In Cold Blood has been on my TBR list for a good long while. I’m pretty sure the copy I have is from Paperback Swap, and it’s been ages since I’ve used them. For a time I contemplated writing a true crime book myself, so it seemed incongruous that I hadn’t read one of the most famous true crime books; one that is often cited as a great American work of literature.
It was quite different than I expected. The writing is breathless and occasionally lurid. I actually kind of have trouble completely calling In Cold Blood nonfiction due to its style as well as due to accusations of literary license by people involved. I didn’t dislike the book, but I can tell that my taste for true crime has soured. It’s hard for me to take much enjoyment from the tragedy others.
On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers has been the perfect read to kick off 20 Books of Summer. What’s better than creepy pirate horror? I also question my decision to have not included Treasure Island on my initial books of summer list.
Still keeping up with my poor friend Jonathan Harker via Dracula Daily.
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.
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.
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.
“Clarimonde” by Théophile Gautier – My original Classics Club pick for September was The Devil’s Elixirs by E. T. A. Hoffmann. At about 30% of the way through, I realized that I had kind of lost track of characters. The story is *very* Gothic with many characters and secret relationships between characters. For the time being, I’ve put The Devil’s Elixirs aside, to be visited more gradually with pen and paper in hand. To keep up RIP momentum and still cross a title off my Classics Club list, I chose a short title that I thought would still work for Gothic September. “Clarimonde” was perfect.
Published in 1835, the vampire tale “La Morte amoureuse” (“The Dead Woman in Love”) or, “Clarimonde” predates Le Fenu’s “Carmilla” by over 35 years. Our titular vampiress tempts a priest, but is, alas, eventually overcome. I found it surprisingly racy for the 19th century, though the parting “moral” of the story is, “Men, beware of women . . .”
“Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road” by Stephen King – I read “Jerusalem’s Lot” and was confused. Wasn’t this Stephen King’s vampire story? While nosferatu get name-checked, the end of the story seemed to suggest something much more Lovecraftian in nature. And then I realized that King had also written a novel called ‘Salem’s Lot. I had heard of ‘Salem’s Lot but more in the context of the movie adaptation. I thought it was just the clever sales way of giving the project a more evocative title. But, no! Two separate projects, though both in King’s literary universe. Yes, there are vamps in Jerusalem’s Lot. We just don’t see them in their full vamp glory in the short story. For that, we have to go down the road to Tookey’s Bar in “One for the Road” and try to save some out-of-towners from the Lot’s denizens during a blizzard.
Abraham Lincoln: Vamipre Hunter
Year: 2012 Runtime: 1h 45m Rated: R
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith
Stars: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper
Initial: Oh, why not . . .
What Did I Think: If you take this movie as a bit of fun, it’s ridiculous, but not really a *bad* movie. The action is a little too CGI, but you don’t really need to exactly follow what’s going on in any of the fight scenes. The plot adds a little to vampire lore and it’s fun to imagine vampires in the burgeoning United States before Dracula.
But if you think about it a little too long, it could be a little problematic. Is this film really saying that the South was full of slave-owning vampires and not slave-owning people? I guess they’re going for allegory and I’m missing it(?) Also, full of factual errors (aside from the vampire thing). This isn’t the movie to watch for history.
I first read this story when I was about ten years-old. It put me off mushrooms for a long while. Not that mushrooms were a common ingredient in my mother’s cooking, but I was well into college before I began to appreciate mushrooms on my pizza and an occasional grilled portabella on my hamburger.
This story begins as many of Bradbury’s do: in the picturesque suburbs. Hugh, the head of the family, is fairly happy with his life, but feels like something is a bit off. His friend and co-worker, Roger feels it moreso. In fact, Roger starts acting weird, abruptly leaving his wife and calling Hugh to warn him about express mail packages. The only express mail package Hugh’s family has received is a mail-order mushroom farm that his son sent away for. Surely, Roger doesn’t that? His own son has the same mushroom farm…
“Gray Matter” by Stephen King
“Gray Matter” is an interesting contrast to Bradbury’s story. It does end up being a much more direct variation on the theme of some sort of fungus taking over a human, but King’s treatment of family is quite different. Richie, also the head of his family, has become something of a ne’er-do-well since his accident. The only contact the community has with him is through his son, whom Richie sends on beer runs. And in this case, some bad beer, not a mail-order scheme, sets off Richie’s transformation.
Don’t worry. This story won’t put me off beer…
In the Earth
Year: 2021 Runtime: 1h 47m Rated: R
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires
Ringworm is a type of fungus. A mycorrhizal mat is formed by a type of fungus connecting the roots of trees. Mix these two concepts together and add a dash of folk horror in the form of a woodland legend and you have In the Earth. Plus, the world outside the forest is being ravaged by a deadly virus and scientists in the forest want to…communicate with the forest? The intentions here are all a little fuzzy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The main characters don’t quite know what’s going on either. On the “scary” end of things, there is some body horror, though I think Martin gets along awfully well for a guy who gets a couple of his toes chopped off. There are also some extended scenes with flashing lights and jumpy images which might be hard for some people to get through.
I chose/happened across several works this week that fit the prompt of necromancy about as well as the magician Joseffy fit the title. But then again, Joseffy’s most famous trick was Balsamo, the Talking Skull.
I chose this story because it won this year’s Eugie Award and all the nominees are on my short fiction TRB lists. It’s not exactly a tale of necromancy, but sort of a remix of necromantic ideas with a little bit of far-fetched science thrown in. And at the heart of the story is a mother-daughter relationship that isn’t going too well…
Initial: Decided to try out one of Netflix’s original series, especially since it fit R. I. P. (because I need more reason to watch horror…).
Production Notes: Based on a book by Todd Grimson, which is pretty much out of print. You’d think everyone involved would want an available tie-in, but what do I know?
What Did I Think: This series is full of the reanimated dead, so it reasonably fits the “necromancy” category. I’m not sure I can say anything else very definite about Brand New Cherry Flavor.
Comparisons have been made to the works of David Lynch and, yeah, I can see that. I don’t really consider that a good thing. Lynch always feels a little too random and chaotic to me. BNCF isn’t quite as annoying as a David Lynch film, but there are definitely a few cases where what I assume to be rules of this world are inexplicably violated. The other comparison is to David Cronenberg’s works; that’s mostly because there is a pretty strong body horror aesthetic going on. I don’t mind body horror.
Story-wise, I don’t mind a morally ambiguous protagonist, but there is a moment of change-up that seemed false to me. Maybe it’s because we’re not given much hint that there’s something bad in Lisa Nova’s past until that’s important or that the parallel between her past and current circumstances is never fleshed out.
Not very necromantic at all despite the title. In fact, it’s sort of libromantic, since our protagonist reading a book sets off a chain of events that is side-tracked by reminding himself that he’s reading a book. Nice and creepy though.
I’m a slow reader, but luckily R.eaders I.mbibibng P.eril isn’t just about reading long works. So, maybe I have a chance at blacking out that bingo card. 😉 For some of the prompts, I want to combine an appropriate movie with a short story or two. First up, “Plague.”
At some point in the last year, I half lost a finger to rheumatoid arthritis. It’s the pinkie of my left hand. I’d been noticing that my wedding band was irritating the main joint of the pinkie (the proximal interphalangeal), but didn’t pay it much attention. When I did, finally, I found that the joint was permanently inflamed and would no longer straighten. It’s still serves as my main Shift/CTRL pinkie, all is not lost ye, but this is something that’s going to happen to me for the rest of my life. Like Charlie in “Fever Dream,” bit by bit, parts of my body are going to betray me.
Charlie’s situation is a little more dire. According to his doctor, it’s scarlet fever complicated by a cold. But Charlie knows. You’d think the doctor would know too when Charlie’s own hands try to strangle Charlie, but the doc just chalks it up to the fever dream of an imaginative boy. It’s a fever dream that wants to infect the world…
It Comes at Night
Year: 2017 Runtime: 1h 31m Rated: R
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writers: Trey Edward Shults
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Carmen Ejogo,
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a semi-joke that preppers were just mad because this wasn’t an apocalypse they could shoot. AKA, a global pandemic doesn’t play out like It Comes at Night. And I know this movie is more about human interactions when dealing with pressure and the unknown, but I was really annoyed by the lack of any good quarantine/disinfection procedures.
The one thing that It Comes at Night does get right is its title. How many nights in the past year and a half have I laid down, tired, past bedtime, and suddenly wondered… Is my chest tight? Can I still taste and smell? Is this actually really how I breathe?
A tale of the super rich and privileged who can’t avoid the inevitable: death. But it’s death from a contagion, so the conclusion sits uneasy these days: what chance do little people have as we try to stay safe? Which is why I hadn’t reread this story until now despite it having some of my favorite imagery in all of literature. In theme, It Comes at Night does mimic “Masque.” In both, characters are trying to beat circumstances with isolation and the house in the movie is maybe as much of an architectural conundrum as Prospero’s imperial suite.