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Gumbywan

Randolph "Dilda" Carter

A rant about books, horror, and the weird.  I sometimes take on my love/hate relationship with goodreads and Amazon.

Currently reading

Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories
Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, William Shatner
Progress: 140/336 pages
Pavane
Keith Roberts
SPOILER ALERT!

Don't Read Now

Don't Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne Du Maurier - Daphne du Maurier, Patrick McGrath

I wasn't overly impressed with this collection of stories. Don't Look Now and The Birds were pretty good but having seen the films many times certainly took much away some of the suspense. No fault of the author. I thought that The Birds was better, more menacing, than the Hitchcock film of the same name. I liked the more ambiguous ending better. The Escort I thought was awful. The plot is so hackneyed I knew what the ending would be when the "mysterious" ship appeared. Split Second and Kiss Me Again, Stranger were both very good with the latter having a great twist at the end. Blue Lenses, one of Du Maurier's more celebrated stories, I thought was pretty weak. Once you figured out the schtick (and you will, quickly) it was just boring and overlong. Monte Verita was really long and just average as a story goes. I hated the ending.

Du Maurier's writing style and the stories' vocabulary and metaphor seemed somewhat dumbed down to appeal to a larger audience than a more literary style would have appealed to. Certainly not very quotable prose. For some reason, I guess because none of the stories were really gripping, it took me a long time to finish the entire book. I was never hooked like I am with horror writers; waiting in expectation for the next story.

I'm not sure why Du Maurier is held in such high regard. Because of some of her novels she is considered one of the more literary horror writers that the non-horror readers (Who wants that stigma?) find acceptable to read. I guess it must be because of her other writing. She sure had a lot of her output adapted as movies.

There is certainly more interesting and exciting horror stories to read. Would I recommend this to someone? No.

21st Century Boy on TOTP 1986

No Future

Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored - John Lydon

Intelligent without being intellectual and always entertaining. And what about that whine? Lydon via Andrew Perry more or less chronologically recounts his life from a wee lad to the present time. A born raconteur, Lydon relates the saga of his life in the Sex Pistols and beyond and everything in-between. Full of laughs there are also decidedly more serious and tender moments than you would expect and Johnny comes off as a fairly serious person, not one for sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll but he's seen it, just not participated. He's refreshingly self-deprecating while at the same time you can see his actual pride in the things he has done. As you would expect he lives life to the fullest and has no time for fools.

 

Not as many sneers as you might expect.

 

All you english teachers stay away from this, Mr. Lydon has his own way of speaking and writing and it ain't textbook correct. It's more like listening to someone verbatim that knows how to speak but doesn't know proper grammar.

 

Still, blind acceptance is the sign,
Of stupid fools who stand in line, like...

SPOILER ALERT!

Glorious Disaster

Cooper's Creek (US HB) - Alan Moorehead

I would assume every Australian knows the story of Burke & Wills to cross the Australian continent in 1861 like every Brit knows the later Scott of the Antarctic. Like the Antarctic expedition the planning and strategy was haphazard and the choice of a leader was perhaps not ideal. Like Scott they were also plagued by extraordinarily bad luck. And like Scott, almost nothing of value was learned from the expensive fiasco. Wright becomes the villain as he selfishly delays to follow up the lead expedition and replenish depot LXV at Cooper's Creek. Brahe becomes the Apsley Cherry-Garrard of this story as he abandons the depot a mere 9 hours before the lead expedition returns due to his own team's lack of resources and oncoming illness and Wright's failure to ever return to resupply.

 

Moorehead keeps the narrative interesting even though we know the basic outcome; just the right mix of lively and literate and accurate, clearly pointing out where he is interpolating. He has to piece together much of the information to create a complete story due to a paucity of source material; the expedition while in the bush was particularly lazy at keeping any sorts of journals or diaries.

 

I had read Moorehead's The White Nile before so I knew he could spin a suspenseful narrative out of historical ingredients.

 

Before this I had thought the British had cornered the market on the glorious disaster but after reading this I see the Australians have their own version.

Reading progress update: I've read 148 out of 225 pages.

Cooper's Creek (US HB) - Alan Moorehead

Basically the Australian "Scott of the Antarctic" without the ice. I assume every Australian knows this story by heart but this was my first exposure to it and it's a smashing story and Moorehead does a remarkable job of telling it with just the right amount of editorializing.

Reading progress update: I've read 393 out of 544 pages.

Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored - John Lydon

Not as outrageous as one might anticipate.

Black Harvest

The Black Reaper - Bernard Capes, Hugh Lamb

Surprisingly good stories by the virtually unknown Capes. I assumed these would tend towards M.R. James but these actually reminded me more of L.P. Hartley. Capes doesn't use the same formula twice so the stories throughout the book remain fresh to the reader. There are a few of the usual haunts but there are a lot of clever variations and even some truly original seeming tales. Capes also isn't afraid to even lead his good characters to a bad ending usually with a bit of irony thrown in.

 

Hugh Lamb, the editor, says the reason there really are a lot of gems out there by the likes of the virtually unknown is that anthologists are just lazy. He had to comb through lots of original sources and rare books by Capes to get the cream that is here (added to the original 1989 collection), but he says it is no excuse as plenty of other obscure writers have lots of first rate forgotten stories. Lamb virtually made a career out of composing this type of "lost" collection or anthology.

Reading progress update: I've read 48 out of 544 pages.

Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored - John Lydon

"Really, Catholicism is murderous on potential singers, there ought to be something done about it." - page 30

Gothique!

Malpertuis - Jean Ray

An astonishing post-modern Gothic novel that has to be read more than once, seriously, to be understood and appreciated. When I say you must re-read it, you must; you will simply not "get" it all if you don't.

Brush-up on your Bullfinch too.

Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 171 pages.

Malpertuis - Jean Ray

I finally "get it."

Siamo Innocenti

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir - Amanda Knox

Reams of paper have been wasted on this trial.  This and Raffaele Sollecito's books are the only ones you "need" to read.  The rest are just full of idle speculation and rumor.  At the same time this book should never have been written.  Ms. Knox should have been off doing whatever it was she wanted to do after her year of Study Abroad in Italy.  Still we all know what happened.

 

For those of you that are still "on the fence" about Amanda's culpability, well you must still believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the jury is still out on Galileo.  There was never ever a shred of evidence that Knox or Sollecito committed any crime whatsoever and an overeager media, public, police, and a prosecutor literally bent on a 17th century witch trial ended up taking one tragedy and trying to make it into three, the lone perpetrator safely ensconced behind bars for most of the time this mess went on.  The fact that Knox and Sollecito were both attractive and Knox American, strangely, or maybe not so, worked against them.

 

The writing isn't great, but how can it be and stick to the facts?  There is enough mystery and suspense and truly bizarre hijinks without any authorial tricks.  It reads more like testimony than biography and doesn't always convey what a fiction writer could have added to make the narrative a little more exciting at times.  Still, this wasn't the writer's goal and at times the necessity to reveal in detail certain personal details that should quite rightly have remained private can still make the (sane) reader squirm.

 

There are the usual superfluous photographs that we've all seen a million times, but at least Knox could pick out the pose this time.

 

I hope she and Raffaele make scads of filthy lucre off the affair, enough to never worry about money to at least make up for some of the misery and the loss of some of the best years of their lives.  

 

I also hope somebody also remembers Meredith Kercher and her sad and terrifying violation and murder at the hands of some Ivory Coast drifter.  That's what we should have been talking about the whole time.

 

Not Quite a Ruin

White and Other Tales of Ruin - Tim Lebbon, Caniglia

Weighed down by two below average (The First Law and Mannequin Man and the Plastic Bitch) and one truly bad (Hell) novella, this collection of six novellas by Lebbon just doesn't deserve more than an average rating. The one standout is White, a quite excellent supernatural eerie and truly uncanny post-apoc. affair.

 

The fare is mostly of the post-apoc. subgenre with one exception that might as well be (First Law). Uniformly depressing except for the final story, between the uneven quality and the dreary nature of the tales it took me forever (for my speed) to finish this no matter how I soldiered on. I actually considered abandoning it when back-to-back stories just weren't giving me any optimism about the rest of the book. The story notes were a waste of time giving almost no insight.

 

I had considered Lebbon to be a more solid writer but my experience was strictly shorter stories up to this point. I guess I'll keep the jury out until I read more of his stuff.

Reading progress update: I've read 193 out of 344 pages.

White and Other Tales of Ruin - Tim Lebbon, Caniglia

After two pretty good offerings:  "White" and "From Bad Flesh" comes "Hell" and it is just awful, I mean really bad, terrible; dull, unimaginative, poorly plotted, full of filler.  After the first two stories I couldn't imagine that this novella in the middle of the book could be this bad.  Well, hope springs eternal, maybe "The First Law" will be good.

Reading progress update: I've read 40%.

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir - Amanda Knox

Not great literature, not even that great a biography.  This makes me cringe at times and squirm at the details the poor woman feels she needs to reveal.  However, that anyone should feel they need to disclose such intimate details of their lives just to exonerate themselves in the public eye for a murder they never could have, would have, and didn't commit says something sinister about both the media and the public eye (that's us by the way).  

 

She still gets death threats and hate mail...

Goodreads has stolen this blog . . . seriously

Author Douglas A. Anderson posted this from the multi-contributor blog Wormwoodiana:

 

"Yes, Mark Valentine and I were very distressed today to learn that Goodreads has usurped this blog and posted it at their own site, renaming it "Mark Valentine's Blog" even though this blog is multi-authored. Neither Mark nor I gave any such permission for this action, nor did we know it had happened until today.

In my view, this moves Goodreads (owned by Amazon.com) into the top of the Corporate Scum Pile. We have sent requests for it to be completely removed, but this is something we should never have had to do, if the corporate raiders would leave other people's stuff alone.

See it for yourself. Here is the URL for the stolen blog:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/33552.Mark_Valentine/blog

***Update. Thanks to Ryan (see comments), this now appears in snippet form, but it's still misnamed as Mark''s blog when it isn't.***

I hope this link goes dead soon.  Real soon.  And any inclination I might ever have had to join Goodreads is now gone.

The sad thing, too, is that both Mark and I now feel less inclined to post anything other than snippets of news here. All thanks to the unconscionable theft by Goodreads."

Bell Ringer

Summoning Knells and Other Inventions - A.F. Kidd, Paul Lowe

4.5 but I rounded up. This somewhat curious book is a batch of modern Jamesian ghost stories, well sort of. It's really three different books. The first "book" is Ghost Stories of a Campanologist. Before you go off for the dictionary, campanology is the art of bell ringing. Not just jerking the cable, but real songs and peals. There is a campanology dictionary, but you won't need it. This whole first section is modern Jamesian ghost stories that in some way involve, well, bell ringing. There are twenty of them and before you can say "tedious" I'll just say Kidd manages to never repeat herself. However, the emphasis on bell ringing may incline one to smaller sips in this section of the book.

Part two is Other Jamesian Ghost Stories, and just as it states these are Jamesian-style ghost stories set in present and past. Every single story is first rate.

However, for me the real treat was part three, Other Ghost Stories. There are 15 of them; hard to categorize except as really well written strange tales. Each one nearly perfect in its own way. One story, I swear looking back on it, has not a whit of the supernatural in it.

The entire book is well written in a graceful and literary style that enhances the stories. Most of these stories were originally published in fairly obscure places which is surprising given the consistent high quality and style of the stories; these read better than many anthology submissions I have seen.