Friday, July 26, 2013

Daniel Wallace, Big Fish (1998)

Wallace, Daniel, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, Pandher Books, 1998
_____________, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, Algonquin Books, 2012 (pictured)

Rating: 5/10

Big Fish at Goodreads
Big Fish at IBList

For more Friday's Forgotten Boooks, please visit Todd Mason's blog.


With its minimal plotting and abundance of anecdote, Big Fish reads more like an extended character sketch than a full-fledged novel, in which narrator's father Edward Bloom overshadows every other aspect of the book, including the narrator himself. While character sketches can be rewarding, narrator William is so removed from the narrative, there only to tell us how absent his father was and simultaneously how much he loved him, that a novel about story-telling fails to produce a good story-teller.

Ironically, the narrator is presenting us with an absent father, while as a reader I found myself flipping through pages of an absent narrator, a voice informing me of his presence and surface identity, but otherwise removing himself from the narrative. While I enjoyed some of the anecdotes and found some of the situations interesting, I was unable to immerse myself in the overarching story-line. The narrator appears unsure as to how to present much of his material, either through his own semi-defined voice or in awkward attempts to usurp the voice of his masterful story-teller father.

The subtitle "A Novel of Mythic Proportions" is appropriate, since many of the stories are borrowed from myth. There are elements of Odysseus and Heracles interspersed, with both tremendous voyage and insurmountable task applied to various Bloom adventures. Bloom is driven by a seemingly higher purpose though it might not be the Olympian rulers. Rather than any god he is driven by a selfish and often childlike need to possess or to experience, to live under his own terms. A difficult character to like, and while I did not dislike him I was often left indifferent. I can admire Odysseus for his cunning, perseverance and pure love of Penelope; I can admire Heracles for his boundless feats and victories (though not for the rape). I cannot admire Bloom, though a unique eccentric, for his inverted existence and neglect of those around him, including those characters in his mythology, such as the abandoned swamp woman Jenny Hill.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bibliography: John Keefauver

Unique and relatively unknown author John Keefauver deserves a greater audience. I have attempted to collect bibliographical data. For any additional publications or to correct any data, please comment or email at casual.debiris@gmail.com.


Bibliography

  • "Special Handling," Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery. Ed. Alfred Hitchcock (Robert Arthur). New York: Random House, 1969.
  • "The Great Three-Month Super Supersonic Transport Stack-Up of 1999," Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Stay Awake By. Ed. Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Random House, 1971.
  • "How Henry J. Littlefinger Licked the Hippies' Scheme to Take Over the Country by Tossing Pot in Postage Stamp Glue," National Review, 22 October 1971; reprinted in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Be Read with the Door Locked. Ed. Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Random House, 1975.
  • "The Pile of Sand," 1971. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Be Read with the Lights On. Ed. Alfred Hitchcock (Harold Q,. Masur). New York: Random House, 1973.
  • "Scream!" The 15th Pan Book of Horror Stories. Ed. Herbert van Thal. London: Pan, 1974.
  • "The Chocolate Man," Eternity Science Fiction #4, February 1975.
  • "The Great White Southern Sardine," The National Review, 6 August 1976. 843
  • "Paste a Smile on a Wall," The Smith #15 (date?); Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Master's Choice. Ed. Alfred Hitchcock, New York: Random House, 1979.
  • "The Great Moveway Jam," Omni, March 1979. 71-75
  • "The Rocks That Moved," Omni, July 1979. 103; The Best of Omni Science Fiction #3. Eds. Ben Bova and Don Myrus. Omni Publication, Inc., 1982. 74-77
  • "The Jam," Sewanee Review, Vol. 88, No. 3, Summer 1980. 383-398
  • "Giant on the Beach," Omni, April 1980; The Best of Omni Science Fiction #4. Eds. Ben Bova and Don Myrus. Omni Publications Inc., 1982. 128-130
  • "Snow, Cobwebs, and Dust," Shadows 4. Ed. Charles L. Grant. New York: Doubleday, 1981; Shadows. Ed. Charles L. Grant. London: Headline, 1987. 167-170
  • "Body Ball," Omni, January 1981; The Best of Omni Science Fiction #5. Ed. Don Myrus. Omni Publications, Inc., 1983. 120-123
  • "Escape," Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July 1981. 74-79
  • "Cutliffe Starkvogel and the Bears Who Liked TV," The Best of the West. Ed. Joe R. Landsdale. New York: Doubleday, December 1986. 52-58
  • "Kill for Me," Masques III. Ed. J.N. Williamson. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; Fleshcreeper: Startling New Works of Horror and the Supernatural. Ed. J.N. Williamson. Robson Books, 1990; Darker Masques, Ed. J.N. Williamson. New York: Pinnacle Books, 2002. 272-278
  • "Uncle Harry's Flying Saucer Swimming Pool," The New Frontier: The Best of Today's Western Fiction. Ed. Joe R. Lansdale. New York: Doubleday, 1989. 29-33
  • "Dead Voices Live," Dark at Heart. Eds. Joe R. Lansdale and Karen Lansdale. Arlington Heights, IL: Dark Harvest, 1992.
  • The Three-Day Traffic Jam. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Adults, 1992.
  • "The Tree," Manoa, Vol. 9, No. 2, Century of Dreams: New Writing from the Philippines, Winter 1997. 86-90


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A.W. Gifford & Jennifer Gifford, eds., For All Eternity, 2012

Gifford, A.W & Jennifer L. Gifford, eds., For All Eternity: Tales of the Seven Deadly Sins, Grayson, GA: Dark Opus Press, 2012

Bete Noir Magazine's webpage
Interior artwork by Chaz Kemp
Cover art by A. W. Gifford

Rating: 5/10

Publishers of Bete Noir Magazine released their second anthology last year, a small seventy-eight-pager featuring seven stories, each representing one of the cardinal sins. The concept has been put to use for the anthology in the past, and I even recall a popular US magazine contest many years ago employing the theme for a vast monetary reward and selected a gluttony tale as its winner. For All Eternity generally relies on genre tales, fantasy with elements of horror, to tell of situations featuring each sin. A good quick read overall, there were two stories I simply did not like, though I was pleased to see that the book did not discriminate and included a non-genre story which is among my favourites.

Overall there is good variety in approach, setting (time and space) and interpretations of each sin, some more straightforward than others. My two favourite sins as per the anthology are wrath and pride.


A Fragment of Shadow by Renee Carter Hall. 5/10

Glass blower Giuliano inadvertently infuses his latest glass pieces with the searing envy he's been nurturing toward successful rival Silvio. The glass turns black and beautiful, unique as well as deadly. An interesting idea. I particularly liked that Giuliano is an average "good guy" victimized by a natural deep-rooted feeling. Though I did not care for the personification of his feeling as some kind of demon.


Zion by Michael Beers. 5/10

Prophet Propet tries to convince the starving populace to enter the yellow ships and sail to the planet Zion, where they can achieve freedom from consumerism and other gluttonous desires. A missed opportunity as some good satire is impaired by familiar territory, unnecessary pathos and too many typos.


Hearts of Gold by Die Booth. 6/10

Walter de Aurum (aurum being Latin for gold) purchases a vial of vengeance from local witch Mother Pellar (pellar being a kind of English conjurer) and later not only refuses to pay, but has the nerve to disrespect the woman in public. Being a prideful witch (the story encapsulates the sin of greed; pride is still to come), she curses the man. Author Booth continues to delve in his interest in classic horror themes and tropes, and hence "Hearts of Gold" is familiar ground, though a good quick read with a nice ambiguous finish. I had trouble only in believing that de Aurum, clearly made out to be not of the superstitious ilk, would visit a pellar witch. A more traditional tale of the likes of Le Fanu or M. R. James would have addressed this apparent character flaw, but then again those tales tended often to be quite lengthier with considerable build-up and characterization. Otherwise good but for some ineffective similes.


Lecherous by Marten Hoyle. 3/10

Speaking of ineffective similes... "Lecherous" deals with a gay man telling of an online hookup incident that has cured him of seeking hookups online. Unfortunately there are no surprises and little of interest in this piece. Admittedly, however, I'vegained respect for its author via the brief candid author profile at the story's end.


The Corpse Road by Christian Larsen. 6/10

A hundred years after the start of the American Civil War, The Twilight Zone aired its semi-known episode "The Passersby," featuring a Confederate sergeant portrayed by likeable character actor James Gregory stopping on a dusty road as soldiers continue to file by. Given how predictable (by today's standards, at least) the episode is, I'm not really spoiling anything (spoiler alert!) by letting you know that the people passing by, those "passersby" of the title, are victims of the war.

In Larsen's take we find a soldier named Judson holed up in a roadside shop as men and women file by along "The Corpse Road." Our hero and readers are aware early on that the passersby here are dead, making their way west where hell resides. Judson discovers that while he cannot march east, he can actually stop and remain in the limbo of the road, which he has chosen to do. Here he can wonder why he, the good God-fearing man that he is, is directed west rather than the heavenly east. A good rendition of pride, particularly since in the classical Christian sense hubris was associated with the belief of one's self in relation to heaven, the cardinal sin implying that man has no right to place himself on a similar plane with God. Also a good alternate take on The Twilight Zone idea, with some good
, steady prose. I wonder only at the advanced damage to these corpses, and wonder how the legless would make the journey either east or west. In "The Passersby" victims marched the road with bodies intact.


Deadweight by Ken MacGregor. 3/10

Gregory Simmons is content to collect his worker's compensation earnings and waste his existence on take-out and a video game called Gods of Kromm. Unfortunately he is so disassociated from the world around him that he is unaware the building he is living in has been condemned and that the demolition crew is approaching. The story unfolds as you would expect, yet not too believably. I'm quite certain the municipality or demolition company would make damn sure no one was living in the building prior to letting loose the wrecking ball, not because they care so much but imagine the lawsuit and terrible public image. Moreover, if the building is being torn down there would be no electricity, so unless that video game is a figment of poor Gregory's imagination, then the wrecking ball is a figment of the author's. Double moreover, no restaurant would deliver to a building with a condemned notice on its front door, doors which should be barred to the public. Perhaps Simmons himself lives somewhere where such rules don't apply, perhaps in Kromm itself.


Mauschwitz by Brandon French. 6/10

The only non-genre story in the bunch, the title (seemingly borrowed from Art Spiegelman) refers to a tyrannical executive hovering over a team of marketing specialists over the re-release of some Walt Disney classics. Told through the point of view of wrathful Dani Lauer, the story deals with a woman who comes to terms with a part of herself through the death of a seemingly hateful man. Written with a combination of light humour and fervent energy, I was surprised when the story grew beyond its limitations to achieve something pertinent. I also like that the Disney universe is imbued with the hateful and the wrathful, imbibers and cynics, and only hoping that the Disney Corporation does not take out a lawsuit.




Testing a new map (as of 24 December 2015)