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Comics and Literature We're not the hugest comic nerds out there, but we have been known to read an issue of "Spider-Ham" from time to time.

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  #21  
Old 07-27-2010, 07:07 AM
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I finally finished "H.P. Lovecraft's Book of the Supernatural: 20 Tales of Terror Selected by the Master HImself".

Lovecraft devotees will recall that he wrote an essay on "Supernatural Horror in Literature" which has, since its publication, been regarded as a seminal discourse on worthy horror stories written to that time. This book is a collection of some of the stories he names as being particularly noteworthy examples of the horror genre. This is the second such book I have, both containing different selections. From an historical perspective, this is an incredible find. As I fancy myself something of a horror historian, I was immediately interested in reading this. There's stuff by Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, Washington Irving and Poe in here. Much of it is, I imagine, hard to find today. And (except for the Machen) I hadn't read any of it.

If you like Gothic horror, most of which is the ghost story or something very much like it, you'll like this. Some good examples of that type of story to be had here. A few approach more modern themes (The Hodgson story, for example, is a type of body horror, and the best of the 3 tales I've read by him so far). If, however, you aren't enthused about this kind of story, it may strike you as mainly boring & quaint. Lord knows I didn't love everything in this book (It took me months to finish a book I should have polished off in about 2 weeks because "The Turn of the Screw" was such a disappointingly long & tedious slog of a read). Overall, I'd recommend it to fans of the ghost story, or anyone who has any curiosity about the roots of modern horror.
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  #22  
Old 07-27-2010, 08:42 AM
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I'd read that book many years ago (I agree with you re: Turn of the Screw - I recall that one being a bit of a trial to get through), and I have to get my hands on a copy for a re-read one of these days. Thanks for this, Ig!
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:44 AM
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Here is where I am too honest: I hate Lovecraft. Every time I try to read anything by him it is a huge fucking chore.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:39 AM
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I can see how one could feel that way about HPL. He can be kind of oblique at times. I hated his stuff the 1st time I tried reading any, too.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:45 AM
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Lovecraft definitely take a bit to get used to, but I enjoyed what I've read by him.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:23 PM
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Just finished a book called "Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror!" DM8 from that-other-site-that-shall-not-be-named would probably have LOVED this. As the name implies, it's stories about giant monsters, a subgenre that I think is somewhat neglected in horror, particularly in written form. I have toyed for years with the idea of writing a giant monster story and taking it seriously, rather than succumbing to "The Godzilla problem", as I termed it in a discussion thread way back when (i.e., not being taken seriously because when an American audience thinks "giant monster", they inevitably think of Godzilla, who has gotten increasingly sillier over the years). I mean, when you think about it, the idea of a creature physically large enough to level a city is pretty fucking terrifying, right? So I was really looking forward to this book, to see if anyone else had the same idea. And did they? Well, sort of. The vast majority of these stories were about larger than normal creatures, but not GIANT creatures (eg., bugs the size of Volkswagens rather than city stomping kaiju monsters). And many of them had an almost self conscious sense of humor about them. Nifty reads, but I don't see why it is that authors sometimes seem incapable of writing a story about a giant monster with a straight face. It's almost like they have to peek out from behind the curtain and wink at the audience as if to say: "Yes, I know this is silly; see me laughing along with you?" rather than playing it completely straight. Only a handful of the stories were actually about city destroying rampages, and ALL of them were played for laughs to at least some degree. So while this was a fun read, and one I'd recommend to any giant monster fan or horror connisseur, it was a liiiiiiiiittle bit of a let down for me, personally.
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  #27  
Old 08-03-2010, 12:35 PM
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Then write your story... I'd be more than happy to offer military advice/tactics/liquor preferences.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:48 PM
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Fuck. Yes. Get to writing, Ig! Make it the story Cloverfield SHOULD have been!
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  #29  
Old 08-05-2010, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by IggytheBorg View Post
Nifty reads, but I don't see why it is that authors sometimes seem incapable of writing a story about a giant monster with a straight face. It's almost like they have to peek out from behind the curtain and wink at the audience as if to say: "Yes, I know this is silly; see me laughing along with you?" rather than playing it completely straight.
In my second (I believe you cats call it "sophomore") year of university, I took a module called "Writing Short Fiction"* It was a great chance to develop what we'd been doing in first year, getting into the finer points of concepts like theme and metaphor and what have you. The Best of McSweeney's Volume 1 was on our required reading list. I found most of the stories pretty interesting, if a little "quirky for the sake of being quirky" in some cases. One I unabashedly loved, though, was Tedford and the Megalodon by Jim Shepard. Imagine a skilled genre fan writing a tale not unlike The Call of Cthulhu for a non-genre audience. It's a less self-consciously "spooky" obsessed journey tale that doesn't skimp on the atmosphere, pace, or watery jeopardy. Not to mention a big-ass creature (the eponymous "Megalodon.") Well worth a read, if you're unfamiliar.

If you don't enjoy Tedford, at least you can say you own a collection with a story called Fat Ladies Floated in the Sky Like Balloons.**

* I was hot for teacher.
** Also that story's first line. This was the kind of thing Hottie McTeacherson encouraged in said class. She liked that kind of thing.

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Then write your story... I'd be more than happy to offer military advice/tactics/liquor preferences.
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Get to writing, Ig! Make it the story Cloverfield SHOULD have been!
I agree with both these men, Ig! I'd be all over an Iggy's Book Nook sister thread ("Iggy's Writer's Room?")
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  #30  
Old 08-05-2010, 07:59 PM
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Just finished a nonfiction work called "The Last Three Miles", by Stephen Hart. This was the story of the construction of the Pulaski Skyway, which was a crucial component of America's 1st superhighway, according to the author. It also tells of how union corruption and the involvement of mayor Frank hague, the legendary leader of the uber-powerful Hudson County Democratic machine from 1911 thru 1947 affected the project. If you've never had the pleasure of driving this particular stretch of roadway, it's an ugly, steel and concrete bridge, impossibly narrow, with no shoulders and exit/entrance ramps in the most improbable of places (some one the left and one in the center of the road). Its purpose was to efficiently disperse the traffic coming thru the Holland Tunnel thru Jersey City to kearny and Newark, and roads connecting to points beyond. It rises like a fossilized dinosaur skeleton 135' over the marshes of the sothern portion of the Meadowlands, and rns above US Rt 1&9 for part ofits length.

I grew up in Jersey City, and local history (especially stuff dealing with the elusive Mayor Hague) fascinates me. And I can say from personal experience that referring to the Skyway as "Death Alley", as the Jersey Journal (our local paper) did almost as soon as it opened due to the number of fatal crashes it produced, is a very apt description indeed. I HATE driving the Skyway, & avoid it if I'm at all able. This book explains why these seemingly obvious errors of design were allowed into the project. The answer would surprise you, but is elegantly logical once you learn what it is.

It's a very short book, and doesn't pay nearly as much attention to Mayor Hague as I'd have liked. This is the 3d book on him (or at least, devoting substantial content to him), and none of them has been really in depth or clear about what he was up to. I was very disappointed in that. It sems all the really good studies of this almost mythic figure are long out of print. I may have to hunt one up in a Jersey City library. For those who don't know of him, Mayor Frank Hague was the mayor of Jersey City from 1911 to 1947. He established one of the most powerful, cohesive political machines ever seen, ruling Jersey City with an iron fist (he once quipped, when an aide told him something he wanted to do was against the law, "I AM the law!"). He was an unparallelled master at getting people to vote for him and those candidates he supported. Jersey City is the second largest city in NJ, and nno democrat could hope to win office on a county or state level without Hague's support. In return for a bribe from the soon to be elected official (to be tithed - at 3% of the office's salary - yearly), Hague would get his neighborhood organizers mobilized & get out the vote for the candidate. Never mind that some of the names appearing on the rolls belonged to people who had been dead for years.

His influence was such that, even though FDR despised him, Roosevelt needed to carry the electoral votes from NJ, and grudgingly gave Hague's county a plethora of WPA projects, turning a blind eye to his heavy handed graft. He was instrumental in the selection of governors and judges, so much so that he & his cronies were all but immune to prosecution. The Jersey City police were legendarily brutal thugs, at his beck & call as private enforcers. Dissent of any stripe, no matter how small, was swiftly punished (even talking badly about "Duh Mare" in a bar could get you a beating at best, or fired from your job & run out of town in financial ruin at worst).

He accumulated vast wealth, and was skillful and ruthless i his use of government patronage, making his friends wealthy in the process (in exchange for his tithe, of course, which most were glad to give him, since they wouldn't have the cushy job if not for him, and the rest were too afraid to deny him for fear of the consequences).

Like most Jersey City residents who know anything about him, I have a sort of love hate relationship with Hague. One has to admire the skill it took to amass such an impregnable power base. And one of the ways he got the vote out was to make sure residents in need who came to him for help got what they needed (which made many grateful - & beholden - to him). He got the Jersey City Medical Center built, which was one of the finest hospitals in the world at the time; damn near every baby born in Jersey City from 1932 to 1979, including me, my brother and both my parents, was born in the Margaret Hague (named after his mother, appropriately) Haternity Hospital. And Hague, a former amateur boxer and low grade street criminal before turning to poitics, never shrank from a physical fight, even into his 80's. One of my favorite Hague stories: Right after the Holland Tunnel opened, he was made aware of NYC gangsters planning on coming thru the tunnel to set up a "satellite office" in Jersey City. he had the cops stationed at the tunnel exit keep an eye out for them, and pull them over when they came thru. Hague was summoned, and had the gangsters lined up against a wall. he then proceeded to personally kick each of them in the balls, telling them to stay the hell on their side of the Hudson. Sure Jersey City was as corrupt as the day is long, but it was HOME GROWN corruption, dammit! Ya gotta respect that. I recently took a dep in an atorney's office on the 1st floor of 2600 JFK Blvd. in Jersey City, where Hague used to live. In the lobby is a nearly life sized photo of Hizzoner standing in front of the building, with the caption: "Frank ague, Mayor of Jersey City, 1911 - 1947. I am the Law!"

Sadly, Hudson County politics is still a hotbed of corruption, and the Democratic organization, while a lot more fragmented at times than Hague ever let it get, can be a force to be reckoned with if it gets its act together. Very little goes on without its support. I worked a couple elections (albeit reluctantly; it was sort of a tacit requirement of my job at the time, as an associate at a Hudson County law firm), and while I wanted as little to do with politics as possible after I left, I was fascinated, in the way we're fascinated by the fierce beauty of sharks, by the glimpse of the political process I got. And I learned one very important lesson, which I put into practice daily in my professional life: take care of those who take care of you. While I don't resort to bribes (I don't have the scratch, or the desire to lose my attorney's license), a kind word, or a bit of affable banter or honest compliment to a court official, your own or someone else's office staff, other attorneys (both allies and adversaries), and not forgetting Christmas or Secretaries' Day, goes a long, long way in making the practice of law easier.

So to come back 'round to the original purpose of this diatribe, while I enjoyed this book, I get the sense that information on the events surrounding the relevant time period are scarce. After all, Hague controlled just about everything, inclusing media outlets, and by the time the book was written in 06, very few people around at the time were still alive to provide direct information to the author. So it seems a little sketchy and quick at times, and is short on detail. It's almost as if Mayor Hague is still scowling over our soulders as we read, preventing his image from being tarnished even from beyond the grave. I may never unravel his enigma to my satisfaction, but I continue the quest nonetheless. I'd recommend it to anyone from Jersey, or who has an interest in organized crime or politics. The anachronism that was Jersey City (and to only a slightly lesser extent, the rest of the state as well) is a fascinating chapter in US Political history.
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  #31  
Old 08-06-2010, 12:02 PM
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Currently doing my annual re-reading of 'the Bachman Books' by Stephen King (except for 'Road Work', which is terrible).

- 'The Long Walk' would be a fascinating film, and I'd love to see someone like Frank Darabont tackle it. It would be a gruelling, draining experience for the audience, but I really think that it would resonate with many people. One of my absolute favorite stories of all time.
- 'Rage' could never, EVER be turned into a movie. Not anymore. I remember reading this for the first time back in the early 80s...who knew back then how accurate this book would turn out being?
- 'The Running Man' is still an incredibly powerful book. Get beyond the mechanics of the game show and you'll find a rather astute commentary on where society is going. I'd love to see a REAL movie made from this book, but there's no way that you'd be able to keep that ending...
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  #32  
Old 08-06-2010, 04:06 PM
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Currently doing my annual re-reading of 'the Bachman Books' by Stephen King (except for 'Road Work', which is terrible).

- 'The Long Walk' would be a fascinating film, and I'd love to see someone like Frank Darabont tackle it. It would be a gruelling, draining experience for the audience, but I really think that it would resonate with many people. One of my absolute favorite stories of all time.
- 'Rage' could never, EVER be turned into a movie. Not anymore. I remember reading this for the first time back in the early 80s...who knew back then how accurate this book would turn out being?
- 'The Running Man' is still an incredibly powerful book. Get beyond the mechanics of the game show and you'll find a rather astute commentary on where society is going. I'd love to see a REAL movie made from this book, but there's no way that you'd be able to keep that ending...
Except for the stuff about Darabont directing a movie version of TLW (which is a happy, true statement), all the above are sad but true statements.

EXCEPT the one about "Road Work" Being a terrible book. I LOVED that story. It was my favorite of the bunch. The feeling of utter hopelessness, despair & impotent rage that permeates it it fucking palpable. I think it's a powerful little piece.
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Old 08-06-2010, 06:29 PM
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Excellent review, as always, Iggy. I'd heard of Hague before (I live too far south to know much about Hague), but now you've got me interested in learning more.

Off to my local library, then to Barnes & Noble I go!
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Old 08-06-2010, 08:26 PM
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Fuck. Yes. Get to writing, Ig! Make it the story Cloverfield SHOULD have been!
The problem with this is, I have the IDEA, and a vague image of the view from Liberty Park of the NYC skyline getting taken down, but even after a LOT of thought, that's ALL I got. I really have no idea where I want to go with this.
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Old 08-24-2010, 09:30 AM
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What's the word on HORNS by Joe Hill? I saw a copy at the local library.
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Old 08-24-2010, 02:12 PM
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Waiting for the paperback, but I'm definitely going to read it, considering how much I liked Heart Shaped Box & 20th Century Ghosts.
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:59 PM
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Finished a nifty little short story collection called "Cthulhu's Reign" last week. This was a collection of stories by modern authors about what they think would happen if the Old Ones ever DID get back to earth, which is something HPL himself never really got into very deeply. I have never heard of any of the authors. Most of the stories were just OK, but there were a couple of standouts, notably "Her Acres of Pastoral Playground" by Mike Allen and "Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names" by Jay Lake. Both were very well thought out, creative & skillfully written. "Acres" was also creepy as hell, while "Madness" was more vast, monolithic and unending hopelessness, a sense of the impending end of everything we know as a race. The last three tales had only the loosest of connections to the Mythos, and could have worked well as science fiction stories with no reference to them at all (but then I guess they wouldn't have fit into the anthology's rubric). But the mythos connection in these tales feels tacked on, to a greater or lesser degree. I suppose it's least noticeable in "Remnants" which actually kind of expands the canon a bit in a believable, interesting way. But really, any alien race the author made up could have been plugged in to replce the prinordial ones, and it would have worked.

Overall, worth a read for Lovecraft completists. But if you're not a fan of HPL, I doubt you'd like anything in here, except maybe the standouts noted above (I think they're that good).

Tearing thru Mammoth Book of Best New Horro Vol XX now. may take awhile, due both to its length and the fact I just got my 2010 Zagat NYC Restaurant Guide (my 1st ever; I'm very excited!), and I'm researching some places my brother & I may go to dinner at in the near future. Being the foodie I am, this is quite a distraction from the literary reading.
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Old 08-26-2010, 09:06 PM
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I've always loved the 'Mammoth' series of books. Their collection of ghost stories has a very long, entertaining, and informative foreword by Christopher Lee...
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Old 08-27-2010, 07:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IggytheBorg View Post
Tearing thru Mammoth Book of Best New Horro Vol XX now. may take awhile, due both to its length and the fact I just got my 2010 Zagat NYC Restaurant Guide (my 1st ever; I'm very excited!), and I'm researching some places my brother & I may go to dinner at in the near future. Being the foodie I am, this is quite a distraction from the literary reading.
Good for you, Iggy! The guide is highly recommended by some folks I know...



I'm curious about "Cthulhu's Reign" - been awhile since I delved into any Lovecraft Mythos, so this might whet my appetite a bit. I also found my Chaosium Encylopedia Cthulhuana - a pretty good rundown of all the critters and characters in the Mythos.

Now, who wants to attend a production of The King in Yellow?
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Old 09-21-2010, 07:53 AM
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Just finished Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol. XX. One of the best in a long time, IMO. There's some big names in here: Stephen King's "NY Times at Special Bargain Rates", Brian Lumley (contributing "The Place of Waiting", a well written if somewhat predictable tale, probably a standout), Neil Gaiman (whose contribution, "Feminine Endings", is pretty fucking creepy), and Tim Lebbon, whose odd, quirky "Falling Off the World" is refreshingly different. Ramsey Campbell's here again, of course, with yet another bland, mediocre entry. Tanith Lee's "Under Fog" had a great premise, and was well written & atmospheric. "The Oram County Whoosit" by Steve Duffy was an interesting blend of Lovecraftian and western. Not the best story in the collection by a long shot, but kinda cool. Two most pleasant (if you can call a horror story that) were "The Beginnings of Sorrow" by Pinckney Benedict, which takes a weird premise and even stranger backdrop and runs with it ( little reminiscent of Kafka, at times), and "2:00 PM: The Real Estate Agent Arrives", by Steve rasnic Tem. The latter is only a single, 4 1/2 line paragraph. It is nothing short of astonishing that Tem could cram as much creep into that as he did. It's so fast, you might miss it the 1st time; I know I kinda did, asking myself: "Wait; did he just say what I think he said?" & going back & reading it again.

Overall, a most worthy entry in the series. Now, on to "Ladies' Night" by Jack Ketchum.
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