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Saturday, November 21, 2009

LibraryThing Early Review

by Jack Kilborn

Well titled!

Although I love scary and I say I'd rather be offended than bored, for the first time in my life I have had to say this book was TOO FRIGHTENING to read. I only managed about 50 pages. I actually imagine that this comment is a confirmation of the intent of the author. The combination of suspense, horror, science gone mad and gore is keyed to an insanely high degree.

I will now pass it on to the most adventurous reader I know, see if she can manage it. I'll try to remember to append her comments.

The marigold wonders nervously: is this, in fact, the PERFECT review for this book?

The other reader of my copy did finish reading the book, and said the relentlessness of the gore was remarkable. It didn't stop her from reading it, though. AND another reading friend asked me about "that book you were too frightened to read" because she was intrigued enough to think she would pick it up is she ran into it in an airport bookstore. Well, whaddya know? My review is working!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some things are so funny

A lot of things are kind of funny, but lately I have been thinking about things that are REALLY FUNNY, and I thought I would share them with you all! (Yes, possums! All of you!) Amazingly, or not, they all kind of intersect with books.

I've said it before: I love a smart-ass. I last said it about Michael Chabon and his characters in my post about my favourite ten reads of 2008. (Starting to think about this year's list. HMMMM.) Anyway, these are my top favourite funny things of the moment:

The comics (and everything else) on Wondermark created by David Malki ! are to die for. Did you like the one at the top of the page? I also loved his screen-shot videos of creating the comics, beautiful little works of art, and I plan to continue rummaging around his site to look at all the offerings.

No-one is smart-ass-ier than the writers of, and nothing can be funnier than McSweeney's. I particularly love McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes. No more need be said on that. I also adore, and have (probably inappropriately) shared with my kids McSweeney's Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists. Suffice it to say that the cover of the book is illustrated by a unicorn, and among other funny topics for lists there are lists something like: "Things that make a unicorn cry" and "Messages sent to me by my mother when she was learning to text-message".

Produced by McSweeney's, there are also more books, a great web-site, and several unusual-format periodicals. Results are uneven, but these people can make coffee come out your nose, if you are not careful.

I am also a recent convert to the BadAss of the Week site by Ben Thomson. From him you can learn real stuff WHILE COFFEE COMES OUT YOUR NOSE! I had seen some of his postings on the Cracked! website, but when he guest-blogged on the Powell's Books enewsletter (see under reading links - it's all good) about Aeschylus, I had to check into him further. This is my second mention of him in a row, he's that good.

A smart laugh must be one of the most satisfying things that can be experienced. Hope you get one, or two...

Here is a bonus Wondermark comic:

(Except I don't have a cat. Draw your own conclusions.)

The marigold hopes nervously that it's OK for me to have reproduced these two that actually illustrate my life. In any case, go to the site and find the ones that mean most to you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rereading Hallowe'en

I recently felt the urge to re-read The Picture of Dorian Gray, probably because I wanted Oscar Wilde's story topmost in my mind before the irresistible onslaught of movie promo. I was surprised to discover that it was his only long prose fiction. I was further surprised to find so many of the aphorisms which I thought Wilde himself had delivered at parties and such, to be delivered by one of the main characters in this book, a man whose relentlessly aphoristic style sounds affected to a modern ear. Nonetheless, the sayings which have stood the test of time...uh... stand the test of time: I cannot accept your invitation due to a subsequent engagement, and so on.

So, I remembered the book being thrilling, un-put-down-able. This time it took a long while for me to reach that feeling, but then when it started it literally left me breathless. How many BOOKS can really do that? Am I even talking about reading? The story is so awesome, that I think it quite possible that translated into the modern vernacular in every way (by this I even mean from book to movie) that it will be quite artistically successful. I hope so.

Then, I started free-associating over to Edgar Allan Poe. Hmmm. Not really contemporaries, but still...a couple of stories to re-read there too, in light of (my) current scholarship. Murder in the Rue Morgue, (and The Purloined Letter for that matter): Poe was acknowledged by Arthur Conan Doyle to have created the prototype of a detective before the word existed. Plus, somehow, I had a must-read recommendation for The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. I can't remember who, and I can't figure it out, either. The first two thirds are a horror/sailing story (an unusual but not unknown category). However, the final third is science fiction - also a prototype. Jules Verne and and HG Wells feel to us like the pioneers of explorer science fiction. Yet Verne was born 20 years later than Poe, and actually wrote a sequel to Gordon Pym (!), and Wells wasn't born until 1866, more than 15 years after Poe's death and likewise credited him with the invention of the category.

Here the observation seems to be that Poe is quite under-rated. He is taken as a novelty act, but he was truly creative and courageous. I even saw, when I was confirming his dates on Wikipedia, that he was the first American writer to try to live on the income from his writing alone. The guy was full of ideas. I have to say that when I come across his poetry now, I put it in the special category with Dr Seuss and Shel Silverstein - producers of poetry with both distinctively creative rhymes and yet also natural-sounding scansion. I think these writers offer the best possible way to learn the intricacies of English pronunciation when it is not your mother tongue. I love them all for it.

(Note to self: send a suggestion to the BadAss guy about Poe. I'm pretty sure he was one. Meanwhile, gentle reader: run, don't walk, to There you will find a mixture of real historical figures, fictional characters, writers, scientists, etc, etc, whose bad-ass-iness is meticulously and HILARIOUSLY documented. I am actually going to subscribe to the RSS feed, so I don't miss out.)

I also must send a shout-out to Adam Rex here, who brilliantly spoofed The Raven, without any disrespect at all, apart from the obvious, ironic and rhyming disrespect in his version. It is a part of a poetry collection for kids - no that sounds all wrong, like, very, like, smarmy - it is a part of a kids' book, in rhyme, so funny that is almost wasted on kids. That book is called Frankenstein takes the Cake and it is actually a sequel to Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, which we have never seen. My kids and I love his The True Meaning of Smekday, too. See link to his homepage under "writers"

And...big news! In case you were wondering, I discovered, with a couple of Grade 2 kids, that there actually are stories about women were-wolves! In fact there doesn't seem to be an actual term for them and most of the sites about them won't open because of the school's internet filters! Anyway, who but a Grade 2 kid and/or a poster of R-rated internet material would ever have asked such a question? Lets you know who is capable of thinking outside the box these days.

Should I also mention spooky, scary, Coraline? Loved Neil Gaiman's original book. LOVED Henry Selick's movie - a separate and original work of art (especially the opening title sequence, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of animation ever). LOVED the soundtrack, by composer Bruno Coulais in an imaginary language (how perfect is that?) and bought it and use one song as a ring tone on my mobile. And loved the graphic version by P Craig Russell (whom I already love for his graphic versions of opera. Actually - maybe I should check his work for female wolf-men - no term, remember? - as he is capable of thinking outside the box). See link under "fun, cool funny".

The marigold wonders nervously: Did you see how re-reading intersected with Hallowe'en just now? Were you wondering? Is it kewl?