Didn’t get much reading done last week. I can link to last week’s post and be pretty accurate about what I’m reading this week. What’s up with that? Been a little blah, been playing too much EverQuest 2. There’s the Olympics and set up for our fall ultimate frisbee league. And maybe I’m just a tad burnt out on reading. I’m going to take it easy for a couple of weeks and then come down with another Bout of Books. 😉
Time to call a moratorium on things I’m “behind” on. My general goals this year were to read 30 books (I’m 4 books ahead of schedule according to Goodreads), keep up with the A Clash of Kingsread-through (I’m finished), and read a short story and poem per week (I’ve read 58 and 82 respectively). I’m hitting the reset button and moving on.
Friday Free-for-All: A collection of links about writing/reading/stuff that I encountered during the week.
Brian Joseph Davis creates and curates The Composites: Images created using a commercially available law enforcement composite sketch software and descriptions of literary characters. Above is Count Dracula based on Stoker’s original text:
A tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache…His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead…His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking…For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin…The blue eyes transformed with fury.
Lev Grossman talks about when you hate the book you’re reading. I can relate. I’ve been a pretty grumpy reviewer lately. This especially rings true, and for agents reading submissions as well as readers:
As far as I can tell what happens when a reader loves a book isn’t actually a wondrous explosion of literary greatness, an inevitable consequence of that book’s inherent value, it’s a complicated combination of all sorts of circumstances: like who the reader is, where they are in their lives, what else they’ve read, what mood they’re in at the exact moment when they pick up the book, whether they’re drunk or sober, what sorts of bullshit they will or won’t put up with (and all novels contain a certain amount of bullshit), whether the author photo looks like their ex-girl/boyfriend, etc. etc.
Loved No Life for a Lady. Agnes Morley Cleaveland had a great voice and imparts history in the form of “I was there.” The books covers the rise and fall of New Mexico cattle baronies. It’s a book I’m glad I stumbled across.
After I moved to AZ, I began to take an interest in the history of here and Nebraska. Pioneer history. I picked this book, and another of similar subject, at the Tempe Library sale. Ironically, they were published by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (my alma mater).
Why should you read it today? It’s history, entertaining history. Cleaveland’s anecdotes are filled with humor without sugar-coating hardships. It’s sometimes easy to forget that during same era as corsets, bustles, and parasols, there were women taking care of their homestead’s business matters, fending off bandits and bears, rounding up lost horses, and becoming educated while their men-folk were off driving cattle and taking care of other matters.
The first comics I read were Star Wars comics. Star Wars was the first fandom I followed though no one used the word fandom in 1981. The comic books were a continuation of story, the off-screen adventures of all the characters I loved. Yet, somehow, I knew that these stories weren’t really part of the story the movies were telling (might have had something to do with the hoojib). At a young age, I had a sense of what canon is. But that didn’t mean I could enjoy those other adventures.
A trend emerges…
Over the years, I’ve dipped in and out of reading comic books. Usually, “in” after my movie fandom has been riled. Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (yes, I really did like the 1990 movie) and James O’Barr’s The Crow are notable. Unlike the Star Wars books, these were the films’ source materials. They were also darker figuratively and literally (both black and white). They actually showed some literary merit (yes, even TMNT) and some really appealing art. But one thing was missing.
The one quality I appreciate most about comics was missing from the smaller titles I was reading in the 90s. While they still expanded the stories I already knew, they went deeper, not afield. What I like about long-running comics is the changeability of their storylines. Continuity, or rather the lack thereof, is part of it. When I stepped back into comics after X-Men (the 2000 movie), I was confronted with several co-currently running versions of the X-Men universe. Canon takes on a new meaning. There are multiple canons! Characters have more deaths, rebirths, evil twins, and personal angst than a dozen daytime soaps.
My latest foray (this seems to happen once every ten years) has been Avengers fueled. Currently, there seem to be over a half-dozen Avengers and Avenger-related titles. I decided to dive in to some of the current Ultimate Comics. It picks with several global crises breaking out at once and several different lines being tied together: Ultimate Comics: Ultimates (which is more or less the Avengers), Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye (a mini-series), Ultimate Comics: X-Men, and Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. Despite some affection for the Sam Raimi movies, I’ve never been a Spider-Man fan. Which is why I was surprised that I like the series as much as I do. It’s definitely my pick of the litter.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man begins after the death of Peter Parker. Our new friendly neighborhood webslinger is Miles Morales. He’s younger than Parker, the beneficiary of a lottery to a charter school and a bite from a stolen experimental arachnid. And he’s black. Miles is wowed by the super heroes around him (this is a universe populated with both the Avengers and the X-Men, as well as the recently deceased Spider-Man) and tries to do what’s right…while still being a kid who is unsure of every situation he finds himself in. Considering my recent rant about young characters, I don’t find that an annoying quality in Miles. He contemplates, he acts, he reevaluates…all to the best of his abilities and all with the sort of meta-understanding that he’s still just a kid. The art is great and I’m looking forward to the continuation of this line as well as, *cough*, Spider-Men.
Honoria Todd has no choice. Only in the dreaded Whitechapel district can she escape the long reach of the Duke of Vickers. But seeking refuge there will put her straight into the hands of Blade, legendary master of the rookeries. No one would dare cross him, but what price would he demand to keep her safe?
Ever since Vickers infected him with the craving, Blade has been quicker, stronger, almost immortal—and terrified of losing control of the monster within. Honoria could be his perfect revenge against the duke…or the salvation he never dared to dream of.(Goodreads)
This is an ARC provided to me by Sourcebooks. A couple good days of reading should get me through it.
Friday Free-for-All: A collection of links about writing/reading/stuff that I encountered during the week.
First up, Game of Thrones, presented as a collection of charts, graphs, and statistics. Not entirely sure how accurate it is over all, but it’s amusing none-the-less. Via SF Signal.
Second, how does one besiege a castle? According to medieval marginalia, the obvious answer is “with dogs.”
Got Medieval reveals the utter Pythonesque nonsense that really does exist in the margins of illuminated manuscripts. Sometimes, the marginalia is related to the text. Sometimes, no so much.
Last, I came across a post at LitReactor from March about haunted houses and why they’re the popular choice for ghost stories. This came on the heels of writing about The Haunting of Hill House and recently rewatching Candyman. I tend to forget how much Candyman is grounded in certain places. There is a high creepiness factor to learning that the place you think you know well has unknown attributes. After living in my apartment for a few months, I closed the door to the back bedroom and found out that the door handle on the room side was completely different than the handle on the apartment side. It was a weirdly unnerving experience. But imagine if one day my closet is bigger than it was or that my medicine cabinets connect to my neighbor’s apartment? Home, when violated, is the most uneasy of places.
Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Considering this is one of my favorite books and that I posted about Anne Rivers Siddon’s The House Next Door last week, I might have wanted to wait with posting about The Haunting of Hill House, but LitReactor did a Blagger’s Guide to Shirley Jackson’s fiction last Friday and I now feel compelled.
Written in 1959, the premise of The Haunting of Hill House is a familiar one, though the familiarity is likely due to the influence of the novel. A group of diverse-personalitied characters gather at a supposedly haunted house in order to prove or debunk supernatural phenomena. Richard Matheson uses the same set up in his 1971 Hell House*. A similar plot, stay the night in a haunted house and win a large amount of money, is used in the Vincent Price vehicle The House on Haunted Hill**. This isn’t a far stretch since one of Jackson’s protagonists, shady Luke Sanderson, needs to prove that he’s worthy of inheriting the house. I can not deny it: it majorly influenced my first novel.
As I said, this is one of my favorite books. I first encountered mention of it in Stephan King’s Danse Macabre and found it the university’s library. I still remember remember reading it in my 5th floor college dorm room, the one that seemed a little haunted itself with occasional tapping noises from inside the closet (probably a fluke of the ventilation system, though tale has it that a worker fell to his death from that corner of the building during construction–a tale I didn’t hear until years after I moved out of the room). The room was also opposite the stairway and, during a particularly tense moment in the book, I nearly jumped out of my skin as a particularly loud group of floor-mates exited the stairs. I’ve owned the book twice. I took it to Florida with me and managed to get it wet. The replacement was purchased at Powell’s bookstore in Portland. I reread it once every 2-3 years. I’ve picked apart scenes to see what makes them tick.
This is one of my favorite books. I wish there were more like it.
**Directed by William Castle, it’s a great movie if you love schlock horror. The 1999 remake directed by William Malone has some great spooky bits, but a poor ending.***
***Speaking of movies, The Haunting of Hill House has been filmed twice, both retitled The Haunting. The first, released in 1963 and shot in black and white, is subtle with its horror and true to the book. Not schlocky at all. The remake, released in 1999, is pretty unscary despite a good cast and visually interesting special effects. Other than the premise, it’s not true to the book.