Monday, January 15, 2018

Reading is FUNdamental - Help!

     Hey guys, happy new year!  I know it's like halfway through the month, when do we stop saying that?  Winter break was looooooong, and half my kids have December birthdays, so I am BURNT OUT.  I just wanted something fun to read this month, and my collection of Rumpus Room Reads to be read were piled somewhere under all the gifts that had yet to be sorted.  So I went to my local library (their holiday party featured a harpist in a red plaid suit, it was very Wes Anderson).  I was looking for "Stranger Beside Me," Ann Rule's book about Ted Bundy.  I'm very late to the podcast game, but now that I do a lot of mindless scanning work (not to mention mindless housework), I've started listening to true crime podcasts, and the ladies on "My Favorite Murder" were talking about this book like back in 2016.

     They didn't have the Bundy book (which I then put a hold on and promptly forgot about when it did come in and had to renew the hold, damn this past month has been busy), but Joyce Carol Oates' works caught my eye.  I remember reading "Foxfire" as a teen and loving it, but that's overshadowed by my memory of a frenemy co-opting the story and trying to pass off the idea that she was in a similar gang at her old school (ah, the freedom of teenagers to make up outrageous lies in the days before social media).  I also read at least one collection of her short stories in college.  So I picked up "The Corn Maiden And Other Nightmares."  It seemed to be marketed as horror, which I obviously dig.

     The titular tale about a young girl's disappearance was good, very good.  Was it scary?  Eh.  Each story got progressively less entertaining and less creepy, more just off-putting and vaguely unsettling.  A tale of revenge.  A sad baby story that I didn't really get.  Some weird twin stuff that I particularly disliked, two twin stories in a row actually.  I don't know which twin story I disliked more.  I quit in the middle of a story about a widow bringing her dead husband's clothes to a second hand store and returned the book to the library.  When I looked the book up today, it sounds like one of the two stories I didn't read, something about a brain surgeon and a voluntary surgery, might have been the only genuinely scary and disturbing tale in the book. 

     There was a friend of my ex-husband's whose company I never enjoyed.  He just rubbed me the wrong way.  He was handsome and nice and responsible, very grown up.  I knew him for years and couldn't figure out what I didn't like about him.  Then one day we met him and his wife in New York, and I invited a college friend of mine who lived there to come to dinner with them as well.  She instantly put her finger on it when the first thing she told me after they left was "I don't like that guy, he doesn't smile."  This book, and so many other books I randomly pick up, felt like that.  It's not so much being humorless, because I know some people find humor in Joyce Carol Oates, it's more like it wasn't smiling.  I like dark books, but there's got to be some humor, some self-awareness. 

     Guys, what should I be reading for fun?  Short story collections would be very welcome suggestions, both for their compactness and because they're a great way to get to know new authors.


Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks, Abigail. I definitely get the holiday/b-day burnout... My b-day is December 16th and my son's is January 5th so lots of that going around in my house (I also did the dishes and vacuumed the house listening to an audio book, so definitely feel ya there too). I'm not a huge consumer of the genre, but the best horror short I read was Stephen King's Full Dark No Stars. No stars I think refers to not a lot of goodness going on, but there's always a smile or two when King writes. Good luck!

One side question, have you come across a lot of twin stories in horror? I'm actually thinking of writing a horror sci-fi mash up where the protagonist has a twin who recently passed away. Should I just change it to a sister rather than be cliché? Thanks.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Great post Abigail! I am totally exhausted after the holidays. It was so hard to go back to work with the house still in chaos. I recently read People Like You by Margaret Malone. Short stories, interesting, she won several awards for her stories.

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