Time for another edition of Grab Bag. This is one of those posts I write when everything stacks up and I have to take on a whole bunch of things at once. So, reach on in and let’s see what we’ve got.
First, there is a giveaway today and tomorrow (Nov. 15 and Nov. 16) of my historical novella called “The Man Who Ran from God.” The story is set in 800 B.C. in the Assyrian empire and Judea. Stop by the Kindle store and get it for free while you can.
October Reading List Update
Damn, I’m a slow reader. I have to underline, write notes and analyze everything I read. So, it takes time. Having a full-time job, writing fiction and blogging don’t help either. Anyway, I’m making headway on my October reading list. Here are my thoughts on the works I’ve read so far.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.
Despite its rather dated language, I really enjoyed this tale. It’s a quick read and is a sort of celebration of autumn in the New York countryside. There’s also nice little tidbits on the culture of the Dutch settlers of the Hudson valley. One thing it clearly focuses on is the competition between Ichabod, the protagonist and his nemesis Brom Van Brunt (who was “always ready for either a fight or a frolic”) for the hand of the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, the “daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer.” Ichabod is a sort of itinerant school teacher and Irving’s description of his favorite past time (collecting ghost tales) gives a good feel for the tone of the work:
Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was, to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvelous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!
If you’ve never gotten around to reading it, I highly recommend it. It was refreshing to finally read the unadulterated tale after seeing the Disney adaption as a kid and the highly entertaining Fox show which brings a British Ichabod (he was American colonial in the original) into the 21st century. If you’re following the show, I especially recommend reading Irving’s original to see how the two compare.
“The Thing on the Doorstep” by H.P. Lovecraft.
I loved this one. From what I’ve read of Lovecraft so far and what others have said, it seems his stories vary widely in quality. Well, this one definitely hit the mark. It’s a cautionary tale (this one, a warning to those who dabble in the occult). Again, for a taste of the tone of the piece, here is Lovecraft describing the main character, Edward Derby.
What he did do was to become an almost fanatical devotee of subterranean magical lore, for which Miskatonic’s library was and is famous. Always a dweller on the surface of phantasy and strangeness, he now delved deep into the actual runes and riddles left by a fabulous past for the guidance or puzzlement of posterity. He read things like the frightful Book of Eibon, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, though he did not tell his parents he had seen them…
It was a great read, full of demonic metamorphoses and possessions. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re new to Lovecraft and looking for a strong short piece to start with.
“The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” by Edgar Allan Poe.
I’m struggling through this one. So far, it’s been a bit of a disappointment. It’s Poe’s only novel-length piece of fiction, so I went in with big expectations. I’m a little over half-way through and I’m finding it very slow going. Unlike the other two pieces here, the pacing is slow, the digressions are long and don’t build the plot. I will get more into my what I think the reasons for this are when I finish it. Suffice to say, I feel that Poe felt pressured into writing a longer piece and didn’t quite know what he was doing. His short stories are crisp, well-paced and tight. This feels (so far) long-winded, unfocused and unnecessarily long. But enough for now! I will address this once I finish the piece.
Also, I still have to read “The Dunwich Horror,” but will share my thoughts when I’m done with it.
UnRejectionable Ghoul Update
As promised earlier, I’m keeping you updated on my latest story’s progress. Right now, “The Ghul of Yazd” continues to wait for acceptance/rejection. He’s been persistently haunting (moaning, scratching at eyeballs, etc.) the editors of his latest magazine for 16 days now. Actually, he’s probably just lurking in their email inboxes and slush piles. No word on whether he’s made it out yet. But he’s a tough, persistent bastard, so he’s got a good chance. Good luck, buddy.
In a continuing sub-series, I’m mentioning each time viewers from a new country visit the blog. This past month the blog had its first visitors from:
- Egypt. (This is a special one for me because Egypt was the first country I ever travelled to, outside the USA and Canada. It’s great to see a visitor from Masr.)
Welcome to the blog, everyone!