A Review of HP Lovecraft: The Mysterious Man Behind the Darkness by Charlotte Montague

I’m beginning to think that horror authors from the the turn of the century into the 1930’s must take their inspiration from rough childhoods and nightmares. Lovecraft has said he was influenced by Poe and it seems they were both haunted in many ways. Lovecraft was raised by a single mother who was entirely overprotective and raised him to think he was weak and sickly. He was also raised by 2 aunts and therefore didn’t have much in the way of strong male influences. It was thought, based on things Lovecraft wrote to friends and family about his health and symptoms, that he was not necessarily sickly but quite possible suffering from a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. From early childhood into adulthood he dealt with and obsessive personality, tics, and fits of fainting and seizures. As he got older he enjoyed great and very close relationships with fellow amateur writers but his one attempt at marriage failed miserably as he was more interested in himself and his friends than any sort of romantic relationship.

This is the second biography I have read written by Charlotte Montague, the first being Edgar Allan Poe. This one was in the same format and just as interesting and entertaining. I really love how the chronology of his works and where he drew inspiration for these stories are woven together with facts from the things going on in his life because you can really tie together how life and various relationships influenced him. Unlike Poe, Lovecraft was able to sell many of his stories for, at the time, hefty sums. But like Poe, he never really gained much popularity in the literary world until decades after his death.

You must be very familiar with HP Lovecraft’s work if you’re going to read this biography though. There are complete plot summaries for most of his major works. While this is fantastic for someone like me who has already read all of his work in the past, there are a plethora of spoilers for those who are just beginning to visit his library. For me, it was a nice reminder of what I have read by him and a fun revisit.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of HP Lovecraft. This is a very in depth exploration of his life and work and I now feel I know so much more than I did before. Lovecraft wrote so many lengthy letters to friends and family throughout his short life that much of what is found in this book is words and revelations from his own mouth and mind.

A Review of The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac

No one appreciates the love of their family and small town life until they find themselves out of it and making their way in the big wide world. Adventure awaits the Martin family as the older boys, Joe, Peter, and Francis leave their small town of Galloway to go to college. Joe decides against college and instead becomes a truck driver travelling the united states. Peter is the star football player at high school and despite his worries of being a little fish in a big pond now, he makes the university team. Soft spoken and sickly Francis is not the sports type which doesn’t exactly make him popular with his sports obsessed family. He finds himself being sucked into the literary circles of the big city when he leaves for university.

This is a really long book and the problem I had with it, is that it takes so long for anything of value to happen it became a chore to read. There is an extremely long back story to each character in this book and so much unnecessary information is given that I feel like I am just spying on a family in their day to day lives. Ordinary conversations that does nothing to further the plot reigns supreme in this portrait of small town life. I really thought I would like this one because Kerouac is such a well known author and I grew up in a small town and thought I could relate.

I gave this book a 3 out of 5. For me, this book never really delivered after the slow and monotonous lead up. It is very much suited to a previous time when people were in a slower mindset, when slow build up was the norm. Because of the generational gap I never felt like I related to any of the characters or cared what happened to this. I was disappointed and have crossed Jack Kerouac off my list of authors to read more of.

A Review of Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide by Stephen Jones

This guide gives a short synopsis and some behind the scenes commentary of every film based on a Stephen King movie up to it’s print date of 2001. It even talks about the movies very loosely based on his stories and the episodes of popular television series that he scripted, Chinga from X Files for instance. I was surprised to see that he had a close circle of friends that included movie industry big wigs that he frequently works with, like Mick Garris and George Romero. This book also talks about the reception of the films, how much creative control King had and his involvement, and how closely the film follows the book, which in most cases isn’t very close.

I quite enjoyed this book, because as a cinephile, I’ve seen a good majority of those tv mini series and films based on his books. I’m not as familiar with the lower budget works or his dollar babies, but now this gives me a list of things I need to check out. The book ends with an interview with the man himself and what I liked best was how he talked about his near fatal accident of 1999 that almost prevented him from ever writing again. At the printing of this interview, his only plans for writing were to finish the Dark Tower series and one more novel and then he was going to retire. I’m incredibly glad he decided to scrap that idea because he has printed some fantastic works since then.

I give this one a 5 out of 5.  It has great info on the movies and the process it took to get them to the screen for us to see. The photographs and video covers only enhance the experience. This is a must have companion book for any fan of the man himself: Stephen King!

A Review of Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The narrator of this story is a man utterly bored with his life. Because he feels it has no meaning and we’re all living to pretty much die he can’t sleep. His extreme somnia leads him to visit a doctor so he can get sleeping pills. His doctor doesn’t want to prescribe him anything. He tells him instead to visit a support group for people with serious illnesses. That will put some perspective into his life. Out of desperation, he takes the doctor’s advice. What he finds at these support groups helps. When he sees death right in front of him he suddenly feels reborn and crying in the arms of these people on the brink of death gives him the ability to once again sleep like a baby. Until Marla Singer shows up. He recognizes right away that she is also a “faker” there to feel alive and he knows that she knows that he is also a faker. Suddenly his safe haven is no longer safe and insomnia returns. Until he meets Tyler on a beach. After a night drinking he asks the narrator to hit him. Reluctantly the narrator does and the fight club is born. But after awhile this isn’t even good enough and things start to escalate… chaos ensues.

This is the second book by Chuck Palahniuk that I have read. While this one wasn’t as disturbing as Haunted, this is an exceptional book. I had previously seen the movie many times, so the twist ending isn’t much of a twist for me. It probably isn’t for anyone at this point with Tyler Durden being so deeply enmeshed in pop culture at this point in time. This book was the author’s debut in 1997 and was born from a short story he wrote when he was bored at work one day. Not only is the writing good, but there’s actually some really good social commentary about how we deal with others and our own self involved society.

The only thing I really didn’t like about this book is the abrupt ending. While there was resolution to the major plot, I feel like it didn’t give a real resolution to the character relationships. The end left me wanting a whole lot more and I got excited when I saw there was an afterward but it really didn’t address anything from the story.

I really enjoyed this book. I give it a solid 5 out of 5. I think the social commentary is even more relevant today than it was when it came out 20 years ago. He calls it a single serving lifestyle and in today’s world everything is meant to be thrown away. We are even more self absorbed than we were when it was first written. I highly recommend this book. I think it would make a good book club read as well. There are a lot of social and personal issues worth discussing. It is very graphic in its descriptions of violence and some sexual activity.

A Review of Edgar Allen Poe: The Strange Man Standing Deep in the Shadows by Charlotte Montague

First of all, I just want to say, I’ve read everything by Poe as he was at one time my favorite author. He still is one of my favorites. I thought I knew a lot about his life through the articles I’ve read here and there over the years. I realized that I really knew not much of anything about him. His story is sad and very tragic.

Without getting into too much detail, because this is a book every Poe fan should read, one of the things that really stood out to me was how socially awkward Poe was. He fought with a good majority of his literary colleagues and was somewhat of a ladies man. Though he was fiercely loyal to Virginia, he received quite a few letters of admiration from friends, writers, and poets. He would read these letters to Virginia and they would laugh together. After her death, he couldn’t bear to be alone so began passionately pursuing several women he was acquainted with. The only thing that really stopped Poe from remarrying was his refusal and/or inability to give up drinking.

I was saddened by the circumstances of his death. He died a not very well liked man, clouded by scandals, alone, and in poverty. Though he had gained quite a bit of popularity due to his stories and poetry, he never made any money from any of it. It took him many years after his death to gain the fame and understanding of his genius that he truly deserved.

I ¬†definitely recommend this book. It is fully illustrated. It gives a synopsis of each of his more famous stories. There are explanations for things and events happening at the time that help to shed some light on the corresponding events in Mr. Poe’s life. Charlotte Montague wrote a series of these books on different historical figures and I intend to delve into her biography of HP Lovecraft next. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

A Review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the revised edition

I read this book with my Facebook book club, The Writer’s Block: A Book Club. When this book was chosen I was really excited because it’s been a classic on my TBR pile for a long time. This was finally the push I needed to actually get into it. After we voted on the book the next order of business was the edition: The Original or The Revised. I didn’t even know there was more than one edition, so this took some research on my part. I discovered that the revised edition is the version that Mary Shelley herself has proclaimed the true edition, so that is the one I decided we would read.

The basic premise for this story is well known to most people. Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of science. His goal becomes to bring to life one who has surpassed death. He creates a homunculus and then through science brings it to life and the monster is then so horrifying to him that it becomes beyond his control and havoc ensues.

I quite enjoyed this book but more when the tale is told through the monster’s perspective than Victor’s. I feel that Victor is a slightly insane, narcissistic, selfish individual and the monster a victim of circumstance and what the depths of loneliness can drive a man to do. There is nothing worse than rejection and the monster knows nothing but this in its pitiful life even among the destruction it causes.

I don’t feel this book to be much like any of the Frankenstein movie/tv/comic adaptations at all. I came into this book thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen but I was wrong. I think this story is much more of a sad tragedy than a real monster/ghost story. I do recommend this book to lovers of classics but it’s not a book for everyone. It is definitely written in a gothic antiquated style of writing. And Victor is extremely self absorbed so he tends to rattle for chapters on inner monologue.

A Review of Outlander (Book 1) by Diana Gabaldon

While exploring the Scottish countryside while on a scholarly trip with her husband, Frank, Claire Randall finds herself on a hill wrapped in mystery called Craigh na Dun. After witnessing what appeared to be a pagan ritual involving possible witches she goes back to see if she could figure out what was happening. Wandering through the rocks, she somehow gets sucked through a crack and comes to amidst a skirmish of some sort. She meets a man who happens to be an english soldier of some kind. She quickly realizes this man looks exactly like her husband Frank. The man quickly attacks her and tries to rape her. She is suddenly rescued and whisked away but finds she is also now a captive to a band of cattle thieves who think her an english spy.

After awhile she puts things together and realizes she’s been spirited away to 1740s Scotland. After being taken to Castles Leoch and establishing that she is in the lands of the clan McKenzie, Claire settles into castle life while still plotting her way back to the standing stones and her husband Frank. But the ruggedly handsome Jamie Fraser is a huge distraction to that plan. Will Claire find her way back to Frank and her time or will she fall in love with the young Highlander and give up all she knows for the past?

There are many things about this book that I absolutely loved. The slow burning romance between Claire and Jamie was fascinating. The very confusing way the McKenzie and Fraser clans were related was interesting. There was a lot of mystery within the different characters and what was going on with them, like whether or not characters were good or bad. The character development was phenomenal.

But, on the flip side of that coin, I felt like the way the characters responded to each other in certain situations was outside how they would behave when you consider how they’ve been presented up to that point. I felt I got to know these characters and Claire and Jamie especially. I came to see them as friends that I was rooting for and while most of their actions were very much them, some were far too unbelievable. The other problem I had with this one is that it was far too long. I thought parts could be cut out that seemed to be more filler than actual necessary pieces to unravel the story.

I give this one a 4 out of 5. This book won’t be for everyone. It contains strong language and strong sexual content. It is also more romance than history, though there is quite a bit of action. So much happens that it seems more like an epic than a novel. I hope if you read it, that you enjoy it like I did.