Necromancers, Time Travel and Boozing Writers: My Recent Reads

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While I’ve always read a lot, it’s gotten insane now working in a library. I’m surrounded by books all day and can pretty much read about anything on a whim. I’m usually reading at least three nonfiction books at once, some faster than others. Meanwhile, fiction I tend to keep at the most two at a time, one at work and one at home. And maybe I’ll have a poetry book or short story collection I pick up randomly. (I’ve been reading a zombie anthology for at least a year now.)

Since I’m horrible at updating my Goodreads account or actually planning out full reviews to do I’ll be adding a round up here a couple times of year for the books that stood out.

My YA streak

Slayer by Kiersten White–Set in the Buffy-verse; not exactly sure of timeline but it takes place well after the show and includes events from the graphic novels. All potential slayers have been activated, watchers council destroyed, and the end of magic on earth. The few surviving watchers struggle to figure out what to do next while the next generation faces the future head on. While it’s a totally new story with new characters it has a very famliar feel to it. It includes the sarcastic quips, witty insults, and goofy slang we come to expect from slayers and supporting characters.

Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride– This was a fun modern fantasy/horror. It includes your supernatural regulars werewolves, witches, fey, and of course necromancers. The story centers on Sam LaCroix who is completely unaware of his own supernatural nature until he meets Douglas Montgomery, a seriously bad guy. What I really love about this book was the characters. They are all very unique, entertaining and sympathetic. Even the villains have a charm to them. I will soon be devouring the second book in the series, which at the moment is the last. I hope there are more to come.

Feed by M.T. Anderson–Future society where you can vacation on the moon, suburbs are built on top of each other, forest are torn down to build air factories, and people are connected to the web 24/7 through an implant; rich boy meets poor girl they both learn how different their lives are. The thing that tripped me out most about the book was the parents talking the same way the kids do, using the same slang and displaying immature attitudes. It just seemed creepy. Otherwiseit’s a really intersting concept and while still being entertaining the book still deals with some pretty heavy morality issues.

The Grin in the Dark by J.A Dark–Okay technically this is a children’s book. It was on my list to read because it was one of few that came up when searching for clown horror. And for a kids book, it’s pretty damn scary. Teenager Hamid Abdi is babysitting his little cousins during a bad storm while the police search for an escaped convict. If that’s not scary enough there might also be a clown hiding somewhere in the house.

Horror/Fantasy/SciFi

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt–I really liked this book even though I can’t be exactly sure what happened. It’s a twisted fairy tale for grownups about a woman lost in the woods. In her travels, she meets some of the inhabitants of the forest who lead her on an adventure. It starts off simple pretty straightforward, maybe just a little odd, by the end you are questioning reality, but in a good way. As long as you don’t mind a little confusion I would totally recommend this book.

Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker–At first glance this might seem very similar to Sleeping Beauties, which was why I picked it up in the first place. However, it is a very different story. The sleeping disease first appears on a college campus which leads to the small surrounding town being quarenteened. It can affect anybody, man, woman, young old, etc., and it an lead to death in more ways than one. The book takes us through the events on the campus and the town during the epidemic.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates–This is another really trippy concept. A future dystopian United States where asking questions in a valedictorian speech is punishable by exile. Adriane Strohl is sent to the year 1959 to serve out her four year excile in a small Winsconson college.

Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel by Gwenda Bond–This is the perfect read to gear up for the new season soon to be released. Essentially, the novel is a prequel to the series. In the novel, a group of students participate in a research study with the infamous Dr. Brenner. The main character and one of the students is Terry Ives, Eleven’s mother. Eventually, becoming suspicious of Brenner’s true intent they hatch a plan to stop him. Definitely a must read if you are a fan of the show.

Nonfiction

Creating From the Spirit : Living Each Day as a Creative Act by Dan Wakefield–This book is a pretty damn good guide to living a creative life. It discusses many of the myths people believe about writers and other artists. Most of these myths include self destructive and unhealthy behaviors and habits. He debunks these myths and discusses healthy ways to encourage your creativity. Reading this made me evaluate myself, especially bad habits I excuse in the name of my creativity.

The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer by Tom Dardis–The book focuses on four famous writers who embodied and reinforced the hard drinking writer stereotype. It was mentioned in the previous book and piqued my curiosity. It details and examines the role of alcohol in the writing of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and O’Neill. It’s a pretty interesting read and a good cautionary tale for those that think drugs or alcohol will help their creativity.

One Last One

High Heat by Richard Castle–I’ve read a couple of books in the series and they are usually quick and fun reads. I don’t expect much from a book written by a fictional character, but this one was just not good. The story focuses too much on a subplot about Nikki Heat’s mother instead of the central case. Which is likely because the case is so unoriginal and totally predictable. I spent most of the book yelling in my head at the characters for being so stupid. I think I’m done with these books.

These are just a small sample of books from the past couple of months. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any and how you liked them. If not let me know what books you would recommend.

Book vs Movie: A Simple Favor

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It’s been a while since I did one of these posts and this one is the result of pure coincidence. I had no idea the movie was based on a book and checked it out of library hoping to just watch an entertaining movie. A day or so later before I even got the chance to watch it, I came across the book. My crazy brain decided it was a sign, so I held off watching the movie until after the book. I was able to finish it in a matter of days, it’s a pretty quick read, although I may have rushed it a bit.

The book is okay, it’s a good read. It jumps into the story quickly, with a blog entry from Stephanie about her missing friend Emily. Stephanie is a stay at home mommy blogger, very sweet, and innocent seeming. She comes across very sympathetic especially placed opposite the darker, mysterious Emily. Most of the book is written from her point of view and we get a really well rounded picture of her. She has some questionable actions but she still seems like the victim and you can’t help but root for her. On the other hand the few chapters from Emily’s point of view kind of just make you not like her, at all. It sheds a little light on her motivations, however, she really seems to lack substance. It’s all very surface level making her seem selfish without any remorse of self reflection.

The movie is not so different from the book, we get the same basic story with a few different twists. Some are completely understandable and necessary, for example changing Stephanie’s written blogs into videos. One change I really liked was adding to Emily’s backstory which was pretty non-existant in the book. The movie does a much better job of creating a well rounded character and we can almost understand some of her actions. I really liked the movie, until the end. I’ll start by admitting that the ending of the book is pretty far-fetched and unrealistic, but not half bad. The movie on the other hand is not just unbelievable but actually bad. It ends with this scene that completely does not fit with the tone of the rest of the movie. While the movie does have some humorous moments, mostly due to Anna Kendrick, it’s pretty dramatic. However, the ending is almost comedic. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it felt like a parody of the rest of the movie. (If that makes sense.)

I think the movie did a good job with the source material. In fact, many of the deviations made it better than the book. But I just can’t get over the ending. In the end neither was that good.

Have you read the book, seen the movie? Let me know what you thought of either or both.

Book VS Movie: The Shining by Stephen King

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Despite watching the movie The Shining a bunch of times and being a huge Stephen King fan, I never got around to reading the book. When I started this series of posts I decided it was about damn time.

It’s a different experience reading the book after already having seen the movie. I found it really interesting to get more background about the Torence family, our main characters. The novel includes details about their life before moving to Denver, Jack’s alcoholism, how he lost his teaching job, and even memories of his own abusive father. I’ve read that Stephen King didn’t like the adaptation mainly due to the lack of character arc. I can understand his point, Jack’s descent in the novel is much slower and you actually see his struggle for control. You really see a guy that wants to do the right thing for his family. And one thing I did always hate about the movie was Wendy. The character in the book is nothing like the weak and timid woman in the movie. I can’t really say I like the book better, but it was nice to really go in depth into the characters, even some of the minor characters like the cook, Dick Hallorann.

While the novel and the movie share a basic story, they are depicted in very different ways. Few of the iconic scenes from the movie appear in the book. There are not creepy twins,  the elevators do not spew blood, no hedge maze and the ending is completely different. Some of these do take inspiration from the book, for example the caretaker that killed his family had two daughters and the elevators were a major aspect of the haunting. Also the book featured topiary hedges in animal shapes instead of the maze. I assume the limitation of the time kept them from featuring these creatures come to life as they do in the book. For those that pay attention there are also very small details, for example the scrapbook that has a major role in the book does at least make an appearance in the movie.

So now I’ve read the book and really liked it. Still love the movie though. I can’t really say I think either is better. Yes the movie deviates from the book, a lot. But in my opinion many of the changes were due to the change of media. The movie was good because of the visual elements while the book was much more focused on the characters. I’m not sure the movie would have been as good if they tried to stick closer to the novel.

Creative Poetry Books

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I find it really sad that poetry isn’t more widely read. It was never really that popular among the general public, but it’s gotten worse over the years. Now I feel like the only people that read poetry are other poets. There are a number of reasons, but mainly I think it’s because poetry and poets are often is associated with a high level of pretentiousness. However, there are ways that poetry can be written and published in ways that are creative, fun and accessible. The following are a few examples I’ve found that I think might appeal to a wider audience.

Horror Film Poems

Words by Christoph Paul, Art by Joel Amat Güell

I discovered this gem at last years Brooklyn Poetry Festival. The title really just says it all. A book of poems inspired by the horror film genre. It includes a wide variety of films including some of my favorites. As with the movies themselves some are humorous, dark, and thought provoking. It includes along side the poems illustrations. I have to admit I’m not familiar with all of the titles. But that’s a bonus since now I have a bunch of new movies I’ll have to see. I really think this is the perfect book for anybody that’s a fan of both horror movies and poetry, but could be quite a fun read for horror fans.

Poetry Comics From the Book of Hours by Bianca Stone

I’m not even sure where or how I ended up reading about Bianca Stone, the article was about an upcoming book. Always interesting in new poetry I thought it’d be a good idea to check out her previous work before investing in the new one. Curious about the idea of a poetry comic, I figured I’d give it a try. One of the things I love about poetry is the imagery that it creates so why not combine it with actual images.

The artwork is very simple and raw. In fact the whole book has a draft like quality to it.  Both the poetry and the comics are strange. The illustrations don’t always seem to be related to the accompanying text. In general the whole process of reading the book is very disorienting. But I guess that’s the beauty of it.

 

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

By Lita Judge

The minute I saw this book I was intrigued. Not only do I think she is well deserving of the recognition and should be more widely celebrated, but also the concept is interesting. It’s an illustrated novel in verse about Mary Shelley’s life.  It starts with narration from the monster itself, stating the idea that some people didn’t believe a teenage girl could write the book. (It’s accepted that he edited and assisted in it’s writing but some theorize she was not the actual author at all.) Switching to the voice of Mary Shelley it begins with her father sending her away to live with friends in Scotland. While I knew of her relationship with Percy Shelly and the mythos of the creation of Frankenstein, I learned a lot more specific details. One thing I thought was interesting was the idea that it took as much time to write the book as a woman carries a child, nine months. Though coincidental it related to the central theme of the novel, creating life. Continuing through to the end of her life the book concludes with the monster speaking again, taking us full circle.

My Latest Obsession: The Verse Novel

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Obviously I’m familiar with the concept of narrative poetry.  Just like many others I was forced to study Homer’s epics in various literature classes over the years. I’ve also attempted and failed several times to tackle Dante’s Divine Comedy. However, the modern verse novel doesn’t seem to have the same notoriety. In fact it wasn’t until recently that I even knew they existed, much less read any. Now I can’t seem to get enough of them.

The most interesting thing I found looking into the genre is that it appears to be a growing trend in young adult literature. In fact, that’s where my obsession began. I happened to pick up a used copy of Ellen Hopkins Crank. When I bought the book I had no idea that it was actually targeted towards teens. I was a bit surprised because of the very adult topics and it’s graphic depictions. It tells the story of a young girl’s addiction to crystal meth. However, being written from a teenagers point of view and the simplistic style of the poetry, I can see how it appeals to younger readers. Hopkins has published several more verse novels including sequels to Crank. All targeted at teens, they take on difficult subjects such as sex trafficking, drug addiction and mental illness. Her simplistic poetry style makes it a pretty easy read.

The next book I enjoyed was Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Another YA book highlighting a difficult issue that can face teens The main character Will is dealing with the grief of his brother’s violent death. The narrative takes place as he descends the elevator of his apartment building on his way to get revenge. On each floor he meets somebody that was part of the cycle of violence that led to his brothers death. The story is incredibly gripping, and I’m fairly certain I finished it in one day.

I promise this is the last YA book. Sister Slam and The Poetic Motormouth Road Trip by Linda Oatman-High was actually my least favorite so far. It definitely felt more like a book intended for a younger audience. It’s a lot lighter in tone and theme. At first I wasn’t sure I would like it at all. It seemed very juvenile, in style and content. It’s a bit silly but that ended up making it a pretty fun read. In it we meet two recent high school graduates who dream of becoming famous slam poets. Their road trip begins with a poetry slam contest in New Jersey and the adventure continues to New York City. The story itself is ridiculous but the rhythm and rhymes really pulled me in.

My latest read was one of the few adult verse novels I could find available at the my library, The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. Just looking at the first page I realized this was going to be very different. The YA authors played around with form and style. And for the most part, excluding Sister Slam, were written in free verse. Golden Gate on the other hand is written in a consistent form of sonnets in iambic tetrameter with a set rhyme scheme. It makes it no less enjoyable to read, but due to it’s style and much longer length it definitely not a quick read.  I’ve rather been enjoying the slower pace of action. The novel mainly revolves around John and Liz, a couple who met through a personal ad. The narrative then follows a eclectic group of characters connected to the couple.

I’d love to hear back about your opinions on verse novels. I will be on the lookout for new reads in the genre. Actually I already have my next one picked out Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow. It’s about a pack of werewolves in LA, a supernatural horror verse novel. Now that sounds interesting. Leave a comment with your thoughts or any recommendations.

 

Book vs Movie: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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I have to admit I wasn’t too thrilled with either the book or movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Mostly I’ve heard of it referenced in relation to other similar dystopian future novels featuring an authoritative government and a controlled passive citizenry. I never really saw the appeal, although I did recently read 1984 and liked it. In Fahrenheit 451, the story is centered on Montag, who’s job as a fireman is to burn books. Inevitably, conflicted about his work, he steals and hides books from the homes he’s sent to. I liked the story, it was okay and the ending was really good. But as Montag begins to read through the books he’s hidden, much of the text ends up being quotes from classic works of literature. Not only does it pull away from the story it started to feel like a chore to read.

On this rare occasion I actually preferred the movie to the book. Except for the one major issue. The movie really emphasizes the lack of text and reading in this world and maybe takes it a little too far. Their newspapers are depicted as pages of pictures only and even work personnel files are simply pictures of the worker at different angles. So how in this world where there’s no way to encounter words does Montag, of all people a fireman, even know how to read. The book doesn’t portray the world as completely lacking the written word, just no books. That makes it much more believable than the movie where there is literally not one written word in this society.

Ignoring that it was a good movie. I enjoyed watching it more than I enjoyed reading the book. Best scene had to be the guys flying around on jetpacks. The movie was made in 1966, so their idea of what the future would look like and the effects to create it are pretty damn funny. They made some minor changes to the story, and the ending was slightly different but it was a pretty good adaptation of the book.

 

Dark Tower Movie Review

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The Dark Tower movie has taken a lot of criticism, even before the movie came out. Many fans didn’t understand or want to accept that the movie would not be an adaptation of the books. In fact, the movie is rather an extension of the story, similar to the comic books. They build upon and extend the world and characters created in the book series. While the comics have taken us back into Roland’s past, the movie is moving it forward. I can admit the movie could have been better, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the worst reviews would have you think. Many of those bad reviews are too heavily comparing it to the books. It seems many expected it to be an epic fantasy but instead it was more action oriented. Shedding those expectations and taking for what it was, it was pretty good.  It wasn’t great but there were some things I really liked about it.

We’ll start with casting, Idris Alba was a great choice for the gunslinger. He’s not what fans pictured physically but he totally embodies the persona of the gunslinger. He easily gives off the stone faced, tough-as-nails seriousness of Roland. He also has his moments of very deadpan humor. While he’s the hero of the story, you’re still not sure whether he’s really a good guy. Then there’s Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy Man In Black/Walter. It works for the character, he’s evil in a very nonchalant way. He casually kills people as if dismissing them by telling them to stop breathing. He also appears to enjoy taunting Roland. I loved when he projected himself to Roland in the gunshop. I was happy to see the infamous Black 13 and the other Wizards Rainbow pieces appear in the movie. It was one of several references to the book that only fans would catch or know the significance.

There was also the horn in Roland’s bag, visible in a few different scenes. A indicator that this must be Roland’s next go round after the series ended. The books left off with him starting the journey to the Tower, this time with the horn he’d previously left behind. There was also the repeating of the number 19. I like the way they depicted the abandoned portal/doorway terminal when they were in Midworld. The portholes were nice, a cool way to depict the science fiction technology. The Dixie Pig was much different than the book, but it was pretty awesome. Instead of just a restaurant with the tunnels underneath, it’s was like a gauntlet spiraling down to the tunnels. It makes it look more dangerous and grittier. I was glad to see Sayre make an appearance in the movie. I’d have liked to know who some of the other bad guys doing Walter’s bidding were supposed to be. The effect on some of the lowmen/can-toi was pretty cool; the slit in the neck, extra space around the eyes and the sagging cheeks on some was sick looking. They also include hints at larger aspects from the book if you paid attention. Lastly, I’m sure you’ve already read about the nods to Kings other work.

There were also some significant changes to the story. We saw more of Jake’s parents, especially his mother who was almost nonexistent in the books. I like Katheryn Winnick, she’s great in the small screen time she has. I though it was interesting that switched up some of the details of his home life before crossing worlds. It worked okay and was totally plausible in the Dark Tower world. in the realm of possibilities for the Dark Tower’s logic. They also twisted the story of Walter’s attack on the Tower. In the book the psychics attack the beams, in a process that’s enjoyable and pleasurable, while living on an idealistic campus. In the movie, they live in the shadow of a dark ominous building where kids are strapped into a machine to directly attack the Tower with their psychic power. A process that appears tortuous. It makes the story a whole lot darker.

As I said this was more of an action movie than anything else. It was short and the pace was incredibly rushed. There wasn’t much character development and it rushed through events without much story. We meet Roland and Jake, get a few flashes of their past, but never get enough to really care about them. We know Roland lost a battle and Walter killed his father. But, what happened? When was this battle, where, for what exactly? Did Walter command an army or did he kill them all himself? What about his world, what happened to it? He delivers the famous line, the world has moved on, but nothing else. Same for Jake, we are left with so many questions. They show us the news clipping about his father’s death, but never followup. An additional thirty minutes or so to flesh out their stories and see them bond could have made a dramatic difference. I think a great way would have been to include a scene of them by the fire one night telling each other just how they ended up where they are. It’s a familiar scene from the books, especially when character’s stories first intersect. That’s the other thing the movie is missing, the Dark Tower series is one huge story told in a lot of smaller stories. The theme of stories within stories comes up throughout the series. Most often characters share their story while sitting by the fire at night. It would have easily given viewers more story and included a common element from the books.

Overall, I didn’t think it was a terrible movie. I wasn’t expecting it to live up to the books. I went in with an open mind and wanted to judge it as a stand alone movie. It was entertaining and I was happy to see how they included references to the larger story. I could see it was close to being a really good movie but just lacked enough story. I’m sure most fans will not be happy and those unfamiliar with the series won’t care about the characters. But it’s got some pretty good action scenes and was fun to watch.

 

 

 

If Rushdie Can Do It So Can I

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I was first introduced to Salmon Rushdie’s writing in a college course where I read Midnight’s Children. I was immediately a fan. Since then I’ve read several more of his books and attended readings and speaking engagements. I’ve always believed the old adage of learning how to write by reading. But it always felt like a very general concept until I started reading Rushdie. I feel like I’ve learned more casually reading his work than I ever did studying other writers in depth in school. I will likely go on to write more about the things I’ve learned from him and his writing. For now I want to discuss one of the simplest things that has impacted my writing.

One of the things I’ve noticed about Rushdie’s writing is how much he includes from his own life in his fiction. Some of these things are very clear, like basing a major character in Fury on his then wife Padma Lakshimi. But other’s I only realized after reading his memoir, Joseph Anton. Reading it I found several instances of people, events and even dialogue that was very similar, if not exactly the same, to what I had read in his fiction. For example when he relates telling his father he is going to be a writer. Clearly disappointed his father says, “What am I going to tell my friends?” A line that appears in The Satanic Verses. 

There are many more examples, he specifically points out experiences and the stories inspired by them, and characters based on those close to him.  He seems to have no problem using his life and those around him as source material for his writing. This is something I have always struggled with. I never felt right including people or events from my life in my writing and avoided it at all costs. Part of it was insecurity, I don’t even like writing about myself in nonfiction. But really it was self doubt about my ability as a writer. It seems too easy to fictionalize elements of my life and take myself seriously as a writer. I also worried about what other people would think. Like I wouldn’t or couldn’t be considered a good writer if I couldn’t come up with everything in a story from imagination.

It seems like a silly thing to think now. Who exactly would even know how much of what I wrote was real or made up. Well I guess my family and friends, but how many of them are even reading my writing anyway. Inspired by Rushdie I’ve learned to let go of these irrational fears. There is no reason I can’t include elements from my life in my writing. It’s more than likely to improve my writing if I draw from real world experiences and people. And I have had some experiences that would make some pretty interesting stories.

 

The Tower’s Coming

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I’m pretty excited about The Dark Tower movie. I realize it’s not an adaptation of the books, that would pretty much be impossible. Unlike most people I’m saving my criticism until after I see the movie. But judging from the trailer, released this past week, it looks pretty good. It’s been over a decade since the final book of the series was published and more years than I’d rather say since I read the first book. Needless to say my memory of the story was a little fuzzy. So I thought it’d be fun to reread the entire series before seeing the movie.  In addition, I was basically a kid when I first read it. (Seriously, I started reading adult books at an early age, and Stephen King’s were among the first.) I thought it would be a different experience reading it as an adult, and also back to back. While the first three were already published when I started and the fourth came out about a year later, I still had to endure the tortuously long wait for the last three.

I wasn’t much surprised by the first book. While I may have forgotten details, I knew most of the basic plot. The biggest difference this time around was the “Hey Jude” reference. I only had a vague idea of the song when I was a kid. This time around I could not get it out of my head. Moving on to the later books, I was surprised by how much of the story I didn’t remember. I really can’t believe how much of the books I forgot, like the cliffhanger with Blaine, the entire Susan Delgado story line, main character deaths, and the actual ending to the entire series.

While my memory of reading it the first time was fuzzy I do think reading it all back to back was a very different experience. For one I really was so immersed in the world of the books I had moments where I caught myself thinking in Mid-World speak. I was also able to catch a lot more of the minor connections. I likely didn’t catch the references to other stories he wrote because I hadn’t actually read them yet. But the time between books in the series kept me from catching connections within the story. I’m sure there’s lots of things I missed the first time around. Some were minor and I’m already having trouble remembering them. One that stayed with me was the changes in the way time moved in Mid-World. I realized the changes reflect the character Stephen King’s progress writing. The first few books were written over a span of many years, that’s when time in Mid-World had slowed down. Later in the series time speeds up. Those books were all published much closer together and the journal entries of King’s character discusses the freakish speed of his writing pace for at least one of these later novels.

The last thing that struck me in a different way was King inserting himself into the story. When I first read it, I thought it was very strange and kind of narcissistic. But also it seemed almost like he just ran out of other ideas. I realized now that it really couldn’t have gone any other way. In fact, I started thinking that it was set up from the beginning to go that way. I felt like through out the books there were hints that the characters and worlds were a creation of someone’s mind. For example, Eddie Dean’s Co-Op city being in Brooklyn. (Another detail I didn’t catch as a kid, this time around I kept thinking that couldn’t be right.) The books specifically point out he’s not actually their creator or Gan itself, simply writing the story he hears in the song. But it is possible that because he writes them they exist, a power similar to Patrick’s, instead of drawing things into existence he writes them.

I’d love to hear what you other Stephen King and Dark Tower fans think. Comment to let me know if you’re looking forward to the movie, when you last read the books or any other thoughts you have.

 

 

What is the Kafka myth? 

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Before I even moved in September, I located the nearest public library. Luckily, it is within walking distance. It was one of my the places I visited after the move. Since I’ve gotten a card I’ve tried to visit every couple of weeks. On one of my first visits I found the book, Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life by James Hawes. I actually haven’t read much of Kafka’s writing, but Metamorphosis is one of favorite books. I found it in my high school library and loved it so much it became the topic of an English paper. For which I read The Trial and compared the two stories. I didn’t know much about Kafka or even his significance in literature at that time. It seems my ignorance might have been a blessing.

According to Hawes, much of what we think we know about Kafka is not actually true. Much of what people think they know about him is actually part of a constructed image he refers to as the K-myth. Mainly this mythology promotes the idea of a poor, lonely, writer who suffered working a bureaucratic job. It goes into greater detail about so called facts about the writer and his work. Thankfully, most of which I had never heard. Hawes alleges, the less you know the greater chance you’ll enjoy reading Kafka. Below I’ve listed a few of the ones I found most interesting.

  • Kafka was poor. Okay so he did work a bureaucratic job that he wanted to leave. But being poor was not the reason. The author points out he made much more money than the average worker. Not only that he lived with his middle class family most of his life, owned a business with them, and was paid for his writing.
  • He was ignored by contemporaries and unknown in his lifetime. It’s hard to be unknown when you are publishing stories in prestigious journals. He was also in the same social circles as his contemporaries. In fact they arraigned for him to be  awarded the prize money for an award given to another writer. He may not have been world famous during his lifetime, but he was well known in his city’s cultural society.
  • His work is based on his experience as a Jew and Jewishness is vital to understanding his writing. I’m not sure something like this should be said of any writer ever. But the author also points out that Jewishness wasn’t actually a large part of his life. Why then would it take up so much in his writing.