Culture Consumption: April 2024

The Night Eaters is a gorgeous graphic horror novel by by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, which tells the story of a Chinese American family. Ipo and Keon, the parents, are in town visiting their children, twins Milly and Billy, who are working hard to keep their restaurant afloat. Despite their hard work, however, the parents wonder if they’ve been too soft on their children, wondering if they are going to be able to stand on their own.

Underlying this struggle is a deeper mystery. The house across the street is overgrown and eerie in appearance. When Ipo enlists her children to help her clean up the house, the hellish truth behind the haunted structure is revealed, as well as hidden family truths.

The story feels both grounded in family conflict, while at the same time providing an interesting exploration of the fantastical — along with darker and more dangerous threats that are likely to come in future volumes. This, combined with the stunning, layered artwork makes for a beautiful, unsettling book. I can’t wait to read more from these authors, and I may have to also catch up on their previous work, Monstress.

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Culture Consumption: March 2024

Books

The Haunting of Velkwood by Gwendolyn Kiste

Gwendolyn Kiste is one of my favorite horror writers — in a large part because of the way she centers female friendships and love. Her characters and their relationships with each other are interesting and complex and messy, and this is equally true with her latest novel The Haunting of Velkwood.

When the block of homes within the Velkwood Vicinity suddenly turned into a ghostly apparition with all of the families trapped inside, only three young women (away at college at the time of the event) survived. The site became a hot spot for occultists and scientist hoping to understand the strange phenomena and how it is tied to the afterlife. Haunted by pestering reporters and by memories they’d rather keep secret, the three young women attempt to move on with their lives, with varying degrees of success.

Years later, Talitha Velkwood is alienated from her former friends and living a kind of half-life in a grungy apartment with a crappy job that barely pays the rent. The dour routine of her life is dirupted, when Jack, a new occult researched of the Velkwood phenomena, contacts her about a new project to investigate the haunted neighborhood. Exhausted by her relentless present, she agrees to return home with him in the hopes of seeing her eight-year-old sister one more time. She steps back into the void of her own home and begin to dredge up the remnants of the past — and act that brings her back into contact with her fellow survivors.

A Seemingly Impossible Adventure by Laura Madeline Wiseman

An Apparently Impossible Adventure by Laura Madeline Wiseman is a beautiful collection of poetry that explores the magical and wondrous in everyday experiences. The narrator of this collection processes the isolation of mundanity and personal loss through a longing for magic. And these prose poems feel both confessional and like a kind of spell casting, drawing the reader into their world.

At the free special exhibit opening on contemporary fairy folk art at the university art museum, I’m sure fairies are hiding behind the trees in the photograph, behind the girl, the one like your sister, with the candy cigarette. This is America, the late 1980s of outlandish white ruffles, plastic wristwatches, hair sunbleached and wild.

from “Candy, Cigarettes, and Fairies”

The lake that was an ocean, the coffee can, backseat’s chrome, hours of sun on road, flooded trees, while nude beneath bark, shimmered. The back of her head silvered-blonde, the back of hers fire-streaked, my kid sister’s big eyes, glinted. The dolls unraveled from sparkly clothes, dark self from bright others, one country’s sunrise from another’s sunset.

from “Radiance”

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Culture Consumption: February 2024

Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.

Books

In T. Kingfisher’s What Feasts at Night, Alex Easton is still recovering from the terrifying events that occurred at the Usher manor (in the first book, What Moves the Dead). All they want is to rest and idle away their days in the routine of noise and delights of Paris, but “instead, as a favor to Angus and Miss Potter, they find themself heading to their family hunting lodge, deep in the cold, damp forests of their home country, Gallacia. In theory, one can find relaxation in even the coldest and dampest of Gallacian autumns, but when Easton arrives, they find the caretaker dead, the lodge in disarray, and the grounds troubled by a strange, uncanny silence. The villagers whisper that a breath-stealing monster from folklore has taken up residence in Easton’s home. Easton knows better than to put too much stock in local superstitions, but they can tell that something is not quite right in their home. . . or in their dreams.”

This is an excellent sequel, and I think I enjoyed it even more than the first book — in part, because of the way the book further expands the characters, explores how Alex is haunted by their experiences in war, and the infusion of folklore, which is a particular love of mine.

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Culture Consumption: January 2024

Here’s my month in books, television and games.

Books

The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro is a gorgeous horror novel. On the surface, Alejandra has a picture perfect life — a handsome husband, three beautiful children, and a large house in which to care for them. But the image presented doesn’t tell the whole story. Alejandra is dragged down by her life and the expectations placed upon her, with the daily tasks of caring for her husband and children allowing no space for her to be or think for herself. Worse is the sense of guilt she feels for being unhappy in the first place, because what does she have to be unhappy for. As the depression oozes around her, it dredges up something deep, deep from darkness, something ghostly and deadly stalking her and feeding her despair — and if she can’t face what haunts her, then it will destroy her.

The Haunting of Alejandra explores the nature of healing through therapy, connecting with ancestors and loved ones, and finding one’s inner strength. Alejandra’s journey is beautiful and moving. This is a book that on the one hand presents the horrors of ancient monsters, generational trauma, and depression, while on the other hand giving me such a sense of hope.

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Culture Consumption: November 2023

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, television, and games.

Books

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus enters into the magical world of a circus unlike any other. It’s a beautiful place that feels like entering into a kind of monochrome fairyland, with each and every exhibit dressed in black and white. And indeed, the circus is more magical than it seems — because it lies at the center of a magical competition in which two students of magic are pitted against each other in a years-long competition. The story beautiful weaves through time and explores multiple character perspectives to provide a wonderful

Poetry as Spellcasting, written and edited by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, and Lisbeth White is a beautiful collection of essays and poetry about the ways in which poetry connects to and reflects the sacred, spiritual, and magical — and the ways the author use the act of writing poetry as a sacred practice, a form of healing, a method for connecting with ancestors and community, and a path toward building a better future. In addition to the essays and poetry, the book includes prompts and suggestions to delving into poetry while staying grounded and connected to spirit.

In the essay “Articulating the Undercurrent,” Dominique Matti writes:

“I learned that it was possible to feel what one could not otherwise know. And that I could transmit feeling where rational explanation failed, by using poetry like a lyre — plucking invisible energetic strings. I discovered that where no one would cry for me, my poetry could conjure easy tears. And when my spirit could not represent itself in mundane gesture, it could rise up and shout in verse.”

In “Text of Bliss,” Kenji C. Lui writes:

“There is a time and place for the poetry of comfort and contentment, the poem that pleases aesthetically even if the subject is difficult. Beyond that, I think my poetry goal is to break something. Not in the sense of something broken in my interior, a confession and healing, but instead a methodical attempt to

break certain aspects of

this world.

. . . to bring to a crisis [their] relation with language.

In “Poetry as Prayer,” Hyejung Kook writes:

“Rilke says, ‘Every angel is terrifying.’ But what if you are the angel? What if the power you are afraid to call upon and know is your own power? Consider the possibility that the outward address of poetry as prayer was actually an inner invocation, a tapping into our own divine and enlightened self.”

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