic novel. There’s sort of a lack of Romanticism which is usually a hallmark of Gothic fiction. Although, it’s almost as though Eleanor *wants* to be in a Gothic novel. As for the language used, I have no problem with it at all.
  5. The Big One: what is it about Hill House that allows it to consume Eleanor’s sanity so efficiently? Or, what is it about Eleanor that allows Hill House to consume her sanity? Again, for me, it’s always been a combination of Eleanor and Hill House. She has a vague ambition, a fantasy of some other life she could live. She’s unloved and unappreciated and pretty much alone. She’d be the perfect target for a cult. Instead there’s Hill House with its own kind of twisted charisma ready to step in.


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HillHouseReadalong

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