Category Archives: Female Author

Reading Notes, 5/19/22

Cover: Sundial by Catriona Ward
Cover: Come Closer by Sara Gran
Cover: In Cold Blood

Read

Sundial by Catriona Ward

This was Ladies of Horror Fiction’s May book selection. I almost gave up on this book because its first 10% is pretty much all domestic drama, mostly Rob and her awful husband fighting. Luckily, Ward started weaving in some creepy threads kept me reading. Ultimately, Sundial goes in a science fiction direction that I’m not too sure about. That, mixed with a melodramatic aspect that wouldn’t be out of place on a CW show, makes for a somewhat entertaining read, but I really would have been happier with just the creepiness.

Come Clean by Sara Gran

Heard about Come Clean book from a Tor post on possession in books. One of the things that freaked my out about The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty when I first read it was that the possession of Regan starts with noises in the attic that no one pays attention to. I don’t know if that’s a general “you’ve got demons” trope, but it’s the jumping off point for Come Clean. Oddly, I felt the first person perspective of Amanda took away from the horror of her becoming possessed. While she’s helpless to stop it, she also isn’t really part of bad things happening during to blackouts. I did like the background that Gran brings to the demon Naamah: that Adam rejected his second wife because he saw what was inside her. You can read that literally or figuratively.

Deal Me In, Week 19

Q♠️, “Wake Up, I Miss You” by Rachel Swirsky – From Into the Night’s archives, but not strongly horror in my opinion. Very dream-like because it is full of dreaming. Not quite sure what the Queen of Teeth is meant to be.

Reading

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

Reading Notes, 5/12/22

Read

Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter by Janet Campbell Hale

In the fall of 1995, as junior in college, I took a Native American literature course. Since it counted for the college of arts and sciences’ cultural minority requisite, many of the students were there because they had to be. I was there because I had to be too, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to do the work. Plus, it wasn’t uninteresting. I took an introductory anthropology class and a course called “Stories and the Human Experience” that semester too and they all meshed together nicely. At the end of the semester my instructor gifted me with Janet Campbell Hale’s Bloodlines.

At the beginning of Bloodlines, Janet Campbell Hale warns that autobiography isn’t always entirely true. Some stories are better if they aren’t entirely true. Yet, I have little reason to suspect that Hale isn’t telling the truth. Her narratives move from the history of the Coeur d’Alene and Kootenay peoples to her own fragmented childhood, spent traveling with her mother. Her writing is clear and unadorned, but still lyrical.

I learn from Wikipedia that Hale died just last year of complications due to COVID-19. According to LinkedIn, my professor moved on to non-teaching pastures, establishing a company that combines archaeology and law to help deal with cultural property issues in the Great Plains.

Deal Me In, Week 18

18♦️ “The Tyger” by Tegan Moore – As I kid, I very much enjoyed museums. That might have been because a trip to Lincoln to visit Morrill Hall was a treat. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the museum more when I was a student at UNL. So, I understand Jules a little. This is a gentle fantasy and, for once, I didn’t mind the kid narrator.

Reading

As I mentioned, it’s Bout of Books this week. My reading has been pretty slow though, so far.

  • Sundial by Catriona Ward – This seems to be going well for me, but the beginning had me worried.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – In bite-sized pieces.

Reading Notes, 5/5/22

Read

Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith

About mid-April, I was in the mood to read something neither old (19th century) nor new (21st century). I also wanted to actually finish a book for Spring into Horror. Mystery counted for the theme, so I picked the slimmest Patricia Highsmith novel that I had on my shelves.

Ray’s wife commits suicide early in their marriage. His father-in-law blames Ray and attempts to kill him. Several times. The majority of this book is Ray hiding out in Venice and trying to decide what to do about his angry in-law. Not much happens, really, yet I wanted to know more about the characters. Having read some of Highsmith’s Ripley novels, characters are obviously Highsmith’s strength. She write messy, complicated characters, which of course makes them feel real.

Since there was a bookmark from The Antiquarium tucked in it, I probably bought Those Who Walk Away there. The Antiquarium was chaotic, over-stocked used bookstore in downtown Omaha, NE. The store moved to Brownville, NE in 2006. Since I never visited it after the move, chances are I’ve owned this book since before 2006.

Deal Me In, Week 17

A❤️ “The Sycamore and the Sybil” by Alix E. Harrow – I read Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium to Portal Fantasies” a few weeks ago. Both were on my Eugie Awards list. This is a lyrical if depressing story. I know the end is meant to be victorious, but I get so tired of men being portrayed as wolves, even if they are wolves sometimes.

Reading

  • Bloodlines : Odyssey of a Native Daughter by Janet Campbell Hale – This is my morning reading.
  • The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker & Leslie S. Klinger – If you know Dracula, you know that it’s an epistolary novel (at least in part) told in the form of letters and journal entries. About a week ago I came upon Dracula Daily, which emails parts of Dracula to you on the day they happen in the book. I’ve done this on my own in the past, but I was up for another reread of good ol’ Stoker’s masterwork. Also, I have this big, fat annotated edition that I bought and hadn’t read.

Book ~ Beowulf

Cover for Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, featuring the head and shoulders of a figure (including the face) covered entirely in chain mail.
Cover of Beowulf, translated by Maria Dahvana Headley. The bright blue cover features a dragon intertwined with a red Gothic font B with a gold crown atop,

The first time I read Beowulf was in college, in a history class rather than a literature class. It was a prose translation, probably the ubiquitous one by E. Talbot Donaldson. I came away not very impressed. That mass market paperback hasn’t survived my occasional library culls, even though the notes from the class have (due more to the art on the back of the notebook). The class, History of the Middle Ages, emphasized what the social value might have been for its original audience: an ideal leader is one who is brave, generous, and, most importantly, tied to his community.

I gave Beowulf a second chance when Seamus Heaney’s translation was published. I was already familiar with Heaney as a poet, and it seemed to me that there was probably some literary value to the poem that I hadn’t seen previously. I love Heaney’s translation and it’s become a work I reread every-so-often. When I sat down to Beowulf a couple weeks ago, I got curious about Marie Dahvana Headley’s 2020 translation and queued it up in audio book form.

In Headley’s introduction, she states that she wished to provide a more female forward translation of Beowulf. It’s true, the original author fails to give any details to the women and gives only negative attributes to Grendel’s mother. Headley also wanted to liven up and modernized the language of the poem. What would Beowulf sound like if it were being told today by the dude at the end of the bar, three drinks in?

I’m not sure Headley is entirely successful in either of these two goals. I’m going address the language first, because I realized that is why I reread Beowulf. It’s not for the story (even though I like competent heroes) or the literary value* or even to chew on the interplay of Judaism/Christianity within the narrative. I reread Beowulf, Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, for the language. For me, his translation does feel like an old seaman telling a (tall) tale to a bar full of serious fisherman who want a story of honor and derring-do because their profession is full of mundane danger. That said, I think Headley’s hip-hoppy “Bro” tone could have worked if it were consistent and avoided references that are already past date (yes, like “hashtag blessed” (Also, I looked at excerpts from the printed version, why isn’t it written as “#blessed”? I call the publishers cowards here.)). As it is, I feel like Vin Diesel is the only person who could read this aloud and even out the grandeur and the gutter.

On the second point, I’m going to recuse myself: I only listened to Headley’s translation to just after Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother. (The language was that jarring to.) While Headley does make efforts to point out that many of the women in Beowulf, queens even, aren’t given the names and lineages similar to male characters, there doesn’t seem to be much done to make Grendel’s mother less of a monster. And that’s fine with me. I’m assuming that translations, including Headley’s, have been generally faithful and there just isn’t much to work with. Grendel and his mother are spawns of Cain. Though they anger and hunger and grieve, they are still the monsters of this piece and Beowulf, the hero.


*Co-current to my delve into Beowulf, I’ve been reading Arthur Quiller-Couch’s On the Art of Writing lectures, which cover the nature of English literature. He touches on Beowulf:

The pretence that our glorious literature derives its lineage from “Beowulf” is in vulgar phrase ‘a put up job’; a falsehood grafted upon our text-books by Teutonic and Teutonising professors who can bring less evidence for it than will cover a threepenny-piece.

Deal Me In 2022, Week 1

Deal Me In logo pic

All the Deal Me In details.

Card Picked: 5♠️
Story: “Drip” by Shreya Vikram
List: Recommended by Nightfire

Thoughts:
Well, I started the year off with quite a story. Nightfire is Tor’s horror imprint and they post a monthly “best of” of horror stories published online. I haven’t in the past availed myself of their lists, but if this story is an indication, their picks are good ones, heavy on the horror.

I can’t say I totally understood everything going on in “Drip.” The narrator is definitely deranged and in an abusive situation that is pretty over-the-top. He becomes obsessed with dripping of the dirty faucet. Or at least the sound of it, which seems to only be in his head. Everything in this story, including the faucet and the basin below it, is dirty and spoiled. The only freedom for the narrator and his many brothers is when their father is gone, laying in mourning over the grave of his father and father’s fathers. I suspect the faucet and the drip are allegorical (is the faucet their . . . mother?), but none of my theories exactly fit.

The story reminds me of the X-Files episode “Home,” though that family was infinitely more loving.

Other Short Stories

I feel like I read more short stories this week, but really I only read one aside from any in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown.

“Sheer in the Sun, They Pass” by Hester J. Rook – There are many, many takes on hauntings and ghosts and this was a new one on me.

Book ~ The Devil In Dover

The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America by Lauri Lebo

This was an impulse read. I suppose it might be odd that I chose to read about a evolution/intelligent design court case on impulse, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The book was mentioned in passing during an interview I watched with actor John de Lancie (“Q” on Star Trek: The Next Generation). De Lancie is a secular activist and has been working on a play based on the trial.

The trial is Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Basically, in the early 2000s, some members of the Dover Area School Board sought to add creationism (later, intelligent design) to the local public school’s science curriculum while downplaying the validity of evolution. Some parents of students had a problem with this, seeing it as a violation of division of church and state. The teaching of creationism in public schools had already been ruled against: creationism is seen to be a religion-based concept that furthers only a specific religion. The crux of Kitzmiller v. Dover came down to whether intelligent design is an actual scientific theory not based in any religious (Christian) faith and whether the proposed addition constituted as “teaching.” The judge ruled for the parents in a 139 page decision.

Lauri Lebo is a Pennsylvania native and was a local reporter during trial. The Devil in Dover is about the trial and the events leading up to it, but also focuses on relationships between people on both sides of the issue, her own relationship with her fundamentalist Christian father, and her shift away from religion. Many of the people involved in the case were neighbors and most were Christians, though not necessarily of the same denomination. There was also libel and potential perjury on the part of the defendants, which is not a good look for people who claim to be interested in the souls of others.

The Devil in Dover was published in 2009, but there are aspects of it that still seem very relevant. Lebo states near the beginning of the book that she believes 9/11 changed the US in a bad way. That it made it easy to embrace an “us against them” attitude where “they” are evil even when they are your literal or figurative neighbors. I’m not sure I entirely buy the notion that the change occurred particularly after 9/11, but it’s baffling to me how much division there has been when we really needed to be united.

Danse Macabre Around the Sundial Tonight

A couple reviews of books I finished a last weekend during Readathon:

Danse Macabre by Stephen King

Back in the late 70s, after Stephen King had become the go-to horror guy, he was approached to write a book about the phenomena of horror: why some people like it, why some writers write it, and why horror works. King decided, judiciously, to focus the field and write about horror between 1950 and 1980, both written and on film.

I first read this book back in college. At the time, I hadn’t read or watched much horror at all. Much of what King discusses was not really in my realm of knowledge (though weirdly, reading about horror media has always been almost as fun for me as consuming it). This book was, in fact what turned me on to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Anne Rivers Siddon’s The House Next Door, both of which I happily found in UNL’s library. It was definitely interesting to revisit Danse Macabre now that I’ve read and watched more of the titles mentioned.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

Speaking of Shirley Jackson . . . A second reread for me this month. This isn’t decreasing my “# of owned and unread books”.

I have in the past confused this book with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Not hard to do, I feel. Both involve a very insular group of people living in big old house. The difference: Merricat (from Castle) knows the world isn’t ending because she’s not lucky enough for all the people she hates to be so quickly wiped out.

This book is wild. As I mentioned the first time I read it (in 2006), I’m pretty sure there’s a satirical element, but, other than pointing out the lunacy that can come from classism, I’m not sure I’m neurotypical enough to puzzle it all out. It is a very funny book with moments of WTF and a dollop of terror when Julia tries to break for town.