Archive for October, 2010

October 31, 2010

Book Review: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Bud Hanzel and John Olson

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THE DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
by Bud Hanzel and John Olson

Hanson Press, Inc.
(August 2010, $14.95, 160 pages)

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Bud Hanzel and John Olson and illustrated by Mark Stegbauer, comes with a guarantee of “double your money back” if you do not survive the zombie apocalypse after reading the book. From here on out, the tone is set. The humor of this guide is one of the few things that sets it apart of from the many others that have been published in the past few years, though I’m still waiting for someone to write one for kids! If you look past the funny cartoons and the hilarious sarcasm, you will find that this book has actual info that could be used in a zombie apocalypse.

The ZTA (Zombie Transforming Agent) is a blanket description for all possible sources of infection, and the introduction into the hot topics commonly found in zombie forums/websites:

• Varying speeds of the undead
• Effects of climate/environment on “zombie un-life expectancy”
• Whether or not the person’s spirit is trapped in the body of the zombie

I’ve read so many zombie survival guides that much of the information wasn’t new to me, and some of it actually struck me as bad advice. For instance, police stations and firehouses were recommended as places to go. However, zombiephiles know that a rescue station with even one infected person on the inside can quickly become a death trap. However, I did like the idea of a warehouse club store as opposed to the famous mall idea. And, unlike Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, there were excellent pictures of assorted weapons for those who lack the familiarity.

After all the zombie info, “the plan” follows. If you disagree with any part of the plan, you are directed to Appendix E for a detailed explanation of the consequences. I found the section describing the many types of crosshair candidates (those people likely to get killed due to stupidity in a zombie outbreak) extremely amusing, as well as realistic. Stegbauer’s artistic talent and comic book-like illustrations really shined in the Do’s and Don’ts section.
My absolute favorite parts of this guide were Appendixes C and D. The former is a “shovel blade cookbook” complete with a list of staples and preparation tips. The latter is a wide-ranging list of references to increase your survival knowledge.

The major oversight of this guide is the lack of survival tips for parents (“save the babysitter” did NOT cut it); some parents can’t even manage a trip to the grocery store or a domestic flight, so they need all the help they can get in an outbreak. I wish someone would write one specifically for parents, or even one for the kids of zombiephiles, but – at the very least – a separate section should have been written on that particular aspect.

All things considered, this guide is definitely worth adding to your zombie genre collection.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 30, 2010

THIS Reads: Have a Booktacular Halloween!

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BY SWEETMAN

Shortening days, a nip in the air and wind that promises to find a way to chill your bones: oh yes, it’s time to hunker down in the dark, quiet night with a good ghost story and hope the creaks and rustles you hear are the usual sounds that always happen when night falls and the house settles. Yes, you better hope for that. And shut your eyes tight when you think you see a shadow pass your door because it’s probably the headlights of a car driving by or the stupid cat creeping around. Yes, you better hope for that too.

A good ghost story has a delicate way of easing a reader into a terrified state. It is a subtle art that raises the pulse and sends chills down the spine. A good ghost story makes the reader leave the light on long after the book is closed, moved off the night table and thrown into another room. A good ghost story stays with the reader for a long time and quite often begs to be re-read despite the lost sleep.

I usually dig out a book of ghost stories when the leaves begin to change. Halloween is my favorite time of year, I love to be scared – not terrified, just scared in a fun way that I know it’s going to end. Unfortunately, many of these ghost stories don’t exactly end when the story is over. They do linger and pop into my head at the most unfortunate times, like when I’m throwing laundry into the dryer late at night and I suddenly have to run up the stairs because something was there.

I am always on the look out for great ghost stories. I’ve read a lot of horror, terror and slash-and-kill stories, all of which never have the same chilling effect. These stories and collections are by far the best I’ve read.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Penguin, 1959)

Hill House, an eighty year old mansion, has been rented by Dr. John Montague, a paranormal investigator who hopes to confirm the existence of the supernatural. He brings along three “assistants:” Eleanor, Theodora and Luke. They were chosen by Dr. Montague because they have all had previous paranormal experiences.

Hill House is the protagonist in Jackson’s slightly dated but extremely well-written novel. It is eerie and cold, awake and watchful from its blank windows, “a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, nor a fit place for people, for love or for hope.” It is full of odd angles and sudden cold spots as well as mysterious noises. As the characters settle in, the house begins to play upon their fears. None of the characters experience the same fright, which makes each terror a singular event with the other characters wondering what is happening.

Jackson masterfully plays upon the psychological terror of the unknown. The eeriness of the novel crept up on me. While there is never a clear, defined event to confirm the presence of ghosts or the paranormal, the hints and individual interpretations of phenomena are by far more scary. It is a chilling novel despite the occasional stilted dialogue, one that I was certain wasn’t frightening in the least when I started out reading it on a cold night but soon decided it was best read during the daylight hours.

The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James (Penguin Classics, 1898)

Henry James wrote one scary novella in The Turn of the Screw. Instead of blatant ghoulies and ghosties, this is another eerie tale of psychological terror and is well worth the concentration it will take to get the hang of Henry James’s style of writing.

A governess agrees to take charge of two orphaned children and moves to the countryside from London to find herself with two charming but odd children and a surly housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, who readily gives over the children. The governess is also most entirely alone with her charges and has been instructed by the children’s uncle that he is not to be bothered.

The tension begins when the governess starts seeing a young couple around the property. They appear at random times and seem to cause no interest or concern in any other occupants of the house. The governess becomes convinced they are the ghosts of the former governess, Miss Janse, and her illicit lover, both of whom, she learns from Mrs. Grose, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Things get a bit creepier when the governess becomes convinced that the children are seeing the ghosts as well.

This is Gothic writing at its best. Fear and tension build in the governess’s evolving awareness of the of the evil surroundings she has found herself. James is masterful in the implication of doubt: is the governess overreacting or are these frightening things really happening?

The Aspern Papers, though not a ghost story by any means, is the story of an obsession and a very quick read. It is well-written and very readable and I highly recommend it as a nice follow up if you want to get the eeriness of The Turn of the Screw out of your head.

SPOOKY New England: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore by S. E. Schlosser, illustrated by Paul G. Hoffman (Globe Piquot, 2003)

This is a collection of strange happenings, weird tales and ghost stories gathered from towns and places all over New England. Some are very old and familiar, some are obscure and quite chilling. Schlosser has a simple style and an easy way of drawing the reader into the stories. It is something of a travel book as well, especially if you are interested in ghost hunting. I have several, creepy favorites: “The Man Who Could Send Rats,” “The Black Dog Of Hanging Hills,” and “The Lady in Black.” The wood cut illustrations are clever and well done. Schlosser has created a regional series of spooky stories which has an appeal for those in the areas of which he gathers his tales.

Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft, illustrated by August Derleth. (Ballentine, 1987)

H.P. Lovecraft, the Über master of modern horror, earned that reputation for a very good reason. His stories are legend for their psychological thriller elements. His protagonists are rational, normal human beings who are placed in the incomprehensible and inconceivable and his stories are disturbing, weird and unsettling. Edgar Allen Poe was an obvious influence. He loves to play with the unknown, which I believe is one of the most terrifying elements in a scary story. This compilation is an excellent grouping of his “bests,” although read through in one sitting they can become formulaic and predictable.

A few of my favorites from this collection of short stories and novellas are:

– “The Rats in the Walls”: an inherited ancestral mansion has walls filled with scurrying rats.
– “The Picture in the House”: a house of refuge in a rainstorm has a disturbing picture on the wall.
– “In the Vault”: a grave digger has to dig himself out of a crypt.
– “The Whisperer in Darkness”: a scientist goes to Vermont to disprove the existence of fairies.
– “The Haunter of the Dark”: a writer creates a horrible being that can only live in the dark.

Lovecraft, practically unknown in his lifetime, set the stage, tone and a very high watermark for today’s horror writers.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Bantam 1962)

This was my first horror novel and boy, did it do a number on me as a kid! Not only did it fill me with ideas regarding the significance of dates and hours of birth but I developed a belief in the powers of inanimate objects and it forever changed the way I feel about carnivals, carny folk and tattoos.

The story takes place in a small town that is preparing for the arrival of a carnival with fliers advertising “Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show.” The two heroes, best friends Jim and Will, who were born two minutes apart on either side of Halloween, discover this is no ordinary carnival when they sneak out in the middle of the night to watch it set up. When they begin investigating during the daylight, they notice very strange things about the rides and the effect it is having on the townspeople.

Bradbury’s carnies are perfect, creepy, sleezy, dark and skeevy. There’s G. M. Dark, the tattooed freak, and his evil partner, J. C. Cooger. The carnival is also populated with The Dust Witch, a blind fortune teller, The Skeleton and Tom Fury, the dwarf. These are the carnival people you can’t resist but who fill you with terror and dread if you find yourself alone in their presence. A merry-go-round and a house of mirrors will never be the same after you read this novel.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, a classic tale of good and evil, is well written and the Gothic horror theme works well in its small-town setting, proving that even wholesome places are vulnerable to evil forces.

My, my, my how the cold winter nights will fly as you settle down with these stories and hope for spring.

October 28, 2010

Book Review: Darwin’s Dreams by Sean Hoade

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DARWIN’S DREAMS
by Sean Hoade

May December Publications LLC
(September 2010, $12.95, 200 pages)

Religion and science have struggled to coexist throughout history, especially when Charles Darwin introduced his theories of evolution and natural selection. To this day, creationism and evolution continue to be the topic of great debate, which makes Darwin’s Dreams a poignant novel illustrating the inception of Darwin’s famous theory.

Darwin’s Dreams is a fictional story based on the real voyage of the HMS Beagle from December 1831 to October 1836. This was actually the second survey expedition of the Beagle under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy. During this time in history, command of a ship could lead to overwhelming stress and despair, as in the suicide of FitzRoy’s own uncle. In addition to his personal need for a traveling companion, FitzRoy felt the expedition would benefit from the addition of a geologist. After being turned down by two others, FitzRoy’s superior, Captain Beaufort, received recommendations for the young Charles Darwin.

Hoade begins his vision of this historical endeavor with the first meeting between FitzRoy and Darwin while the Beagle is docked in Plymouth, England in 1831. During this conversation, FitzRoy warns Darwin, “Whatever you put into your head, the spirals of vertigo will whip into the most vivid images while you sleep.” This excellent foreshadowing by Hoade sets the premise for the novel; the author creatively uses dreams to convey the thoughts and emotions that Darwin experiences on his journey, both on the Beagle, and afterwards, when Darwin writes about his overseas experiences. Hoade uses the interlude dreams to divide the chapters, propelling the reader forward from 1832 in Brazil to the Down House in 1865, and laying out the path that eventually leads to the publication of The Origin of Species.

Hoade demonstrates the depth of his philosophical background by deftly describing famous writings of well-known philosophers and scientists, such as Gottfried Leibniz and William Paley, and through his interpretation of Charles Darwin’s subconscious. The visions Darwin experiences while he sleeps illustrate, not only what he has been reading, but also the reasoning behind his deductions and the influence of the great thinkers. Anyone familiar with classic writings of philosophy will recognize the works that Hoade incorporates into the story of Darwin’s inner struggle between science and religion. Some of my favorite dream interludes were The Ark, with an interesting explanation of mythological creatures and dinosaurs, and The Hindoos, who are able to literally see the connection between every living soul through “mesmerization.”

In addition to Darwin’s Dreams, Sean Hoade is the author of the noir-thriller, Ain’t that America. Hoade teaches English and creative writing and his short stories, poems and cartoons have been published internationally. He is currently at work on a graphic novel, teaching an online writing class, and making waves in the zombie community with his horror shorts. He loves to receive email from his readers.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 26, 2010

Fiction from the ‘zine: Cameron L. Mitchell’s “Vacuuming Again”

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Vacuuming Again
by Cameron L. Mitchell

Pretending your husband isn’t outside the trailer smoking a joint is easy enough when there’s so much to clean. Men are ridiculous, Bonnie thinks with a smirk on her face. They think you don’t know what they’re up to. If Bonnie had a nickel for every time Danny thought he was pulling a fast one over her, well, maybe she wouldn’t be confined to life in a trailer.

The electric hum of the vacuum cleaner calms her nerves. She likes keeping a clean and, dare she think, happy home for her family. This is the fourth time she’s unleashed the small mechanical wonder today against the powers that be, the unrelenting gathering of dust that tickles her nose, making her sneeze and sneeze, as well as all the other scraps and debris that stain an otherwise happy home. With Danny Jr. running around all over the place with folded pieces of sliced cheese in his hands, it’s no wonder Bonnie often notices bits and pieces of old, hardened food stuck in the carpet.

That’s kids for ya. They make a mess. And mothers clean up after their babies. Bonnie only wishes her husband wasn’t such a baby needing looked after as well. She has her hands full with Danny Jr. and little Michaela. Right now, while Danny smokes his joint, he’s supposed to be out there watching their son, making sure he’s not getting into any trouble. But what kind of mother does that make her, that she trusts her dimwitted man to see past the plume of marijuana smoke to keep an eye on anything?

Continue reading “Vacuuming Again” by Cameron L. Mitchell

October 25, 2010

CanLit Award Predictions

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

CanLit awards season is heading into its last few weeks (our big three prizes will all be handed out by mid-November). Thus, it’s time for predictions, and, if you are a real lit-junkie, some serious bets. First, a few quiet observations.

What everyone is perhaps not so quietly talking about is Kathleen Winter’s triple nominations for the Giller Prize, Governor General’s Award and Writers’ Trust prize for her novel Annabel. It is Winter’s debut novel after her 2008 Winterset Award winning short story collection boYs.

Feeling two-thirds the heat as Kathleen Winter is Emma Donoghue, up for the Writers’ Trust and GG for her novel Room. The novel was also short-listed for the Man Booker earlier this fall.

There are lesser hopefuls that may surprise Canada with a big win after all. David Bergen’s new novel The Matter With Morris has had its share of recognition this season. It is up for the Giller and may just take the cake out of Winter’s mouth.

That said, it would be doggishly ironic if Sarah Selecky’s This Cake Is For The Party won the Giller. This is her debut work and has created considerable buzz in critic’s circles. Perhaps if the GG and Writer’s Trust accepted story collections, it would also approach taking those awards.

On to my predictions: be warned, the following is purely unfounded speculation.

On November 2, Michael Winter’s The Death Of Donna Whalen will win the Writers’ Trust award for fiction. In non-fiction, Sarah Leavitt will win for her graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me.

A week later on November 9, Emma Donoghue will win the Giller Prize for Room.

And in mid-November the Governor General’s Award for fiction will be presented to Kathleen Winter for Annabel. In non-fiction, Allan Casey will win for Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada.

October 24, 2010

Book Trailer of the Week: It’s A Book by Lane Smith

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Lane Smith’s charming picture book for children, It’s A Book answers the questions of our time: what is a book? What can it do? Why should I read it?

October 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo: What the Hell Was I Thinking?

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BY LACEY N. DUNHAM

In the past, I’ve toyed with participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) but have always found an excuse: November’s too busy, I’m in the middle of a project, I’m spending every waking hour of the entire month washing my hair.

Then Lars happened.

I’d completely forgotten that NaNoWriMo was approaching when Lars asked me, in September, if I planned on participating this year. Caught unawares by his Canadian charm, I couldn’t think of a good excuse. Even my previous year’s handy, ready-made put-offs evaporated.

Why is my resistance so weak to you, Lars?

So now I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. This means that during the month of November, my goal is to produce a 50,000 word novel alongside thousands of other writers (called “wrimos” in the NaNoWriMo parlance). I calculated this out: if I’m going to meet my goal of 50,000 words, I must write approximately 1,666 words each day for thirty days. That’s about three, single-spaced pages of a novel on a daily basis.

Scratch that. My goal for the month of November is not to go crazy trying to write a 50,000 word novel.

The main problem is that I’m a slow writer because my self-editor kicks in far too frequently. Even if I write three pages (or more) a day, I’m just as likely to delete 80% of my work the next day. I get stuck in the synonym mud of finding the perfect alternative to the word “bitter.” I work and re-work dialogue between characters and, sometimes, entire characters themselves. I tend to write fiction that is less action-orientated and more literary, where characters have an argument on one page and spend the next forty pages reflecting on it.

Also, I’ve never written a novel before. Not a real, grown-up novel. I wrote “novels” all the time when I was a child, but these were mostly fifty page rip-offs of whatever Nancy Drew or Boxcar Children book I’d recently read. Once in a while I’d get smart and rip-off Katherine Patterson or Mary Downing Hahn but, generally, I’d go the commercial route with easily marketable mysteries. My writing focus is on short stories, many of which undergo three or four complete revisions before my first reader ever sees a draft. I guess the question is, can a short story writer produce a fifty thousand word novel in just thirty days?

I don’t fool myself that this novel will be anywhere near good. No one will ever read it because after November, I’ll paw through its carcass for salvageable phrases and then delete the remainder without mercy. In all likelihood, this “novel” will reflect the various curse words I pitch at my computer screen as I sit down to advance my literary, people-in-a-room-thinking plot one word at a time.

So what’s the point of participating in NaNoWriMo?

For one month, I can try something I’ve never done before and can do it in the company of the very active NaNoWriMo group in my region. While I’m suffering, so will thousands of others and, in an odd way, that provides great comfort. I have permission to shut-off the self-editor that lives in my head. And Lars has promised me cupcakes. Isn’t that reason enough?

 

To join Lacey in her NaNoWriMo adventures, sign up to participate and then search for her under the username “laceywritesanovel.”

October 21, 2010

Book Review: The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

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THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH: THE SECRET LIFE AND SERIOUS ART OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH
by Joan Schenkar

St. Martin’s Press
(December 2009, $40, 704 pages)

Before you think you are going to settle down for a glimpse at what made Patricia Highsmith tick, prepare for a chronologically challenged, confusing and often repetitive narrative of the ins and outs of obsessions, ruminations, ideas and idylls that gave Highsmith’s novels like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train their stylized edginess and cold calculation.

Patricia Highsmith the Writer was a woman to admire: she wrote in a straightforward yet brutal manner that pulls the reader right into the hard heart and cold soul of her protagonists. It is thrilling to become immersed in Highsmith’s novels because she had a grip on bad that made it so good. While difficult to categorize her in a specific genre, she was a pioneer. Highsmith may be best known for her Ripley novels but her body of work includes twenty-two novels, eight short story collections, a suspense writers instruction guide and a book for children. She published a ground-breaking lesbian novel The Price of Salt under the pseudonym Claire Morgan in 1952.

Patricia Highsmith the Woman was, quite possibly, someone best avoided. Labeled a psychopath and a “black cloud,” she was a raging alcoholic for most of her literary life. In many ways her art imitated her life – or at least the dark recesses of her psyche. She believed life didn’t make sense without a crime in it. In her one of her many self-observations she stated, “If I were to relax and become human, I could not bear my life.” A talented but flawed Miss Highsmith, indeed.

Joan Schenkar tasks the reader mightily as Highsmith’s biographer. She forgoes the traditional chronological approach and instead groups the book into Highsmith’s themes/obsessions: How to Begin, A Simple Act of Forgery, La Mamma, Les Girls, Alter Ego, Greek Games. Nine divided parts jump into different times and places in Highsmith’s life. It is a meandering wander, a hippy Christmas that is difficult to follow and makes for unsettled reading. Schenkar’s method is the polar opposite of her subject; Miss Highsmith kept detailed lists, diagrams, maps and charts throughout her life. Schenkar’s unusual style does allow one to flip through the book without really missing a beat. Unfortunately, it is a beat that resonates with an uneven repetition of themes regarding Patricia Highsmith’s internal drives, which were apparently fueled by alcohol and cigarettes. There were women – many women – and occasionally a few men, in addition to her racist attitudes and actions, her aversion to comfort, avoidance of truth, self-history revision when convenient and an intense desire for privacy. Ah yes, and the collection of three-hundred snails Highsmith kept as pets. Highsmith loved snails because of their ambiguous shell and difficult gender identification. When bored at a dinner party, as she often was because she disliked food, Highsmith would pull a snail out of her purse or bra and play with it on the table cloth.

The eight years Schenkar spent perusing 18 diaries, 38 cahiers (writer’s notebooks) and 8,000 pages of her unpublished work sit uneasily in nearly 700 pages. Patricia Highsmith’s personal thoughts and opinions are not pleasant places to linger, despite her talent. It is disturbing to see her age ungracefully from svelt sphinx to a craggy, hunched gargoyle. Phobias and fantasies become more prominent in her later years. After reading her biography, it can be safely said that one of Highsmith’s most admirable qualities of character is that she wrote about her demons rather than acting upon them.

Sweetman

October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Countess by Rebecca Johns

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THE COUNTESS
by Rebecca Johns

Crown
(October 2010, $25, 304 pages)

The Countess opens with a passage from the Brothers Grimm tale Snow White, which serves as a bit of foreshadowing of Bathory’s jealous rages. The story begins with a letter Reverend Zacharias writes to a colleague that describes his failed attempts to convince the countess to repent of her crimes. He also mentions his discovery of personal letters written by Erzsebet Bathory to her only son, Pal. The story of her life is told through these letters, and paints a less dramatic picture of her activities than any other Bathory novel I have read.

Erzsebet has been sealed away in a tower in her own castle, with only a small space through which to pass her food and drink and take away her chamber pot. To pass the time, she writes to her son about her life, hoping to enlighten Pal to the dangers around him. She shares a story about a horrific punishment her father carried out against a gypsy while she was a young girl. She moves through stories of her arranged marriage, her affair, and the death of her husband.

I was halfway through the book when I wondered if there would be any mention of the crimes that inspired all the legends that surround her name. Eventually, she does use severe punishment for her servants, justifying her actions by explaining how lazy and insolent they had been, “rutting” with stable boys and stealing from the household. However, aside from the extreme and brutal beatings, usually with a whip, the punishments are not described in much detail and are hardly mentioned.

The transitions from one chapter of her life to the next are separated by accounts of what is happening to her in the tower as she writes to her son. What she says and does elicits little sympathy, however, as she sounds very much like someone who is self-centered and living in her own little world. Even though she speaks a great deal about her relationships with those around her, she gives very little consideration to their thoughts and feelings. If someone does something she doesn’t approve of, Erzsebet assumes it is a personal attack on her happiness. The more she accuses others of being jealous and malicious, the more she appears to be a sadistic and cold-hearted woman.

I thought this was the blandest account of Bathory that I have ever read; every scene seemed to lack any real emotion, which was unusual, considering that Bathory is telling her own story. I’m not sure if the author’s intention was to portray Bathory as a different sort of monster than the usual bloody tales. Despite her unlikeable character and her atrocious attitude towards others, this novel is worth reading at least once if you are interested in a new perspective of the life of Countess Bathory. Readers will either love it or hate it – there’s no middle ground with this book.

However, don’t mistake my disliking of the character’s attitude for a disliking of the author’s writing style. Rebecca Johns has vastly improved her story-telling since her debut novel, Icebergs. Johns also maintains a blog called Illiterati, featuring an exclusive interview with the deceased Bathory.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 18, 2010

Halloween Book Review: Monstermatt’s Bad Monster Jokes

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MONSTERMATT’S BAD MONSTER JOKES (VOLUME 1)
by Monstermatt Patterson

May December Publications, LLC
(September 2010, $12.95, 166 pages)

Know someone who is into everything and anything to do with monsters? If this person is also the type who looks forward to Halloween more than any other holiday, then I have the perfect gift suggestion for this October: Monstermatt’s Bad Monster Jokes Vol. 1. The monsters aren’t bad but rather the jokes are…intentionally. This book is the gift of self-torment, kind of like Jackass-meets-literature for horror fans (you know, “insert pencil into eye” kind of torment).

The introduction by Joe Moe describes the development of Matt’s love of cheesy jokes, and points out that Matt lives and breathes monsters as an FX monster mask sculptor and horror host. Kyle Kaczmarczyk, the illustrator for this joke book, also adds a tale of his personal experience with Matt and includes a brief explanation of how this collaboration came to be.

The jokes include all the traditional monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, as well as aliens, zombies (of course! why else would I be reviewing this book?!) and superheroes. Matt even goes to town on the Jersey Shore cast, True Blood, Star Wars, and, sadly, the Human Centipede (which has traumatized me for life – Google the movie at your own risk, and have a bucket nearby to puke in). Some of the jokes are the kind my five-year-old likes to tell me and some of them are the kind of jokes you could share if you want to alienate people who annoy you.

Example of child’s joke:
Q: What moon phase will turn a baker into a Werewolf?
A: A “Croissant” moon!

On the other end is anything from the song parody section that is sure to kill your social life – you might even be able to get yourself arrested and/or committed, and no one will ever ask you for anything ever again.

One of my personal social life-killing favorites:
Q: What do you get if you cross a British sci-fi TV show and a Dr. Seuss book?
A: Horton hears a Dr. Who!

I really enjoyed reading this assortment of bad jokes, some of which aren’t quite that bad, and I don’t think any household should be without a copy this Halloween! You can see how insanely talented Matt is here.

– Ursula K. Raphael

October 16, 2010

Edna Staebler Award Winner

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

This week, Kitchener, Ontario author John Leigh Walters was awarded the 2010 Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction for his first book A Very Capable Life: The Autobiography of Zarah Petri.

Walters’ A Very Capable Life is the story of his mother, Zarah Petri, and her life as an immigrant during the twentieth century. Walters is being heralded for mastering the first-person autobiography of another person. He writes Petri’s stories in her voice, from her point of view, and creatively reinterprets landmark twentieth century events through her perception.

Now retired, Walters hosted and produced television shows in Canada and the United States for most of his life. Most recently, he hosted a program on CTV in Waterloo.

The Edna Staebler Award, established by Staebler in 1991, annually acknowledges the best first or second non-fiction work of an author that significantly portrays Canadian culture or takes place in a Canadian locale. The winner receives $10,000 from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. Wilfrid Laurier University recently published a collection of Staebler’s diary entries entitled Must Write.

Edna Staebler was one of Canada’s most well-known writers, regarded widely for her Mennonite cookbook series Food That Really Shmecks. She also wrote for popular Canadian magazines Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Reader’s Digest and Star Weekly. In 1996 she was awarded the Order of Canada.

October 15, 2010

Video of the Week: Emma Donoghue

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In the video below, Emma Donoghue reacts to a creative book display at the Next Chapter Bookshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and discusses her book Room with an audience gathered for a reading.

Room was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

October 12, 2010

From Shortlist to Winner, the Man Booker Committee Pulls an Upset

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Howard Jacobson‘s novel The Finkler Question was announced the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize in a London ceremony earlier today, dispensing with Tom McCarthy’s C, which was considered the front-runner for winning the prize and even caused the British bookmaker Ladbrokes to close betting on wagers for the prize after they received nearly $24,000 USD in a single day.

Jacobson’s previous novels include Who’s Sorry Now and Kolooki Nights, both of which we shortlisted for the prize in 2002 and 2006, respectively. The prize comes with a $79,000 USD monetary award and an almost guaranteed bestseller status in the United Kingdom. Assuring the winner’s book will fly off the shelves in North America is another matter, one that last year’s winner, Hilary Mantel for her novel Wolf Hall, surprised with its commercial success abroad. Wolf Hall went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S.

October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead by Don Borchert

by thiszine

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND THE UNDEAD
by Don Borchert

Tor Books
(August 2010, $13.99, 304 pages)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is about a young boy growing up in a small town along the Mississippi River. It’s also the latest novel to be zombified. I’ve amassed so many mash-ups of classical literature and zombie fiction that if future archaeologists ever found my collection…well, the historians would have a field day with the discovery…probably the psychologists too. Some novel hybrids are just the originals with zombies jammed in, while others offer a spectacular blending of genres. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Undead falls somewhere in the middle.

Don Borchert’s take on this classic started out rather boring. The editor’s note, written from the world of the Zum, was extremely hokey, completely unnecessary, and did more harm than good. If a story is interesting, it should not need an explanation of the plot in advance. Read the editor’s note at your own risk; you have been warned.

In the first half of the book, the story follows the original pretty closely with a few minor changes, tailored to fit in the Zum – the name of the zombies that have overrun the United States. For instance, instead of being required to paint the fence white, Aunt Polly tells Tom to sharpen the tops of the fence posts. There was very little mention of Zum, which is a let-down when “undead” is in the title. More attention is given to descriptions of the survival modifications to the village that Tom lives in than the Zum or the infection.

I kept finding excuses to put the book down, and, truthfully, I only continued reading because this book was a gift. I also have a policy of only reviewing books that I’ve read from beginning to end. I was shocked at the difference in the narrative once “Injun Joe” made his entrance into the story: more Zum scenes, plenty of action, and lots of surprises. This novel is the perfect example of why people should read the entire book before they form an opinion. (Or you could just start on page 95.)

Before reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead, Zombiephiles should know:

1) most Zum are mindless shamblers, but there are a few thinking-Zum
2) source of infection is unknown and can be spread to animals
3) headshots don’t necessarily work; burning bodies is necessary

If you like mash-ups between genres or anything to do with zombies, it’s worth reading at least once. If Don Borchert decides to try his hand at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I hope he works in more Zum hunting.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day: 10 Recommended LGBTQ Books

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Today lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer folks across the U.S. celebrate National Coming Out Day, a civil awareness day to bring attention to issues that impact LGBTQ communities nationwide. With media attention on the number of teenage suicides connected to homophobic bullying and the stalled repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the U.S. military ban on gay and lesbians in the military, we decided to contribute something positive to the negative news.

10 RECOMMENDED LGBTQ BOOKS

1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Bechdel, who penned the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, reached both new audiences and a greater artistic depth with her autobiographical graphic novel about a family falling apart. Bechdel quietly examines how secrets and lies can undo the truth while simultaneously becoming their own reality.

2. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
This illustrated children’s book topped the list of the most banned and challenged books in the U.S. for three years running; this year, it fell to third on the list. The true story of two male penguins at the New York City Central Park Zoo who are given and egg to hatch is also a moving tale about love and family.

3. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler
Frequently critiqued for her obtuse writing style, Butler’s academic text has been a constant critical companion to gender and sexuality courses at universities ever since its initial publication in 1989. Drawing from French philosophers like Lacan, Foucault, Sartre and, of course, de Beauvoir, Gender Trouble is a seminal work on the paradigm and politics of gender identity that is not for the casual reader.

4. Three Junes by Julia Glass
Glass’s debut novel won the National Book Award – and rightly so. A compassionate, moving tale that weaves the lives of three characters over the course of three vital summers is both gently humorous and dramatically compelling: Paul, a widower, his self-protective gay son Fenno, and Fern, a young artist searching for love and meaning in her life. Through these and her supporting characters, Glass tells a tender, beautiful story of the circular nature of life and love.

5. Lockpick Pornography by Joey Comeau
With its fierce, hybrid cover that mashes the face of the Sesame Street character Bert over a pencil drawing of a leather jacket-wearing, crowbar-wielding thug, Comeau’s debut novel picked up considerable word-of-month buzz that sold out its first printing in just three months. Described as a “genderqueer adventure story” Lockpick Pornography is also a wild romp through violence, gender, family and societal values, and sex. It’s also not a recommended title to Google without quotation marks.

6. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize, Hollinghurst’s novel fully encompasses England during Margaret Thatcher’s reign as prime minister and the fast gay culture of the ’80s while also examining the tangles of class, politics, and lust.

7. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Aciman’s coming-of-age novel centers on the erotic longings and desires that frequently define our youth, whether left unconsummated or not. Seventeen-year-old Elio is attracted to the confident American university student Oliver. Their friendship gradually becomes a passionate and clandestine affair. Aciman draws a portrait of youthful obsession with intensity.

8. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Another coming-of-age novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is semi-autobiographical; the narrator and budding evangelical, Jeanette, must reconcile her Jonathan Edwards-style religious beliefs with her growing same-sex attractions.

9. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Following up on the lesbians-in-Victorian-England theme begun with her novel Tipping the Velvet and continued in Affinity, Fingersmith is a Dickensian melodrama replete with pickpockets, orphans, sooty London streets, and asylums. It’s also a sharp critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy.

10. The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin
Another writer whose novels are frequently compared to the works of Dickens, Maupin’s protagonist in The Night Listener, finds himself drawn to an abused but devoted thirteen-year-old boy and fan of the radio show he hosts. Suspenseful, humorous, and filled with pathos, the anxiety of the midlife crisis is examined alongside greater questions of the blurred line between art and reality.

October 11, 2010

What Does Karkwa’s Polaris Prize Win Mean for the Canadian Underground Music Scene?

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

Polaris Prize season is always exciting for Canadian music journalists. The hype around the heftily weighted $20,000 purse acknowledging the best independent album of the year takes on a feverish holiday feel. This year, after a summer of waiting since the longlist was announced on June 17, and the shortlist on July 7, music nerds were getting antsy. For months, record biz insiders, journalists and music fans were making their predictions known all over social networks. Leading up to the special day, September 20, people were wishing each other a “Happy Polaris Prize Day” on Twitter and Facebook.

Now it’s all said and done and, I am pleased to announce, the winner of the 2010 Polaris Prize is Montreal indie rock group Karkwa for their record Les Chemins De Verre. The band has been around since 2003 and have released four albums on Audiogram Records.

Much like the hype preceding Polaris day, after the winner is announced there is always strong reaction from media and music listeners alike. Last fall I was happier than a punk with a bottle of malt liquor when I heard one of my favourite bands, Fucked Up, won for their record The Chemistry Of Common Life. But after the Toronto hardcore-turned-experimental troupe took home the oversized cheque, reaction ensued, and critics unleashed. People couldn’t believe that a curse-named punk band could beat out more radio friendly underground music. “For heaven’s sake,” mainstream snobbies protested, “Metric was up for the award – and Fucked Up won?!”

This year, it’s much of the same jealousy fired at Karkwa. I guess it is tradition for people to lash out, usually in defence of the bands that don’t need twenty grand. Mostly I’ve seen people angry about popular bands like Tegan and Sarah and Broken Social Scene being sidelined by the judges in lieu of an underdog. I confess, I haven’t heard Les Chemins De Verre entirely, yet, but from what I’ve Youtubed I like. I applaud Karkwa for proving Edge102 radio and MuchMusic aren’t the be all, end all to what’s hip in Canada.

However, I wonder why some well-known underground bands were left out this year. Although one of my favourites, The Sadies, made the shortlist (much to my surprise), I think some other Canadian albums should at least have been considered, like Bison BC’s Dark Ages, which I heard back in March and immediately declared the best Canadian album of 2010. I also would have nominated Fuck The Facts Unnamed EP, which to your next door neighbour sounds like the heaviest metal of all time but is really one of the smartest, genius punk/grind records ever.

I’ve kept quiet on my thoughts because, frankly, I know it will be a while before a heavier bands take the Polaris. For some reason hardcore and metal are too out of reach for vogue listeners. This is why it still amazes me that Fucked Up won last year. If the judges heard any of their music prior to Chemistry, I’m sure they would have barfed in disgust and declined them any right to acknowledgment in the arts scene.

October 10, 2010

From the ‘zine: Broke, Cheap, and Collegiate

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YOU ONLY GIVE ME YOUR FUNNY PAPER:
A tale of the broke, cheap and collegiate
by Cailin Barrett-Bressack

My grandfather is known as the “coupon man” in all grocery stores near his home and will argue with any cashier until they accept an expired coupon out of sheer frustration. He discovered the “carpool” EZpass discount for tollbooths, where they’ll knock off a dollar for groups of three or more. He keeps an enormous stuffed gorilla in the back seat of his car, a baseball cap pulled over it’s beady plastic eyes and a blanket wrapped around its shoulders, so that he can get the discount when it’s only he and my grandmother driving. At restaurants, he orders water with lemon and then adds sweet and low from the table to make his own lemonade. I never thought I’d follow in his footsteps.

But now, I’m a college student. I’m living on my own. I pay rent every month. I work. And I’m surrounded by friends who are doing the same. Frugality is not only the norm now: it is revered.

For example, Craigslist.com is a college student’s best friend… continue reading

October 10, 2010

Book Review: Henry VIII: Wolfman by A.E. Moorat

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HENRY VIII: WOLFMAN
by A.E. Moorat

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
(July 2010, $9.55, 416 pages)

Once upon a time, I was offered the chance to review Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, A.E. Moorat’s first novel. I almost passed on it because I was a little wary of historical fiction mash-ups, but I knew it had zombies in it, so I figured it was worth reading at least once. In the novel, Queen Victoria fights the evil clan of Baal with the help of the Royal Protektor, Maggie Brown. Most of England is completely ignorant of the demonic dangers, so the Royal battles are suppose to be kept secret.

It turned out to be one of the best novels I have ever read. I was expecting a mix of Brian Keene & Phillipa Gregory; instead, Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter was more like “Army of Darkness” meets “The Mighty Boosh”: a very entertaining fantasy-adventure, but not quite horror. The novel made me a Moorat fan, so I was very excited to read the next novel.

In Henry VIII Wolfman, the King also deals with the clan of Baal but the novel is very different from Queen Victoria. In an extremely long and elaborate flashback between the prologue and epilogue, mainly told from Henry’s point of view, Henry VIII: Wolfman is an alternative historical account from a universe completely different from the believable, behind-the-scenes story of real historical events in Queen Victoria. Even though I didn’t find Wolfman nearly as amusing as Moorat’s first novel, it was a great psychological-horror story about a king struggling with a major life change while trying to save his people.

In the prologue, Henry has transformed into a werewolf and has devoured the Queen, though which wife is not specified. He then remembers everything that led up to the moment described in the prologue: Henry is beginning to get fat, he’s in the Palace of Greenwich and Anne Boleyn catches his eye. There are also hints at a romantic interest with Jane Seymour, who turns out to be quite the noble woman.

Henry’s major problems begin when a wolfen cell, led by a werewolf Malchek and tired of being the lowest rung on the ladder among the Baal descendants, uses King Henry as a pawn by infecting him with lycan blood. The king tries to hide this turn of events from everyone at court. Meanwhile, Sir Thomas More is falsely accused of being a werewolf by fake witchfinders and, due to court politics, Thomas Boleyn and the Duke of Norfolk refuse to come to his aid. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who is searching for More, is desperate to find a reason for the Pope to declare war on the Wolfen, despite the treaty signed at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, or else convince the King to abandon his quest for revenge.

The best parts of this story, for me, were the witchfinders, Hob and Agatha. These two reminded me of the entertaining Lord Quimby and his man-servant Perkins in Queen Victoria. I wish there had been more of their humor in this novel. I wasn’t sure what type of mash-up the author was trying to write aside from the obvious twist on Henry’s reign. I am still a fan of Moorat, though I’m hoping he will finally give Lord Quimby and Perkins from a spin-off novel of their own.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 8, 2010

Two Videos of the Week: Vampires and Camp

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We couldn’t resist – with so much mind candy on the Internet, how can we only put one video of the week on our blog? So, dear readers, a special treat: two awesome videos that we think you’ll enjoy.

The first video begs the question What Would Jim Henson Think? The cast of Sesame Street take their own unique twist on “True Blood,” the popular vampire/werewolf series based on the novels of Charlaine Harris.

Our favorite moment? The Muppet version of the character Lafayette sashaying through the foreground at the beginning of the video.

 

 

 

In the next video, Ron Charles at The Washington Post reviews Michael Cunningham‘s recent novel By Nightfall. True to Ron Charles form, only he would find a way to bring the Twilight franchise’s Taylor Lautner into a review for a character-driven book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Due to copyright restrictions, you’ll have to click here to watch the video review.

October 7, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Laureate in Literature, Breaks Eurocentric Streak

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Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature today, ending what some have decried as the prize’s long Eurocentric streak. Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian native, is probably best known for his novels published in the 1960’s and ’70’s, including The Time of the Hero, The Green House and Conversation in the Cathedral, all of which are deeply political works that examine the pervasive corruption in Latin America.

Vargas Llosa is the first South American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since Gabriel Garcia Marquez was awarded the prize in 1982; Mexican novelist Octavio Paz, the most recent Latin American to win, was awarded the prize in 1990.

Vargas Llosa has been criticized for a shift in his politics. Initially a supporter of the Cuban revolution, he took a political step away from Fidel Castro in the 1970’s and ran for the presidency of Peru in 1990 as a right-center conservative. Despite the political nature of his work and its examination of corruption in Latin American, his alignment with policies and economics of the right have left hard feelings among some writers and politicians in Latin America. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vargas Llosa punched former friend and ally Gabriel Garcia Marquez at a movie premier in Mexico City in 1976. The two writers have not discussed the feud publicly.

Vargas Llosa currently teaches Latin American studies at Princeton University. Last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to German-Romanian writer Herta Muller.

October 5, 2010

Giller Shortlist Announced

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

The Shortlist for the 2010 Giller Prize was announced Tuesday, October 5. Selected from the longlist of thirteen publications announced September 20, the five shortlisted candidates are:

– David Bergen, for the novel The Matter With Morris

– Kathleen Winter, for the novel Annabel

– Johanna Skibsrud, for the novel The Sentimenatlists

– Alexander MacLeod, for the short story collection Light Lifting

– Sarah Selecky, for the short story collection This Cake Is For The Party

Think you know which one of these authors will win? If so, enter the Guess The Giller contest for a chance to win VIP passes to the 2011 Giller Gala.

Stay tuned November 9 for the 2010 Giller Prize winner announcement.

October 4, 2010

Giller Prize Longlist; Shortlist Announcement Tomorrow

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

The longlist for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the leading literary award for Canadian authors, was announced Monday, September 20. This year’s judges – Canadian journalist and broadcaster Michael Enright, American author and professor Claire Messud, and renowned UK author Ali Smith – decided on thirteen titles from ninety-eight submissions from a wide variety of Canadian publishers.

This year’s selections are diverse and somewhat surprising compared to previous years, with a balanced list of big and small presses, male and female authors, and novels and short story collections.

The 2010 Giller Prize for Fiction longlist is:

The Matter With Morris by David Bergen (Phyllis Bruce Books/HarperCollins)

Player One by Douglas Coupland (House of Anansi Press)

Cities Of Refuge by Michael Helm (McClelland & Stewart)

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod (Biblioasis)

The Debba by Avner Mandelman (Other Press/Random House)

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (Dial/Random House)

This Cake Is For The Party by Sarah Selecky (Thomas Allen Publishers)

The Sentimentalists by Johanna Scabbard (Gaspereau Press)

Lemon by Cordelia Strube (Coach House Books)

Curiosity by Joan Thomas (McClelland & Stewart)

Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart (McClelland & Stewart)

Cool Water by Dianne Warren (Phyllis Bruce Books/HarperCollins)

Annabel by Kathleen Winter (House of Anansi Press)

The shortlist will be announced at a Toronto news conference tomorrow October 5 and the 2010 Giller Prize winner will be announced November 9.

While I have you here, I’d like to mention that the five nominees for the City of Toronto Book Award were announced recently. They are:

Prince of Neither Here Nor There by Sean Cullen (Penguin)
Valentine’s Fall by Cary Fagan (Cormorant)
Where We Have To Go by Lauren Kirshner (McClelland)
The Carnivore Mark Sinnett (ECW)
Diary of Interrupted Days by Dragan Topologic (Random House Canada)

The Toronto book award has been running annually since 1974. This year’s finalists will read selections from their works at the Word On The Street book and magazine festival in Toronto on September 26. The winner will be announced October 14.

October 2, 2010

From the ‘zine: Nicholas Y. B. Wong, Poet

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In our current issue, we debut our Poet Spotlight by featuring the work of Hong Kong-based poet Nicholas Y. B. Wong.

Here’s a taste of Wong’s poetry from our issue:

Kiss a Door
by Nicholas Y. B. Wong

You gave
me a
closed space
and yourself
an open world.

The door
was slammed.
I kissed
it right away.
Even the lock
asked for more,
then the hole,
then the key,
the walls and
the carpet below.

I kissed
almost
everything
in the house,
but you
kissed
better. They
never
kissed back.

. . . . .

continue reading Kiss a Door

October 2, 2010

Book Review: Frankenstein’s Monster by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

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FRANKSTEIN’S MONSTER: A NOVEL
by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

Three Rivers Press
(October 2010, $15, 352 pages)

If you’ve ever read the original story Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, or loved movies like “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” and “The Bride,” you need to read this novel. I couldn’t pass up a chance to read this sequel; it picks up where Shelley wrote, “borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance,” revealing what happened after Dr. Frankenstein died on the ship.

Frankenstein’s Monster: A Novel, by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe, begins with a detailed journal entry by Captain Robert Walton. He addresses this particular entry to “Margaret,” who is later revealed to be Walton’s sister. He describes the friendship & brotherly feelings he had for Victor Frankenstein and explains why he feels obligated to hunt down the monster that Frankenstein failed to kill: when Walton had found the monster standing over Frankenstein’s body, he realized he realized Frankenstein’s ramblings were not those of a madman after all. Walton immediately gives chase across the ice, planning to kill the monster so he may return to his quest to reach the North Pole. Instead, he loses a finger to the monster, and barely survives the encounter himself.

The story then switches to the monster’s point-of-view and is also written in journal format, with location and date at the start of each entry. Walton has tracked him to Rome, so the monster flees to Venice where he finds companionship with a beggar, Lucio, and a mute woman, Mirabella. O’Keefe does an excellent job of evoking sympathy for the monster, sharing his most intimate thoughts in his journal, with bits of poetry and quotations from the many books that he reads. Despite his acts of violence, I am reluctant to refer to him as “the monster,” but he doesn’t take a name for himself until later in the story, eventually adopting the name Victor Hartmann.

When Walton destroys Victor’s meager life in Venice, he becomes the novel’s obvious villain. Victor blames himself for putting his friends in harm’s way; having been hunted down repeatedly by Walton over the past ten years, Victor feels he should have realized Walton would never give up his obsession. Victor finds out that Walton has family in northern England and plots his revenge, not unlike what he did to Frankenstein’s family in the first book.

After finding Walton’s family, Victor also finds his journal, which reveals Walton’s twisted view of the events over the past ten years. While Victor writes his own journal entries, he includes passages from Walton’s journal as well. Walton’s words highlight his madness; Walton’s sister, Margaret, and her daughter, Lily, contrast sharply with Victor’s ideals of what it is to be human and their characters hint at a sickness that runs in the family.

I was crying by the end of the novel; the epilogue (a personal letter from one of the characters) was a superb finish to a tragic tale of a life that wasn’t wanted. A reader’s guide is also included at the back of the book.
This novel is the first one Susan Heyboer O’Keefe has written for an adult audience; previously she has written several children’s books, and has been nominated for numerous literary awards. You can read more about the author here.

– Ursula K. Raphael

October 1, 2010

Poetry and Fiction Editors Wanted

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this is now hiring Poetry Editors and Fiction Editors for our bi-monthly ‘zine. If you’re interested, please review the information below and submit an application.

FICTION EDITOR RESPONSIBILITIES:
Fiction Editors work as a team alongside the ‘zine Editor to:
– Read all fiction submissions during the issue’s reading period.
– Discuss each submission with the other Fiction Editors and make recommendations for publication.
– Review pieces selected for publication for grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage, and flow.
– Format 1-2 pieces for publication in the ‘zine using the ‘zine’s stylebook guidelines.
– Adhere to established deadlines as posted by the ‘zine Editor.
– Assist with soliciting submissions for the ‘zine.

POETRY EDITOR RESPONSIBILITIES:
Poetry Editors work as a team alongside the ‘zine Editor to:
– Read all poetry submissions during the issue’s reading period.
– Discuss each submission with the other Poetry Editors and make recommendations for publication.
– Review pieces selected for publication for grammar, spelling, and word usage.
– Format 1-2 pieces for publication in the ‘zine using the ‘zine’s stylebook guidelines.
– Adhere to established deadlines as posted by the ‘zine Editor.
– Assist with soliciting submissions for the ‘zine.

POSITION QUALIFICATIONS:
Applicants for the position of Fiction/Poetry Editor should meet the following requirements:
– Love of fiction/poetry and a desire to put new and emerging writers in print.
– Experience as a copy editor, editor, or reader with an online or print magazine, newspaper, literary journal, blog, or related publication.
– Strong knowledge of written English.
– Ability to express opinions clearly.
– Ability and willingness to meet established deadlines.
– Familiarity with our ‘zine and the types of fiction we currently publish.
– Knowledge of or experience with Google Documents is strongly preferred. If you haven’t worked with Google Docs in past, we expect you’ll be willing to learn! (Please note: a Gmail address is NOT required to access and use Google Docs.)

EXPECTED TIME COMMITMENT: Depending on the length and number of submissions, editors can anticipate to work between 2-5 hours per week.

We request that applicants make a minimum two issue (4 month) commitment to work with us.

Please note: All positions are unpaid.

Interested? Applications can be filled out online.