Monthly Archives: January 2010

Terrence Holt, In the Valley of the Kings

Terrence Holt cover In the Valley of the Kings

An off-the-cuff review of Terrence Holt’s fascinating, erudite, cerebral, ambitious, well-reviewed (but spottily-copy-edited!) collection, In the Valley of the Kings.

Warning:  Plot spoilers!

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Brian Evenson & In the Loop

Brian Evenson

Thanks to Matthew Cheney for linking to this great interview with Brian Evenson at Rain Taxi.  Evenson’s detective-horror novel Last Days caught my eye recently because it’s published by local Underland Press, and just won a Best Horror Novel of 2009 award from the American Library Association.  Evenson’s got quite a crop of awards under his belt, including an NEA fellowship and the O. Henry prize.   He directs the Literary Arts program at Brown University.  I’m always intrigued by writers who seem to fit into both the literary and the “genre” slot.  (Whatever that means this week.)

I also recently watched In the Loop, based on Cheney’s mention of it in his blog.  It’s a frantic, hilarious black comedy about the rush to war in a slightly fictionalized London and Washington DC, presumably in the Bush era.  Watching it was like seeing office politics raised to the nth level–I recognized so many of the backroom tactics and coercion strategies I’ve seen in my working lives.  But with better dialogue.  It was horrifying and at the same time fascinating and obscurely gratifying–I hated these people, and yet I wanted to watch them for hours.  I sat through the DVD extras until midnight.

Love the cover

Peter Straub's The Skylark

I love the cover of Peter Straub’s The Skylark, from Subterranean Press.  Straub describes the book thus:

What Subterranean Press will be publishing is an earlier state of the novel now called A Dark Matter, not merely the limited version of the trade edition. I wish to have it preserved and published in this form as well as the final, many-times-re-edited form to indicate what I hoped its shape would be like. This is a much looser, sloppier, more wild-eyed version of the book, with blind alleys, red herrings, and false trails.

Something about that description, paired with the book cover, is very Vivian Girls to me.

New banner

New banner image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and BigHugeLabs Mosaic Maker.

Images from austinevan, mamnaimie, ktylerconk, and dergrischi.

Lull

I’ve been in a posting lull here, for several reasons.  The holidays knocked me off pace, and then work knocked me further off.  I ramped up my involvement with Reading Local Portland, which has been lots of fun, but which has taken most of my available blog-keeping-up-time.  And, like a lost soul in a columbarium, I’m still casting about to find my niche.  Does the world need another blog about reading, writing, and genre literature?  Maybe, maybe not.

And then, of course.  Haiti.  What is there to say, after that?

Well, all I can say about Haiti right now is that we’ve given the most we can give this month, via Mercy Corps.  I humbly suggest that the whole world do the same.  And let’s please hope and pray that this crisis brings about some rational foreign policy, so that Haiti and the Dominican Republic (and many, many other countries) can pull themselves out of their patterns of misery, and start to share in some of the world’s wealth and happiness.

A few links and thoughts, as regards that happiness…

  • Orbit Books has just released Robert Jackson Bennett’s Mr. Shivers, which looks amazing.  Reviewers are comparing it to Stephen King by way of Steinbeck, and to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.  The book’s website is more ambitious and robust than most author websites.  It’s designed like a point-and-click game which is a good thing, in my opinion.  I have a copy on hold, and I’m looking forward to it a lot.
  • Speculative Horizons recently linked to an interesting article suggesting a new genre: The New Weird.  This may be old news to many people, but I find it a handy new term for the kind of book I’m interested in, which is essentially literary fiction with a speculative element.  (See under:  China Mieville, Jeff VanderMeer, et al.  I’d expand to include folks from the mainstream literary side like Audrey Niffenegger, Dan Chaon, Michael Chabon, etc.)
  • Patrick Rothfuss rocks.  (If you haven’t followed this, Rothfuss has raised about $130,000 for Heifer International through a lottery and auction of books and other items.  He’s pledged to match dollars 2 for 1, so his total donation will be closer to $200,000.  Basically, Rothfuss and his co-pledger Subterranean Press are donating almost as much to international aid as Madonna, who just gave $250,000 for Haitian relief.  Not to knock Madge, but don’t you think she can afford to give a little more?)
  • In more sobering news, Kage Baker is extremely ill.  If you’ve ever read and enjoyed her work, now would be a lovely time to send her an email of support.
  • I’ve just finished reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and am partway through Finch.  Both on Kindle.  What’s it like, reading on a Kindle?  It’s sure not like reading from a paper book.  I hope to post more thoughts on this soon.  (One thing I can definitely say is this:  authors, be sure your publishers offer your book on Kindle.  One-click purchasing is a killer app.)
  • Sherlock Holmes (the movie) was delightful.  Daybreakers, less so.

There is, of course, lots more to say–a whole Internet’s full.  But that’s all for now.  Back to the lull, at least for a little while.

Books I read in 2009: a concrete poem, sort of.

Book collage by Shape Collage

Every year I like to try to read 50 books, and every year I pretty much fail.  Except last year!  In 2009 I tackled something like 55 books, most of which had lots of words in them.  Some were great, some were so-so, a few stank.  It’s sort of startling to see them all together in one place, and to remember back to January 2009, when I was still working on Treasure Island and War of the Worlds.  Startling, but satisfying.

2010 is the year I’m joining GoodReads, just to get this mess sorted out.

NB:  If you’re reading on a RSS reader, you’re missing the groovy book jacket collage, courtesy of Shape Collage.  You too can create a collage of pictures of your cat, shaped like a cat!  It’s sort of like concrete poetry, but…not.