Archive for the ‘ Literature ’ Category

Bizarre Late Night Reading Material

Bizarre Cover Nov 2007One night, around 2am or so, we were stuck at Penn Station, waiting for our train. The homeless moved slowly and deliberately around us, and the drunk and slutty girls looked for safety in numbers. That was entertaining enough, but we had another good 30 minutes or so to kill. The magazine stand beckoned like the light at the end of a tunnel of boredom. We went straight to the back where they kept the porn.

The magazine that jumped out at us and which I finally bought for about $9 was called ‘Bizarre’ and it was. “Sexy Eel Fun” was promised inside and the Parental Advisory stamp cautioned against purchase by the easily offended.

By the time the train came to carry us home I was thoroughly engrossed reading about the man who raised wolves and fought them for the best parts of a dead carcass to show who was in charge. Next was the Death Dance of Bengal, a tiny little paragraph explaining the picture of a man holding a dead fetus with a belly bloated by the gases that accompany rot. Continue reading

Decomposing Bodies and the Ego that Tends Them

book jacketAccording to the book jacket, Dr. Bill Bass is a “pioneer in forensic anthropology, [he] created the world’s first laboratory dedicated to the study of human decomposition—three acres of land on a hillside in Tennessee where human bodies are left to the elements.” The wide array of data collected on the Body Farm, as this hillside was dubbed, has opened up hundreds of paths in the dense forest of cause-of-death investigations. New forensic specializations formed and grew at the Body Farm, from forensic entomology, forensic art, and forensic chemistry, to molecular anthropology.

Each chapter of Beyond the Body Farm, written by Dr. Bill Bass and journalist Jon Jefferson, addresses a different case, or aspect of a case, that Bass has personally worked on and solved. They are overwhelmingly murder cases, but accidental deaths are also examined. Bass begins each chapter with a brief discussion of the difficulties such an investigation would have faced without forensic anthropology’s research forays into just such a possibility, and several times, goes off onto a rather unrelated tangential anecdote, including topics so outside the scope of the book (such as his marriage) that the reader must stop, confused, and wonder why their time is being wasted. Typically his investigations require special experimentation and innovative approaches, which are invariably the most interesting parts. In this respect the book is very enlightening.Continue reading

I Am Legend: What Legends Are Made Of

For a movie review of I Am Legend, click here.

There are only a handful of writers that I can say write so well, that they inspire me to write, and Richard Matheson is certainly one of them. Without a doubt, I Am Legend is one of the most superbly written stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Thought provoking and full of surprising twists, my eyes were glued to the pages throughout the entire novella. Robert Neville is the last human on the planet, as a mysterious plague overwhelmed humanity, turning everyone into blood-lusting vampires. He hunts them throughout the day, but at night, Robert locks himself inside his fortified home, anxiously awaiting the morning sun while the vile demons roam around the house, taunting, stalking, and begging for him to come out. How long can Robert survive in a world no longer human, where the odds are sorely against him?

This is not your typical vampire saga. It’s a profound view on the human condition through the eyes of a normal man, and the changes he must endure while struggling with grief, loneliness, and disastrous circumstance.

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Ah, The Good Old Dangerous Days

Dangerous Book for Boys book jacket Do you often find yourself thinking back to when you were a child? When things seemed simple and there were no cell phones, laptops, and wireless…anything? Well, Conn and Hal Iggulden have thought back to those technologically innocent times and these brothers from across the pond decided to create a volume of knowledge for today’s youth which harkens back to this much simpler time.

Originally a best seller in England, The Dangerous Book for Boys was redeveloped for release in the United States. Slight changes, such as substituting The U.S. Constitution for British Patron Saints, were made to appeal to us Yanks. This volume contains a wealth of knowledge from varying fields such as science, literature, and history, but also more child specific information like how to play stick ball and marbles, and how to talk to girls. The Dangerous Book was written to satisfy some of that boyhood curiosity innate to all young lads that can’t be gratified by video games alone. Continue reading

Bad Monkeys, Good Monkeys

bad monkeys book jacketBad Monkeys, a novel written by Matt Ruff, is an insane Valium trip that’s a cross between 1984, Boondock Saints, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Sex, drugs, and conspiracy galore fill the pages with clever wit and surprises that will keep you turning till the very end.

Matt Ruff’s whimsical and satirical take on tactical espionage and “counter-evilism” is told through the Valium-popping, drug-happy Jane Charlotte, a decadent 36 year old woman who is a field operative for the mysterious “Bad Monkeys”, a subdivision of the much larger “Organization”. Having been arrested for murder, Jane was immediately placed in the loony ward to see Dr. Vale, who was called in to evaluate her outrageous story.

The story is written in the form of a dialogue, where Dr. Vale tape records the interview. Jane begins with a brief synopsis of the Bad Monkeys, a top secret organization not sanctioned by the government that dispatches agents to find and eliminate people that the Organization has dubbed “evil”. From there she briefly describes her years as a trouble-making teen, to her life as a drifter, and finally her time as a field operative for Bad Monkeys before her arrest, unwrapping the story through a series of flashbacks. The chapters are not terribly long, and Ruff’s mastery of dialogue makes this an easy book to read. Continue reading

So Twisted He’s Crooked

A crooked Little Vein book jacket

It’s hard not to see Spider Jerusalem when reading about the private detective Mike McGill in Warren Ellis’ debut novel, Crooked Little Vein. The book reads much like the Transmetropolitan comic, the graphics are simply replaced by explicit imagery of human depravity limited to words. The circumstances of the novel’s coming into this world are also suspiciously reminiscent of McGill’s alter ego’s state of affairs with a never-tiring editor hounding him for a book.

Aside from all the commonalities with the comic that made Ellis’ reputation, Crooked Little Vein certainly stands up on its own as a decadent and hyperbolic catalogue of perversities visited upon the (human) body and mind beginning with some fairly innocent lizard loving and continuing on into sexual needs requiring suffering of innocents. All this is tied together by McGill’s mission to retrieve the American Constitution. The one bound in hide of extraterrestrials with untold power within its pages.

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Graphic Novels That Will Suck You In

Comic books haven’t been simply comic for some time. In fact, if they were ever innocently funny, that was very quickly taken over by sex and violence and, of course, masked men who took tights much too seriously. So, comic book fans allot much bookshelf, or under-the-bed, or behind-the-couch space to the hundreds of issues that comprise story lines of their favorite superheroes and supervillains, or maybe horrible and gory murders, or whatever. Then, someone decided to bind a few issues of comics into one book, call it a graphic novel and deliver it to you via Amazon.com or whatever huge bookstore happened to be near you. And this is how comic books bridged that gap between your average caped fanatic and your basic bookstore browser too haughty or overwhelmed to enter a comic book store. From there several graphic novel canons were derived which sucked the average book reader into the world of beautiful illustrations and succinct dialogue.

So, if you were ever curious about the comic book world, like I was, the following five graphic novels can very easily become your gateway drug. At least that’s what they did for me, especially because they are (mostly) finite and I am not left forever wondering just what will happen next.

Transmetropolitan 1. Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis as drawn by Darick Robertson (a collection of 11 books): I am almost ashamed to say it, but I really haven’t picked up anything by this master until about a week ago. And I am completely hooked. The main character, Spider Jerusalem, is the perfect anti-hero in a post cyberpunk dystopic world. He is jaded, cynical, aging and quick to apocalyptic anger. He is not exactly a protector and he is not entirely a marauder; he is a journalist actively digging for the truth and trying to fulfill an infernal book contract. We meet him atop a mountain, naked, covered only by a mane of hair, holding a gun and surrounded by filth while screaming obscenities at a phone receiver and clutching his last 5 dollar bill. It is gory and hilarious. It also makes me ashamed as the horrible truths of the book are not that far off from what is truly happening in the world. Or could happen. Every page brings with it a new atrocity.

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