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review 2017-10-29 02:06
BY BIZARRE HANDS Review
By Bizarre Hands - Lewis Shiner,Joe R. Lansdale

Wow! What a collection of stories. This was my first Lansdale, but it certainly won’t be my last.

 

This is grisly stuff. Blood, guts, sex with corpses. It’s all on full display here; Lansdale’s stories come with sharp edges and a dark, maniacal energy. Published in 1989, this book stands with the best horror of that era.

 

I must admit, however, there are a couple of stories that didn’t work for me — “The Fat Man and the Elephant” and “Fish Night,” mainly. I don’t think these are bad stories, really, I just found my attention wandering a bit while reading them. As for my favorite? Oh, I can’t choose.

 

This isn’t much of a review, and I apologize for that. Reviewing story collections is a little challenging, for me. Just pick this up if you’re a horror fan and don’t mind your scares to erring on the sacrilegious and violent side. A warning: the “N-word” is used frequently, though Lansdale does make it clear it is despicable people using that sort of language. And if necrophilia ain’t your thing, you might want to avoid this collection — that very topic is featured heavily in two stories.

 

Horror not for the faint of heart, these tales combine the emotional depth of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King and the unashamed graphic sensuality of Clive Barker and Poppy Z. Brite. I should have read Joe R. Lansdale long ago.

 

I’ve had a lot of luck lately — this is yet another 5-star read. Let’s hope that streak continues through the end of the month!

 

Read for ‘80s Horror’ in Halloween Bingo.

 

 

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text 2017-10-28 23:41
Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 242 pages.
By Bizarre Hands - Lewis Shiner,Joe R. Lansdale

Wow, this collection is pretty great! 

 

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text 2017-10-28 20:32
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 242 pages.
By Bizarre Hands - Lewis Shiner,Joe R. Lansdale

Reading for ‘80s Horror. 

 

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review 2017-04-18 21:23
A marmite collection of unique characters and stories.
Homesick for Another World: Stories - Ottessa Moshfegh

Thanks to NetGalley and to Vintage for offering me an ARC copy of this collection that I voluntarily chose to review.

I read Moshfegh’s novel Eileen (nominated for the Booker Prize, read my review here), admired it (perhaps liking it is not the right way to describe it) and I was curious to read more by the same author.  When I saw this book on offer I took the chance.

This collection of short-stories does reinforce some of the thoughts I had about Eileen. Ottessa Moshfegh can write, for sure. If the stories in this collection have anything in common, apart from the quality of the writing, is the type of characters. They all (or most) are lonely, only a few are likeable (they can all be liked, but that’s not what I mean) and easy to relate to, they often have disgusting habits (although I suspect that if our lives were put under a microscope and every last little detail was looked at and written down we might not look very pretty either), and are lost. The characters made me think of Sherwood Anderson and Flannery O’Connor (not the style of writing, though): those people who don’t seem to fit anywhere and are utterly peculiar, although many of the characters in the stories are only peculiar because we get a peep into their brains. One gets the sense that they would appear pretty normal from the outside. A man who lives alone at home, watching telly, and is friendly with the girl living next door. A Maths’ teacher, divorced, who might cheat on the students’ exams. A Yale graduate, who does not know what to do with his life, spends too much money on clothes and gets infatuated with a woman he only met briefly once. A couple of children, twins, telling each other stories. An aspiring actor who can’t get any acting jobs.

Of course, there are other things we discover. The man seems to have a strange interest in the girl next door. The Maths’ teacher drinks so much she keeps a sleeping bag at the school (well, it’s really a room in a church) so she can lie down between classes. The graduate has to sell his clothes in a desperate attempt to get the attention of the woman he is mad about. One of the twins is planning to kill a man. The aspiring actor doesn’t know who Scorsese is (or much about anything) and can’t even kiss a girl on camera. The author digs deep into the characters’ façade and pulls a distorted mirror to them, that like in caricature drawings, emphasises the weirdest characteristics rather than what might make them seem ‘normal’ because normal is a construct after all.

Not many of these stories would fit comfortably into standard definitions of what a short story is supposed to be like. If the author pushes the boundaries with her choice of characters and her descriptions (a lot of them have acne that they squeeze, they are sick or make themselves sick, their bodily functions are described in detail, and some are … well, let’s say ‘alternative’) she does the same with the stories. Quite a few of them seem to be slices of life rather than stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. There are some that have more of a conventional ending (even if it is open ended), but plenty do not and it is up to the reader to decide what, if anything, to make of them. If I had to choose and extract something from the stories (not a lesson as such, but a reflection of sorts) is that perhaps the only characters who end up in a better place or experiencing some sort of happiness (or contentment) are those who don’t try to live up to anybody’s expectations and accept what might appear to be strange alliances and relationships. But perhaps it is just that those are the stories that have stuck more in my head.

Reading the comments, this collection, much like Eileen, is a marmite book. Some people really love it and some hate it with a passion. As I said, the writing is excellent, but you’ll need to have a strong stomach and not mind detailed descriptions of bodily functions and less than flattering individuals (nobody is tall, dark and handsome here, although some characters believe they are). Although many of the stories might feel dispiriting and depressing, this depends on the point of view of the reader and there are very witty lines and funny (but dark) moments.

Here some examples:

‘Oh, okay, there were a few fine times. One day I went to the park and watched a squirrel run up a tree. A cloud flew around the sky.’

‘I had a thing about fat people. It was the same thing I had about skinny people: I hated their guts.’

‘Her face was pinched, as though she’d just smelled someone farting. It was that look of revulsion that awoke something in me. She made me want to be a better man.’

In sum, I wouldn’t dare to recommend this book to everybody, by a long stretch, but if you want to check great writing, have a strong stomach, and don’t mind strange and not always likeable characters and unconventional stories, dare to read on. It will be an utterly unique experience.

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review 2016-12-26 10:35
The Darwin Awards
The Darwin Awards: 180 Bizarre True Stories of How Dumb Humans Have Met Their Maker - Wendy Northcutt

Not much I can say about this one: it's a collection of Darwin award winners (and the honourable mentions) and their stories.  It's both hilarious and possibly a sad commentary on the advancement, or lack thereof, of common sense.

 

For anyone who might not be familiar with the Darwin Awards, they are given each year for:

significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an obviously stupid way. They are self-selected examples of the dangers inherent in a lack of common sense, and all human races, cultures, and socioeconomic groups are eligible to compete. Actual winners must meet the following criteria:

 

Reproduction
   Out of the gene pool: dead or sterile.
Excellence
   Astounding misapplication of judgment.
Self-Selection
   Cause one's own demise.
Maturity
   Capable of sound judgment. 
Veracity
   The event must be true.

 

(source: darwinawards.com/rules)

 

Always good for a chuckle!

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