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Old 10-02-2013   #1
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Topic Nominated Recent Reading

I thought it would be interesting if TLO members occasionally posted brief accounts of their recent reading and their general reactions to the books read, favorable or not. Personally, I’m writing this to use up some time before some scheduled surgery and I’m trying to beat the clock. Parts may be Quick ‘n’ Dirty!

I finally got my hands on Mark Samuels The Face of Twilight and found it to be as engrossing, unsettling and as starkly horrific as his short stories. In it the living are being replaced by the dead; murder victims are being found, bodies horribly mutilated with carved occult symbols. A character called Conrad Stymm, a small man with a terribly scarred head, attired in a long raincoat, often carrying a heavy black leather bag, seems the natural suspect for such barbarism. (This Ripper-like figure could have been played brilliantly by the great Peter Lorre). This short novel contains the kind of visceral horror that’s rare in Samuels shorter fiction; and some of the descriptions are intensely horrific and physically disgusting, though never in a gratuitous sense.
The Face of Twilight is replete with truly nightmarish episodes, adroitly described, such as a hospital where the healthy visit and never leave, being transformed instead into sick, ghastly broken things. There’s the sinister website that posts numerous haunting images of urban desolation…and allows the protagonist to put together a strange map leading to a deserted and rundown T.V. station that may still be broadcasting some very sinister programming. The book’s final revelation/conclusion is appropriately hellish, and I think this may well be Samuels most underrated book.
. .

I’ve also reread Friedrich Durrenmatt’s brilliant “The Winter War in Tibet” (found in Collected Essays Vol. 3)..Like Borges, Durrenmatt was a master at transcending genres. This can be read as a straight horror/sci-fi novelette with fantastic bits of black humor and satire, or as a very dark work of philosophical pessimism. The style, thanks to a gifted translator, is instantly recognizable as Durrenmatt, and is as atmospheric as it is darkly poetic, describing soldiers and mercenaries engaged in a fantastic war on snowy peaks, bluffs, canyons, all living within deep labyrinths of subterranean tunnels, fighting an enemy whose identity they can never be certain of. Passages of intense philosophical thought follow scenes of ghastly violence. The ‘hero’ carves his story into the walls of the tunnels and chambers (Shades of At The Mountains of Madness!) for any alien race to read after Mankind’s eventual passing. Injuries have left him a monstrous Cyborg with one arm ending in a machine gun and the other in a stylus. Lacking lower limbs as well, he traverses the labyrinth in a motorized wheelchair. He fights for “the Administration” and, like all his company, wears the same white uniform as the faceless enemy. Doubt of the existence of an enemy is punished by death. The Commander who befriends our narrator is sadistic and violent; he may be insane; and the descriptions of the apocalypse ravaged country (before the Winter War) are haunting in their desolation. This was my third reading and new revelations unfailingly made themselves known.
The Winter War is a blend of horror, philosophy, and poetic despair that my words can’t begin to do justice, so I refuse to try any further…
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Old 10-02-2013   #2
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Re: Recent Reading

I'm reading To The Devil A Daughter by Dennis Wheatley. Lots of scary fun.

Just read the dedication to Warren Zevon at the beginning of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Very very nice.


And good luck, Druidic. Better days are coming!

Lucian pigeon-holed the letter solemnly in the receptacle lettered 'Barbarians.' ~ The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen

“The wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” – Oscar Wilde
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Old 10-02-2013   #3
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Re: Recent Reading

I'm re-reading Ask the Dust by John Fante, being the story of a young writer named Arturo Bandini who travels to Los Angeles in search for inspiration. It's beautifully written and Bandini is such an adorable loser. I really like this book.

Also, I don't know if you're performing of receiving the surgery (is it Dr. Uidic, perhaps?) but best of luck either way. Hope it all works out for the best.
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Old 01-02-2016   #4
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Re: Recent Reading

On New Year's Eve I finished reading The Green Man by Kinsgley Amis. The most memorable thing about the novel was Michael Dirda's introduction, which included lengthy excerpts from M. R. James on the craft of the ghost story, as well as an amusing but hypothetical anecdote concerning Robert Aickman, whom Dirda calls "the finest writer of 'strange stories' in the second half of the twentieth century."

The first book I opened on New Year's Day was Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz

Last edited by BleakИ 01-02-2016 at 06:49 AM..
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Old 01-02-2016   #5
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Re: Recent Reading

Late one night, several weeks ago, in a moment of financial abandon, I made a preposterously large purchase at the Book Depository:




Yikes!

I also ordered, from Amazon, Octave Mirbeau's In the Sky, based on gveranon's recommendation. Add to this sundry other titles picked up in local bookstores over the holidays, and borrowed from the library. Happy reading to me.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 01-10-2016   #6
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Re: Recent Reading

Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy
Late one night, several weeks ago, in a moment of financial abandon, I made a preposterously large purchase at the Book Depository..
I salute your glorious lunacy.

Regarding Moravagine, I am sure you will find it as spectacular as I did, when I read it a few months back. [Find my slightly incoherent reaction here]

Even though I see my TBR pile rising like the Burj Khalifa, I still reread books I have read multiple times: Right now, I am going through The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and The House on the Borderland.

I am still reading Ghelderode's Sortilèges - Le Jardin Malade easily makes it in the top-10 Weird Stories I have ever read, it is a Poesque-Maupassantian hybrid, overflowing with disease, deformity and rotting vegetation.

After reading the first five stories - and realising I only enjoyed one of them - I have largely given up on ever finishing Lovecraft's Monsters. I don't know why writers like Barron or Gaiman do this to themselves. Their heart is obviously not in it. They can't do lovecraftian-type horror.

I have reread the SOADD portion of the Penguin Ligotti and will probably move on to the Grimscribe part soon.

Over Christmas, I purchased books by Cioran and Brussolo that I will not have the time to read before the end of this decade. In all honesty, it is a disease and an addiction.

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Old 01-10-2016   #7
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Re: Recent Reading

Quote Originally Posted by xylokopos View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy
Late one night, several weeks ago, in a moment of financial abandon, I made a preposterously large purchase at the Book Depository..
I salute your glorious lunacy.
The best thing about ordering from Book Depository, apart from the free shipping, of course, is that they send the books individually, so each day when I open my mailbox there are two or three padded envelopes waiting for me: "A present for meezy-weezy!" I exclaim to myself as I carry them back up to my apartment. Speaking of presents, the mailman just delivered a belated Christmas gift from my dearest friend: a first edition of Joko's Anniversary, inscribed by the author! Can anyone make out Roland's scribbly French?





Thank you, N.



"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 10-02-2013   #8
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Re: Recent Reading

The Map and The Territory by Michel Houellebecq which I am finding quite different from his other work but heavy on concept with excellent prose to bring it home as usual. Houellebecq seems to have benefited from and has managed to avoid the pitfalls inherent in so-called "experimental" writing; his current mode, to judge by this book, is restrained purposelessness. This book is enjoyable in the way that a lot of Bernhard (from what I've read)---weirdly---is. Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst Dividing Up the Art Market---what an hilarious and apt notion! Reading reviews of this book, I was surprised by the general chagrin of many readers by the fact that Houellebecq appears as a character himself in the book and is by turns seemingly brutal and light-fingered with his portrayal of 'his truly'. I believe this "self portrait" in fiction to be very interesting and has seldom been executed with more aplomb than here---though I get the feeling that Houellebecq's previous books have been more than a little autobiographical---something like a mild-mannered schizo dissecting himself.

In addition to that I'm reading John Dies at the End ---I like it so far, please don't judge me too harshly---I've not read anything like this before...not usually one for "college humor" (which I believe to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek in this book, by the way---despite what many think to the contrary). An enjoyable horror-comedy novel...I can't see if you enjoyed Sean of the Dead (though I gave that a bit of a "meh", though it could be argued that in a way it was at the beginning of the living dead cinematic revival and one of the better examples from that awful period) not being at least slightly amused, perhaps even enthralled, by this. Charles Bukowski dedicated his novel Pulp "to bad writing"---it's a fun, indulgent and silly read---that has to be ok now and again, doesn't it? As one Good Reads reviewer said and it might peak the right kind of readers interest:

"Surrealism, pop culture references [not usually my thing, but I guess I find Chuck Klosterman amusing in an "end of the human line" sort of way], quantum mechanics, discordianism, conspiracy theories, irreverance and respect for a good old-fashioned pun... All the elements that made Robert Anton Wilson's work so brilliant, thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining are present in David Wong's book too." *bracketed aside mine

I so far agree with this statement and love RAW.

All in all, I'm enjoying reading these two concurrently...

....but don't take my word for it...(den ne dah!)
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Old 10-02-2013   #9
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Re: Recent Reading

I would second the excellence of John Dies at the End; it is one of the few novels I have read that works both as a comedy of 'laugh out loud' proportions and a genuinely unnerving horror tale. The author obviously has a great love and respect for the genre, and reads like a Douglas Adams take on cosmic horror, if Adams were a twenty-something burnout from the american midwest. This absurdist-slacker sense of humor can be often deliberately juvenile but is informed by a wit and intelligence that keeps it light-years away from what constitutes much of 'college/frat humor', and is closer to the likes of the original Nat. Lampoon and old-school Simpsons, or movies like Wet Hot American Summer, Super Troopers, and the early works of Kevin Smith. In my humble opinion, JDATE belongs somewhere on a list of best 21st century weird fiction, and I do not hesitate to recommend it to the forum. The sequel, This Book is Filled With Spiders, is also well worth reading.
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Old 10-26-2016   #10
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Re: Recent Reading

I'm reading BAUDELAIRE IN ENGLISH (Penguin Classics 1997), edited by Carol Clark and Robert Sykes. It's fascinating to see different poets (I may be wrong, but most of ye translators seem to be poets themselves) approach Baudelaire: for "Correspondences" there are five separate versions by Frances Cornford, Allen Tate, Roy Campbell, Richard Wilbur, and Ciaran Carson. The fascinating Introduction is 40 pages in length. While reading the book, I am comparing these translations with those found in the Oxford Baudelaire (James McGowan translator, with a 26-page Introduction by Jonathan Culler) and Richard Howard's 1982 edition from David R. Godine, Publishers. (The language in some of Howard's translations strikes me as slightly peculiar. )

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
--Henry James (1843-1916)
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