Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Book/CD Received; Richard Laymon – The Cellar; Jack Cady – The Sons of Noah & Other Stories; Neil Gaiman “The Monarch in the Glen;” The Prestige; Torchwood

Posted by Mike on November 27, 2006

Book: Philip Jose Farmer – The World of Tiers
CD: Alan Sorrenti – Aria (x3)

Thanksgiving vacation was awesome, probably the best one I’ve had in years, I saw family, I got work done, and I relaxed and read all in about equal measure. Oh, I should probably mention Popcap.com and the game Alchemy, which managed to steal quite a bit of time as well. Those familiar and/or sympathetic to my esoteric interests will likely find it fun and amusing. It’s a bit off from the Tetris family, with lots of planetary and astrological glyphs used as symbols (although they must be saving Virgo for the higher levels ;)). It was my old man who turned me onto it, to which I mentioned that the Baptists would not have approved. Suffice it to say, I did not want to get out of bed this morning, partially because it was so cold, even with my heater running.

Anyway, onto the books and stuff… Laymon’s _The Cellar_ I believe I found out about on some Best 100 Horror novels ever list, it’s supposedly a cult classic of sorts. Having finished the Brian Kenne duology at a fast rate, I went at the Cellar at a clip, before realizing I was quickly burning out on the plot-heavy, cliche character sort of deal (which is basically about a woman and daughter on the run from a child molesting husband/father who just got out of jail and a creepy house that is supposedly the lair of a murdering beast). Perhaps the reputation of the book hinges on what daring feats it accomplished at the time of its original release, but as quick moving and fun as it was, it was also terribly shallow. The main male protagonist of the book could have been Steven Seagal in a movie, with his short, megamale way of going about things and nearly every character was something of a cliche. What wasn’t trite were the plot twists at the end. I kept expecting there to be something of a showdown with the main antagonist, and although the encounter happened, it didn’t go as I suspected, including no scenes like “I think he’s finally dead” only for him to get up for another round. Thankfully.  I suspect the ending might have been what garnered the novel its cult, but that would be tough to talk about without spoiling.

Jack Cady’s rather brief short story collection was far more erudite than this, and the comparison fits, as Cady’s work, though ostensibly interstitial, has elements of horror, especially the collection’s longest story, “By Reason of Darkness.” The writing is top notch with an instantly identifable and unique voice, by a man who seems acquainted with both the rural and urban. My favorites were the aformentioned novella and the shorter, powerful title story, about a religious community living in a remote valley who receives a visitor who brings bad news to the people. Even though no monsters show up, the flavor is somewhat Lovecraftian, with a nice, somewhat magically realist, denouement. “Darkness” might have been the book’s best piece, a story that draws characters together under conditions of (I believe the Vietnam) war and then has them meet together afterwards for unfinished business. The protagonists, including a wonderfully drawn, is-he-sane-or-not, Indian mystic, really imbue the story with several layers of meaning, tied together by vague, supernatural goings on. The remaining five stories are all much shorter, but nicely drawn with a language that seems both erudite and wordly.

Neil Gaiman’s novella comes from Legends II and is a sequel to his novel American Gods, so I wanted to read it before starting Anansi Boys, which just came out in paperback. Monarch follows Shadow to Scotland where he’s hired as helper at a party way up in the mountains, only to find out that he’s there to be more than hired help. It was nice to visit with Shadow again and the story had the usual mythic resonance that Gaiman handles so well. I believe the story is also in Fragile Things, his new collection.

 Finally went to see The Prestige at the theaters over the vacation. Even at the end of its run, with only two showings, the theater was pretty packed. Anyway this is a good example of a movie where reading the book just got in the way, it was framed in an entirely different manner than the book, which had me constantly guessing what should have been known or unknown at any given time. I went with my mother, who also read the book, and we spent a lot of the time whispering at each other as we confused plot point after plot point. And with all this said, I think it was a pretty good movie even if the acting of the two male leads was pretty atrocious (the one with the accent kept losing it at times). And also, due to its new framing device (which was basically told through Michael Caine’s character who was minor in the book), a lot of why I enjoyed the book (particularly the way two different people can come to despise each other through what are perceived errors in the intrepretation of a situation) was missing. Also, I was interesting to see how David Bowie would play Tesla, who was somewhat batty in the book, here he comes off as something of an aristocrat, even if the way the plot went was similar to the book. About the only other thing I could say was that it was a bit slow moving, which at about 2 full hours is a little too long. Oh and that when they flash back to one of the magicians in prison (Borden) – and yes, this wasn’t in the book – he’s wearing his prisoner number around his neck which is, of course, number 23.

Wanted to give a quick mention to Britain’s Torchwood, a spin off of Doctor Who. It seems to be getting better nearly every week and last night’s eppy was quite good (although the whole show reminds one ceaselessly of Angel and Buddy).

Oh! And it looks like Water Records has finally reissued Alan Sorrenti’s Aria with my essay in it. I really like the piece and it was barely edited, if at all, so I highly recommend picking it up. Of course. 🙂

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