Wuthering Heights Wins by a Knock-Out

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read this novel, how many strips of myself I’ve lost to it. I’d just watched “Southpaw,” too, which is basically about Jake Gyllenhaal gettin all up in the guts of what it means to be a man—and he was as believable as hell, love anything JG does, but there was that little problem of Rachel McAdams’s character gettin all caught up in the cross-fire of men getting all up in dem guts of what it means to be a man. A little problem easily solved by a stray gunshot —which never really got satisfactorily resolved in the film—because as one male who I talked to pointed out—the stray bullet (or was it?) that killed the woman in the way, “wasn’t really part of the plot”. The plot was that her death left the ring free for the main event: two messed-up dudes leading each other to bloody and violent redemption.

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Wuthering Heights (1847) says no to such easy solace, follows that stray bullet right to its source.

‘You and Edgar have broken my heart, Heathcliff! And you both come to bewail the deed to me, as if you were the people to be pitied! I shall not pity you, not I. You have killed me—and thriven on it, I think. How strong you are! How many years do you mean to live after I am gone?

Heathcliff had knelt on one knee to embrace her; he attempted to rise, but she seized his hair, and kept him down.
‘I wish I could hold you,’ she continued bitterly, ’till we were both dead. I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your suffering. Why shouldn’t you suffer. I do!’

Them’s fighting words, and Wuthering Heights wins by a knockout, IMO.

HOLY SHIT: LAZY FASCIST STORY BUNDLE OF THE CENTURY.

Go here now, if you want nine of the best weird books you’ll ever read. Ever. Here is a list, with selected reviews, and don’t forget, you can get these, all of these, thanks to the good folks at Lazy Fascist Press, and Story Bundle, and PAY WHATEVER YOU WANT, yeah that, at Story Bundle.

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

“Perhaps the smartest send-up of slashers ever, a brainier, brawnier, literary SCREAM; the ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN of the genre […] the greatest slasher movie never made. Yet.” – Jesse Bullington, Innsmouth Free Press

The Art of Horrible People by John Skipp

“The Art of Horrible People may very well be one the best collections published this year, and we certainly hope to read more by John very soon. By using the genres that made him a household name in Horror fiction, John Skipp’s stories transcend those genres, proving art is alive and well and exists in the first place you need to look.” – Bob Pastorella, This Is Horror

Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson

“A nightmarish yet hilarious journey that begins in the ugly world of toxic mortgages and progresses to the slightly uglier world of brain-eating monsters lurking in dark alleys. You’re in for an entirely unpredictable ride, the tale spinning ludicrously out of control as the hero uncovers layer after grotesque layer of a vast macabre conspiracy. Skullcrack City is original, utterly insane, and a shitload of fun.” – David Wong, author of John Dies at the End

Animal Money by Michael Cisco

“Brilliant and demanding […] Simultaneously the strangest high-finance thriller ever and a rumination on value theory and the financial shituation (sic), it deserves to provoke as much excitement among philosophers of money as it does among aficionados of weird fiction.” – China Mieville, The Guardian

American Monster by J.S. Breukelaar

“The closest a book’s come to Samuel R Delany’s Dhalgren probably ever. Breukelaar is one of the best new writers around and I can’t wait for whatever comes next. Read this book. There’s really nothing else like it.” – Edward J. Rathke, The Best Indie Press Books I’ve Ever Read

The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr

“The Last Horror Novel is quick and strange, its pleasures diverse—from the poetic prose at the beginning, to its riffs on small town life and the horror genre, to the creep out of a swarm of hands. Unlike life in Scrape, it’s always exciting. And unlike the citizens of Scrape, it never stays in the same place for too long.” – American Book Review

The Pleasure Merchant by Molly Tanzer

“The Pleasure Merchant is a hilarious, sensuous, and ultimately ferocious quasihistorical novel about that most crucial of periods: the dawn of the modern era. The merchant class flexed its muscles, scientists turned their attentions to the workings of the human mind, sexual mores were challenged in public and in secret, and in every corner of society the unseen hand of the marketplace dominated all. Tanzer’s clever slicing of the era reveals every social stratum of her world-their conflicts, their compromises, and their kinks. Read this book to learn what you’ve been soaking in your whole life.” – Nick Mamatas, author of Love is the Law and I Am Providence

Where We Live and Die by Brian Keene

“…Last year, the modern-day dark-fiction icon released this particularly powerful collection of pieces ‘deconstruct[ing] the mystique of the writing life.’ Keene’s “metafictional” ghost story ‘The Girl on the Glider’—probably the most thought-provoking skeptical inquiry into the supernatural since WILL STORR VS. THE SUPERNATURAL nearly a decade ago—is the centerpiece, though the ensuing stories, poems, harangues and incitements do not disappoint.” – Shawn Macomber, Fangoria

Witch Hunt by Juliet Escoria

“Unrelenting, violent, often scary: Juliet Escoria’s debut collection of stories will likely have you begging and crying for salvation a few pages in. She’s just that good.” – Jason Diamond, Flavorwire

2.5 less on the pile: North American Lake Monsters, Zero Saints, and Innocents and Others.

North American Lake Monsters I read North American Lake Monsters once before, or most of it, but maybe I didn’t have time to absorb itZero Saintsit exactly, or all of it, but this time I did. I could get into the language and the way Balingrud twists up the tension, especially, in a story like Way Station, with the transitions. And the weirdness, which Balingrud knows from. After Way Station, the Crevasse has to be one of the North American Lake Monster tales that gnawed the deepest, but Sunbleached tore me apart. I’d read The Visible Filth around the new year, and, maybe because I didn’t go into it cold, was prepared for the ending, so I was able to allow the in media res disintegration of the main character to be my focus, let it chew at me for a while.

And Zero Saints, Gabino Iglesias’s debut novel. Lots of us know him from his reviews and non-fiction, which is always nuanced, self-aware, and funny as hell, so it’s no surprise to me that I’m loving the loco ride of Zero Saints, Iglesias’s control too, and, okay, it’s still on the pile, but not for long.

And Diana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others. I reviewed that for LitReactor, here.

This is Horror interviews Stephen Graham Jones

I’ve been reading, and more recently teaching this writer for ever. Most recently I used this piece in, strangely, my novel class, mmmm. To be reminded that a novel is just, not just, but just up-sized, an expansion and contraction, or crystalline refraction of random human moments, countless, like this:

Truth is a Bearded Lady
by Stephen Graham Jones

My husband has two hearts. He told me. When he was a kid, sideshow people were always lurking around to kidnap him into the carnival. But he got away each time, just barely. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t be together right now. But he only tells me about his second heart. His other wife thinks he’s like everybody else. She thinks he just has one heart, can just love one woman. I know the truth, though. He trusts me with all his secrets. If either of his hearts is bigger, then it’s the one he’s given me.

Alfred Kubin’s illustration for Der Orchardeengartin

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Another illustration from Der Orchareengarten by the great Alfred Kubin, who wrote the surrealist novel, The Other Side (Die Andere Seite) in 1908, which he also illustrated (below) adapting some of the drawings he’d prepared for Gustav Meyrink’s Der Golem when Meyrink hit a snag.
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Kind of like when the money for the Halo movie ran out and Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson adapted the look and some of the Cthulhu-ish alien designs for District 9.District 9 I’ll be looking at the works of Kubin, among others in my upcoming LitReactor class, Writing the Weird.

Scott McClanahan’s Collected Works Vol 1.

Scott McClanahan, Stories New day, new book. One and a half stories into McClanahan’s stories and I’m all fucked up. I want to say Carver’s style with Dennis Lehane’s heart but this book messes with both. I want to say the other Denis—Johnson’s—soul, but these stories just rip that to shreds. I love Denis Johnson. I’m reading Tree of Smoke at the same time as I’m reading McClanahan and a bunch of other stuff. I read Jesus’s Son on the train from Portland to San Francisco. That story, “Emergency.” Read more

Going OFF!

American Monster has been picked up by a West Coast publisher who I cannot name right now, but it is one I am indescribably proud to be associated with. Biggest hangover ever.

The Box came out on Juked; the folks at Doghorn never cease to amaze me with their generosity and professionalism.

And always always the kids, and the Doctor.

Writers on the Web: Philip K Dick, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson…

I have been longer and later getting to this post than I meant to. Some of this stuff may seem a little old already. But here it is anyway: Philip K Dick sees a giant fish emitting a golden light, Neil Gaiman talks about exploding cats, William Gibson remembers ray guns, plus Georg Heym and zombies from Lee Williams.

In this first of a three part series called ‘Philip K Dick, Sci-Fi Philospher,’ Simon Critchley of the NYT, revisits '2-3-74', the seminal events of February and March, 1974 that began with Dick seeing a giant glowing fish and that led to Dick's own 'total recall of the entire sum of knowledge' that he attempted to put down in the Exegesis, (pictured) a 8000 page scrawl on mind, art, God and the universe.

Now, was this just bad acid or good sodium pentothal? Was Dick seriously bonkers? Was he psychotic? Was he schizophrenic? (He writes, “The schizophrenic is a leap ahead that failed.”) Were the visions simply the effect of a series of brain seizures that some call T.L.E. — temporal lobe epilepsy? Could we now explain and explain away Dick’s revelatory experience by some better neuroscientific story about the brain? Perhaps. But the problem is that each of these causal explanations misses the richness of the phenomena that Dick was trying to describe and also overlooks his unique means for describing them.

What I think is really interesting is that Dick described himself as a ‘fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist.’ Which is so Platonic it’s not funny. Western philosophers have been fictionalizing since forever. Plato made shit up. Or rather he made shit up about Socrates making shit up. The Republic, in which Plato formulates his theses for and against mimesis (representation) is hyper-mimetic, a performative dream of performing in an impossible world where men dream in caves and poets are the ultimate confidence men. Dick’s point is that philosophers make stuff up to prove their point.... to get at the truth. Which is what novelists try and do too.

William Gibson, in the recent and much hyped sci-fi edition of the New Yorker, talks about his own Golden age of Science Fiction, and the ‘otherness of [his] adolescence joining up with the wider tributary of literature, the mother of all otherness.’ The mother of otherness. I like that.

The zeitgeist was chewy with space-flavored nuggets, morsels of futuristic design, precursors of a Tomorrow whose confident glow was visible beyond the horizon of all that was less wonderful, provided one had eyes to see it.

Gibson’s article reminds me of the story, ‘The Gernsback Continuum,’ in Burning Crome, his 1995 collection that had a profound influence on me.

And Neil Gaiman, fresh from his lovely interview with Stephen King gives the mother of all commencement speeches to the University of Philadelphia Arts Class of 2012.

When things get tough. This is what you should do. Make. Good. Art. .... The moment when you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, showing too much of yourself... that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

And just in case the 'good art' bit had you stumped, here's some to chew on. Zombie vs Ninja, a story by Lee Williams at Smokelong Quarterly.

Desmond watches the telly and draws a cross over the face of anyone he would like to assassinate with a red marker pen. By lunchtime the whole screen is red and he is forced to guess at the presenters from their voices.

"Jonathan," he shouts. "Jonathan."

Finally, I was going to talk about the Georg Heym story, Dissection, in Anne and Jeff Vandemeer’s Weird Fiction Review. But that will have to wait until next week.

Moby Dick and me

I can’t believe I’ve lived without this book all this time. It is amazing. Hallucinatory and daring in a way that is impossible to conceive of now. Like, The Sermon chapter with father Maple. Woah! Truly freaky stuff. I know ‘freaky’ doesn’t say anything, but what I mean is off the charts, and what I mean by that is, well, staunch I guess. Unselfconscious and free and rigorous. And dreaming, always dreaming. Naked and dreaming.

‘Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hides to his bed, still reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the Roman race-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish, praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed and at last amid the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there’s naught to staunch it; so after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah’s prodigy of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.’

‘Prodigy of ponderous misery’? ‘Drags him drowning down to sleep’? Hacktastic, Herman!