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,
* 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).