The Grotesque by Patrick McGrath

Film only

Description: This exuberantly spooky novel, in which horror, repressed eroticism, and sulfurous social comedy intertwine like the vines in an overgrown English garden, is now a major motion picture, starring Alan Bates, Sting, and Theresa Russell

Horns by Joe Hill

bookshelves: e-book, tbr-busting-2014, halloween-2014, autumn-2014, published-2010

Read from October 18 to 27, 2014
nutty nuut

Description: Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge. . . . It’s time the devil had his due. . .

To Leonora - love, always.

Satan is one of us: so much more so than Adam or Eve.

Opening: Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He awoke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protruberances. he was so ill – wet eyed and weak – he didn’t think anything of it at first, was too hungover for thinking or worry.

In Ig’s case it is not just a mistranslation by an errant student:

34:29 And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation…

It tickled me that I was learning about the hornéd Antenocriticus, a god only found on Hadrian’s Wall, at the same time

Not to be confused with this guy: Joe Hill, born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund in Gävle, Sweden, and also known as Joseph Hillström (October 7, 1879 – November 19, 1915) was a Swedish-American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the “Wobblies”). A native Swedish speaker, he learned English during the early 1900s, while working various jobs from New York to San Francisco. Hill, as an immigrant worker frequently facing unemployment and underemployment, became a popular song writer and cartoonist for the radical union. His most famous songs include “The Preacher and the Slave” (also known as There’ll be Pie in the Sky By-and-By), “The Tramp”, “There is Power in a Union”, “The Rebel Girl”, and “Casey Jones—the Union Scab”, which express the harsh but combative life of itinerant workers, and call for workers to organize their efforts to improve conditions for working people.

Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, October 7, 1879. Gävle, Sweden

1* Heart-Shaped Box
2* Horns

William Golding: The Man Who Wrote “Lord Of The Flies

Description: In 1953, William Golding was a provincial schoolteacher writing books on his breaks, lunch hours and holidays. His work had been rejected by every major publisher—until an editor at Faber and Faber pulled his manuscript off the rejection pile. This was to become Lord of the Flies, a book that would sell in the millions and bring Golding worldwide recognition.

Golding went on to become one of the most popular and influential British authors to have emerged since World War II. He received the Booker Prize for the novel Rites of Passage in 1980, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. Stephen King has stated that the Castle Rock in Lord of the Flies continues to inspire him, so much so that he named his entertainment company after it and has placed the Golding novel prominently in his novels Hearts in Atlantis and Cujo. Golding has been called a British Vonnegut—disheveled and darkly humorous, perverse when it would have been easier to be bitter, bitter when it would have been easier to be lazy, sometimes more disturbing than he is palatable and above all fascinating beyond measure.

Yet despite the fame and acclaim, the renowned author saw himself as a monster—a reclusive depressive ruled by his fears and a man who battled alcoholism throughout his life. In addition to being a schoolteacher, Golding was a scientist, a sailor and a poet before becoming a bestselling author, and his embitterment and alienation, his family, the women in his past, along with his experiences in the war, inform his work. This is the first book to unpack the life and character of a man whose entire oeuvre dealt with the conflict between light and dark in the human soul, tracing the defects of society back to the defects of human nature itself.

Drawing almost entirely on materials that have never before been made public, John Carey sheds new light on Golding. Through his exclusive access to Golding’s family, Carey uses hundreds of letters, unpublished works and Golding’s intimate journals to draw a revelatory and definitive portrait. An acclaimed critic, Carey enriches crucially our appreciation of the literary work of Golding, bringing us, as the best literary biographies do, back to the books. And with equal parts lyricism and driving emotion, Carey brings to light a life that is extraordinary to the point of transcendent and a writer who trusted the imagination above all things.

1/5 The life and career of the publicity-shy, Nobel Prize-winning author.

2/5 Back teaching after his World War II service, the author makes a start on his first novels.

3/5 In 1961 Golding sails to America, where he contends with life as a celebrity.

4/5 Personal disasters take their toll, but his latest novel receives the ultimate accolade.

5/5 In 1983, in a maelstrom of controversy, Golding’s book earns global recognition.

As with all biographies one has to have at least a passing interest in the personality that is laid bare. This was deftly done and can recommend.

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

Random House UK, Vintage Publishing. Hogarth

Archive Date Feb 28 2015

Description: A quirky and unsettling tale, of dark humour and strange realities, about a bureaucrat, an open plan office and a secret room…

The Authority looks favourably upon meticulousness, efficiency and ambition. Bjorn has all of this in spades, but it’s only in the Room that he can really shine. Unfortunately, his colleagues see things differently. In fact, they don’t even see the Room at all.

The Room is a short, sharp and fiendish fable in the tradition of Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett and Charlie Kauffman. If you have ever toiled in an office, felt like the world was against you or questioned the nature of reality then this is the novel for you.


To Hanna

Opening: The first time I walked into the room I turned back almost at once. I was actually trying to find the toilet but got the wrong door. A musty smell hit me when I opened the door, but I don’t remember thinking much about it. I hadn’t actually noticed there was anything at all along this corridor leading to the lifts, apart from the toilets. Oh, I thought. A room.
I opened the door, then shut it. No more than that.

Yep, it is a hook.
‘Actually’ was used twice.
First person – the ‘I’ will give eye-ache.

This from my better half, the viking:

“The room, by Jonas Karlsson is one of the stories from a collection called “den perfekte vännen” which translated in to english means “the perfect friend”. Jonas Karlsson is indeed an actor, but to call him famous is strechting it a bit. He’s been in a lot of swedish productions, mainly childrens and stupid comedies. He was “Waltin” in the tv-miniseries about the killing of Olof Palme. it was called “the death of a pilgrim”. But famous?? Not in my opinion anyway…. but then I’m just me. Famous actor in Sweden today would have to be Stellan Skarsgård or one or two of his sons, or maybe Peter Stormare, now that’s a famous actor who plays a very nasty villain…
Jonas Karlsson is not the author of “the hundred year old man….” that was written by Jonas Jonasson…”

Absurdist existentialism along Kafkaesque lines probably sums this up about right. Enjoyable enough, and boy! does he get office behaviours bang on the money, however the drawn out fantasy passes its best-before date long before the punch-line is delivered. There is the scary thought that if Björn had been remotely more charismatic he would have turned into a tyrant quicker than you could snap your fingers and say an Alladin’s ‘abracadabra’.

As an aside, I was reading The Golem at the same time as The Room, about a room without a door that only opens every thirty-three years, which I preferred.

The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout

bookshelves: play-dramatisation, published-1975, western, under-500-ratings, autumn-2014, medical-eew, lifestyles-deathstyles, serial-killer, film-only, fradio

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from October 23 to 27, 2014

Description: Classic Western starring Brian Cox and Michelle Fairley. The Shootist is John Bernard Books, the last surviving top gunfighter in a vanishing American West. He rides into El Paso in the year 1901, to be told by a doctor that he has a terminal illness. As word spreads that the famous assassin has reached the end, an assortment of vultures gather to feast upon his corpse. Books outwits them all by selecting the where, when, and manner of his death.

Then we watched the film.

Revolution by Russell Brand

“I am the messiah…” Photograph: Matt Blease

The tongue-in-cheek abridged version is enough at this time, trust me.

Reading #1:
Reading #2:…

BBC attacked for inviting Russell Brand in to promote his book AGAIN… Philip Davies said BBC not there ‘to give idiots time to promote their book’


The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

bookshelves: women, war, glbt, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, britain-england, historical-fiction, wwii

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: gift from my husband
Read in April, 2009
** spoiler alert ** I’ve just finished The Irresistible Inheritance Of Wilberforce A Novel in Four Vintages which was a story told backwards, and have opened this to find it is also a story told backwards to end at it’s beginning. Coincidences never happen in ones do they?

Opening sentence 1947, chapter 1: So this, said Kay to herself, is the sort of person you’ve become: a person whose clocks and wrist-watches have stopped, and who tells the time, instead, by the particular kind of cripple arriving at her landlord’s door.

There is a paragraph on page 99 that explains the retrogradation employed in this tale:

‘I go to the cinema,’ says Kay; ‘there’s nothing funny about that. Sometimes I sit through the films twice over. Sometimes I go in half-way through, and watch the second half first. I almost prefer them that way – people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures.’

It was also a pertinent point (page 320) to have Helen reading Frenchman’s Creek where the synopsis of that book is:

The Restoration Court knows Lady Dona St Columb to be ripe for any folly, any outrage that will alter the tedium of her days. But there is another, secret Dona who longs for a life of honest love — and sweetness, even if it is spiced with danger. It is this Dona who flees the stews of London for remote Navron, looking for peace of mind in its solitary woods and hidden creeks. She finds there the passion her spirit craves — in the love of a daring pirate hunted by all Cornwall, a Frenchman who, like Dona, would gamble his life for a moment’s joy.

The Whispering Muse by Sjón, Victoria Cribb (Translation)

Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

Opening: I, Valdimar Haraldsson, was in my twenty seventh year when I embarked on the publication of a small journal devoted to my chief preoccupation, the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.

Thoughts on the opening: so, we have a elitist, narcissistic, dodgy narrator – I hope we get to witness the downfall of this Valdemort Valdimar.

Page 25: THAT MORNING the MS Elizabet Jung-Olsen had cruised into Fedafjord, one of those endless Norwegian fjords, and now lay moored in a small bay at the foot of a lofty mountain.

Page 32:

‘So the day the ship was deemed ready to launch, bright-eyed Athena descended to earth among the shipwrights and fitted in her prow a beam from the whispering oak of her father Zeus.’

As perceived by that opening declaration, Valimar cannot see beyond the mundane in the world, or higher than his own opinions, and misses something entirely wondrous. Like pearls before swine one of the greatest stories known to man unfolds before him, firsthand, via a shard of timber.

Oh, and those wanting a quick fix of Jason and the Argonauts, the full film is here.

Rating: five in the bullseye of fafnir

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

bookshelves: published-2011, autumn-2014, boo-scary, halloween-2014, tbr-busting-2014, fraudio, fantasy

Read from May 07, 2012 to October 19, 2014
rosado mp3

Description: Dean Koontz transcends all expectations as he takes readers on a gripping journey to a place where nightmare visions become real—and where a group of singular individuals hold the key to humanity’s destiny. Welcome to 77 Shadow Street.

Had this ‘onhold’ for so long I had to re-start from scratch.

This reads like a cross between House of Leaves and a Doctor Who episode where the Daleks are exhorting: “Exterminate! Exterminate!”

Baseline three star, supernaturally haunted-house fayre.