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.

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Culture Consumption: August 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again, but here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonTwo of the books I loved this month focus on women finding power through transformation. In Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, a heavily pregnant Vern escapes from a religious compound into the woods, where she gives birth to twins. For a while she lives wild, raising her children as she pleases, all the while they are being hunted. As time passes, Vern begins to grow in strength, experiencing a physical transformation she doesn’t understand.

Sorrowland was described to me as gothic horror, though considering the extent of Vern’s physical changes, it could almost be described as body horror. The book definitely carried some dark elements to it, some terrible and terrifying things, but throughout the darkness, there was also a light showing through in the way Vern grows and learns to claim her own identity and space in the world, finding pleasure in the ways her body changed. The love she has for her children and they for her is wonderful, complex, and beautiful. And her family grows when she finds people with whom she can connect can care for, while receiving the same in return. That carries with it such a powerful light of hope through all the dark times she experiences.

Goddess of Filth by V CastroThe second book was Goddess of Filth by V. Castro, in which a group of friends perform a play seance, laughing and drinking until their friend Fernanda begins chanting in Nahuatl and appearing to be possessed. As time passes, Fernanda continues to act strangely, “smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty.” With her mother in a moral panic over the changes, Fernanda’s friends try to find a way to help her in any way they can.

I love so many things about this book, first and foremost the way these five friends are wonderful. They support each other, look out for each other, and do what that can for each other. Another aspect that I loved about is that Fernanda’s possession is not an assault, but more symbiotic. The goddess within her offers wisdom and strength, and Fernanda begins to change, finding strength and confidence in the presence of the goddess. When her friend Lourdes begins to realize this, she works to help Fernanda face this new reality. The story has its terrors, but it is also so beautiful. I’m so glad I read it.

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Culture Consumption: October 2020

Hi, lovelies. Coming in a little late this month, here are the books, television, games, and podcasts I consumed.

Books

Catrachos, poems by Roy G. GuzmánI read two fantastic poetry books this month. The first was Catrachos by Roy G. Guzmán, whose work always makes me feel awash in rich, vibrant language. Described as being “part immigration narrative, part elegy, and part queer coming-of-age story,” this stunning book blends pop culture and humor with cultural experience to provide a powerful and riveting collection of poems. I recently interviewed Guzmán about their new book, which will appear on the New Books in Poetry podcast soon.

Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty is a gorgeous collection of erasure poetry, using the pages of Stephen King’s Misery.  Each of the pages combines evocative poetry with the visual treat of vibrant collage art. Some examples of her can be found at Tupelo Quarterly.

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Culture Consumption: September 2020

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

Books

The Only Good Indians-Stephen Graham Jones - horror novelThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones is a dark tale of revenge, in which four American Indian men find themselves facing the consequences for their actions as youths. One by one, they are slowly hunted down by a strange entity, bent on making them pay. Beautifully written and shockingly gory, the story unfolds shifts between each of their points of views. The Only Good Indians blends intense action with sharp social commentary, presenting a book with a powerful and moving conclusion. The evolution of this story provided a number of surprises and ultimately left me in tears by the end. Fantastic.

From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards is a collection of poetry that feels like medicinal show, poems acting as instructions for cures, cleaning products, fixtures, elixirs, and poisons. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Exploring the Horrors of Being Human with Junji Ito

Junji Ito-No Longer Human

Junji Ito is a master of horror storytelling. His beautifully illustrated comics offer deeply disturbing, strange tales, exploring cosmic and body horror. Fantastic though these stories generally are — in my experience — they tend not to focus on character development, as much as they reveal the bizarre ways the world can be twisted into utterly horrifying experiences.

In this way, No Longer Human is somewhat of a departure from his previous work. While it contains the same level of gorgeous artwork combined with incredibly unsettling horrors, it’s more grounded, focusing on the life and experiences of Yozo Oba.

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