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"He kisses my wrist, and I am an inferno."

Thanks for yesterday's comments. Let's see if we can do that again. I like to see Frank the Goat all smiling and happy.

Sunny, and warm (high of 84˚F forecast) here in Providence, and I should go to the sea. Instead, I'll write.

So, after I propose a book as the month's selection, and after I discover it's a steaming pile of pink giraffe dung, then people step forward to tell me that it was a baffling choice. Better yet, that my choice of Ryan's book led them to doubt my sanity and the very fabric of time and space. Helpful lot, you are. Anyway, so I officially decry The Forest of Hands and Teeth as the waste of a wonderful title and a lot of paper, and move along. Yes, you heard me. I am breaking with my neurosis and not even finishing it. And there will be no other choice for the "book club" this month. Me, I'm reading The Stand (the original 1978 text) for the first time since the 1980s. And this be a lesson to you all. Even aliens fuck up sometimes.

Seriously, how does someone get to be an adult-type person and have such a dopey, sugary view of the world as Carrie Ryan? How is it that their ideas of human relationships remain so firmly rooted in the ninth grade?

---

Yesterday, I wrote 1,349 words on Chapter Seven of Blood Oranges. Yes, I finished Chapter Six on Monday without having realized that I'd done so. I am approaching the book's climax. It's a very, very peculiar book. It's me taking a vacation. But, regardless, I can assure you that – whatever it might be – it's at least 1,000% better written than The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

---

I was very pleased to see this bit in John Clute's review (at Strange Horizons) of Ellen Datlow's Naked City:

And Caitlin R Kiernan's "The Colliers' Venus (1893)" (in a steampunk Denver here called Cherry Creek) is an engrossingly indirect narrative at the climax of which the eponymous figure—who is Gaia in bondage—turns to holy ash, which is coal dust that fills the lungs, which is to say she imprints us with our fate.

But the entire review should be read, as it speaks to the sad mess that has been made of the once respectable and promising label "urban fantasy." Seriously, if you value my fiction, or my opinion of fiction in general (the Carrie Ryan gaffe notwithstanding), you should read this whole review. But I will quote two passages:

"If it's the same story wherever it happens to be set," I wrote, "it isn't Urban Fantasy."

– and –

The best stories in both anthologies, being about our world, do not pretend to tell us that all will be well, that all things will be well if we listen, down to the last sweet-tooth detail, to the child inside. Paranormal romances told by sweeties no longer feed us joy or terror, not any more. They are yesterday's newspaper. If it is our fate to breathe dust, then let it be the dust of the world we live in.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes. Where have all our John Clute's gone?

---

So, as I was saying, casting about for something reliable to read last night, we settled on the original text of The Stand (1978). The 1990 revision/extension/updating, in my opinion, was mostly nonsensical and all but ruined the novel.* I'd actually wanted to read Shirley Jackson's The Sundial (1958), but couldn't find my copy anywhere (and fear it was lost on a move [dash] book purge). So, yes. The Stand. I was afraid we'd start, and this book I'd loved so much during my teens and early twenties that I read it pretty much once a year would have lost everything that made it dear to me. Kathryn and I re-read King's 'Salem's Lot back in 2004, and, frankly, I found it embarrassing. That is, I was embarrassed I'd ever admired that novel. Anyway...

Last night I was very pleasantly surprised to find that The Stand is still, to me, an enthralling, well-written book. Which means King's writing improved considerably between 'Salem's Lot and The Stand, between about 1973 and 1977 (approximate composition dates, not publication dates). I entirely stopped reading him after '89 and '90's supremely disappointing The Dark Half and the reworked edition of The Stand. For me, the high point had been Pet Sematary (1983), and I knew the party was ending when I read the atrociously bloated and silly It (1986). I've drifted off the point. So far, after the first five chapters and the first fifty pages, The Stand is what I remember it being. I'm just glad that I have a copy of the original text, and not the later, longer, and lesser edition.

And I should go. There's an impatient platypus.

An Old-School Urban Fantasy,
Aunt Beast

* Much like what Clute says about urban fantasy stories being about the places they're set in, and ceasing to be those stories if moved to a new place...a good novel is about its time, no matter how "timeless" the basic elements may be, and cannot simply be bumped ahead in time to make more money for publishers and authors. Just look at the mess that has been made of Lovecraft on film, because no one understands these are now period stories. Now, from here, The Stand is a story about the world thirty-one years ago (it's set in 1980).

Comments

( 58 comments — Have your say! )
pwtucker
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Hear hear for The Stand. At least, the first 2/3rds of it.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)

At least, the first 2/3rds of it.

It's that last third I truly love. It's amazing how the book can go from "horror" to Tolkienesque "fantasy" without missing a beat.

Edited at 2011-08-17 06:12 pm (UTC)
joshrupp
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
So, "Forest" has zombies in it, right? At least we're improving on the "Twilight" formula. Next, I'm looking forward to Twilight with mummies (to be titled "Wrap Songs"), Twilight with bunyips ("Down Under with Love"), and Twilight with The Great Cthulhu ("OH CHRIST YAAAARGH!").

Still, it's nice to see all the necrophiliacs finally coming out of the closet.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)

So, "Forest" has zombies in it, right? At least we're improving on the "Twilight" formula.

I don't know. Zombies have well and truly "jumped the shark," thanks to over exposure.

Still, it's nice to see all the necrophiliacs finally coming out of the closet.

Yes, indeed. Team Dead Guy!
ardentdelirium
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
I've only read the extended version of the Stand and I am rather fond of it, so I am curious now to read the original text.

Bag of Bones and Duma Key are two of my favorites of the more recent King novels (omitting Dark Tower, which I love all of to pieces even if the last 3 could stand some greater editing) because they are much closer to scary than much of his stuff (first time 'round, anyway--when I reread BoB after 1o years of being terrified of it, I found it much less creepy, despite not remembering a lot of the details. Haven't reread DK yet) but I have found that the really early King's aren't my thing, generally-I read a bunch of other, more recent King before I got to 'Salem's Lot and found it okay but kinda blah, certainly not scary (though I like it more now that it is slightly tied to DT)
fornikate
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
I adored Duma Key. I am quite fond of Lisey's Story, as well.
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cucumberseed
Aug. 17th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
I came of age during King's high times, so my first real imprinting on him was Tommyknockers and Misery. Yeah.

I vaguely remember that really liked the 1978 version of The Stand, but I recently tried reading the 1990 version and bailed in the beginning of Larry Underwood's section. Weird what will throw you out of a book, but, in this case, I remember that it was Larry's update from disco one-hit-wonder to Michael Boltonesque R&B balladeer (with the name of his one hit remaining constant) that made me realize there was nothing there I wanted.

Cell is the only one of his recent books I've enjoyed. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though.

It's probably a bad idea to want to write an isolated-post-apocalyptic-forest-community story out of sheer I-can-do-betterism. But there it is. Sitting like a nasty toad in the back of my mind.

And I do love toads...
greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)

I came of age during King's high times, so my first real imprinting on him was Tommyknockers and Misery. Yeah.

Ouch. The Tommyknockers is simply awful. Misery might have been good, had the last third not descended into unintentional comedy.

bailed in the beginning of Larry Underwood's section. Weird what will throw you out of a book, but, in this case, I remember that it was Larry's update from disco one-hit-wonder to Michael Boltonesque R&B balladeer (with the name of his one hit remaining constant) that made me realize there was nothing there I wanted.

Bingo. Times a lot.

And I do love toads...

Toads rule.
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greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)

Conflation of Author = Author's Work is a bit overreaching, I think. There's no evidence that CR actually believes one sappy word of what she's writing. Since her books are a (huge) commercial success and teenagers (and my nieces) gobble up every single thing she writes, she may be just a very savvy marketer who knows what will sell.

She may be. But being a savvy markerter does not a writer make. It's a rather cynical view. "This sells. I'll write this." It's one I've avoided time and time again, at my own peril.

I've had "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" on my shelf for a couple of years now. Never got around to reading it. Still looks new, too. *searches for Christmas wrap*

Only if it's a gift to an enemy.
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robyn_ma
Aug. 17th, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC)
'The 1990 revision/extension/updating, in my opinion, was mostly nonsensical and all but ruined the novel.'

Yeah. I might've said it before, but you're supposed to hear 'Don't Fear the Reaper' and 'Hotel California' in your head as you read. The novel emerges from a very specific late-'70s weltanschauung. Post-Vietnam, post-Nixon, high gas prices and malaise and the Ayatollah and Jim Jones and Romero's Dawn of the Dead. That's all in the book even if it isn't; everything that was in the air back then. Updating it to 1990 does less than nothing for it.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)

Agreed on all accounts.
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sovay
Aug. 17th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
"He kisses my wrist, and I am an inferno."

You could volunteer this book for Kirk Poland at next year's Readercon. You did say Eric asked you for bad prose.

Also, somebody in Blood Oranges should spontaneously combust from being kissed. Just saying.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)

You could volunteer this book for Kirk Poland at next year's Readercon.

This crossed my mind.

Also, somebody in Blood Oranges should spontaneously combust from being kissed. Just saying.

Actually...

Well, you'll see.
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mojave_wolf
Aug. 17th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with you on revised Stand. Despite which, I was going to read the revised "Gunslinger" until I read the author's note at the beginning. Okay, this was one of my two favorite books of his. He sounded like he kinda hated it, and had now made it "better" by making it more like later entries in The Dark Tower, none of which I liked nearly as much (except Wizard and Glass). So, bailed. Don't think I wanna know what the changes are.

My mildly humorous Lovecraft-on-film story--when someone once mentioned that all film adaptions of his were awful, I chimed in with "At the Mouth of Madness" as an exception. (You may hate this; we frequently have very different taste in film). So what if it had little to nothing to do with the original story, it was still great. Was quickly reminded that it was not at all based "At the Mountains of Madness", which was a whole different title. Still thought it did a nice job of capturing much of what I like about Lovecraft, and was very much in the vein of his stories (the ending, I suppoe, being arguably a departure in one sense)
greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)

I chimed in with "At the Mouth of Madness" as an exception.

A loathsome film. One of Carpenter's most embarrassing. It turns Lovecraft into grotesque comedy.
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ashlyme
Aug. 17th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
Um, *raises a hand*, it WAS atrociously bloated, but It was the only King novel I've enjoyed. My mum is the SK fan out of my family. I liked his short stories, but I was more into Ramsey Campbell.

*ducks to avoid controversy*

And yes, not enough Clute in the world.

greygirlbeast
Aug. 17th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)

Um, *raises a hand*, it WAS atrociously bloated, but It was the only King novel I've enjoyed.

The original text is long, but I wouldn't say bloated, as the "revised" text clearly is.

More importantly (and this was my point), the 1978 text isn't a seventies novel, a novel about the seventies, pretending to be a novel about the early nineties.

Maybe you have to have lived through the seventies to understand the importance of this distinction.
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ashlyme
Aug. 17th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
Btw, I think I may've phrased my first comment badly; talking about It rather than The Stand.
tsarina
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
I could recommend the creepy short stories of Norman Partridge's Lesser Demons, which I happen to be reading at the moment.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 18th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)

I'm very fond of some of his early stories, but as I drifted away from "horror" (and I truly did), he fell of my radar.
scott_lynch
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
The original version of The Stand just seems so utterly comfortable in its own skin. It presents a 1985-which-is-actually-1977 that works. It feels like a portrait of a time that King was energetically and perceptively keyed into, whereas the 1990 update leaves a distinct taste of floundering and disconnection... an unsuccessful attempt to transplant a specific tone and atmosphere into a zeitgeist no longer suitable for them.

It's so sloppy, too... Stu is pretty clearly a Vietnam veteran in the original text. The reference to his life "after the war" is left in the expanded text, unchanged, even though this would either a) significantly change his age or b) refer to some imaginary and therefore much less interesting war. And you have money and price references not updated... and Larry Underwood's music and life, which are absolutely spot on in imaginary-1977 and painfully wrong for imaginary-1990.



greygirlbeast
Aug. 18th, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)

Agreed on all counts. Except...

It presents a 1985-which-is-actually-1977 that works.

The original is set in 1980.
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opalblack
Aug. 18th, 2011 04:25 am (UTC)
Today I'm making chicken soup, writing, and shirking my responsibility to empty my stupid house and have a screaming match with the Real Estate Slag, who believes she is above the law. She has been stalking and harassing me, I'm seriously looking into serving an AVO on her.

Anyway, so I officially decry The Forest of Hands and Teeth as the waste of a wonderful title and a lot of paper, and move along.

It's a shame when a book lets you down like that. Yimephet insisted that I read the Percheron series by Fiona McIntosh, and I struggled though the laboured prose to find a basically solid story and some lovely worldbuilding. It had some excellent moments, and then the end was a complete abortion that actually made me angry.

Seriously, how does someone get to be an adult-type person and have such a dopey, sugary view of the world as Carrie Ryan? How is it that their ideas of human relationships remain so firmly rooted in the ninth grade?

I don't get it either. I vaguely suppose the saccharine romance thing is wish fulfilment & escapism; people know it's bullshit but they want it to be real, or at least within the realms of possible experience, even if only vicariously through a shitty shitty book.

Personally, it makes me want to punch a baby.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 18th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)

Personally, it makes me want to punch a baby.

This is how I feel when I wake up, just about any morning.
jessamyg
Aug. 19th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
I can't remember exactly when I was introduced to King, but it was probably in Night Shift, and I can still quite happily read much of his earlier novels, with favourites very probably being The Shining and Pet Sematary. The only one of his recent novels I've went back and reread is Duma Key, and I do find that much of his work now could really do with an editor sitting him down and asking whether he really wants to put out a book that is so bloated. His worst novel for me was either Cujo or Eyes of the Dragon.
( 58 comments — Have your say! )

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