Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zombie Haiku

My brother, and by extension, all of our friends and I, have been into zombie stories for a little while now. We all enjoyed World War Z (we're still holding off on our book-club-like discussion until my roommate finishes it), loved Shaun of the Dead, and I have stopped myself from purchasing this zombie action figure set more times than I can count. So when I saw this book, Zombie Haiku, by Ryan Mecum, I knew I had to buy it.

The book is in the form of a man's journal, where he writes haikus about his life. Things start going strangely one day, though, but he keeps writing haikus about his life. When he suddenly finds himself a zombie, what else can he do but continue with the haikus?

My favorite one in the book was (and I'm paraphrasing this):
Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains.
Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains, brains, brains,
Artificial hip.

If you enjoy zombie humor (and really, who doesn't?), give this book a peek.

Huh, apparently zombie haikus are a thing? Look here and here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Trip to Edward Gorey's House

Edward Gorey's art is something you don't forget. Even if you can't remember his name, his style stands out. I was introduced to his work through the books of John Bellairs, which I read voraciously as a kid. In high school, I had a poster of the Gashlycrumb Tinies on my wall (my favorite is pictured above). So when my mother mentioned that he had lived on Cape Cod and his house was open as a museum, I jumped at the chance to visit.

The Edward Gorey House is located in Yarmouthport, right off route 6A. Tours are free and run about 20 minutes. Gorey was quite the collector, and the house is filled with his various collections, such as stones that he would pick up on his walks or large rings that he would wear. My favorite was the cheese grater collection, including the Greater Graters and the Lesser Graters. The best part, though, is that all of the Gashlycrumb Tinies are represented throughout the house, and they give you a checklist so you can make sure you've found them all. Some are easy (a little doll is literally falling down the stairs, for "A is for Amy who fell down the stairs") while others are only representative (like a box of tacks on a shelf for "L is for Leo who swallowed some tacks").

The museum houses a unique mix of personal items and career-related objects that makes it seem like very little was done to the place after Gorey's death. I'd heartily recommend a visit to anyone who finds themselves on Cape Cod, Gorey fan or not.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Road

I love dystopian fiction - the grittiness, by definition, highlights aspects of human nature that don't often appear in other genres. So when I heard about Cormack McCarthy's The Road, I was excited - a man and boy walk towards what they hope is (relative) safety. Everything I've read about the book has hailed it as a post-apocalyptic masterpiece - it was even an Oprah book (which, in most cases, is a mark against in my book) and is being made into a movie.

So imagine my disappoint when I read something like this:

Whats that?
There. Theres a house.
I’ll go take a look. Take the gun.
No, I’m scared.
I know.

What if the bad guys come?
You can come with me youd like.
The man knew he wouldnt want to be alone.

Note that this is not the text of the book, but it's so damn close, it's hard to tell. I mean, I was expecting some great masterpiece, but all I got a rough sketch of a story with sporadic punctuation and meaningless dialogue. The most interesting parts of the story - mainly, when the man and boy encounter others - were also the most difficult parts to read, as adding more voices than the narrator, the man, and the boy without any indication of who was speaking made it much too confusing. And even if the story and dialogue had been stronger, I don't think I could have looked past the grammar - why use apostrophes in some places but not others! It's maddening, like McCarthy just simply couldn't be bothered to adhere to any rules.

Water for Elephants

I was never a big fan of the circus as a kid. There was always too much going on, too much noise, too much activity. But when I started watching Carnivale on HBO a few years ago, I loved the gritty, dirty feel of the Depression-era circuses. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen tells a similar gritty, dirty story.

Gruen’s research is what makes this story worth reading. The daily life of a circus is brought to life through the pages of Water for Elephants in a very compelling way. The story is interesting, but I was driven to read by the desire to know more about the time period. Even if you don’t think the subject matter would interest you, this book is definitely worth reading – it would be hard not to be interested in it by the end.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Breaking Dawn

It’s been a while since I have been quite so excited about the release of a book – I think Ellen Emerson White’s Long May She Reign (the continuation of a series that I read when I was actually a teenager) was the last book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. So I let my inner 16-year-old girl out for the release of Breaking Dawn, the final book in the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, and spent an entire day (my birthday, in fact, and an enjoyable birthday it was) just reading.

Was I right to get so worked up for this book? Yes… and no. The first three books (well, really just books one and three) totally captivated me. Just the fact that they were able to make me think like a 16-year-old again was a testament to Meyer’s writing. But with all the Twilight talk (both about this new book and the horrible miscasting of the upcoming movie), the book just couldn’t meet the hype.

The biggest problem that struck me was that the story read like fanfiction – stories written by fans who can’t give up on their favorite characters. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some excellent fanfic out there, but I expect a little more from someone so in charge of the story and from something I’m paying money for. Breaking Dawn even adheres to the fanfic tenant that the characters you love the most suffer the most – I mean, Bella has always been a little too clumsy, a little too breakable, but come on… really?

Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the middle section of the book, told from Jacob’s POV. I was highly pissed off at the end of Eclipse, when the narration slipped to Jacob without warning, but in this case, I was relieved not to be in Bella’s head for a little while. And through Jacob, there was much to learn about the way the La Push pack operates.

Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about the finale. There was so much build up for very little conclusion. But I guess that just means that I’ll have to turn to the real fanfic now to find some more good Twilight stories…

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Duma Key

As a long-time Stephen King reader, I know that I'll eventually pick up any book that he writes. I've had Duma Key sitting around for a while - it's pretty thick, and I wasn't up for investing the time in it. But after hearing several times that it was his "return to form," I was ready to give it a try.

And in a way, it is a return to form. The scene is clearly set, the characters (bizarre backstories and all) are well defined, and the strange supernatural villain is creepy as all get-out. But it's also a little slower than his past works - the first two-thirds took me two weeks to read, while the final third was completely gripping and took only two days.

Edgar Freemantle, late of Minnesota, takes up residence on Duma Key in Florida following a disastrous accident. While there, he meets his eccentric neighbors, including the old woman who owns the island, and discovers an unknown talent for painting. But the paintings hold a strange ability to bring his ideas to life, dictated by the powers of the island.

There are many images, especially from the last third of the book, that will be sticking with me for a long time. King is still a master at describing a moment so creepy that it burns its way into your memory. And while I don't think I would recommend this as an entry point into King's repertoire, it is a solid piece of writing that won't be soon forgotten.