Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Book Hunter is rejected.

I've been rejected by WaterBrook Multnomah books - apparently a subdivision of Random House. Guessing from the valediction there, a religious subdivision. I contacted them after reading an advertisement on Facebook - poke fun at me later - and I wasn't really anticipating acceptance, but I had hoped. One can hope, right?

Meh, who cares. Reviews aren't really my thing. I'm a book hunter. I'll fall back on my feet sooner or later. I'm probably better off without them. Toodles, WaterBrook Multnomah! Hopefully, you find some believer willing enough to five-star you religious smut.

No. I'm not bitter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Your Bargain Book Store Hunt

Hunt: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King & Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Partner: Meester Binx
Location: Your Bargain Book Store (inside Georgia's Thrift Stop) 1305 W. Pecan, McAllen, TX
Success rate: 1/2 - though I did manage to buy four other books
Cost: $3.50 (before tax)

My failure to find the other two books in last week hunt left me a little down. So I got around to thinking, I know a guy who owns a used book store so why not contact him to see if he had them. I contacted Mike, owner of Your Bargain Book Store which is located inside Georgia's Thrift Shop, and asked if he had 'Salem's Lot and Interview of the Vampire and got the answer I wanted to hear - Yes. I called Meester Binx and headed out there on the mission.

I've never been to Georgia's before, so the whole set up was sort of shocking. They have a little bit of everything. I snaked my way to the back where Mike's book corner was. It was a little slice of heaven. Not more books than Books -n- Things, but a much better selection - classical & contemporary literature, Chicano studies, tons of Stephen King, poetry and erotica.

He had 'Salem's Lot in stock, but no sign of Interview with the Vampire - and if he had it, it was in hardback and I wasn't willing to buy hardback because I don't know if I'd like the book. Along side, 'Salem's Lot, I picked up a copy of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (recommended by a friend) and Brian Keene's The Rising. Contemporary literature had two gems for only a dollar each - The Human Stain by Philip Roth - one of my favorite authors who still breathes - and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - a book recommended by my former creative writing professor & author, Rene Saldana, Jr.

Mike said that tomorrow is when he's there restocking his inventory. I might make an appearance then to check out what he put up.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Required Reading: Why Glenn Beck's an asshole & why America loves him

I cringe every time I turn the channel to Fox News. More so when Glenn Beck's on. The former drug fiend, alcoholic turned Mormon conservative talkshow host is just what America doesn't need. He talks about being the voice of the common man, but there's nothing common about Glenn Beck. He's not down to our level. He's an asshole. Yet, no matter how much I hate him - how many holes I can find in his arguments and statements - no matter how angry I get watching his program, I can't seem to tear myself away from watching it. I don't do this every day. Hell, I don't even do this every week, or every other week. It's all by chance. The moment I see his shit-eater's smile, my focus just sticks to him and his lies. Is it possible to say his lies are more absurd than Sean Hannity's? His radicalism fundalmentalism does exheed that of his Catholic counterpart. It sickens me that people like Beck would rather watch this once great country fall apart than to support a plan that might save it because it sounds too socialist. The very people who call themselves patriots might just be the downfall of their beloved country, their beloved illusions.

In December's Playboy, Thomas Frank takes a gander at Glenn Beck's holy war and what exactly might be going on in that insane mind of his:

Beck’s books are boring stuff. If you’ve read much conservative literature, you’ve heard it all before. Beck reproduces standard-issue conservative talking points, bemoaning crazy lawsuits or the 1992 House banking scandal in precisely the same way you have seen crazy lawsuits or the House banking scandal bemoaned a dozen times already. He is given to preposterous numerology, reminding us how patriotic we all felt on September 12, 2001 and then insisting that 9/12 actually stands for “Nine Principles” and “12 Values,” the latter of which turn out to be a virtue list in the manner of the Boy Scout law. All of which might lead a fan to conclude it was lucky the 9/11 terrorists attacked when they did instead of, say, February 24, because then they wouldn’t have affirmed our nation’s timeless principles and values. (via)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Snapshot #2

For the last month or so, I've been irked by one commercial on TV: The Levi's jeans Go Forth campaign. I'm sure you've seen them, and, if you're a book lover (or an English major), I bet you recognized the style right off the bat. Who else in our literature history has written in such a style that provokes such a grand majesty of a country once beloved by so many?

Wait, is that Walt Whitman being read to endorse jeans? Has consumerism hit a whole new low by exploiting a poet of the common man? Is that why I'm viewing poems like "America" and "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" juxaposed with models posing as carefree teenagers in love, the ghetto and children of this country? And does the target audience even know that these are poems by Whitman and not just advertisment clutter when they waltz into their department stores and have Mom and Dad dish out the cash for jeans too expensive to buy?

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Playboy features excerpt of a great novelist's final work

The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov:

For 32 years the heirs of Vladimir Nabokov safeguarded the literary giant’s last novel in a vault in Switzerland while they wrestled with his request to destroy the unfinished manuscript. The decision was ultimately left to son Dmitri and deferred till now: This month Alfred A. Knopf will publish The Original of Laura (or Dying Is Fun), an event for readers the world over. Playboy is proud to publish an exclusive excerpt and introduce another of Nabokov’s mystifying and mythic heroines, Flora, the subject of a novel within the novel.

[Flora’s] husband…was a writer… —at least, after a fashion. Fat men beat their wives, it is said, and he certainly looked fierce, when he caught her riffling through his papers. He pretended to slam down a marble paperweight and crush this weak little hand (displaying the little hand in febrile motion). (via)

It took an English professor to tell me I read Lolita wrong the first time. Without so much of explaining to me what I should be looking for when reading it, he turned me away and told me to come back when I read it right. So I did. I sat down a few years after first reading it, grabbed a cup of tea and cracked open the cover again. After that, there was no turning back. In fact, the novel became my go to, my beacon when hitting a block while writing. It's the what-would-Nabokov-do effect.

I have four copies of the book lying around in the house upon different shelves. I'm aware of how creepy that may sound to a few of you who only judged the novel by its content, rather than read it. But it was the book that introduced me to Nabokov's style of writing, and what set the foundation of what I want to write about the world. But don't get me wrong. I'm not attempting in anyway to style my prose in the mannerisms of a great novelist. No, I'm simply using him as a mentor, posthumously.

So when it was announced that Dimitri Nabokov was actually pushing forth with his father's final work, I got the shivers. First came the excitement, then came the fear: I've read incomplete works before (Hemingway, comes to mind) and they're either hit or miss (though I did love Hemingway's, even though it was frowned on by academia - shhh I won't tell if you don't).

Only time will tell if we love or hate the final work by Nabokov. Luckily, you can preview the book in the pages of Playboy (on newsstands now). You can ever get a little peek at porn-turned-mainstream star, Sasha Grey tapping into her inner Lolita.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three book hunt

Hunt: Search for Night Shift & 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Partner: Solo
Location: Books -n- Things, McAllen, TX
Success: 1/3
Cost: $2.14

It was almost a success rate of zero because the bugger blended with the cracked spines of the other novels. Sheer luck, however. Found it. Sadly the other two weren't anywhere to be found. I'm thinking contacting another used book dealer - one I know personally - and seeing if he can get me the two books I seek. Problem is, I don't know how he goes about pricing.

I started reading this book at Hastings the other day - the short story "Children of the Corn," which inspired the movie, a shitload of sequels and a 2009 remake - but didn't get to finish the story because I have a very short attention span in a bookstore. I do remember seeing a used copy at Books -n- Things so I decided to hold off on purchasing it.

I'll probably not read all the stories (or I might, who knows) because it was "Children of the Corn" that was I was most interested in. There are other stories in here that were later adapted into films - "The Lawnmower Man" was turned into a movie with the same title, even though Stephen King was not involved, and the stories "Quitters, Inc" and "The Ledge" went off to form the film Cat's Eye.

But really, who knows. My entire outlook on him has changed significantly. However, I'm still reading Cell and it just might shift back into my old opinion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brian Keene Takes Zombie vs. Shark to a Whole New Level

We've all seen the notorious scene from Zombi 2 (or Zombie, depending on which side of the ocean you're from), where the zombie fights the shark. Hell, I think it was a meme not to long ago; it surely has garnered some cult fanaticism as I've heard, seen or read about in several place. And I'm sure that Brian Keen had it in mind when he penned his novel, Dead Sea. Not saying he stole the scene - there isn't really a scene in his novel that involves a zombie and a shark outside of the narrator's imagination - but surely, he must've chuckled at the idea of throwing it in there, even if it's just a thought.

But Dead Sea is no laughing matter. Having a key interest in the current end-of-the-world fanaticism of the age, I picked up the horror novel to inspire my own writings. What I got instead was a wonderful read, something I wasn't expecting the first time I skimmed the pages. Being the second novel I've read about zombies - the first being World War Z by Max Brooks - I wasn't anticipating greatness (even though I went into World War Z with great expectations and walked out just the same).

Keene's novel records the tale of Lamar Reed, a gay, black man from Fells Point (can we say three strikes against the narrator in the real world?) who finds himself down on his luck before Hamelin's Revenge spreads across the nation, bringing the infected dead back to life - human and animal alike. After gunning down his friend and only surviving neighbor, Alan, Lamar is pushed out of his hiding place by a wild fire, spreading throughout the neighborhood and city. Upon his escape, he comes across two orphaned siblings, Tasha and Malik and a gun aficionado, Mitch. The four of them manage to escape the city, rescued by a motley crew aboard a naval ship turned museum. But the danger doesn't end there as Hamelin's Revenge begins to mutate and jump upon species previously assumed to be immune.

Haunted by his past, Lamar is regrettably the "hero" of the story and is told so more than once by a few characters. He doesn't feel like the hero they need, but the hero the book deserves (and that's not a harsh insult whatsoever). It makes him believable. After all he has done to fight the stereotype bestowed upon African-Americans from Fells Point, he feels that he has become exactly what he has fought against for so long. And to top it off, he feels his sexuality is just another thorn on his side. He carries excess baggage that he's unwilling to let go even as the world is literally eating one another.

His journey through it all, leaves him pondering the end. If the hero is supposed to be heroic, lead his flock into safety, bring knowledge forward at the dawn of a new age, then what happens to the hero when the world around him is filled with the groans and moans of the undead and the screams of those who cannot out run them? Who is left to tell the tale of the hero after all is said and done? And exactly why does it matter that he continues on?

Those are the questions that arise within the pages for the novel, ones that I still find myself asking. What do you fight for when all of humanity is lost?

Seriousness aside, though, I did encounter one passage I loved the most (and we're turning to the beginning of this post to wrap it up neatly):
It had all happened so quickly. It just didn't seem real somehow. I mean, a zombie fucking whale? If the circumstances had been different, I could have almost laughed. You go through life believing only in what you can see. What science can prove. Things like ghosts and monsters are the stuff of fantasy. But then, one morning, you wake up and the dead are out in the streets hunting down the living. Your world comes crashing down when that hppens. But even when you get used to the idea that the dead can walk, a zombie whale still seemed incredible. In a way, I think it shook our world view all over again.
Clearly, no laughing matter, but you have to understand the hint of humor in it. Anyway, without further ado, Zombie Vs. Shark:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rethinking Stephen King

How one book & one short story changed my view on the genre writer

I've stood on my literary pedestal long enough, insulted the "master" long enough. Or perhaps it's just a fluke. Perhaps, I'm wrong and Stephen King is still a dime-store novelist, the "literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries."* But I'm an arrogant tool/reader and I say I'm never wrong. Which means, I was wrong before - paradox much?

I blame my folly on my education, and I'm sure a friend of mine would agree. Every English professor I had all repeated the same thing as if some sort of sacrament: Stephen King isn't a writer. He might be an author, but he isn't a writer. His work shouldn't be taken seriously and we should never give him more credit than he deserves. He is the antithesis of what we are working towards in literature. He's simply a dime-store novelist, something you read on a plane trip, a long ride, at the back of the bus or when there is nothing else to read.

And I advocated such, having attempted to read King a few times before. His writings seemed simplistically complicated. Something that seems hard to read, but really not hard to grasp. The adult version of Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. Even though I preached - merely repeated all I have been told, even though I knew in my heart that King wasn't a writer - I had more of his books that I liked. Most of them were freebies from Books -n- Things (a used book store in McAllen, TX), some of them gifts and hand-me-downs and at least two bought at my own accord.

And then I did something. Back when I was a kid, I saw this miniseries that I simply loved. The title? The Stand. Based on the novel by Stephen King of the same title. While venturing once again into the wonderful store of Books -n- Things, I found a used copy of the edited copy, the copy several King fans stated was more worth while over than the one on shelves now. Huffing, fighting my every moral fiber, I purchased the book and started reading it. A week later, I was done and my mind was reeling. What had I done? A part of me couldn't accept the fact that it was the best book I had read all year long.

The novel's premise is one we've all seen before: the battle between good and evil. Even at times, my mind was nostalgic of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Meanwhile, the short story in the Transgressions series, "The Things They Left Behind," left me in awe with the magical realism used within the pages.

I didn't think he had it in him, and I probably wouldn't have ever given him the chance had it not been for the one book that echoed a childhood memory, a miniseries I didn't miss and attempted to watch every time it came on TV - I even purchased the DVD, but I have since misplaced in my house, or lent it to someone who hasn't returned it and will not reveal himself. Still, the fact remains, there is more to Stephen King than a dime-store writer, more than a Big Mac with fries. This guy isn't giving himself any slack. So what if he's a genre writer, H.P. Lovecraft was one as well and we all look up to him. Give it time, I suppose.

There was a time when only King's short stories had the power to capture my imagination, mostly because they ended and didn't go on for what felt like months (seriously, I have the same problem with Jack Kerouac). Now, however, I'm staring at my "horror shelf" and wondering exactly what book to read next. Will it be another King book? Surely, I have opened up to him. It just might be.

*According to the November 2009 Esquire, Stephen King once referred to himself as such.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I NaNoWriMo, do you?

So again I attempt to play along with NaNoWriMo, even though last year I said I wasn't going to ever attempt it again. I'm working on a project I've called "Gospel," named after the city in which the story is set. It's my first crack on a full length novel without deciding it sucks and blaming my failures on NaNoWriMo. It's also my first crack on something that isn't a literary story, so yay me. I won't go into many details here because I want to concentrate on the story, but if you see less of me about writing and more of me about ads (see last two posts), you'll understand why.

Until next time, adios.