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Monday, June 22, 2015
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
There is a run of authors that I see as the sorta 'big 4' of modern horror. Stephen King, Peter Straub, Thomas Harris, and Clive Barker. Of these four, Clive Barker has always been the dangerous one. Stephen King, even at his most sickly and cruel never touched the vicious profanity and sacrilege that Barker bathes his writing in. Peter Straub moves with focus and precision, keeping his horrors tight, and in short controlled bursts, ever ascending to the dizzying bacchanal of Barker's flirtations with anthemic depravity. And Thomas Harris, a supreme master of terror and function, makes every move with such baffling conviction and contemplation that his 'Hannibal' trilogy is unrelenting without ever embracing the moist sadosexuality of Barker's best demons. Clive Barker has always aimed for the carnal. With 'Cabal', 'Hellbound Heart', 'Damnation Game' and the varied 'Books of Blood', he wrote from behind a veneer of hyper-sexuality and knuckle-breaking disregard for tact. His characters have been invasive, exploitative, and most of all, cruel.
For the past few books, Barker has seemingly pulled himself away from the carnal death-dreams of his earlier work, and set himself in both young adult, and mild-fantasy novels. Even the character of Harry D'Amore found himself utilized in stories less guttural and viscous, and more charming and even tongue in cheek. With 'The Scarlet Gospels' both of these modes of storytelling, the profane and the winking self-aware, collide. And they collide well. The classic Barker-esque descriptions and situations paired themselves well with the more mature, more flavored prose and dialogue of his later career.
Set as a sequel to Harry's stories, and to 'The Hellbound Heart', peppered with references and moments to 'Coldheart Canyon', 'The Great and Secret Show' and others, this book seems like a last will and testament. As I read through the intoxicating novel, I felt like I was in a graveyard, watching stories, characters, ideas, fragments of Barker himself, being put to rest. Being given endings, traumatic or serene, that are permanent. The climactic swelling of the novel begins almost as soon as the book is opened, and it is sustained skillfully by Barker.
It would have been easy for him to extend this story, make this another massive swollen novel of 600-800 pages plumped with tirades, trails, side-stories, and fragments of other books brought into clearer light... but thankfully Barker instead chose brevity. The most horrifying moments of Barker's career have been found in his shorter fiction. The novellas 'Cabal', and 'The Hellbound Heart' and again, the 'Books of Blood' hold his strongest punches. And so almost as if knowing that, Barker doesnt let this book roll on too long. He keeps it focused, concentrated, condensed. He keeps it pure. And that purity is ghastly.
Another massive strength of this novel is the iconic authority of the Hell Priest (the unlovingly named 'Pinhead') and how Barker plays with it. For example, the novel never explicitly states it, or makes it clear between the two covers, wether it is a sequel to 'The Hellbound Heart', the movies 'Hellraiser' or 'Hellbound: Hellraiser 2', or some amalgam of them both. It simply exists in another time, with our spiked demon at the helm once more. And because through 9 films (yeah, there are a lot of debates to be had about that number, and i'll have them, but this isnt the place) and countless pop culture appropriations and effigies the Hell Priest has become a social power all unto himself. As a result, he needs no introduction, no description no details, and no explanation. He is as much an assumed character as Satan himself is. And any reader of Barker's is already familiar with Harry D'Amore, so again, no introduction is needed. Because there is no need for table-setting or preparation, this book is effective in being a full on 360 page climax. A final action set after a 30 year initial incident.
While the book's ending is surprisingly neat and tidy, I was left wanting more. Not because the story is incomplete, or that the writing is lacking, but because by the end of the novel, our familiar (and new) faces have become weathered and honed. They become, in effect, new characters. Characters I want to explore more heavily. Characters that Barker should be proud of.
This is a phenomenal return of one of my favorite contemporary authors. This is a must-read book for 2015.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
POSTED: 03/26/2015 10:51:01 AM CDT
UPDATED: 03/27/2015 09:14:31 AM CDT
We see them everywhere. Little Free Libraries that look like miniature barns, chalets, birdhouses, British telephone booths and other fancifully decorated structures.
Inside are all kinds of books -- from romances to car repair -- that people can take without asking permission, checking out or purchasing. They are expected to replace the book with one of their own.
"Our position is that we are a global asset," said Todd Bol, creator of the organization whose motto is, "Take a book, return a book.
Bol, 59, is an amiable, talkative guy seated at a big table made of century-old barn wood in the Little Free Library office and workshops near Hudson, Wis., where his 14-person staff works in a one-story building that smells of freshly cut wood. Behind him is a wall of 200 tiles showing Little Libraries of Distinction from all over the world.
For Bol, who calls himself a social entrepreneur, Little Free Libraries is about more than exchanging books. He wants nothing less than to change society.
"We're bringing neighborhoods together through books, literacy and conversation, talking about common goals," he said. "The (political) right likes us and the left likes us. How do you say 'no' to reading? As a populace, we are upset we are getting pushed apart when we want to come together.That's what Little Free Libraries do."
Bol built what would become the first Little Library in 2009, and the organization officially was established as a Wisconsin nonprofit corporation in May 2012.
Now there are 25,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 50 states and 70 countries. That's why Little Free Library is hosting its first fundraiser Sunday, celebrating its five-year anniversary and launching the Big Little Campaign to raise money to double the program's impact and register 50,000 little libraries.
Posted by Sky Cosby at 7:15 PM
Monday, April 06, 2015
In Quartzsite, Ariz., at the sprawling Reader's Oasis bookshop, readers can purchase their books from a man known as the naked bookseller. Also known as Paul Winer or Sweet Pie, the naked bookseller has been selling books for 24 years.
Someplace Magazine, a peripatetic
online journal from Charles Day and Ellie Robins, stopped in Quartzsite to get the naked bookseller's story.
In the 1960s, he was a musician and performer, playing boogie-woogie and blues piano, doing comedy, writing songs that included devil-may-care obscenities. "I was a very outspoken person. I won 68 court cases, including a federal court case," he tells the magazine."I've been naked in public now for 55 years," he tells them. He's not interested in joining a nudist movement, however. He explains: "I went to a nudist park once — my whole life I’ve only been to a nudist resort or park once — and decided that is not where I belong. I’d rather be where there’s a variety to people. Once everybody is naked, it’s the same as wearing a uniform. They only talk about why they’re naked, where they go naked, who they’ve met naked, where they’re going next to be naked. I find that quite boring. It’s like going to a tailgate party before a football game — all people talk about is football. Naked is just the way I’m dressed."
More than two decades ago, the naked bookseller settled in Quartzsite with his wife and daughter, so she could be closer to her grandparents. At age 8 and a half, their daughter died of a viral heart infection. "The town was so good to us we stayed, because this is where people knew her," he says. "And we’re still here."
The Reader's Oasis, stocked with used books and featuring brightly-colored vintage paperbacks, does its briskest business during the winter, when the desert isn't too hot. The store is cash-only.
Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on TwitterCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Posted by Sky Cosby at 2:14 PM
Saturday, April 04, 2015
Reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger
Well... this is a weird one.
A strange, hard to place, weird, weird, weird one.
I am hard-pressed to come up with exactly the right one line description for this book. I guess 'an avant-garde and clinically absurdist look at the terrors of the id' will have to do.
Set in a hypnotically dystopian world where the insane are leading the blinded into a glorious version of Hell, the novel gets to really get its hands dirty and play around with lust and terror. With everyone able to conjure untold pleasures and fears with nothing more than desire, the world falls apart, and our stalwart hero (a hero which, I am convinced, is also suffering from the same delusions, though they refute that assertion consistently) is left to fight through the nightmarish dream-scapes of the crumbling world to find the doctor at the root of it all. A medicinal gatekeeper, if you will.
The writing is eloquent and delightful here, which makes some of the subject matter all the more confounding. While evoking images of sexual depravity and profane violence, the book avoids four letter words and easy descriptions, instead aiming for formality and classy avoidance. Instead of becoming crass and reveling in the orgies of vitriol and bacchanal excess, the book maintains an affected indifference and superiority fitting of our untrustworthy narrator's detached demeanor.
I loved reading this book, and I think anyone with a love of absurdity and minimalist art would as well.
Posted by Sky Cosby at 1:06 PM
Friday, April 03, 2015
reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger
“Today I learned nothing, talked to no one, and after school I wandered to work in such loops and swirls that from a distance the people of earth probably thought I was a wind-up toy.”
The moody boy lit-geek in me enjoyed a lot of this novel. It reminded me of sitting up against lockers in halogen-lit hallways in 8th grade, listening to a girl who wanted to grow up to be a fashion designer/poet/traveler/artist/
journalist talk about how the book 'The Perks of Being A Wallflower' really 'got' her.
In moments reading this book, I was reminded of a frightening pastiche of adolescent and pre-adolescent feelings of isolation and desperation. 'The Basketball Diaries', 'The Virgin Suicides', and 'Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors' all came to mind. The playful language, the dry dialogue, and the cold situations all mixed fairly well to really evoke a feeling of adolescent hopelessness.
Set in multiple ways and places, the book flirts with dreams, delusions, hospitals, desires, and most of all, hope. These ideas, blended into different settings and locations manage to not come across as routine or even overtly familiar, just, comfortably new, if that makes any sense. The comfort comes from these things all being normal blending, but the newness comes in their presentation.
I felt like the novel lost a bit of steam around two thirds of the way through, but the shrugging and shoe-gazing climax pulled me back in emphatically. Again, in the final act, I was immersed in a feeling of directionless wandering that fit the theme/mood of the novel perfectly. Things felt so barren and unfamiliar, while maintaining such a strong emotional connection.
I liked this book, and I would recommend it to a lot of my friends and fellow authors, but only ones who I think would truly click with it. And I guess that is the biggest hurdle for a novel like this. It isnt 'The Great Gatsby', or 'The Man In The High Castle', it is a specialty focus. This novel just wont click in for a lot of people, and frankly, I dont think it aims to. I think it aims to really find a soft home in the minds of a very few select readers and feelers out there. And from the warm feeling of closure I got in the end, I think I may just be one of those feelers.
This is a good read for some of you, and most of all, it is a good reminder of a lot of feelings for some of us. It reminds me of a lot of things I am beyond now. Or at least away from.
Posted by Sky Cosby at 12:59 PM