Friday, January 02, 2015


I've had a lot of stuff to blog about, but just haven't.  It becomes too easy, I've found, to be reactionary.  You see something on the news or someone voices some dumb opinion, and boom...the cannons come out. 

For instance, I saw something earlier this morning about people being upset that Target used a white model in ads for their Annie clothing line.  And my first instinct was to say, "Oh, stow it."  I mean, I was fine when they made Annie a black girl.  It makes sense.  Not only is reimagining old tales a time-honored creative tradition, but the music and the themes of Annie, sampled and hinted at in Jay Z's music, make it a natural fit for a "black-oriented" film.

But let it be known:  If we can have a black Annie, and we should, we can also have white girls in the clothing line ads.  Grow up.

And now onto the stuff that actually interests and inspires me, rather than the stuff that pokes at my soul.

Books -

I'm on a minor retro horror novel kick, buzzy women writers from the 90s.  First up, The Tides by Melanie Tem.  First off, I've met Melanie Tem and once had a long phone conversation with her husband, Steve Rasnic Tem, while I watched a Nuggets game and probed him for writing advice.  (I was young.  They live in Denver.  Their number was in the phone book.)

In her heyday, Tem won several Stoker awards (the horror novel's version of the Oscar) and pumped out a couple of minor classics.   She has a more literary style that her contemporaries, relying less on shocks and scares and more on atmosphere and tone.  Her work is very subjective, a stream of consciousness that is sometimes vague, which is not always bad, and often hard to follow, which is.

The Tides is about a woman tasked with caring for her dementia-afflicted father and also running the failing nursing home in which he is staying.  Weakened by age and disease, her father is haunted by a malevolent spirit from his past -a woman named Faye.

Faye is always a whisper, a scent in the wind, a shadow in the corner of your eye.  Tem's vague subjectivity works well here, showing us what it may be like for an Alzheimer's patient to be haunted, the distorted memories and perceptions, the confusion.  When it comes to moving along the plot, however, the reader does most of the work.

Stylistically, I enjoyed it immensely but the conclusion felt a little rushed, a little anticlimatic to be honest.  But then it dawned on me.  This is one of those books you read to see what happens, how it ends.  It's just one of those books you immerse yourself in, like a warm bath, to enjoy the aesthetics.

Now that I've finished The Tides, I've turned to Lost Souls, by Poppy Z. Brite.  I tried to read it in high school, but it was too "goth" for me.  Even now it conjures up images of those dudes in trenchcoats with long stringy dyed-black hair.  Maybe they had eye-shadow, but maybe you couldn't even see their face.  Chances are, though, that they had a big honking skull ring on their knuckle and a chain on their wallet.

Here is where I pause to mention that Poppy Z. Brite is now known as David Martin, which implies no judgements but does imply that pronouns are about to get tricky.

Lost Souls is more vividly written than The Tides, but all the goth stuff still grates.  It seems like an aesthetic that screams "I'm not cool!" but it's a lie.  Of course, you're cool.  You're so cool the rest of us squares don't even get it, man.  Why must you cling to Dylan Thomas and The Cure?

The story concerns vampires, gay vampires, well, omnisexual vampires.  No, they're gay.  This, I admit, was another turn-off when I was in high school.  We weren't so enlightened back then, but to be honest the casual bisexuality of all the characters still doesn't ring true.   

But I am enjoying the book.  I'm not quite finished with it yet, and though its about vampires -perhaps one of the most boring subjects known to man at this point- it still retains a freshness for being over two decades old.

Next up, Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins.  Another vampire story.   Then I think I'll have to read something for grown-ups.  Like The Hobbit.

Speaking of "for grown-ups," I recently saw the Brad Pitt movie "Fury."  It's funny though, all the things I liked about it.  I liked the violence.  I liked the make-up, all the grit and grime on the faces, the tear-streaked eyes.  I liked the sound effects, the visual effects:  glowing tracer rounds pinging off tanks and whistling through the air.  I liked the dumb accents.  I liked all the performances, especially -don't hate- Shia Lebouf's!

I didn't really like the ending, though.  It deserved something, I don't know, grimmer.