22 December 2011

fantastic, meretricious, and a happy new year

Tomorrow I am flying to my beloved Washington! What should I read on my 6 hour flight? This, this, or this?

I should perhaps mention that I already feel weird about being seen with The Whisperer in Darkness on the subway, so maybe reading it on a plane is a bad idea? I mean, just look at this cover:

No one sane would read a book with that cover. Mind, I would prefer a gripping yarn to drown out the inevitable wailing child or irritating buffoon. Lovecraft has been called a great many things but "gripping" is not one of them. Also I would like to temper the suffocating tedium of long flights. Sometimes I feel suffocated by the tedium of just reading one of Lovecraft's endless, meandering sentences. Par example, this gem of a paragraph:

"Our museum was a blasphemous, unthinkable place, where with the satanic taste of neurotic virtuosi we had assembled a universe of terror and decay to excite jaded sensibilities. It was a secret room, far, far underground; where huge winged daemons carven of basalt and onyx vomited from wide grinning mouths weird green and orange light, and hidden pneumatic pipes ruffled into kaleidoscopic dances of death the lines of red charnel things hand in hand woven in voluminous black hangings. Through these pipes came at will the odours our moods most craved; sometimes the scent of pale funeral lilies; sometimes the narcotic incense of imagined Eastern shrines of the kingly dead, and sometimes--how I shudder to recall it!--the frightful, soul-upheaving stenches of the uncovered grave."

Do you think you have crammed enough adjectives in there, eh Howard?

Also, Lovecraft is not precisely the thing to read when you would like to stifle irrational fears. I am scared of many things, including:

1. Flight itself. WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?? Science blah blah but it still feels viscerally wrong to me. Especially landing. I hate landing. The stomach-ripped-through-your-throat feeling. 
2. The possibility that someone will have a rare and virulent strain of tuberculosis and infect us all and thus the world descends into some sort of vaguely apocalyptic scenario. 
3. The less likely but equally horrifying X-Files scenario wherein aliens attempt to intercept our plane, which in turn either leads us all to (a) being abducted and subjected to gruesome experimentation or (b) death by plane crash, which the government will try to conceal, the only evidence of our strange encounter the few minutes' discrepancy on our watches that infallibly point to the LOST TIME associated with UFO interference. (Another thing I don't understand: SPACETIME.)

I probably should have planned ahead and picked up some popular science work (that maybe explains flight or spacetime). Or Death Comes to Pemberley or something. Sigh.

Also, I have approximately a BAZILLION cookies left over from holiday cookie swaps, etc, and I realized that I should probably eat them all before I leave. COOKIE EATING EXTRAVAGANZA. By myself. P.S. They are stale. I may or may not have just stuffed five gingerbread cookies down my gullet in the last two minutes alone. I AM A PROPER ADULT.

Quality post, this.

18 December 2011

would have changed everything

This is, as JK Rowling herself says, a “Very early page of Philosopher’s Stone written around 1991 and showing plot-line that was abandoned. Would have changed everything!”

15 December 2011

thursday micellany

Remember when I used to compile these "miscellany" posts where I gathered together random things I found interesting? And most likely no one cared about any of it? WELL I'M BRINGING THEM BACK. Because what's more fun than sharing things you love with people you love?

I. The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe. After the heartbreak of the last season, I long for a hopeful Christmas episode.

II. Theodora Goss--author of In The Forest of Forgetting, an obscure but very, very enjoyable collection of stories--recently wrote about her experience reading China Miéville's wonderful, hilariously erudite essay "M.R. James and the Quantum Vampire: Weird; Hauntological: Versus and/or and and/or or?" Not being in school any more, I found that reading both the blog and the original essay was like feasting upon a scrumptious selection of pastries. Both are writers and academics, frightfully brilliant and engaging. If you like fairy tales, you should check out Theodora Goss. If you're into HP Lovecraft, check out China Miéville. Or if, like me, you like to bridge many interests, be brave and have a gander at both. (There are a fair few interviews with Miéville on YouTube that are interesting. And Goss's blog is rather good. And her stories are extraordinary, especially "The Wings of Meister Wilhelm.")

III. Speaking of smart people, the Guardian has an interview with Umberto Eco. He talks about conspiracies, Berlusconi, his new book, and the lingering success of his most famous book. FASCINATING!
"I have always had a narrative impulse," he says. "I wrote stories and beginnings of novels at the age of 10 or 12. I then satisfied my taste for narrative by writing essays. All my researches have the structure of a whodunit." One of his professors pointed out that even his doctoral thesis on Thomas Aquinas had that structure, with the conclusion teasingly arrived at after a long process of divination. "I recognised he was right, and that I was right, and that research must be done this way. I satisfied my narrative impulse when my kids were small by telling them stories, and then when they were grown up I felt the need to write fiction. It happened to me as it happens to people when they fall in love. 'Why did you fall in love that day, that month, with that person? Are you crazy? Why?' You don't know. It happens."
IV. And for something that requires no brain effort at all... Rainymood.com provides welcome white noise for the rain-bereft Washingtonian in exile. Genius.

13 December 2011

turn it pure

"The Exhibit" by Lisel Mueller
 Mueller's poems are exquisite and hopeful yet so terribly sad. I might just have to post more of them because I finished reading her collection Alive Together and I don't want it to be over.

12 December 2011


Belatedly, a link! Go read this, an excellent post about the application of Freud's theory of the uncanny to Mark Z. Danielewski's weird, extraordinary novel House of Leaves. Two things that I love and you should love, too.

"I am really surprised that such an over-elaborate 'meta po-po-pomo novel or whatever' can actually succeed in being so fucking scary. The structural/textual/narratorial experimentation is actually making it like 100 times more claustrophobic and horrible than if it were just a straight novel. I’ve already had a couple nightmares about it."

YES. I remember reading House of Leaves while alone in someone else's house. I had become utterly absorbed in the tale, until, at one point, I heard a noise, looked up, and realized that night had fallen. I was just sitting there in the dark in a strange house, hearing strange noises. I was terrified. It's remarkable when a work of fiction can weave such a spell.

And, as you will know if you've been with me for a while, I am quite fond of Freud (ashamedly), and his essay on the Uncanny especially. (Also, what a GREAT cover. Though I usually can't stand the surrealists, Max Ernst's bird-lady paintings are amazing.)

GalleyCat recently reported that Mark Z. Danielewski landed a book deal for another serialized novel. If you remember, House of Leaves was originally published online in serial form, to great and wondrous effect. Now, of course, you can purchase the printed copy, which is well worth your $20.

11 December 2011

with the hunger of lions

Dear ---------,

Time to resuscitate this damn thing.

First, let me give you an update on my life. The past few months have been tumultuous, agonizing, dispiriting, and heart-rending. I moved to New York. I signed a lease. I have a job. It looks like I'll be staying here for a while.

It breaks my heart to be on the wrong coast in a grimy, loud, hive-like, monstrous city. Far from family and friends and the landscape of my soul. I cannot see my beloved evergreens, the purple mountains. I miss the rain.

After months of moving about, staying in dorms, subletting in a horror of an apartment, couch surfing, we finally found a place to call our own. We have no furniture except a small bookshelf, a card table, and a few fold-up metal chairs, and we sleep on $15 air mattresses, but we are young and there is a roof over our heads and the radiator works like a beast. I have a job. I have a salary and a place to go every day. With paychecks, I can stop living off beans and lentils and actually buy fancy cheeses again, teas and chocolate, nuts and yogurts, blissful foods that do my soul good.

The long and the short of it is, my life is stabilizing again. I was not prepared for the upheaval that was this summer. I'm feeling more like myself. My energy isn't going solely into figuring out how to wedge myself into this new life, like a square peg in a round hole. So I think I might finally be in a place where I can share again. If there's anyone still out there listening?

I am yours &c,
Katie Bear

26 October 2011