Monday, December 27, 2010

The Horror Writers Association's Horror Reading List

Well, this has to be one of the longest-gestating posts in the history of this blog, but now it's finally done. What I've done here is taken the reading list from the Horror Writers Association website and put the books on it in order from most popular to least popular. Why, you ask? Well, I really like the HWA's list, in spite of some strange quirks (the absence of anything authored by Edgar Allan Poe springs to mind as one of the stranger ones), but the fact that the list is in alphabetical order drove me crazy. For a list that's supposed to for the neophyte horror fan looking to expand his or her literary horizons, it seems to me that you would want to at least rank them in terms of availability if not necessarily merit. Hence the following, ranked in terms of popularity (and correspondingly, I assume, availability) based on the number of owned by the members of LibraryThing (that's the second number you see in parentheses; the first is original date of publication).

(01) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818) (16,918)
(02) Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) (16,332)
(03) The Stand by Stephen King (1978) (10,421)
(04) The Shining by Stephen King (1977) (9,057)
(05) The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) (6,090)
(06) Pet Semetary by Stephen King (1983) (5,882)
(07) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954) (5,622)
(08) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962) (4,820)
(09) Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898) (3,065)
(10) The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka (1915)(2,708)
(11) Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (1995) (2,386)
(12) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959) (2,321)
(13) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971) (2,016)
(14) Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin (1967) (1,657)
(15) Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite (1992) (1,600)
(16) The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (1949) (1,331)
(17) At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (1931) (846)
(18) The Dunwich Horror and Others by H.P. Lovecraft (1963) (461)
(19) Sacrifice by Andrew Vachss (1991) (284)
(20) Dark Dance by Tanith Lee (1992) (257)
(21) Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber (1943) (249)
(22) Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon (1961) (237)
(23) Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (1973) (209)
(24) Book of the Dead edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector (1989)(170)
(25) Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas Ligotti (1989) (161)
(26) The Hungry Moon by Ramsey Campbell (1986) (155)
(27) Dr. Adder by K.W. Jeter (1984) (154)
(28) The Between by Tananarive Due (1995) (137)
(28) Vampire Junction by S.P. Somtow (1984) (137)
(30) The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen (1907) (127)
(31) Ghoul by Michael Slade (1987) (123)
(32) Skin by Kathe Koja (1993) (116)
(33) Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen (1948) (109)
(34) The Ghost Stories of M.R. James (1973) (70)
(35) Sineater by Elizabeth Massie (1992) (52)
(36) Darklands (The Dark Country?) by Dennis Etchison (1982) (47)*
(37) Dead in the Water by Nancy Holder (1994) (22)
(38) Raven by Charles L Grant (1993) (21)
(39) Phantom by Thomas Tessier (1982) (14)
(40) Lovers Living, Lovers Dead by Richard Lortz (1977) (11)

*The listing for this on the HWA site is as "DARKLANDS by Dennis Etchinson". However, having been all over the interwebs in the last few days looking for said title, I am in fact pretty much convinced that no such beast exists, and the in fact the list's authors mean THE DARK COUNTRY, Etchison's acclaimed 1982 short story collection.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speculative Fiction Shorts: "Darkness" by Lord Byron

[The awesomely bleak 1816 poem "Darkness," in which the 6th Baron Byron seems to be saying, "Why should the prose guys have all the apocalyptic fun?" - Art]


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crownéd kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the World contained;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguished with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenchéd hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past World; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnashed their teeth and howled: the wild birds shrieked,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food:
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again:—a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no Love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was Death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famished men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famished by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heaped a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects—saw, and shrieked, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The World was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropped
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The Moon, their mistress, had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perished; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Speculative Fiction Shorts: "The Third Level" by Jack Finney

The presidents of the New York Central and the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroads will swear on a stack of timetables that there are only two. But I say there are three, because I've been on the third level at Grand Central Station. Yes, I've taken the obvious step: I talked to a psychiatrist friend of mine, among others. I told him about the third level at Grand Central Station, and he said it was a waking-dream wish fulfillment. He said I was unhappy. That made my wife kind of mad, but he explained that he meant the modern world is full of insecurity, fear, war, worry, and all the rest of it, and that I just want to escape. Well, hell, who doesn't? Everybody I know wants to escape, but they don't wander down into any third level at Grand Central Station.

But that's the reason, he said, and my friends all agreed. Everything points to it, they claimed. My stamp collecting, for example--that's a "temporary refuge from reality." Well, maybe, but my grandfather didn't need any refuge from reality; things were pretty nice and peaceful in his day, from all I hear, and he started my collection. It's a nice collection, too, blocks of four of practically every U.S. issue, first-day covers, and so on. President Roosevelt collected stamps, too, you know.

Any way, here's what happened at Grand Central. One night last summer I worked late at the office. I was in a hurry to get uptown to my apartment, so I decided to subway from Grand Central because it's faster than the bus.

Now, I don't know why this should have happened to me. I'm just an ordinary guy named Charley, thirty-one years old, and I was wearing a tan gabardine suit and a straw hat with a fancy band--I passed a dozen men who looked just like me. And I wasn't trying to escape from anything; I just wanted to get home to Louisa, my wife.

I turned into Grand Central form Vanderbilt Avenue and went down the steps to the first level, where you take trains like the Twentieth Century. Then I walked down another flight to the second level, where the suburban trains leave from, ducked into an arched doorway heading for the subway--and got lost. That's easy to do. I've been in and out of Grand Central hundreds of times, but I'm always bumping into new doorways and stairs and corridors. Once I got into a tunnel about a mile long and came out in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. Another time I came up in an office building on Forty-sixth Street, three blocks away.

Sometimes I think Grand Central is growing like a tree, pushing out new corridors and staircases like roots. There's probably a long tunnel that nobody knows about feeling its way under the city right now, on its way to Times Square, and maybe another to Central Park. And maybe--because for so many people through the years Grand Central has been an exit, a way of escape--maybe that's how the tunnel I got into . . . but I never told my psychiatrist friend about that idea.

The corridor I was in began angling left and slanting downward and I thought that was wrong, but I kept on walking. All I could hear was the empty sound of my own footsteps and I didn't pass a soul. Then I heard that sort of hollow roar ahead that means open space, and people talking. Then tunnel turned sharp left; I went down a short flight of stairs and came out on the third level at Grand Central Station. For just a moment I thought I was back on the second level, but I saw the room was smaller, there were fewer ticket windows and train gates, and the information booth in the center was wood and old-looking. And the man in the booth wore a green eyeshade and long black sleeve-protectors. The lights were dim and sort of flickering. Then I saw why: they were open-flame gaslights.

There were brass spittoons on the floor, and across the station a glint of light caught my eye: a man was pulling a gold watch from his vest pocket. He snapped open the cover, glanced at his watch, and frowned. He wore a dirty hat, a black four-button suit with tiny lapels, and he had a big, black, handle-bar mustache. Then I looked around and saw that everyone in the station was dressed like 1890 something; I never saw so many beards, sideburns and fancy mustaches in my life. A woman walked in through the train gate; she wore a dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves and skirts to the top of her high-buttoned shoes. Back of her, out on the tracks, I caught a glimpse of a locomotive, a very small Currier & Ives locomotive with a funnel-shaped stack. And then I knew.

To make sure, I walked over to a newsboy and glanced at the stack of papers at his feet. It was the World; and the World hasn't been published for years. The lead story said something about President Cleveland. I've found that front page since, in the Public Library files, and it was printed June 11, 1894.

I turned toward the ticket windows knowing that here--on the third level at Grand Central--I could buy tickets that would take Louisa and me anywhere in the United States we wanted to go. In the year 1894. And I wanted two tickets to Galesburg, Illinois.

Have you ever been there? It's a wonderful town still, with big old farm houses, huge lawns, and tremendous trees whose branches meet overhead and roof the streets. And in 1894, summer evenings were twice as long, and people sat out on their lawns, the men smoking cigars and talking quietly, the women waving palm-leaf fans, with the fireflies all around, in a peaceful world. To be back there with the First World War still twenty years off, and World War II over forty years in the future . . . I wanted two tickets for that.

The clerk figured the fare--he glanced at my fancy hatband, but he figured the fare--and I had enough for two coach tickets, one way. But when I counted out the money and looked up, the clerk was staring at me. He nodded at the bills. "That ain't money, mister," he said, "and if you're trying to skin me you won't get very far," and he glanced at the cash drawer beside him. Of course the money was old-style bills, half again as big as the money we use nowadays, and different-looking. I turned away and got out fast. There's nothing nice about jail, even in 1894.

And that was that. I left the same way I came, I suppose. Next day, during lunch hour, I drew $300 out of the bank, nearly all we had, and bought old-style currency (that really worried my psychiatrist friend). You can buy old money at most any coin dealer's, but you have to pay a premium. My $300 bought less than $200 in old-style bills, but I didn't care; eggs were thirteen cents a dozen in 1894.

But I've never again found the corridor that leads to the third level at Grand Central Station, although I've tried often enough.

Louisa was pretty worried when I told her all this and didn't want me to look for the third level any more, and after a while I stopped; I went back to my stamps. But now we're both looking, every weekend, because now we have proof that the third level is still there. My friend Sam Weiner disappeared! Nobody knew where, but I sort of suspected because Sam's a city boy, and I used to tell him about Galesburg--I went to school there--and he always said he liked the sound of the place. And that's where he is, all right. In 1894.

Because one night, fussing with my stamp collection, I found--well, do you know what a first-day cover is? When a new stamp is issued, stamp collectors buy some and use them to mail envelopes to themselves on the very first day of sale; and the postmark proves the dates. The envelope is called a first-day cover. They're never opened; you just put blank paper in the envelope.

That night, among my oldest first-day covers, I found one that shouldn't have been there. But there it was. It was there because someone had mailed it to my grandfather at his home in Galesburg; that's what the address on the envelope said. And it had been there since July 1894--the postmark showed that--yet I didn't remember it at all. The stamp was a six-cent, dull brown, with a picture of President Garfield. Naturally, when the envelope came to Granddad in the mail, it went right into his collection and stayed there--till I took it out and opened it.
The paper inside wasn't blank. it read:

941 Willard Street
Galesburg, Illinois
July 18, 1894

I got to wishing that you were right. Then I got to believing you were right. And, Charley, it's true: I found the third level! I've been here two weeks, and right now, down the street at the Daly's, someone is playing a piano, and they're all out on the front porch singing Seeing Nellie Home. And I'm invited over for lemonade. Come on back, Charley and Louisa. Keep looking till you find the third level. It's worth it, believe me!

The note is signed Sam.

At the stamp and coin store I go to, I found out that Sam bought $800 worth of old style currency. That ought to set him up in a nice little hay, feed, and grain business; he always said that's what he really wished he could do, and he certainly can't go back to his old business. Not in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1894. His old business? Why, Sam was my psychiatrist.


Copyright 1950 by Jack Finney, © renewed 1978 by Jack Finney

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Free E-Book On Hemingway's Library

Found a link to a free e-book on Ernest Hemingway's library and since I am seemingly unable to post it on Facebook, I will put it up here instead.

Hemingway's Library

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Goodbye, Summer Reading

Looks like my fellow LibraryThing members are (for the most part) putting aside the beach reads and cracking open a lot of Serious Literature for the fall.

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 58
2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson 41
3. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson 34
4. The Passage by Justin Cronin 29
5. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert 21
6. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert 18
7. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 17
8. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel 15
9. The Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett 15
10. Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen 14
11. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson 14
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 13
13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 13
14. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell 12
15. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 12
16. Kraken by China Miéville 11
17. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi 11
18. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery 11
19. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 11
20. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 11
21. Faithful Place by Tana French 10
22. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton 10
23. Under the Dome by Stephen King 10
24. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace 10
25. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 10
26. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 10
27. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters 9
28. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown 9
29. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 9
30. Dracula by Bram Stoker 9
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac 9
32. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 9
33. Odyssey by Homer 9
34. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez 9
35. One Day by David Nicholls 8
36. The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt 8
37. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver 8
38. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen 8
39. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami 8
40. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin 8
41. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 8
42. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 8
43. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 8
44. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer 8
45. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger 8
46. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling 8
47. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer 7
48. The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare 7
49. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova 7
50. The City & The City by China Miéville 7

Monday, August 9, 2010

Miniature Movie Review: TRUE ROMANCE (Tony Scott, 1993) (rewatch)

True Romance (1993)
Stars Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, and Dennis Hopper
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary (uncredited)
Directed by Tony Scott

Features a hilarious comic turn by then-up-and-comer Brad Pitt. And Dennis Hopper's scene with Christopher Walken is his best ever (which is saying something).

Rating: 9/10

BONUS! You can read the entire original script for the film here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Okay - Either It's Recommended Or It's Not

LibraryThing is one of my favorite sites on the Internets, but as of late their automatic recommendations feature has been driving me crazy. This is how it works: LibraryThing lets you catalogue all your books (up to 200 titles that is - if you want to catalogue more, there's a nominal annual fee) and then helps you find people that are interested in the same authors as you, gives you recommendations on what to read next (usually much more accurately than say, Amazon, unless of course you rate your whole library there), allows you to check the contents of your library from anything that has an Internets connection, including your mobile phone (a feature that would be quite helpful to me if I, in fact, owned a mobile phone), and so on and so forth. Basically, it's social networking for book geeks, and it's about goddamn time somebody thought of it, I say.

So the deal with the recommendations is this - you catalogue all (or most) (or some) of your books, and LibraryThing gives you back a big-ass (like 1,000 titles) list of recommended books that aren't already in your library. It's usually pretty accurate - for example, LT has recommended titles by authors like Salinger, Golding, and Bradbury, all of whom I like, and none of whom they know I've read. Having said that, there's sometimes a little systemic programming glitch that drives me crazy. To wit: every other time I log onto the site, I look down at the list of automatic recommendations and I'll see listed there, along with 2 or 3 other titles, Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Cover courtesy Penguin Books. Cover image: Detail from Sunset, Mont Blanc by Wenzel Hablik, in the Wenzel Hablik Museum. Copyright Wenzel Hablik Museum, Itzahoe.

This is great, and I'm very flattered that LibraryThing thinks that I may be able to read the infamously difficult and ambiguous Nietzsche with something approaching comprehension, I wish they would decided whether they really want to recommend this to me our not, because the next time I log on to the site, it isn't there. I don't see it on the home page, and when I click on the link to the recommendations page, it's nowhere to be found; but then I log on again a couple of days later and it's back. A couple of days later, it's gone again. A couple of days later... you get the idea.

The fascinating thing to me is I'm now much more interested in reading this book than I would be if it had just come up as a recommendation and stayed there. But I still wanna know... what's the deal, LT? Am I worthy of reading Nietzsche or not? I guess I'll have to take the plunge and find out for myself.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Django Reinhardt

Here's the deal: I am totally not impressed by other guitar players. With the exception of Stanley Jordan, Robert Johnson, Jerry Garcia, and perhaps 2 or 3 others that I'm can't remember right now, it's really unusual for me to sit up and take notice of a guitarist; I've been playing myself for over a quarter of a century, and while I don't consider myself particularly great at it, I know too much about the mechanics of the instrument to be really blown away by anyone who isn't a player of really exceptional passion, technique, and/or imagination. What I'm attempting to get at is this - when I tell you that a guitar player knocked me out of my chair, I'm talking about something that has happened (maybe) a dozen times in my life.

Such was the case yesterday when I was surfing around YouTube and I saw some performance footage of jazz great Django Reinhardt for the first time.

There I was, sitting in our living room with my 4 year old daughter, playing with our new laptop while she was watching cartoons, watching mostly classic rock-type videos when I got a sudden random urge to see if they had any Django footage. I had heard his records on several different occasions and had heard the amazing story of how he had badly injured two of his left-hand fingers in a fire and still managed to play, but I realized I had never seen the man play. I did a quick search, found this video, got to about the 2:50 mark on the clip (where he plays a particularly blinding run during his solo), and literally started YELLING (much to my daughter's chagrin), "WHAT?!? WHAT?!?"

I mean, is that one of the most amazing things (and humbling) you've ever seen in your life or what? If that doesn't inspire you, I guess I don't know what will.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rock Improvisation - Links And Examples

As is often the case now in the Age of the Internets, I'll get an idea for a post, do a quick Google search on the topic, and find an article where someone has said everything (or almost everything) I wanna say about it. So anyway, here's a link to the article (on, in this case, improvisation in rock music), from the excellent Perfect Sound Forever website:


I also found some useful information from the following text; I of course take exception to the characterization of the Grateful Dead's improvisations as "ponderous", but I gotta give some respect to any author that's able to discuss the Dead, John Coltrane, and Black Flag in the space of two pages and say something significant about each one.

From "The Path to Freedom" in Free Jazz and Free Improvisation by Todd S. Jenkins

For those of you who still have no idea of what the hell these guys are talking about, here's of few of my favorite examples of rock improvisation, courtesy of YouTube:

Johnny B. Goode (Live in Berkeley, CA 5/30/70) - Jimi Hendrix

Monday, July 5, 2010

Arthur & George - Julian Barnes

I was surfing around LibraryThing (one of favorite websites) and found the following book, which I was surprisingly unaware of up until now (although I have heard of Julian Barnes before):

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes - LibraryThing

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Drop me a line in the comments section if you've read it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Experts Pick The Best Robert E. Howard Conan Stories

Hi, folks. I've been spending the last few weeks getting re-acquainted with the work of Conan creator Robert E. Howard, and I thought it might be fun to surf around the Internets and see if I could find if there's any kind of consensus regarding what are the best of his Conan tales. Basically what I've done here compiled the selections from three main sources: the stories that John Clute selected for the Penguin Modern Classics anthology Heroes in the Wind: From Kull To Conan; the stories selected for the two Best of Robert E. Howard volumes, edited by noted REH scholar Rusty Burke; and the top five stories selected by forum posters at, the official REH website.

Here are the results:

Stories selected for HEROES IN THE WIND: FROM KULL TO CONAN (Penguin; John Clute, ed.):

Stories selected for THE BEST OF ROBERT E. HOWARD VOLUME 1: CRIMSON SHADOWS and VOLUME 2: GRIM LANDS (Del Rey; Rusty Burke, ed.):

Top 5 REH Conan stories as selected by forum posters at (and % of votes obtained):
3) RED NAILS (10%)

So the final tally is something like this -

On all 3 lists:

Selected by Clute and Burke only:

Selected by Clute and posters only:

Selected by Burke and posters only:

Selected by Clute only:

Selected by posters only:

So what do you think, Howard fans? Is this a pretty good sample of the best of REH's Conan, or is there some glaring omission that newbies should be made aware of? Let me know.

PS If you're rarin' to start reading some of these Conan yarns, most of Howard's fiction (as well as a decent chunk of his letters, poetry, essays, etc.) can be found online here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Do H.P. Lovecraft And The Grateful Dead Have In Common?

Not too much. The only things I can come up with are (1) they are both the names of American psychedelic rock bands formed in the 1960s, and (2) they're the subject matter of the two items I have shipping from! (Yes, my life is officially so boring that the best thing I can come up with for a blog post is something about items I'm getting from Amazon. Look for Art's next post, in which he enumerates his favorite breakfast cereals!) Specifically, I'm getting copies of An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz and Live/Dead by the Grateful Dead. (I'm actually listening to the Live/Dead version of "Dark Star" on Rhapsody as I write this.)

I actually had a fairly tough time deciding what to get. The Lovecraft encyclopedia was a gimme, 'cause I use the (incomplete) online version of it at Google Books all the time. (This brings me to important (albeit discursive) point I wanted to make. To wit: ATTENTION PUBLISHERS/ AUTHORS/ EVERYONE AT GOOGLE BOOKS: Having your books available on Google Books is an excellent marketing tool. Even if I can read your book online, if I find it useful and/or entertaining, I still want to own a copy of it. I don't really like reading books on a computer, so if there is a book that I find online that I use all the time or that I am pretty sure I will read in its entirety, I will probably end up purchasing it. I am sure there are lots and lots of other people that feel the same way I do.) The Dead CD was a little harder - I had another 7+ bucks to play with 'cause I decided I wanted to be eligible for Super Saver Shipping, so it was between the Dead CD and A Game Of Thrones (the first book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice And Fire series, which a friend described as "turning the fantasy genre upside-down"), as they were each a little over 7 bills. I finally decided on the Dead CD simply because although I'm a long-time fan (saw my 1st show back in '87), I really don't have a lot of the band's stuff on CD and I've wanted Live/Dead in particular for a very long time.

Ah, the joys and agonies of capitalism. Did I make the right decision? I'll have a better handle on that once I actually obtain said items, but, in the meantime, what do you think?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Heroes In The Wind - Robert E. Howard

I was just looking at the Wikipedia entry for Heroes in the Wind: From Kull to Conan by Robert E.Howard, which I see is being put out under the Penguin Modern Classics imprint. Wow - the guys that my D & D-playing friends and I used to read in high school sure have moved up in the world. First Tolkien gets a multiple Academy Award-winning film made based on his work, then Lovecraft gets a volume of his fiction published by the Library of America, and now Howard has his own Penguin Modern Classics volume. I guess it really is respectable to be a geek these days.

Anyway, here's the book's table of contents, according to Wikipedia (the notes in brackets are mine).

Introduction (John Clute)

"Recompense" [poem]

I Black Dawn
"The Shadow Kingdom" [a Kull story]
"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" [Kull]
"Kings of the Night" [Bran Mak Morn]
"Worms of the Earth" [Bran Mak Morn]
"The Dark Man" [Turlogh Dubh O'Brien/Bran Mak Morn]

II Dark Interlude
"The Footfalls Within" [Solomon Kane]
"Pigeons from Hell" [a Weird West story]
"Graveyard Rats" [a Steve Harrison story]
"Vultures of Wahpeton" [Western fiction]

III High Noon [all the stories in this section are Conan tales]
"The Tower of the Elephant"
"Queen of the Black Coast"
"A Witch Shall Be Born"
"Red Nails"

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dennis Hopper 1936 - 2010

This is a couple of days late, but I didn't want to let the holiday weekend to end without taking a moment to recognize the passing of one of the great talents of American cinema, actor, director, and writer Dennis Hopper. Though he'll probably be remembered best for his higher-profile work in films like Apocalypse Now, Cool Hand Luke, and Rebel Without A Cause, I personally will always recall him first in his magnificent (Tarantino-scripted) scene with Christopher Walken in Tony Scott's True Romance (which you can watch here), which just might be the greatest moment in the history of American movies, full stop.

My sympathies go out to Dennis' family and friends. He will be missed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Current Reading: "The Monster Of The Prophecy" by Clark Ashton Smith

(Note: This is the first post in an occasional series where I'll write about books or stories that I'm currently reading, rather than books that I've finished reading like I do at Amazon.)

Right now I'm reading "The Monster Of The Prophecy" by the great weird fiction author Clark Ashton Smith. The reasons I'm posting this are: (1) I'm a huge CAS fan and will use any excuse whatsoever to drop his name; and (2) I think the cover of the original Weird Tales magazine in which it first appeared (pictured below) is pretty freakin' cool.

Cover of the January 1932 issue of Weird Tales. Art by C.C. Senf

I'm about halfway through it right now. So far it's pretty interesting - sort of like one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories as written by Charles Baudelaire. I'll let you know what I think of it when I'm done.

UPDATE (5/23/10): Well, I finished it tonight. An odd mixture of decadent and twee, but the language and imagery are beautiful, as always. 4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Memoriam: Steve Tompkins

I just came across a great tribute to the late Robert E. Howard scholar Steve Tompkins over at the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur website and thought I'd post a link. Why? Simply put, it's because I believe that Tompkins was a great writer and amazing critical thinker whose work deserves to be more widely read than it is, which, outside of the Howard fandom community, it largely is not. Tompkins was an intellectual whirlwind whose essays slalomed breathlessly from topic to topic - he could veer from Quentin Tarantino to Stephen King to Herodotus and then back to his original subject (usually Howard, less often (but just as ably) J. R. R. Tolkien or Charles R. Saunders or Ian Fleming), leaving the reading's head spinning trying to keep up with him. If you care about great writing (and particularly if you are as dismayed about the ghettoization of genre fiction as I often am), you should check him out. Click on the link above, or, better yet, take a look at his archived posts at The Cimmerian, which remains some of the finest work of his I've seen on the net.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

H.L. Mencken Was Right

No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people... or, it would seem, the book-purchasing public.

Alphascript Publishing sells free articles as expensive books

I'd get mad if I could stop laughing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Notes On Cornell (Grateful Dead - 5/8/77)

Well, it's happened again.

About every 4 - 5 years I get on a kick where I am intensely into the Grateful Dead for about 6 months, to the point where I want to listen to little or nothing else. I don't know why this always happens to me with the Dead; I go through similar phases with the Stones and AC/DC, but I also listen to them during "down times". With the Dead it's strictly feast or famine - I'm either listening to them all the time or not at all.

These "Deadhead periods" (if you will) are usually triggered by seeing a show or a film that features the band - this time, it was actually through discovering the live music section of the Internet Archive. Holy shit! If you are remotely interested in the Dead (hell, if you're remotely interested in live music period), you needed to check this out. I got to listen to the famous Cornell University show from 5/8/77 (embedded below) & thought it might be interesting
to post some notes on where the different songs performed come from. So... here 'tis.

(Note: if the player isn't working, you can access the page for the Cornell show at the Internet Archive directly by clicking here.)

- "New Minglewood Blues", originally by Noah Lewis, is from Shakedown Street (1978)

-"Loser" is from Jerry Garcia's album Garcia (1972)

-"El Paso", originally by Marty Robbins, first appeared on the live album Steal Your Face (1976)

- "They Love Each Other" originally appeared on the Jerry Garcia album Reflections (1976)

- "Jack Straw" originally appeared on Europe '72 (1972)

- "Deal" also appeared originally on Garcia (1972)

- "Lazy Lightning" appeared originally on the Kingfish album Kingfish (1976). "Supplication" originally appeared on this album also.

- "Brown-Eyed Women" is also originally from Europe '72

- "Mama Tried" is a Merle Haggard song. Its 1st appearance on a Dead album was on Grateful Dead (aka Skull And Roses) (1971)

-"Row Jimmy" is from the album Wake of the Flood (1973)

- "Dancing in the Street" was, of course, originally recorded by the great Martha and the Vandellas in 1964. The Dead actually started performing it way back in 1966, but it did not make an appearance on one of their records until Terrapin Station (1977). It has also been covered by the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, the Mamas and the Papas, Van Halen, and about half of the other artists in the fuckin' universe.

-"Scarlet Begonias" is from the album From The Mars Hotel (1974)

- "Fire On the Mountain" is from Shakedown Street (1978)

- "Estimated Prophet" is from Terrapin Station (1977)

- "Saint Stephen" is from Aoxomoxoa (1969)

- "Not Fade Away" was originally recorded by Buddy Holly and the Crickets in 1957. Its 1st appearance on a Dead album was on Grateful Dead aka Skull & Roses in 1971. Much like "DITS", its been covered by about a bazillion other artists, including the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. It was also issued as the 1st single by Rush.

-"Morning Dew" was originally recorded by Bonnie Dobson. It made its Dead vinyl debut on The Grateful Dead (1967). It was also covered by Fred Neil, Tim Rose, The Jeff Beck Group, and Devo(!), amongst others.

-"One More Saturday Night" is from Bob Weir's album Ace (1972)

Many thanks to the fine folks at Grateful Dead Family Discography and Grateful Dead Lyric And Song Finder for making the researching of this post a whole hell of a lot easier.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Will The RNC Still Respect You In The Morning? Suprise! They Never Did!

Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear' - Ben Smith -

What's the saying? "A fool and his money are soon parted"?

Seriously - even if you are conservative, respect yourself enough not to support these sleazeballs.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You gotta be fucking kidding me.

'Miss me yet?' asks billboard George W. Bush

Earthquake! Earthquake? EARTHQUAKE!

Believe it or not, we had a nice little earthquake here in northern Illinois at around 4 AM this morning. I was sleeping at work (I work in a residential group home where we're allowed to sleep on 3rd shift) and thought a snowplow had hit the building!

Here's a link to the story on the New York Times website:
Small Earthquake Hits Near Chicago

Monday, February 8, 2010


Hello and welcome to "...desirous of everything at the same time...", a web journal of miscellaneous musings. I don't have a lot of time to write this post, having spent the last hour or so playing with the blog settings and so forth, so I will act in the spirit of this blog's title provider (Jack Kerouac) and keep this spontaneous. This blog will be, as the subtitle indicates, an online repository for my thoughts on books, comics, music, and the Internet, along with various other topics. I'll probably only post once a week or so unless it's a particularly exciting week in the world of books/comics/music/etc. This is writing that I'm putting up primarily for my own amusement, but comments will be more than welcome.

That's about it. Hope to see you again soon.