Culture Consumption: March & April 2022

Hoo, boy. Time slipped right by me. I was planning to do my Culture Consumption for March on time, but then the next thing I knew it was April. In addition to putting two months together, I’ve done a lot media consumption over the past two months — which means I’ve got a huge stack of things to talk about.

I’ll try to move through it all as quickly as I can. If I have the wherewithal, I’ll try to expand on a few of these later on.

Anyway, here I am at last with all the books books, movies, television, games, and podcasts I enjoyed over the past two months.

Books

The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn WalrathLet’s kick things off with a couple of fantastic poetry collections.

First, The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn Walwrath uses the skeletal structure of the body as a means of structurally shaping the collection. Each section begins with a poetic description of various bones, from the cranium to the sternum and beyond. The poems that follow beautifully explore love, sexuality, gender, religion, and death, among other  aspects of humanity and the supernatural. It’s a gorgeous collection with crisp, clear, and lyrical language.

This is How the Bone Sings by W Todd KanekoSecond, This is How the Bone Sings by W. Todd Kaneko is a stunning collection of poems focus on Minidoka, a concentration camp for Japanese Americans built in Idaho during World War II. The author blends history with myth and folklore to explore how the scars of the past carry through generations — from grandparents through to their grandchildren. The wounds caused by racism and hate are continue on through memory and story. These poems are evocative and beautiful, providing an important memorial for an aspect of American history that should never be forgotten.

Noor by Nnedi OkoraforDelving into fiction, Nnedi Okorafor’s Noor is the story of Anwuli Okwudili, a woman who prefers to be called AO, who has a number of necessary body augmentations on her arm and legs — a fact that that makes some superstitious people in Africa believe she is evil or wicked. When she is attacked by men in her local community, she fights back with incredible power and flees into the desert. On her journey, she finds new companions, faces off against an powerful corporation, and finds hope filled utopian community finding safety within the winds of a man-made natural disaster. I loved the characters and communities portrayed with Okorafor’s Africanfuturist vision of a future. It’s a great read.

Cosmobiological-Stories by Jilly DreadfulCosmobiological: Stories by Jilly Dreadful is a collection of hopepunk short stories that explore love, relationships, passion, the resilience of the human spirit, and the possibilities of hope through myth, fantasy, and science fiction.”5×5″ (which you can read at LightSpeed) is an epistolary story about two young people who connect with and find strength through each other at an advanced science camp.

Another gorgeous tale is “Even the Simulacrum Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” which is about a woman who has been genetically engineered for increased empathy. In the story, she has to deal with the impact that this increased empathy has on her live and reckons with her relationship with her father. It totally made me cry by the end.

And these are just two of many of the fantastic tales in this collection.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: March & April 2022”

Culture Consumption: January 2022

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

Books

Little Weirds by Jenny Slate“I realize I want to hear my voice and only mine. Not the voice of my voice within a cacophony of old pains. Just min, now.”

Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds is a strange and beautiful book, one that feels like a blending of poetry and memoir. The series of vignettes in this collection  encapsulate small moments, dreams, or deep emotional experiences, for which Slate layers imagery and sound in a beautiful cacophony of weirdly wonderful passages. It’s one of those rare books in which I found myself drawn to underlining favorite pages, or rereading phrases to taste them over again. It’s a book that came to me at the perfect moment.

“I look up to you because I love the heavenly bodies of the universe, and the way I see it, your heart is a planet.

Your heart is factually a part of the universe, which is a miracle of endless force and boundless beauty.

There is literally no way that you are not a part of that.”

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: January 2022”

Culture Consumption: October 2021

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

Books

The Book of Accidents by Chuck WendigI’ve been following Chuck Wendig’s blog for a long while, and I have loved his wild, cuss-heavy way of discussing writing and the writing life. Now, I’ve finally come around to buying and reading one of his actual books — and I can definitely say I’m a fan.

The Book of Accidents is a richly told horror novel about a family moving to a small town to get away from the violence of the big city — only to quickly experience strange, disturbing events in their new home.  The story draws in a variety of horror tropes — local legends, creepy mines, strange rock formations, ghosts, and others — and yet some how brings all these disparate things into a single cohesive whole. It even uses one of my favorite science fiction tropes, which I won’t mention here, because it’s kind of a spoiler. The short version of all this is that I loved this book and its assortment of characters. I’m looking forwards to reading more from Wendig.

I read two fantastic, but very different poetry collections. The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee is a novel in poems, relating an epic fantasy about a young king trying to defend his kingdom against a number of outside forces, both human and terrifyingly dark. King Xau is a wonderfully mythic figure, one of honor, nobility, and subtle magic  — reminding me of some of the things I love about Arthurian legend from a fictional Chinese perspective. I really loved this tale, which completely captured me with its beautifully clean lines of poetry. I’ve recorded an interview with Lee for the New Books in Poetry podcast, which I hope to edit and have out soon.

Another great collection was Amelia Gorman’s Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, a gorgeous chapbook that pairs botanical illustrations with poems exploring ecological dangers and human nature. Highly recommended.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: October 2021”

Song of Susannah – Reading The Dark Tower, Part VI

Here are Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of my journey through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

The Story

Song of Susannah is a cool 400 pages or so — quite a relief from the 850+ pages of the two previous volumes in the series. Strictly on a physical level, it’s a lot less book to heft around. However, the condensed nature of the book does not negate the value of its storytelling. Song of Susannah is tight in its action and character development, which makes the story all the stronger. 

At the end of Wolves of the Calla, the battle was won but the katet was divided — Susannah, pregnant with a demon’s child and being overtaken by Mia (a new personality), has stollen the Black 13 (a powerful and dangerous stone) and absconded to another world and time. Song of Susannah opens in the midst of this loss, with Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Callahan nursing their wounds and working to come up with a plan to both save Susannah (in one time and place) and obtain the empty lot with the rose from an obsessive bookseller named Tower (who exists in a completely different time and place).

All their planning doesn’t help much, however, because ka has its own designs, immediately setting everything awry — Roland and Eddie find themselves fighting thugs while chasing after the bookseller, while Jake, Callahan, and Oy find themselves going after Susannah.

Unlike the previous book (with it’s slow build to battle), the action in Song of Susannah comes quick and bloody. Roland and Eddie are immediately attacked when they land in the past, and Susannah’s struggles are constant, if internal. The intensity is ever present, since the characters (and the readers) know they are facing virtual ticking bombs — time is desperately short. Failure to achieve either of their goals will result in death of Susannah and/or the destruction of all the universes. 

Structurally, Song of Susannah is different from any other book in the series — each chapter is titled as a verse, making the book itself the overall “song.” Each chapter also concludes with a two stanzas of a commala, which is a kind of call and response song. The structure and inclusion of verse lends the story a folky vibe, like a legendary tale shared over a campfire. This feels fitting considering the revelations that come later in the book, with the writing down of tales being vitally important to the characters survival. 

Commala-ka-kate
You’re in the hands of fate.
No matter if it’s real or not,
The hour groweth late.

Commala-come-eight!
The hour groweth late!
No matter what shade ya cast
You’re in the hands of fate.

Continue reading “Song of Susannah – Reading The Dark Tower, Part VI”

Book Love: The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste

The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste

Description: “It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.”

My Thoughts: I’ve been hearing about The Rust Maidens for a while now, the book continually recommended by others in my social media feed as a stunning work of horror. Having now read it myself, I can whole heartedly agree with each and every one of these observations.

The story takes on body horror with young women at the center. This seems a natural progression, since, as the book illustrates, young women’s bodies are already not their own. One of the aspects of this book is how the mother’s rule the block, meeting out rules, structures, and punishments for their girls. When one of the girls gets pregnant, it’s the mother’s who decide what to do with her and her baby, regardless of what the girl wants (the boy is also irrelevant in this). So, when the young women’s bodies begin to change, taking on the oily, glass-strewn decay of the city, it goes from seeming to be a strange disease at first to seeming like an act of defiance. All the wrongs quickly become cast onto the shoulders of these girls, who dare to be anything other than the kinds of girls people expect them to be.

Maybe that’s why Phoebe remains untouched by this metamorphosis — she’s already something other than the kind of girl she’s expected to be. We see the story from her point of view — both during the events and long after. All at once, she is both horrified by the changes she sees in her cousin and the other girls, and awed by them, finding a strange beauty in their transformations. She holds so many levels of loss and guilt, feeling she’s made all the wrong choices along the way. I love her as a character, not because she’s perfect — she’s far from that — but because she comes off as so human, housing anger, sorrow, and compassion for the people and community around her.

This story is so touchingly beautiful on so many levels, providing a blend of deep, unsettling horror with human love and hope. I particularly love the way the relationships between these girls changes and evolves over the course of this story. It’s just so, so good. As soon as I read the last page, I clutched the book to my chest and just held it. I’ll be looking for all the things by Kiste in the future.

If you want to get some more insight into Kiste’s process writing The Rust Maidens and her love of horror, the Darkness Dwells podcast has a great interview.


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