By Mandy McGee
I just wanted to let you all know that our staff writer, Morgue Anne, has a youtube channel where she talks about books once a month. Here is the latest one she posted. It is a live google hangout. Watch, Like and subscribe.
By Morgue Anne
Valentines day is fast approaching and…wait, it’s tomorrow? SHITBALLS! Alright, everyone. Don’t panic. We can do this. Even though we’re poor, even though the television tells us we are failures in our relationships if we don’t give/receive a buttload of shiny diamonds. Here’s some heartfelt Valentine’s you can get for less than a roll of quarters.
By Mandy McGee
“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”-The Bell Jar
It has been 50 years since Sylvia Plath took her life. I read a bunch of blog posts yesterday about it and it took me back to when I first discovered her work. I was 16, sitting in the library near my house, and I was supposed to be studying for a test. Instead I was looking through the poetry section and sitting on the floor in the middle of the isle, too lazy to go back to my table, I started paging through. The first poem I stopped on was “Firesong,” which became my favourite poem.
"Born green we were
to this flawed garden,
but in speckled thickets, warted as a toad,
spitefully skulks our warden,
fixing his snare
which hauls down buck, cock, trout, till all most fair
is tricked to faulter in split blood.
Now our whole task’s to hack
some angel-shape worth wearing
from his crabbed midden where all’s wrought so awry
that no straight inquiring could unlock
shrewd catch silting our each bright act back
to unmade mud cloaked by sour sky.
Sweet salts warped stem
of weeds we tackle towards way’s rank ending;
scorched by red sun
we heft globed flint, racked in veins’ barbed bindings;
brave love, dream
not of staunching such strict flame, but come,
lean to my wound; burn on, burn on.”
That grabbed me and I couldn’t stop reading. Shortly after starting to read her poems I searched for more of her stuff. I found “The Bell Jar” and it felt like there was actually someone in the world that knew what it was like to be lost and depressed.
“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”
This quote is something I started to live by. I was constantly disappointed by those around me. If I just expected it or accepted that this is what my life is, I would not be disappointed or surprised when bad things happened.
After reading up more on Path and her life I found the book “Letters Home.” It was like reading about myself. At the time I had been cutting for about 5 years and my thoughts of suicide consumed me. I won’t go into detail (that’s for another day, a different blog) but she made me feel like it was ok to feel that way. I have been battling depression for as long as I can remember; I still have my good days and my very bad days. I learned to live with what she couldn’t.
If she were alive today I would hope she would grow and learn that it is ok to have those feelings but learn to not let them consume her.
My second favourite poem is “Edge.”
"The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.”
By Morgue Anne
Why is the Penis Shaped Like That is probably not a book I would recommend to read on the bus, or any other form of public-transportation, really. Yes, you could point to the “Scientific American” on the spine and reassure everyone giving you funny looks that it is, in fact, a collection of legitimate scientific studies about…weird and fun sex stuff. Or you could buy it for kindle and save yourself the embarrassment of only reading this particular book in the privacy of your own home. Or you could just not give a rat’s ass, because if you’re reading Why is the Penis Shaped Like That then you probably are not someone who’s overly concerned with grandmother’s giving you disapproving glances on the subway.
Let’s be honest - why wouldn’t you want to read a book with this title? If you have any inkling of something resembling a sexuality, you’ve probably had some questions over the years that your high school health class, church group, or grabby uncle just never got around to answering for you, most likely because they didn’t know. Jesse Bering dives into everything from the purpose of the female orgasm to the neurology of people who are sexually attracted to animals and evolution of bodily fluids, leaving no stone unturned in his search for answers.
Bering does a fantastic job of bringing his own voice to each essay while also staying fairly objective in a celebration of science at it’s best. While most people stop searching for answers as soon as they’re uncomfortable, Bering makes a point to dive even further and look at things from an objective viewpoint. This attitude may frighten a lot of people away, but consider that the more we understand something the better equipped we are to handle instances such as pedophilia. There is a lot of stuff in there discussing “vanilla” sex as well, such as the title essay and a few other pieces concerning male and female genitalia (with one of my personal favorites on the psycho-therapeutic aspects of semen). This is guaranteed to be a fantastic ice-breaker with all the strange information you will gain. I can’t count how many conversations I started with “So I’m reading this book about strange sexual studies…” and then went on to tell someone about foot fetishists. Or female ejaculation. Or the different scientific terms for blow jobs.
This is not a book I recommend to someone without a sense of humor, or anyone who is unable to get past the ‘ew ew ew’ part of their brain and take a look at something that might make them a little uncomfortable. This is for the curious, the scientist inside all of us who takes a look at the world around and wonders “Why?”. If you are still hesitant, consider this - if a gay man can suck it up and write an entire section of his book on vaginas for the sake of being fair and balanced, you can give Why is the Penis Shaped Like That a chance.
By Morgue Anne
Tina Fey may be a genius, and Amy Pohler will get my vote for president every election for the rest of life, but Caitlin Moran is my soul-sister. After reading her second book, Moranthology, I can imagine perfectly the two of us lounging on a couch, bleaching each other’s (copy-written) hair and trading stories about the effects of marijuana on various creatures in the animal kingdom. But only during the commercial breaks, because one simply does not talk during Sherlock. I feel like Caitlin (Yes, I’m calling her by her first name now) wouldn’t judge me for my fuzzy skull pajamas or my weird, crazy ideas about feminism not being just for women. I know, after reading only one of her books, that we would be best friends. That’s how much of herself Caitlin puts into this aptly titled Moranthology. Much like the author herself, Moranthology is quirky, passionate, and unflinchingly honest. Reading really did make me feel like I was sitting on a best friend’s couch, being way too caffeinated and sharing everything from our most embarrassing celebrity interview moments to views on womanhood. Let it be known that Moranthology is one of the few books in existence to actually make me laugh out loud (your move, David Sedaris). Caitlin’s energy jumps off every page and leaps from every word. With short chapters taken from her column in the Times of London, this is the perfect throw-in-your-purse and read it on the bus/in line at the post office/anywhere book. Just make sure you’re somewhere where it’s ok for you to frequently burst out in snorts of laughter, because there will be plenty of that. Just relax and enjoy it, because Caitlin Moran will go down in history as one or the revolutionarys of womanhood in our modern era, the Funny Girl. The women who refuse to out on pants on Sundays, who will never apologize for being ‘one of the dudes’ but will insist that all her dude friends shower regularly. I really, really hope this trend of intelligent, hilarious women takes more hold in our pop culture. God knows we could use a few more minds like my new friend Caitlin’s, and probably a few less like the Kardashians (or whoever’s popular and stupid nowadays). Although something tells me the significant others of the world won’t be too pleased when Caitlin’s “ask them something ridiculously important right as they drift to sleep” trend takes hold.
Written by Morgue Anne
"It’s Raining Books!” was the tag-line for the 2012 Northwest Book Fest, held in Peter Kirk Park in Kirkland, WA, although those who came found more of a heavy drizzle. While the website boasted an impressive list of authors to appear, when I arrived at the park this past Saturday I was disappointed to find only a small clustering of white tents with authors and small publishers next to another grouping of tables for children’s activities.
I walked around the event at least twice and spoke to at least one person at each booth, and what I discovered was the same burning passion I have seen time and time again in every artist and maker. That’s when I realized that the Northwest Book Festival wasn’t a disappointment, it just wasn’t fully formed.
The official book shop was packed with an impressive collection of YA novels, housed just past a large traditional puppet theater with artfully crafted marionettes and hand-puppets. Further still inside the Kirkland Teen Union Building was a stage set with several older women, discussing their varied methods for outlining a story as well as reasons to skip the outline and dive right in. The Book Fair was small in itself, I doubt that many of the authors who came to present made back the $300 they spent for the space, but the heart was there. At one table, four women excitedly told me why they loved Jane Austen and how she had inspired each of their own stories before handing me business cards with QR codes to purchase the kindle editions. A lady just across from them patiently showed me her unique method of creating bookmarks and the countless charms and designs I could potentially use to customize my own. The one purchase I made in the day was from a small printing company who had an impressive collection of local history and knowledge, ranging from true crime to holiday trivia (I picked up a book on Halloween).
I did not stay long at the event, for the most part because I was able to see everything in such a short time, but I wish I had. In an age where literature is pushed more and more into the digital, it’s important to remember that there are people behind the words we read. Authors toil over their work just as painters do theirs, and so long as the support of the people is wavering, we will continue to see books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey praised while the true gems are hidden away in book fairs no one goes to.
The downfall of the Northwest Book Festival is also it’s charm - there is no reason not to go to a free event that does not take up a large amount of time and will not only make your life better, but improve an author, a publisher, or even just a fellow reader. Bring your children to the puppet theater, buy a book directly from the person who wrote it, stay a while and listen to a speaker and let yourself be inspired to perhaps create your own work of art on paper (or e-reader screen) to display in the coming years. I will not only continue to support this event I think is so important to our community, next year I will return with as many people as I can find and even suggest it to a few of my author friends (Permuted Press, I’m looking at you) to turn this light drizzle of books into a true Seattle downpour.
Check out more about the bookfest at http://nwbookfest.com/
Written by Morgue Anne
I should start off my review of Jimmy by William Malmborg by saying that this is not for the faint of heart. There are some extreme and graphic scenes of violence that many people will find upsetting and I am sure that more than a few people will start this book and set it down after the first few chapters. Those people will be missing out. Those like Malmborg who understand that everyone’s mind has these dark corners and the purpose of art, particularly fictional writing, is for many to express that in a healthy way will enjoy and hopefully really appreciate this book for what it is. Jimmy is an escape from reality that can be safe, sane, and consensual while still being intensely frightening.
For Jimmy, the title character of Malmborg’s novel, this distinction is not so clear. Trapped in that terrible in-between of adulthood and adolescence, Jimmy is further cursed with an unquenchable desire he simply can’t shake.
Too embarrassed to even talk to anyone, Jimmy dives deeper in the world of online porn. Malmborg does a fantastic job of not harping on pornography and showing that it’s the lack of knowledge and real-world context that does the real damage. As Jimmy’s fetish takes a turn towards obsession, he starts doing more and more to satisfy himself until he can take it no more and kidnaps a girl from his school.
This novel is definitely deeper than it seems at first glance, so don’t disregard this as a shock-value book. It would have been far too easy to turn this into an erotic novel and be a more extreme erotica, and I appreciate that while this is easily one of the most fucked up books I’ve read in a while, it’s also incredibly well written. Jimmy goes on a very real journey and knows that many of the choices he makes on the way to adulthood are wrong even as he can’t stop himself from making them. He is frighteningly real - I was kind of the weird kid, and I know we all knew at least one person in high school who just didn’t fit in with everyone else. The tragedy is, of course, that Jimmy makes such terrible choices and the effect that this has on the people around him, proving that while every teenager makes dumb decisions, they can still scorch the earth around you forever.
This is a different kind of horror that I found exciting and terrifying. Jimmy Hawthorne is the scariest villain of all because he’s a human being. He learns lessons and actually grows on you as a character heartbeats after revolting you. If you are someone who understands that you can be both a monster and a human being, or if you can enjoy a good psychology-meets-true crime, this is your book. If you are not comfortable with the idea of violence, or if maybe you need your violence to be a little more abstract, avoid this. Or better yet, protest it. This is a book deserving of more attention.
Written by Morgue Anne
Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife by E.E. King is not for people who believe that their religion is ‘the one true faith’. It’s not for people who think that books about religion can’t be funny, and it’s certainly not for people who can’t laugh about something and still take it seriously. If you are one of the few remaining people in the world who has a funny bone remaining in your body, or if your favorite South Park episodes are the ones that tell you the history of Scientology or Mormons than I can’t recommend this book enough.
Dirk Quigby is an average guy. So average, in fact, that it’s almost boring. He has an office job, no girlfriend, no real religious affiliation. He just sort of…is. That is until he accepts an offer from the Devil to travel to all the different afterlives and write a travel guide (Think ‘Handbook for the Recently Deceased’ meets ‘Not for Tourists’). Given a “Press Pass” of sorts implanted into his retinas, Dirk is taken through each of the hundreds of thousands of afterlives – heavens, hells, purgatorys, and worlds that can only be described as “other” – and gives a 5-star rating system for things such as Perks, Food, Drink, Music, Accommodations, and Entry Requirements to each. This is about when his life starts to turn around – being magically sucked into hoses, beer bottles, and hair dryers, Dirk gains a little self confidence, an angel of a girlfriend, and a whole lot of all-expense paid vacations to exotic locals.
It’s clear that E.E. King did a fair bit of research for his novel, and it may trick you into learning a thing or two about other religions. I found it really interesting that Rastafari condemns the drinking of milk, coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks, and will reach no end of amusement telling that to the next crowd of teenagers of obvious Irish decent who proudly wear their red, yellow, and black hats on their heads and carry a starbucks cup in their hand. There’s a lot of other amusing and useful information, and unless you’re a serious scholar you are bound to learn something.
There are moments reading ‘Guide to the Afterlife’ when you wish it was just that – a humorous guide to various afterlives without this whole Dirk Quigby character. But then he grows on you, and you find yourself wondering what he’s going to do next, what will happen with his girlfriend and his boss (who really is the Devil) when he ends up in the next life after death. I still wish the guide entries were longer, but it didn’t take long for me to enjoy the story. By the end (which I won’t give away), everything fell together like a big karmic puzzle from God.
This is a great book for anyone who wants a crash-course in world religions but doesn’t want to be bored about it. E.E. King does a fantastic job making the reader laugh as well as learn, and gives us a guide I think everyone should read in order to help find out what afterlife is right for you.
Written by Morgue Anne
The Undead Situation by Eloise J Knapp is very similar to the 1949 classic post-apocalyptic novel in that our main character is almost unaffected by the downfall of society. Cyrus V. Sinclair (the V stands for a Variety of Awesome) has been capable of surviving on his own long before the zombie apocalypse, and does just as well after the dead start to rise. He is so stagnant in his life that it takes a while in the book before you even realize this is a male character. This is before Gabe falls into his life while trying to escape from an oncoming horde, and naturally this throws a huge wrench in Cyrus’ bachelor life style. Despite being polar opposites, they decide to venture out together and see if they can find Frank, Cyrus’ only friend and a fellow survivalist who lives in a cabin somewhere in the wild lands of Washington.
The characters of The Undead Situation are admittedly stereotypical in how emotionally cut off they are, but all of the humor in this otherwise serious book is that they are aware of it, and even call each other out in their behavior. Oddly enough, this gives them more dimensions and makes them people that you find yourself either loving or hating, but either way you can’t put it down. If you hate Cyrus and his like-minded friends, you just want to watch them die the worst death imaginable at the hands of the undead. If you are one of those people who thinks of Dexter and Hannibal Lector are sympathetic characters (it’s alright, you’re not alone), then you wait for everyone else to suffer that fate. Our ragtag team travels through various adventures – a town divided by passion for their God, men determined to breed women as animals – without ever really wanting to get involved. Getting involved means being dragged into whatever mess each remaining pocket of society has gotten itself into, which like most zombie novels is a great reflection of our worst societal flaws.
The Undead Situation is unlike other novels of the genre in that Knapp doesn’t try to overwhelm us with disgusting imagery. I love a good priest in a blood-soaked cassock or little girl gleefully gnawing on her ex-playmate as much as the next girl, but after a while I can only take so much of this graphic-for-the-sake-of-shock-value before I just roll my eyes at it. Knapp doesn’t dwell on these images of misery in the end-times, but instead leaves it at what I would say is a reasonable level of over the top violence for such a story, which lets us as the reader enjoy the various feats without feeling as if we’ve already read it a million times before, and means we get to either love or hate our characters as we please.
The absolute cherry on top, however, is Pickles. He is a ferret, and by far the most lovable character in this book. He is the shining example of how it’s the smaller, supporting characters who really bring the novel together, and we see this repeatedly throughout the story. I was pleasantly surprised by this first book and genuinely looking forward to whatever else Eloise J Knapp comes up with. I recommend The Undead Situation for anyone who is a fan of sociopathic characters, post-apocalyptic, and plain old fashioned good story-telling.
Written by Morgue Anne
The Darkness by Crystal Conner is most definitely a niche-genre book, but it really is worth a read by everyone because of how unique it is. Conner is one of those women who radiates strength with great intensity, and it shows up most in her writing. The two women this novel centers around have quite a bit in common - they are both proud black women with a great knowledge of the boundaries of science and magic, and both have used this knowledge to achieve great success. Artesmisia is a alchemist turned jeweler, who uses profits from her Bigger-Than-Tiffany’s corporation to run a top secret research lab determined to crack the mysteries of the universe. Inanna is a sorceress like no other, destined from birth to be miles above the best. Neither woman wants for much, and admittedly this makes them harder to relate to on a personal level, but it is obvious that their success is hard-won and owed to their great emotional strength, although they come across at times like spoiled women who have grown too accustomed to their lives of luxury. Yet despite being rare birds in a very small zoo and sharing such a strong devotion to powers beyond that of the known world, they do not meet for many years. This is where our third character comes in. Adam, the wild child biologically owed to neither woman, yet compelled to both of them as a son. This is a book that holds high the power of the Mother – not just as a biological imperative, but as a title that must be earned. We go through several transformations of Adam as he is a frightened toddler, a powerful sorcerer, and a regular, jockish teenager, all the time having a woman to look up to and call “mother”. Adam is a product of many worlds colliding, although never fully explained in origin, he absorbs all of the knowledge around him like a human sponge. He is beyond special to the point that it takes more than one woman to provide the love required, and while it may take a while to fully comprehend, it is worth the journey. This is not a book you will read in one sitting, it falls with the slower-paced horror novels rather than the Stephen King’s of pop-horror. This is a book that you find yourself strangely drawn to, wondering what will happen next to the characters that you can’t help but feel for. You watch as everything gets set up from the beginning for a tempest of godly proportion, but it’s impossible to stop coming back for more. Crystal Conner is an author I support not only because she is a rarity in the world of horror authors, but because she brings to her work the fiery passion that can only be found in her unique perspective. The Darkness is the first novel of hers that I have sat down and read, and it was most definitely worth the wait. I recommend this to anyone who is drawn to the power of the feminine and knows that the world rests on the backs of mothers.
Buy The Darkness