September Psycho

I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just
  • Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
  • The Shining by Stephen King

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
  • Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
  • Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
  • Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone

Series continuations:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan

The Shining

King, Stephen. The Shining. Read by Campbell Scott. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.

Reason read: Stephen King was born in the month of September. Read in his honor.

The magic of King’s writing is this could be the story of any family anywhere. This sad tale is so middle America, it could be about you if you look in the mirror long and hard enough. Jack Torrence is a man struggling to be something other than a drunk with writer’s block. Fired from his Vermont teaching job after he is found guilty of assault, Jack takes a job in Colorado as caretaker for a massive mountainside hotel during the off season. How hard can it be to watch over a hulking, empty hotel when it is closed for the winter in the middle of nowhere? With only his wife and son to keep him company, Jack hopes to use the mountainside solitude to secure a spot more firmly on the sobriety wagon and break through his writer’s block. Only, this is no ordinary hotel and it’s not really empty. It lives and breathes tragedy and hones into each family member’s deepest and darkest secret. Paranoias of each family member are amplified and personified. Because Jack was accidentally and drunkenly violent with their son, Danny, wife Wendy sees Jack as a growing threat. She grows increasingly nervous for their safety. Jack in turn grows more and more resentful of Wendy’s distrust. Meanwhile, poor Danny (‘Doc’) has the gift of telepathy (the Shining) so he knows his parents have every right to be suspicious. Disaster is right around the corner for all of them.
As an aside, when you have The Shining read to you, you start to hear the psychological breakdown of each character.

Confessional: I can remember reading this book in high school. Here’s the weirdest part. What sticks in my head most is not the plot or even the characters. What I recall most is whenever I was sufficiently frightened enough I would stop reading and do push ups until I felt brave enough to continue.

So. In addition to listening to this on audio, I was also reading it as an e-book. Someone classified the book as “advice on parenting.” Funny.

Author fact: Stephen King was born in the same hospital as my nephew.

Narrator fact: Campbell Scott is great at the spooky voices. Not so much at the gender specific voices. Wendy sounded exactly like Jack.

Book trivia: I think everyone is familiar with Jack Nicholson’s performance in the horror classic, but what people forget is that legendary Stanley Kubrick adapted The Shining to film.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the benign chapter “100 Good Reads: Decade By Decade (1970s) (p 178).


All Hallows’ Eve

Williams, Charles. All Hallows’ Eve. New York: Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1948.

Reason read: This is a spooky story so I’m reading this for Halloween, of course.

This is a love story that thrives beyond the grave. Lester and Richard were married only the day before when Lester is killed by a falling airplane. What are the chances? Now Lester is caught between two very different worlds – the living world where Richard still walks about grieving and Lester’s dead and silent world in limbo. She hasn’t made it into either heaven nor hell. Some people can sense her and some can even see her outright. Still others, she can walk clean through and they wouldn’t feel even the slightest whisper. Lester feels alone but she is not. Not really. Also killed in the bizarre crash was her living best friend, Evelyn. Both seek the afterlife forgiveness of a third girl, Betty, who Lester and Evelyn were cruel to in school. Betty is under the spell of evil in the form of her mother, Lady Wallingford, and religious and biological Father Simon Leclerc. Father Simon, better known as The Clerk, is seen as a prophet, a religious leader, a powerful orator able to sway large masses with his preaching…a devil in disguise who practices magic. He has Evelyn under his power as well. She turns out to be the evil one.

Williams is a strange author. His storytelling is dense and sometimes confusing. I likened it to hacking through a thick and oppressive jungle with a dull machete. You spend a lot of time slogging through the narrative and sometimes miss the finer nuances of the story. I found myself frequently rereading passages if only to orient myself to time and place.

Quotes (or imagery) I liked, “The two dead girls went together slowly out of the park” (p 22), and “She did not dichotomize; mechanics were not separate from spirit, nor from imagination, nor that from passion” (p 225).

Confessional: I had to look up two words from this book: sacerdotalism and susurration. Learn something new everyday.

Author fact: Williams wrote All Hallows’ Eve as part of a series called “The Aspects of Power.” It is #7 in the series and is the only one I’m reading for the challenge. for once, I am glad to be missing out.
Second author fact: Williams died following an operation.

Book trivia: All Hallows’ Eve has been compared to James’s Turn of the Screw. Second piece of trivia: T.S. Eliot wrote the introduction to All Hallows’ Eve.

Nancy said: Nancy called All Hallows’ Eve a “lost classic” (p 99); “Williams’s own spiritual beliefs lend a spellbinding conviction to the ensuing struggle between good and evil, magic and art” (p 100).

BookLust: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 99). True enough.


October ’12 was…

October 2012 was started out to sea. We landed on Monhegan sandwiched between the bustling start of Trap Day and the slowing end of tourist season. As a nod to the death of summer we readied our psyches to the coming winter. The island had shed its summer greens and stood cloaked in red rust brown and burnt yellow hues. Hiking the trails was at once magical and sobering. It was easy to curl up with a good book every night and read for at least two hours straight (something I never get to do at home unless it’s an off day). And speaking of the books, here they are:

  • Persian Boy by Mary Renault ~ a continuation of the series about Alexander the Great. I started this in September to keep the story going.
  • Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ~ in honor of Halloween (duh). Probably one of my favorite books of the month. I read this in three days.
  • The Outermost House: a year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston ~ in honor of October being Animal Month. The best book for me to read on an island; finished it in three days.
  • Lives of the Painters, Vol. 1 by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of October being Art Appreciation month. This was just ridiculous to read. There were a lot of errors according to the translator. I ended up skipping every biography that had a contradiction or error in it.As a result, finished it in two weeks.
  • Hackers edited by Jack Dann ~ in honor of October being Computer Awareness month. This was cool to read. I read three stories a night and finished it in four days.
  • The Dialect of Sex: the Case For Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone ~ in honor of breast cancer awareness month and strong women everywhere. I didn’t completely finish this, but I got the gist of it.
  • The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan ~ in honor of the Amsterdam marathon taking place in October. I read this in four and a half days. Easy and very entertaining!
  • The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd ~in honor of Ackroyd’s birth month. This was short, a little over 200 pages, but I took my time reading it – almost three weeks!

The audio book I chose for October was The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell. This took forever to listen to! I felt like I was constantly plugged into the story. I listened to it on the drive home from Maine, to and from work everyday. even while I was working out, while I cooking. It was a great story, worth every hour between the earphones. Can’t wait to read other Mankell stories!

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I read Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave Introduced French Cuisine to America by Thomas J. Craughwell. While I thought I would enjoy this book (TJ is one of my favorite past presidents and I’m wild about food) it fell a little flat for me. I stopped reading on page 200. I also started reading Clay by Melissa Harrison. It was refreshing to get a first-time fiction from LibraryThing!

One thing that I failed to mention about October (and this is related to the books) is that I am back to requesting books from other libraries! Yay yay yay! This was halted in June of 2011 because we were switching ILSs and at the time I figured it would be a good opportunity to read what was on my own shelf and in my own library. Now, nearly 17 months later I am back to having hundreds of libraries to order from. Thank gawd!

We ended October with a freak storm people were calling Frankenstorm in honor of being so close to Halloween. Although we prepared like hell we saw little damage, thankfully. My thoughts and prayers go out to those in New Jersey and New York. It’s sad to see my old haunts get battered around so…


October (2009) was…

October has always been my “hang on”” month. It’s the month I hold my breath for while waiting for September to release me. This October was no different. It started with a trip to Maine to see West Coast family (and a great foggy run), a trip homehome andandand Kisa got to go (yay), Hilltop got a much needed haircut, there were a ton of new Natalie sightings, and, dare I say, the promise of a Hilltop Thanksgiving? The end of the month was a little stressful – a lump in the breast and a missing ovary. No wonder I read so many books and here they are:

  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ sci-fi story about a man who is kidnapped and taken to Mars.
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ coming of age story about a young girl who is a chess playing phenom.
  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle ~ a ghost story about a man who lives in a graveyard for twenty years.
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ a mystery about two unmarried women traveling through Egypt and being pursued by a mummy.
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ~ nonfiction about the role of women through the ages (up to the 1960s when the book was written). Oh, how far we’ve come!
  • House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier ~ a spooky tale about time travel.
  • When Found, Make a Verse of by Helen Smith Bevington ~ a commonplace book full of poetry, proverbs and excerpts.
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ a novel about small town life (read because October is the best time to visit New England).
  • The Natural by Barnard Malamud ~ a novel about a baseball player (read because October is World Series month).
  • In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu ~ a compilation of short stories all on the dark side (read in time for Halloween – you know…horror, fantasy, mystery, etc).
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: an American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie ~ biographies of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy in one book (read for Group Reading Month).

For fun, I am rereading Mary Barney’s Ring That Bell (2003) because I want to challenge my cooking and make every recipe in the book. So far I’ve cooked/baked my way through nine recipes.

For the Early Review program from LibraryThing I was supposed to read Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm. It hasn’t arrived as of yet, so it may very well turn into a November book.


In A Glass Darkly

Le Fanu, Sheridan. In a Glass Darkly. Trowbridge: Redwood Press, Ltd. 1971

Every other “scary” book I have read for October pales in comparison to In a Glass Darkly despite being composed of short stories. Let’s face it, the stories no matter how short are weird. In a Glass Darkly is made up of five short stories (although “Dragon Volage” is long enough to be classified as a novella) that are a mix of ghost stories, horror, mystery and fantastic. Each story is a little stranger than the last which makes for the perfect Halloween-time read especially with the lights dimmed low. The book ends with the short story “Camilla” about a lesbian vampire who needs more than victims to survive. “Camilla” appears to have the most success out of all the short stories, prompting other authors to write similar vampire stories with greater success. 

“Green Tea” is about a doctor, Dr. Hesselius, who deals in the occult who is convinced his patient is being possessed by demons. The patient is Robert Lynder Jennings. He is a reverend haunted by a demon in the form of a little black monkey with glowing red eyes. When Dr. Hesselius meets the reverend he is convinced his afflictions are caused by excessive consumptions of green tea. His intuitions allow Rev. Jennings to take the doctor into his confidences and soon relates how the monkey demon came to haunt him. Things become more dire when Rev. Jennings admits the monkey has been making him do vile, unthinkable things. From here there is no turning back and the story can only end in tragedy.

“The Familiar” was originally written as “the Watcher” which I think is a better title. “The Familiar” is about a sea-captain, James Barton, who is being stalked by someone calling him/herself “the Watcher” (hence the better name for the title). The stalker turns out to be an ominous, little dwarf. After the dwarf’s appearances Captain Barton starts hallucinating voices and thinking an owl is out to get him. There is nothing he can do to stop the mental breakdown that is inevitable.

“Mr. Justice Harbottle” is a freaky little tale about Elijah Harbottle, a cruel and corrupt judge. His conscience starts to get the better of him after an unusual visit from a stranger. He begins to feel haunted by past prisoners he has unfairly put to death by his rulings. The hauntings become so severe that Judge Harbottle can’t escape the noose around his own neck.

“The Room at the Dragon Volage” moves away from being frightening (until the end) and takes on the genre of a mystery as the villans are human. I found the bulk of this story to be long-winded and boring. Maybe that is because it is the longest of the short stories in In a Glass Darkly (26 chapters equaling 176 pages) and really should be called a novella. It takes a long time for the story to come to a head. —- is too naive, too trusting, too innocent for my taste. He’s also too obsessed with a woman he’s only seen once. As the reader you have to suspect nothing good can come from this strange passion, especially since she is a married woman. This was my least favorite story of them all.

“Carmilla” is a good old-fashioned vampire tale. The kind that inspires others to write the same. The twist to this is that the vampire is female and lesbian. When a strange girl known as Carmilla is thrown from her carriage she is brought to the home of a lonely young girl. Hungry for companionship the young girl welcomes Carmilla into her home. Hungry for a new victim, Carmilla readily accept. The reader can see the plot coming from a long ways off, but the young narrator is slow to grasp the danger she is in.

Favorite line: “The Clerygman felt a chill of horror steal over him, while, during the wail of a sudden gust of wind, he heard, or fancied he heard, the half articulate sounds of rage and derision mingling in the sough” (p 65).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).