weird

Blizzard reading, snowstorm Jonas edition

We are about to get hit by what is purportedly going to be the Snowstorm of the Century. Everybody in DC is in a tizzy, grocery store is a scene of carnage, snow predictions increase hourly, the workers are going home (see what I did there) at noon most places, and one of the images on the weather channel this morning simply said ‘MOISTURE’ in giant letters over the area. Last time something similar occurred was in 2010. We lived in Bethesda near the Beltway, and that night a car pulled up by our mailbox and sat there for a good while. Eventually we walked up to it to inquire, and found a woman who simply could not get back home to Virginia because there were no roads. She stayed with us overnight. Two years ago we also had a snowmageddon, albeit of smaller proportions. You may remember it from such blog posts as Bookselling in Extreme Conditions. There might be a repeat of that this weekend, stay tuned.

The important concerns of course are as follows: 1) do we have wine and 2) what am I going to read. Wine has been procured, along with other necessities like chocolate and Swedish fish, and here is your snowstorm Jonas reading list:

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It’s heavy on snow and weird: year’s best weird stories edited by Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly; Schubert’s Winter Journey by Ian Bostridge, which seems like the book written specifically for a snowstorm; ditto for Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. And new Sjón!

Those of you living in places like Boston and Toronto are probably enjoying this ‘here’s our once-a-year snowstorm, batten down the hatches’ post (I used to live in Moscow, I have a heightened sense of my own snow mastery), so here’s a music video for you so this song can also get stuck in your head every time you turn on the weather channel:

 

 

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Readings: Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome by Serge Brussolo

brussoloSerge Brussolo’s mind must be a fascinating place. The best and possibly only way to describe his Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome, now published in English by Melville House, is weird. It’s probably not the New Weird, seeing how it’s decades old (funny how something published in 1992 can now be described as such), but weird nonetheless. The book is about mediums, people who ‘dive’ into dreams, steal artifacts within, and bring them into the real world as art objects. The quality of this art depends on how dangerous and daring the theft was. Some people bring back enormous sculptures, some bring what might better be described as trinkets.

 
Here’s why this book is amazing: the imagery. Brussolo is so good at descriptions and details, that when he describes nausea, you feel queasy. He throws a lot of bizarre details at you, and occasionally they miss, but mostly this barrage of sur-reality is incredibly immersive and thus makes you wonder what it’s like to have a mind that comes up with this.

Here’s why I have a problem with it: it has a certain dated aesthetic, mostly in how it treats characters. All women in it are either there for sex or are not particularly nice and at the same time needy. This didn’t really hit me until about halfway through the book because I was just so immersed in the fantastical minutiae, but when it did, it soured the book for me quite a bit. Basically, what could have been a five became a three.

Readings: Theodora Goss and the wonderfully strange

Here in our nation’s capital we are heading into that time of the year when it’s already dark at 4:30, the evenings are interminable, and one can barely get out of bed in the mornings. We don’t get a lot of snow, so winter is essentially a bleak parade of cold and disgusting days. They aren’t cold enough for fur hats and multiple layers, but they are too cold for anything more vigorous than drinking wine and reading under blankets.

It’s also the time of the year when I feel like reading something weird and strange. The problem with weird is that it is a spectrum, and it’s not always clear where on it the exact weird you need lies. Do I feel like Jeff VanDermeer-style weird? John M. Harrison? Catherynne M. Valente?

Occasionally one feels like finding something that could be described as ‘wonderfully strange’. I guess that’s what I needed, and I eventually found it in a book I bought a year ago on a whim. It’s a collection of stories by Theodora Goss called In the Forest of Forgetting.

DNOA4910The first story in the collection is a retelling of The Sleeping Beauty, and while I am normally not very much into fairy tale retellings (I like them when they are well-done, but I do not seek them out), this one was great. The second story pretty much hit the ‘weird’ I had been seeking, and so I by the time I read the incredibly beautiful third story, I was thoroughly in love with Theodora Goss and her wonderfully strange tales.

Short stories are my wavelength right now, mostly because I’m writing my own and I need to read other people’s to learn from and be inspired. I am trying to write every day, and I am hacking my brain by using Habitica to do this, because apparently doing tasks for fake gold works. The next step is to also draw every day. I don’t think it’s possible to have a more than full-time job, write, draw, read, and also get enough sleep, so something has to give. I’d like to hope it’s not sleep.

Incidentally, my next read on the ‘weird’ stack is John M. Harrison’s Light. I know a couple of people in my blog feed have been reading Harrison’s stuff, so let me join the collective subconscious that is obviously hungering for something truly odd this time.

Reading update: the not-yet-published weird edition

After my complete re-read of Locke & Key, I went back to my ARC pile decimation. That’s when things got weird. Here’s what I read in the past few days:

IMG_20140618_112520Stephen Collins, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. This is not out till October 2014, so you will have to wait a few months to find out what the deal is with evil beard. It’s a graphic novel, and it’s delightful.

20763852The Wilds by Julia Elliott. The cover. That’s pretty much why it found its way into my hands. And a mention of ‘brain-restoration procedure’ on the back. (Publishers, take note: if you want me to read a book, choose unsettling cover images and just write BRAIN PROCEDURE in giant letters on said cover. Easy.) Much weird indeed is happening within this collection of short stories. Feral dogs, almost feral humans, diseases. Also not out till October, which seems like the perfect month for it, given Halloween and all.

Next post will feature books already in print and easily obtained, I promise.