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Little tales, told at night

Books of Blood, volumes 1 – 3

Barker, Clive

ISBN:0 75151022 X

Did you ever look through a kaleidoscope as a kid?  Do you remember twisting the end to make the little bright jewels and beads inside fall into different patterns?  Remember how some of the patterns where better than others, even though they were all beautiful – some of the patterns inside were just a little on the dull side, and although they were all pretty, some just didn’t have that certain something.

Books of Blood is a little bit like that.  Some of the stories enclosed in the three-volume set (the Books were originally published as individuals, and then combined at a later stage, which is apparently how Clive Barker had intended to publish them all along) are amazing – descriptive, interesting subject matter, good character development.  I wouldn’t say that they were strictly scary – some of them are certainly creepy, but I can read them before bed without any ill effects.  However, some of them are rote, or done better by other writers (The Yattering and Jack being a case in point – that whole concept was much better done by C.S Lewis in The Screwtape Letters).

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The Guts and the Gory

Haunted: a novel of stories

Palahniuk, Chuck

Vantage, 2006

ISBN 9780099458371

Oh, Chuck.  Where did we go wrong, honey?  Once, your words were like a soothing balm of awesome to my eyes.  Now, I feel slightly meh’d.  Believe me, it’s not you.  But then again, it’s not me either.  It’s Haunted.

This had all the makings of a fantastic read – the parental advisory on the front cover, reports of fainting (fainting!) when one of the stories was read by Chuck at a Borders somewhere on a book tour.  I’m still slightly amazed by that, there must have been some seriously weak-stomached people (or maybe just people with seriously great imaginations) in the audience.  For some reason, I could never find Haunted in a bookstore here at Earth’s End, so I purchased a copy over the interwebs, no big thing.  It’s not on the database of items which freaked the Censor’s Office out (though hilariously, there is a video called ‘My Ass is Haunted’ in there – somehow, I don’t think they’re talking about a donkey there), so who knows where it got to.  Anyway,  it’s weird, I got to nearly half way, bottled out of reading the rest a few weeks ago, but for some reason picked it up again over the weekend.  It’s good writing, the premise is solid… but… but… something is missing.

Like a lot of people, I came to Chuck Palahniuk’s writing after Fight Club (the movie) came out.  The movie was great – I adore Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham-Carter, and that other guy isn’t so bad either – but the book is… genius.  And, okay, I know this happens all the time, but the book is actually loads more deep than you’d ever credit from the movie alone.  For a fairly slim volume (it’s almost a novella), it packs a big punch; aside from the twist in the tail, there is a lot to think about in Fight Club – serious stuff, things like the massive gap between the working poor and the classes above them, things relating to the way men and women see the world differently, and about how the ‘button down world’ of late capitalism cannot scratch every itch.  I guess you could equate Fight Club in some ways to Trainspotting – same kind of feeling around the edges, the characters all in search of something intangable which the society in which they live is no longer capable of providing, and everyone in that society is at a loss to explain exactly where it went.  Phew, that was a long sentence.

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Versus Battle 1: Poe v. King

Ladies and Gentlemen, roll right up for the first of the Versus Battles!  Tonight, an all-time heavyweight of the American literary circuit, Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination dukes it out with the welterweight champion of the best-seller lists, Nightmares and Dreamscapes by your friend and mine, Mr. Stephen King!

Note: This is kind of my cheap way of getting two books done for the price of one.  I kind of think it might be interesting to do a little compare and contrast with authors from different periods who go in for the same kind of things – subject matter, style, etcetera.  And yes, I do know that it’s very unlikely that you’d ever see a heavyweight box a welterweight, and think that it’s probably even against every boxing rule known to man, but let me see how far I can take this reference, okay?  Good.  On with the show!

The Weigh-in:

Poe’s volume (at least, the edition that I have, which is the Galley Press edition of 1987, part of the “Golden Heritage Classics series”) stands at 28 stories, 446 pages of maybe 8-point serif font.  I have to guess that much, because there’s no handy ‘this edition published in 8-point such-and-thus font.  So this is turning into a bit of a bare-knuckle anything goes kind of fight anyway, what with the weight estimations and all, but again, lets see how long we can string this along, eh, cublings?  The ISBN for this edition is 0861366522.

King’s book, which is the BCA edition, published in 1993, stands at 23 tales, and runs to 569 pages (I’m subtracting the intro and the author’s note at the end, although those things are always worth reading in King’s books, as much for the jocular style as anything else).  The ISBN… it doesn’t have one.  Which is probably because it’s a reprint… if any of you cublings knows more than Mama Wolf, send me a comment… it’s got a CN number, but that’s Library of Congress cataloguing… isn’t it?  Hmn.  Come on, cublings, help a sister out… Read the rest of this entry

Kicking, and Kicking Again

  I’ve begun using Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (1999, Vintage, ISBN:9780749336509) as a barometer of potential       friendships.  I have a friend who uses the series Black Books, which she loans to people she isn’t sure of to assess whether they’d be good friend material.  That seems to work well for her, so I have decided to use Trainspotting.  It might not be totally accurate, but like Sex Panther cologne, 60% of the time, it works 100% of the time.  And if you haven’t seen the film Anchorman, you really should, even if only to get that reference.  I’ve owned three copies of Trainspotting since I bought my first one when I was eighteen; not because I am such a fool as to go around flinging my money at publishers, but because I keep loaning it to people who leave it on buses.

Anyway, Trainspotting began life as a series of short stories in various publications.  Of course, most people know it from the movie, but honestly the movie does no justice at all to the depth of storytelling and character development in the work itself.  I guess the movie is pretty visceral in its way, but you’ve not experienced the amount of horror and humour which Welsh combines in the short stories.  Plus, they’re all told with different perspectives, with literally different voices, which is pretty amazing.  You can even hear in your minds’ ear the differences in accent between character, which proves to me that it’s not just a gimmick.  For example, Diane in the storyThe First Shag in Ages says ‘not’ when she’s talking to her parents (as in “Mark’s not interested in that”, at the bottom of page 147).  Other characters say ‘no’ and other variations as they see fit (it’s all the same word – to paraphrase Francis Begbie, can you not understand the Queens’ English?).  It’s real subtle and cleverly done, often to indicate stress, education level, all sorts of stuff.  My particular favourite example of this is when Renton is rabbiting on about Kirkegaard at the sentencing judge when he and Spud are being tried for stealing books – he goes all proper-sounding, and then flicks back to his usual ‘voice’ when they’re in the pub afterward. There’s even regional accent indications as well, with Mark Renton’s family from Glasgow written in their own vernacular to the main cast of Edinburghites.  Edinburghians?  Whatever, people from Edinburgh, already!  Sheesh!

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