Daily Archives: April 23, 2020

{Books} Charles Fort & The Book of the Damned

The Book of the Damned (Illustrated)

The Book of the Damned by Charles Fort

Time travel, UFOs, mysterious planets, stigmata, rock-throwing poltergeists, huge footprints, bizarre rains of fish and frogs-nearly a century after Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned was originally published, the strange phenomenon presented in this book remains largely unexplained by modern science. Through painstaking research and a witty, sarcastic style, Fort captures the imagination while exposing the flaws of popular scientific explanations. Virtually all of his material was compiled and documented from reports published in reputable journals, newspapers and periodicals because he was an avid collector. Charles Fort was somewhat of a recluse who spent most of his spare time researching these strange events and collected these reports from publications sent to him from around the globe. This was the first of a series of books he created on unusual and unexplained events and to this day it remains the most popular. If you agree that truth is often stranger than fiction, then this book is for you. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
This is a book from my Classics Club list. Fort is often mentioned hand in hand with some of science fiction and horror writers of the early 20th century.

What Did I Think?
First of all, I didn’t really know what I was getting into with The Book of the Damned. You can read the above summary, but that doesn’t prepare you for the recitation of weird phenomena punctuated by jabs at both science and religion. It is much more a round-about statement of philosophy than anything else.

Second of all, I did not finish this book.

The deluge of weirdness was amazingly boring. I read a few chapters. I skipped ahead. It didn’t make any difference. Was Fort really serious in his conclusions that these things were extra-terrestrial? Did he truly believe that it was a better solution than what science could offer? I decided that I needed to know more about Charles Fort.

Original Publishing info: Boni and Liveright, 1919
My Copy: Project Gutenberg ebook
Genre: nonfiction

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural by Jim Steinmeyer

Historian Jim Steinmeyer goes deeply into the life of Charles Fort as the man saw himself, first and chiefly as a writer, a tireless chronicler of inconvenient facts for which science has no answer. Steinmeyer makes use of Fort’s correspondence, providing a portrait of the relationship between Fort and his friend, champion, and protector Theodore Dreiser. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
As luck would have it, one of my favorite authors had written a biography of Fort. And it fit the Unread Shelf Project’s April challenge: the book you most recently acquired.

What Did I Think?
Not my favorite book by Steinmeyer, but his others are about magicians and Bram Stoker, subjects I enjoy.

Fort was sort of interesting. He was rather hermity with few friends other than his wife and author Theodore Dreiser. Dreiser was instrumental in getting The Book of the Damned published. I’d say he’d handle safer-at-home orders well, but he and I do have two things in common. We like going to the library and to movies. He went to the library every day to do research. He would note down strange phenomena on slips of paper and file them at home.

Fort had his supporters (some of them established the Fortean Society) and his detractors (among them H. G. Wells). I am a strong proponent of science, so obviously Fort’s books are a challenge to me.  Somewhere along the way, I realized what bothered me about his criticisms: like many people, he didn’t understand that science is a “continuing exploration,” to borrow a phrase from Wells. Science only starts at “We saw this and we think this is the explanation…”

Original Publishing info: Carroll & Graf, 2007
My Copy: Kindle ebook
Genre: biography

Horror Films A to Z ~ A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters

Year: 2003
Runtime: 1h 54m
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Writer: Jee-woon Kim
Stars: Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Soo-jung Lim

A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.

Initial: Another film highly touted by the internet horror community. Leary of K-horror (because J-horror freaks me out), but chose it because I enjoyed Jee-woon Kim’s The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (2008).

Production Notes: Wikipedia says that A Tale of Two Sisters was the first Korean horror film to be screened in American theaters.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) Ghost stories are often puzzles; A Tale of Two Sisters certainly is. Through the film making, I kind of figured out part of this story’s mystery and, if I would  applied the same logic to another scene, I would have figured another part too. But there are things about the haunting that didn’t quite make sense in the scheme of the story. Why the ghost under the sink, for example? The subtitles weren’t a hindrance, but my face blindness did make things difficult for me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this film a lot. I love a good haunted house with a dark family secret. I’m planning to do something dumb for the letter U and watch the American “remake,” The Uninvited (2009). I’m also  looking forward to watching Kim’s I Saw the Devil (2010) one of these days.