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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

On an Internets article about subjects which writers can blog about (because my mind is too much of a burned-out wasteland to think on my own), it suggested talking about books that inspired me. I’mma start with this one:

MN1

This cover is amazing.

Bernhardt J. Hurwood’s Monsters and Nightmares, 1967.

There’s not a ton written about Bernhardt J. Hurwood–I kinda, almost want to write a biography of him myself, that would rule.(I think the best bio I’ve seen of him so far is actually in The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 2nd ed.) Here’s his obit from 1987. I have a handful of his other books, but I’m always on the lookout for more. What is it about this book? I dunno, but I think I’ve read it about 80 times. Seriously. It was my father’s, which he probably bought around the time it came out. Sometime in the 80s, he tried giving it to my brother. I understand my brother started reading it, but it gave him nightmares (werewolf-related nightmares, to be exact), and so he returned it to my father, who then turned it over to me. Sloppy seconds, I know. But whatever. This book is awesome. I mean, just look at this TOC:

MN2

Wut, wut? Yasssss…

The Monstrous Maggot of Death? The Horrible Legacy of the Cannibal Chef? The Holy Prepuce and the Miracles? (That one actually sounds like a band name, which…hmm.) I think I was 10 or 11 when I was handed this bad boy, and I read it until my eyeballs bled. It’s one of those collections of ghastly, true (or “true”) tales. It’s creepy and gruesome and everything anyone who loves horror wants, especially at such a young and accident-rubbernecking age.

I read a lot of stuff, but when I’d run out of books, or maybe I got bored with this or that, Monsters and Nightmares was my go-to book. So much so that the one pictured here isn’t even the original copy. No, that one is falling apart and tucked away in a safe place. This one I had to order from Amazon because, well, yeah, it’s 30 or so years later and I needed another readable copy.

I’ll be reading this on my deathbed, I’m pretty sure.

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BerkmanFest 6 Poster!

Happy, happy to be a part of this! In the Pittsburgh area? Please join us. Remember, coloring contest entries must be received by July 13th! For the coloring page, go here and scroll down.

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April 10-15 201354It’s been pretty hectic here at Chez Everitt. April’s a busy month, preparing the garden, trying to get a jump on the lawn mowing, etc. Hence, fewer posts here. To get an idea of things, feel free to check out my other blog (that I can only manage to post to three times a week!), Heavy Metal Homesteader.

April 10-15 201355In terms of writing, though, I did happen to receive my contributor copies of Postscripts to Darkness Vol. 3, in which my story, The Obstruction, is published. (You can order a copy here.) This story was inspired by my friend and former MFA thesis adviser, Peter Oresick. Last year, we were all horrified (him most of all) to learn that he had a tumor in his brain. Luckily, it was successfully removed and he has been recovering ever since. He had mentioned that perhaps the episode could be fodder for one of my stories, and so, it was. And that is the story in PStD Vol. 3.

I’d like to take a moment, also, to plug Peter’s project, The Pittsburgh Novel: Western Pennsylvania in Fiction: 1792-2012. He’s just begun posting each entry and there are about 1,000 of them, so check back frequently to see the blog (and title list) grow. I’ve known he’d been working on this for sometime and had been really looking forward to it—now that it’s getting out there, I’m kind of ecstatic. My reading list is about to get ridiculous.

(Coincidentally, The Obstruction happens to be set in Pittsburgh.)

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Scary Words

FEARThis article over at The Christian Science Monitor is pretty interesting. There was a study published recently in PLOS ONE that analyzed 5 million digitized books on Google for “emotional language.”

The surprising conclusion they reached: There has been a marked decrease in the use of emotional words that fall in six categories (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise), with the exception of an uptick in fear since the 1970’s.

I guess, take from that what you will. It mentions that those 5 million books are only about 4% of all books that had gone to press since 1900, which means it’s really a very small sampling.

My first observation are the categories into which this search fell: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. Really? What a bunch of Negative Nellies. I assume, given human nature, that if they had included straight-up “love,” it would have drowned out all the other categories (or, at least, I hope).

That said, my second observation, is obvious: …an uptick in fear since the 1970s.

That seems to make sense—at least, it does in the world I live in, but then, I pay way too much attention to the news, current events, etc. I suppose it’s all relative. But it’s a little chicken-and-eggy: which came first? Did the fear in the world result in a more literary reflection of it, or did the writing about fear result in more fear in the world. Or do they just feed each other? Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum, but it’s interesting to think about.

Hmmm…

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thickassbookThe title of this post is probably misleading (see how I suck at titles in yesterday’s post, actually).

I don’t really want to talk about Stephen King’s review of Joyce Carol Oates’s recently released “The Accursed.” It’s a review of a book. There are many out there: reviews and the books they review. I want to talk about something else.

As soon as I heard about this book, I thought, “I need this now.” Just lately, I’ve been aching for all those 18th- and 19th-century Gothic novels I almost choked on during my undergrad, I consumed them so voraciously. I’m pretty sure that, during that entire four years, there wasn’t a day that I wasn’t reading one. Finish one, and sometimes start another in the same sitting. So, it would make sense that this would appeal to me so strongly, right now.

Despite my very much wanting to read one of those right this moment, I made a pact with myself: I promised that I would spend this year reading as many new books as possible.

I have a tendency—and I’m the same way with horror flicks—to isolate myself in a world fashioned decades ago. Few films from the 90s interest me, even fewer from the 2000s. Not like the volume of films I love from the 70s, and even the 80s. Anything before that, also, is readily popped into our DVD player. This isn’t to say that I refuse to watch anything new—it just requires more convincing, that’s all.

Same with books, especially horror. 1960s and back, and I’m good. The further back we go, the happier I am to pick it up. And those massive Gothic tomes are included.

So, considering my promise to myself and the pull I’m feeling to revisit the old, old ones, Oates’s The Accursed probably couldn’t come along at a better time for me.

Funnily, King’s major complaint seems to be everyone’s major complaint:

The book is too long, but what classic Gothic isn’t?

As with my reading habits, this is actually a selling point. Some reviewers at Amazon dismiss it as “overwritten, pretentious dreck,” and complain of its “great, thick hedgerows of verbiage.” Still others who even praise it will mention that it “would have been a better one if shortened by a hundred or so of its more than 650 pages.”

Obviously, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and certainly not everyone enjoys the same sort of book. And I am not arguing that all books should be upwards of 600+ pages. But I will say that I feel it a shame that folks might be put off a book due to its lofty page-count.

One of the things I love best about those thick-ass Gothic works is exactly their tendency to meander. It’s part of the joy of sinking into a thing like that; it’s reveling in the comfort of a certain soft, warm place. That comfort is only attained through time spent with it. This is where I best love to be.

I understand everyone’s short attention span. I struggle with my own, and I think anyone who’s managed to follow even a fraction of technology up into the new millennium struggles with this. I somewhat depend on long works like this to ground me and bring the words on the page back into focus, as opposed to the blur of black and white on the computer screen. Heck, for some people, just engaging in a 200-300-page novel requires a certain level of effort, but if part of the idea is to re-center yourself, concentration-wise, those shorter books just aren’t up to the task. It takes a whopper of a book to really benefit you in that way.

When this year’s up and I allow myself to get back to just reading where my heart leads (which could be way back when, or yesterday’s book), I fully instead to pick up Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer again (704 pages), and the almost flimsy by comparison, but still a favorite, Godwin’s Caleb Williams (400+). A true challenge, but a sweet one, is Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (about the same as Melmoth, but its asides are less engaging).

The things I’d have missed if I let page counts deter me from reading a book! I love these books. I don’t always love every little thing about them, but as whole pieces, I would be devastated if they had disappeared from my shelves forever.

I have a bit of a queue, reading list-wise. But this one’s joining the line. I might even move it up a bit, just to satisfy the itch that, sadly, to some folks, it merely an annoyance. For me, scratching that sucker is pure pleasure. I can’t wait.

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stack-of-old-booksJoe Konrath says:

The old days, where a book had a six month shelf life, then was returned if it didn’t sell–or just as bad, sold and then wasn’t restocked–were gone. Ebooks are forever. Shelf life, and space, is infinite, no restocking needed.

A combination of good covers, low prices, good descriptions, and good books put me on Amazon’s bestseller lists, which then got me the eyeballs I never had before.

In the past, many bookstores didn’t stock my backlist titles. They had to be special ordered by a customer who knew about them.

In a digital world, my backlist is instantly available to anyone. And it isn’t a backlist.

To many readers, my old books are frontlist titles. – – –Read More…

This post got me thinking of something I’ve never really considered too deeply before, though it’s crossed my mind.

Who goes to the bookstore, picks up a book, flips to the copyright page, and rejects it out of hand because it’s not from the current year? Who does that? No one does, but the very idea of a “backlist” almost conditions readers to want a fresh book over a stale book. As if the story inside has changed and gone bad.

How does that make even a little bit of sense? Everyone loves a new story; but the old stories—if you haven’t read them—are new to you. Is the need to reject older publications, even if you haven’t read them, just a result of that sad, social pressure to have read “the latest thing?”

Usually, those people who must be perceived as having read the newest thing on the shelf are also people who claim to “love” books. My advice to those people: Love books, then. Love them all and stop rejecting books you’ve never read because your arbitrary social expiration date has come and gone.

Love all books whose stories intrigue you, whether they are six weeks old, or a few hundred years old. Thick or thin. Pristine, or ragged dust-jakcketed. Print or electronic.

Treat the author’s backlist like his/her frontlist. It’s good for them, but it’s even better for you.

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