Here are the things I have planned for the second half of the year on my blog.
I’ll start doing a bi-weekly short film review roundup on August 17th. I plan to feature quality short films that are available online so that readers can view them. I have the first eight posts planned with three short films on each post. The first post will feature reviews for the short films He Took His Skin Off For Me, Janciza Bravo’s Eat, and Ari Aster’s The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. I’ll be looking at films that come from all corners of media from classic French shorts (Le Jetee) to Adult Swim middle of the night surreality (the works of Alan Resnick).
Fiction Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado I’d heard much acclaim about this short story collection and figured it was time to sit down and read it finally. I’m thrilled I did. Machado reminded me a lot of Kelly Link, weaving themes of feminism and horror into stories that stand strongly as genre pieces or a literary piece to be dissected. There’s an incredible inventiveness to the stories Machado tells. She repurposes the old folktale/urban legend about the girl the green ribbon around her neck to tell a story about a woman having her sexuality slowly but surely stolen from her over the course of decades. There’s a tale about a store clerk uncovering the horrific truth behind the seams in the prom dresses she sells that is chilling. The stand out work is the novella “Especially Heinous” that starts as TV Guide-style episode synopses of Law & Order: SVU. Things get strange when a narrative strand begins to connect these summaries, and we see a story unfolding of evil twins and demon possession. It’s one of the most ingenious ways to twist how a horror story can be told and well worth the read.
I decided to make a quarterly update about the books I’ve been reading. This was done because I have a hard time writing reviews without just recapping and spoiling the fiction books. Honestly, for some of these books, I could write papers as I did back in school. However, I’d like to keep a little more concise and share some titles and necessary information about them in the hopes you go out and pick up a book that hooks you.
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid A narrator tells us about her trip to boyfriend Jake’s family home out in the rural environs of some darkness consumed place. She recalls how she and Jake met and the development of their relationship, eventually admitting to the reader she’s planning on breaking up with him when they return from this visit. Something feels off during the car ride, but things genuinely get bizarre when the narrator and Jake arrive at his parent’s home. You’ll likely recall shades of David Lynch in the surreal and subtle horror of the encounter. The novel also owes much to the classic Gothic genre, with a contemporary American twist. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a fast read, it hooks you quickly, and the flow encourages you not to put the book down. Charlie Kaufman is in production on a film version of the novel starring David Thewlis and Toni Colette as the parents; I suspect their portion of the story will get a more significant focus in the movie.
As I did with non-fiction, here are the fiction books I read this year that I loved.
The Shadow Year – Jeffrey Ford From my review: The aspect of this novel that struck me the hardest was the strength of the narrator’s voice. Ford does an excellent job framing the story through the eyes of an adult man remembering the events. From the first pages, events flow in a dreamlike and hazy fashion. There are not many places where the author lingers in detail. Instead, we get the broad brushstrokes of childhood memory. Even better, the fantastic elements of the story are met with little fanfare by the children. They live at a point in their lives where monsters, ghosts, and other supernatural things are just as real and mysterious to them as the complicated relationships of their parents and the struggles of school.
This year I committed myself to read three books at a time: One comic book collection, one fiction book, and one non-fiction book. As a result, I read some very informative books, filling in my knowledge on subjects I realized I only understood tangentially. Here were my favorites, in no particular order, expect the last book which is my favorite.
The Second Amendment: A Biography – Michael Waldman After the shooting at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in February was moved emotionally in a way that none of America’s previous school shooting tragedies had hit me. I think I’d chosen to be numb to what had gone before, notably Sandy Hook, despite being an elementary school teacher out of pure psychological survival. I knew I had issues with the proliferation of guns in the United States but was unable to articulate my views and wanted to clarify facts so that I could clarify or possibly change my understanding. Author Waldman does an excellent job of giving in-depth explorations of gun ownership from colonial America to the most recent Supreme Court cases surrounding the issue. I walked away having a firmer, never final, viewpoint on an issue and was able to navigate past my emotional response to holding a much more reasoned one, while not eschewing the humanity involved.
The Cabin at the End of the World (2018)
Written by Paul Tremblay
Wen is on a summer vacation to a lake cabin in rural New Hampshire where her fathers want the family to be disconnected from the internet and their phones for a little while. She’s out collecting grasshoppers when a strange, imposingly large man shows up, introducing himself as Leonard. He seems very kind and quiet, telling her she is a great little girl and implying that he’ll be speaking with her parents very soon. Wen feels conflicted, safe at moments and then wary. Then the other emerge from the tree line, and Wen feels a strong sense of dread. Over the next two days, Wen and her dads will experience a confusing and terrifying series of events, forcing them to question the very reality of the world around them.
I hope you are enjoying the content I publish on my blog. If you feel compelled and are financially able to, I would greatly appreciate anything you could contribute to my Patreon. I will take it as your way of saying thanks and put that money towards growing the site in a slight manner.
The Grip of It by Jac Jemec
Julie and James feel a strong need to leave their urban apartment and purchase a home in the suburbs. They find a large house that is surprisingly affordable but even during their first walk through something is off. There is a hum coming from somewhere beneath them, inside the walls, never becoming too loud but always ringing in their ears. The couple shakes it off and goes on with moving in and making this home their own. Things just get worse though, rooms that didn’t exist before suddenly appear, stains appear on the walls that won’t seem to go away, and even the neighbor and boys playing in the woods nearby start to become figures of menace and dread. James and Julie start lying to each other which only increases their paranoia and disconnect, leading to a horrific conclusion.