Books Essays Etc

Books Essays Etc (31)

John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a southern-gothic masterpiece that borders ever so slightly on gonzo journalism—though it falls short of passing into that bizarro realm. Reading it spurred me to contemplate the border between the two major realms of nonfiction writing; the DMZ between the ordered lands of subject-first traditional journalism and the wild “bat country” of writer-first gonzo. It wasn’t a very long contemplation, of course, as Midnight in the Garden falls into the same tradition of literary journalism as Capote, Junger, or Bowden, though the author’s prominent role nudges it closer to “Thompson” territory than Junger’s or Bowden’s.

If you’re looking for a good scary story to celebrate Halloween, Big Ross has nothing but praise for this oldy but goody from the master of horror.

N. is a novella written by American author and horror maestro Stephen King. It was published as part of the collection Just After Sunset in 2008. I discovered an audiobook version of it, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, on YouTube. I don’t understand how copyright law applies to YouTube, or if King got any money from my or the other almost 56,000 times someone listened to it. I hope so. Because it is good. It is very good. I’ve listened to it two additional times, and it has quickly become one of my favorite King stories ever. Read on for some in-depth analysis, but maybe first go read it (or IMHO, even better, listen to the audiobook version of it). SPOILERS FOLLOW!

As part of Fright Week and this group discussion of the works of horror master Stephen King, Big Ross discusses his love for the short story 1408.

Monday, 27 August 2012 01:00

Odd Thomas Drowned in a Flood

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Or, how Andrew Vachss’ Burke helped me realize why I dislike Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas so much.

I didn’t know why I disliked Odd Thomas so much, only that I really, really didn’t like this character, or the books that feature him, for that matter. I hadn’t read anything by Dean Koontz in years. More like in over a decade. For awhile in my teens and early twenties, I was binging on Koontz. I think Phantoms was his first novel I read, and something about it hooked me. I read everything I could, and over the course of a few years made my way through his entire bibliography (with a couple of exceptions). I have some fond memories of those books, but then I just stopped. I was reading King and Rice and Clancy (and Koontz) around that time, and then I’m happy to say (without any sense of conceit or elitism) that I transitioned to better writers. Gene Wolfe. Neal Stephenson. Frank Herbert. Kurt Vonnegut. Joseph Conrad. Others. I recently came back to Koontz and his recent creation Odd Thomas. I obtained several of these Odd-themed novels in audiobook format at the low low price of $0 COUGH-Thanks Demonoid-COUGH, and I started listening to them at work and during my commute.


I listened to Odd Thomas. I didn’t like it. I listened to Forever Odd. I liked it less. I listened to Brother Odd. I liked it so little, disliked it so much, I vowed not t
o spend another minute listening to the followup Odd Hours. I’ve seen banner ads around the interwebs for his latest, Odd Apocalypse. I have no intention of reading it. And while I knew my intense dislike for these novels (my first such reaction to Koontz’s work) centered on the protagonist Odd Thomas, I had difficulty forming a specific argument as to why.

Then I read Flood, the first novel in the Burke series by Andrew Vachss, mostly on the recommendation of fellow CC2Ker Tony Lazlo. And my feelings toward Odd Thomas crystallized into a beautiful snowflake of disdain.

oddsbooktrailer

CC2K Co-founder Robert J. Peterson shot the book trailer for his sci-fi novel The Odds last night. Here's his report:

We shot the book trailer for The Odds last night at my friend Dennis Mao's incredible Japanese grill Robata-Ya on Sawtelle in Los Angeles. I had lunch there while scouting the space, and I can't wait to go back. Thanks to Dennis for the space!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012 17:00

Sexing Up the Classics

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In a nutshell, sex sells.  This isn’t news to anyone. Just check any paper, any magazine, or any television channel. People have used sex and sexual imagery to advertise whatever they’re trying to sell since the Dark Ages, if not before and hey, it works.

Nowhere is this better exhibited than in those glorious vintage paperbacks from the 1940’s thru the 1960’s. This was a golden era of books, as the mass-marketing of literature kicked in, and cheap paperbacks, sometimes costing only a dime, where now available to the masses. Sold at gas stations, drug stores, anywhere a book looked liked it belonged, all could afford to read. (Or all men, at least, as these books were aimed primarily at returning GI’s and blue-collar workers.)

Monday, 28 March 2011 13:08

Classic Book Review: All The President's Men

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Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon looks back at this classic account of journalistic triumph.

In the political suspense novel, All the President’s Men, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein phenomenally depicted their Pulitzer-prize winning investigation of the Watergate scandal, which had implicated and exposed the corruption of President Richard Nixon and his administration to the American public.  Chronicling the leads, successes, and failures of their investigation, Woodward and Bernstein created a sensational and shocking political drama which kept the audience on its toes, despite their previous knowledge of the resulting historical consequences.  Capturing the totality and frightening reality of such widespread corruption throughout the United States government, the novel’s thematic emphasis embodied the quintessential mood felt throughout the American public.  Corresponding with their anti-war sentiment for the Vietnam War, the people of the 1970s were becoming shockingly more aware that the government was not infallible, and that its limitless power threatened the ideals and standards on which the country and Constitution were founded.  Overall, All the President’s Men greatly benefited and impacted American society, as it commemorated the complexities of the Watergate scandal for those who lived through it and those who unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) missed the events.

Through the years, thanks to having mostly male friends in high school and a few kinky boyfriends, I have watched a decent amount of pornography—not enough to call myself an “expert,” by any stretch of the imagination, but more than most women I know.  One question I’ve gotten from my male friends, on more than one occasion, is, “Why can’t women get into pornography?”

My answer: they do.  They’re called “romance novels.”

Image In a not-unprecedented CC2K column-switcharoo TV Editor Phoebe Raven contributes a controversial article to the traditional Monday book section and hands off Tuesday's TV slot to Book Editor Beth Woodward, who will fill it with an equally discussion-rousing piece. Let's get ready to rumble.

 

At the core of this article is a discussion of Amin Maalouf's non-fictional book In the Name of Identity, which is a compelling, if sometimes incredibly unsettling read for all of us inhabitants of "the Western World". Amin Maalouf was born in Lebanon, raised as part of a Christian minority in an predominantly Muslim country, then moved to France and has been living there ever since. He speaks Arabic, French, English and probably some other languages. He takes his personal experiences during his struggle to "find somewhere he belongs" to launch into a discussion about the troubles that plague the world today, which -- to him -- hinge on questions of "identity" and how important they are to the contemporary individual.
Yet to fully grasp Maalouf's points about identity, the tension it creates and his theories on why "the Western World" and "the rest of the world" seem to be engaged in a battle for world domination, we have to do a little excursion. So bear with me.

The field of "identity studies" has a long history. Even Aristotle was already thinking about what constitutes the "self" and what essential quality an entity has to possess to be defined as exactly what it is (think: what does a tiger absolutely need to have to be identified as a tiger? Four legs? A tail? Stripes?). But where Aristotle was dwelling in the realm of the metaphysical, modern proponents in the vast realm of "identity politics" have far less transcendent goals in mind.

ImageI was totally psyched when Carolyn Crane, author of the Disillusionists trilogy (Mind Games and Double Cross were released this year; the third book will be released in 2011) agreed to talk to me!

I reviewed the series, which focuses a young hypochondriac named Justine who is recruited into a gang of neurotics who disillusion people with their negative emotions (fear, anger, grimness, recklessness, ennui, etc.), a few weeks ago.  It's an urban fantasy that doesn't read like a typical urban fantasy, lacking supernatural creatures and obvious "good guys" and "bad guys."  Mind Games and Double Cross were two of my favorite books of 2010, and I can't recommend them enough.  You can learn more about Carolyn and the series on her website or blog.

In this interview, Carolyn talks about how she got the idea for the series, her path to publication, her upcoming projects, and the heroics of Dashboard Gumby.

 

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