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Archive for October, 2010

….as I do right now, I think about this wonderful story by Tanith Lee called “The Origin of Snow.” Ms. Lee has posted the full text on her website. Enjoy!

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Re: All Hallows Read

Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, had a great idea recently. He wants to turn Halloween into an occasion to give scary books as presents. This idea has caught fire across the blogosphere which has prompted me, as a librarian and a reader, to both think about the books and short stories that scared the bejeesus out of me as a youngster (and as an oldster) and to make recommendations for same.

Short Stories That Scared the Heck Out of Me as a Kid

“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

To get an idea of the hold this story had on my mind, you have to know that I a) did not grow up in a decaying manor house, b) my bedroom had no bell pull, and c) there are no poisonous snakes of any kind in Arnor. None of those things stopped me from sleeping with the covers over my head for weeks afterwards.

“The Bogeyman” by Stephen King

My freshman year, my high school English teacher read one of Stephen King’s short stories to us in class.  I was 14 and had to check in my bedroom closet for monsters before I could go to bed. The infamous Mr. King is responsible for much lost sleep and nervous conditions on the part of many readers.

Stories that Have Stayed With Me Long After I Put Them Down

“My Cousin Rachel” by Daphne Du Maurier

“Was Rachel innocent or guilty?” That question, gentle readers, has haunted me these many years as it haunts Phillip Ashley, the narrator of Daphne Du Maurier’s suspense novel.  When asked to name a Du Maurier novel, most people would cite “Rebecca”, but I think that “My Cousin Rachel” is the better story.

“The Foghorn” by Ray Bradbury

The image of the sea monster weeping over the destroyed lighthouse has stayed with me for a long time. I never got into Bradbury’s novels, but his short stories are very powerful and very beautifully written.

Recommendations

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

This was the first Neil Gaiman book I read and it’s still my favorite. Although it’s written for children, I think that many adults would enjoy it. A dark, but not scary story set in a world where ghosts, vampires, and werewolves are the good guys.

“Dead Beat” by Jim Butcher

Part of Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, “Dead Beat” is actually set during Halloween. Check out Harry’s ride through Chicago on a zombie T-Rex. For adults, but teens can read and enjoy.

“Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer” by Tanith Lee. Out of print, but if you can find a copy in your used bookstore, on Amazon, or at the local library, you are in for a treat. Lee re-imagines the Brothers Grimm stories as horror stories. Thus, Little Red Riding Hood becomes a story about werewolves, Snow White becomes a story about vampires, etc. You have probably seen her Snow White vampire story, “Red as Blood”, reprinted in a number of vampire anthologies. Gaiman also did a Snow White vampire story entitled “Snow, Glass, and Apples”. Both stories are good–Lee’s version is more upbeat than Gaiman’s.

“Those Who Hunt the Night” by Barbara Hambly

Another out of print book that you will have to hunt down at your library or buy used from Amazon.  In 19th century London, Professor James Asher and his wife, Lydia, are drawn, much against their will, into a perplexing mystery. Who is killing the vampires of London? And will Asher and his wife survive even if they find the murderer?  A fine mystery and a fine vampire story with a Sherlock Holmes-like setting.

“The Scariest Thing I Know” by Dean Koontz

This short story appeared in, of all places, Martha Stewart Living Magazine Halloween 2000 edition. To date, this uplifting coming-of-age story set at Halloween is the only Koontz tale I have ever read.  “Everything matters–that is the most frightening thing I know and the most wonderful.” You may have to find the actual magazine in order to read it as I’m not able to ascertain if it has made it into a Koontz anthology.

Okay, now you have an opportunity to engage in something reference librarians are asked to do a lot–read the minds of their patrons. I remember a science fiction short story I read when I was younger. I can’t remember the title or author, but the story was about a man who is walking home late at night on a mining planet and is followed (and presumably killed) by a giant centipede-like creature. The story ends with the line “there was no mistaking the sound of millions of tiny claws from the darkness directly in front of him”. As build up earlier in the story, the author describes the experience of another miner who was followed by something that stayed just outside his circle of lantern light. Does anybody have any idea of which story this could be?

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Re: New Artists

Here are two “new” finds of mine. Of course, both of these people have been around for awhile, I’m just finding out about them now.

This is a Corb Lund and his band, the Hurtin’ Albertans, which is a major cool name for a band.  Yes, Virginia, there are musicians doing the old-fashioned kind of country-western music we grew up on, but today they are Canadians.  Who would have thought you would have had to cross the border in order to get top notch country-western music?

I like this song because I think the subject matter is so Arnorian in addition to being Albertan. I’ve got three of Corb Lund’s albums and I can vouch that his music just keeps getting better.  Corb is by turns both old-timey, edgy, and thoughtful. Read the lyrics to his songs. He’s a good poet as well as a singer.

And now for something completely different. This is Amanda Palmer, a Boston-area singer/writer/actor/performance artist. Palmer calls herself a punk cabaret act which as far as I can tell means one part musical theater and one part street theater. I love “Vegemite (The Black Death)”, the song she does below:

A warning to sensitive viewers: Palmer does use some profanity including the “F” word during the song. The song, by the way, is hilarious. I didn’t realize it, but Palmer, as one half of the duo “Dresden Dolls”, sings “Coin Operated Boy”–a song that made the rounds of the tribal fusion belly dance community a while back.

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Okay, it’s only Wednesday, but I thought we could use an amusing photo to cheer us up.  And in keeping with the Halloween theme, too ….. 🙂

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An electronic road sign in Austin, Texas on Monday, Jan. 26, 2009. Two electronic signs intended to warn motorists of construction near the intersection of Lamar and Martin Luther King boulevards were changed by hackers.  [Editor’s note: Apparently, hacking these signs is very easy]. (AP Photo/Chris Nakashima-Brown)

Come the zombie apocalypse, I will not be one of the brave survivors, my friends. In fact, I fully expect to fall prey to zombification early on and spend the rest of my undead existence shuffling around in search of brains. How do I know this, you ask? Read on.

A couple of years ago, my friend, Anne, and I took part in the Hobbiton Fun Run, a walk/run-a-thon held every midsummer here in my home town. At the time, I was doing pretty good with my walking program, averaging about three miles a day. The entire course was six miles in length which was a bit out of a challenge, but I figured I could make it. I wasn’t expecting to finish in the top tier, but I thought I would probably place in the middle tier of walkers or, failing that, at least in the last third.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that once the starting gun went off, I never saw the rest of my fellow contestants again. People in costume passed me. Mothers pushing jogging strollers with small children in them passed me. Out of a field of about 3,000 people, I was last. Dead last. My friend, Anne, was actually a couple of steps in front of me. Race officials were pulling up the marker cones as we trundled by.

So, as you can see, I will definitely be one of the living dead come the zombiepocalypse. It’s not so bad being a zombie. There’s a lot of shambling involved which I’m good at. It’s my preferred mode of locomotion, truthfully. And seeking out and devouring human brains–well, it’s a living so to speak.

If I come across any runners, though, I will be tearing out their intestines with special ferocity.

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Some fun (and pithy) quotes from two members of my favorite band, Great Big Sea.

Alan Doyle on multi-tasking, the impossibility thereof:

[Alan is talking about the annoying things the band is asked to do when being filmed] “When taping an episode of Rita for CBC TV, a floor director asked if I had to use my usual orange guitar picks and if I would mind if they had the props department die them black so they would not clash with the set.  On the same day,  another man, who shall remain nameless, asked me if I could look in to camera 3 while singing verse 2.

In my Newfoundland accent, I remember saying;

‘Man, you must think playing in this band in some friggin easy.   I can barely remember the words to verse two and it use every inch of my brain just to sing on time and in key, while playing an eight string bouzouki that I just bought.  So, no, I don’t think I’ll be able to find camera 3 and address it with a wink and a nod and a quarter turn during verse two.’

He hates me to this day.” (Alan Doyle, From the Road Blog, 11/24/06)

Bob Hallet on the art of diplomacy:

[Bob is being interviewed by Mike Hume for the Falls Church News-Press Online about GBS’s new album, “Safe Upon the Shore”]

MH: You all collaborated as writers and had some 100 songs available for Safe Upon the Shore, how were you able to edit it down?

BH: Sometimes bands really struggle with that self-editing process. It’s hard to say to your friends and your partners, “Hey, your song stinks, mine’s better.”

MH: So how do you say that to them?

BH: Well, you say, “Your song stinks. I hate that song!” You try to be positive about it, but you’ve got to be honest. If a song is going to succeed with a band everyone has to like it. You can’t just stand there rolling your eyes while somebody else is doing their song. You’ve got to be able to buy into it. (http://www.fcnp.com/arts/7090-press-pass-great-big-sea.html, 8/11/10)

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