September 24 through October 1 is National Banned Books Week, a celebration of our freedom of speech and our freedom to read whatever we choose. It really is amazing to think how far we’ve come in terms of book censorship. All this week, The American Library Associated is hosting a virtual read-out for anyone who wants to participate!
Everyone can think of at least a few well-known banned or challenged books. You probably read some in school. I can still remember my dad buying Brave New World and Catcher in the Rye for me and insisting I read them, even though they weren’t in my school’s English curriculum. I also remember finishing Catcher in the Rye and wondering what all the controversy was about. But if I re-read it today as an adult, I’m sure that I would have a different understanding of it than I did when I was a young teen.
That being said, I’d like to encourage you all to revisit an old banned or challenged book you read when you were younger and find out if you have a new appreciation for it. MSNBC has a shortlist of the most popular challenged titles. My selection is going to be Slaughterhouse Five. I remember reading my dad’s old, tattered copy and not really understanding it. Some time later though I read The Sirens of Titan and loved it. So being as I’m taking a five-hour road trip to Massachusetts tomorrow with my husband (he’s driving, I’m “navigating”), I figured that would be the ideal time to relax with my Kindle and rediscover Vonnegut.
Enjoy the rest of National Banned Books Week. Please feel free to comment or tweet me @ChicksDigBooks and let me know what banned book you’re reading!
Monsters in America by W. Scott Poole (pub date 10/15/11)
In case you couldn’t tell by now, I love horror and I really love Halloween. So let’s kick off the Halloween season with a look at a book about some real-life horrors that are uniquely American.
Monsters in America is a non-fiction piece which examines the horror genre in the context of American history. Each chapter focuses on a different period in our history and asks “What were Americans afraid of at that time, and why?” Starting with the colonial years and the fear of witchcraft, the book moves through the Civil War and early 20th century and examines Americans’ fear of “foreign savages.” When horror became a source of entertainment, our real fears were soon exploited for popular books and films.
Poole clearly did his homework in reasearching this book. His attention to detail both in describing the eras of American history and the evolution of the horror genre is amazing. His insight into horror is interesting and refreshing. Poole moves beyond the obvious and lends a different perspective to the book. It’s pretty much common knowledge that the “mutated monster” movies of the Cold War era were a result of Americans’ fear of nuclear war. But Poole also explores how much of the imagery in horror movies of the 70s and 80s were a commentary on the sexual counter-revolution. Even as someone who wrote a term paper on horror cinema during my undergrad years, that was not something I had really thought about before.
I have only one caveat: this is no easy read. This is a dense work, written mostly in a dry, academic tone, and with very few illustrations to break up the monotony of the text. It’s unfortunate, because a topic as fascinating as this deserves to be read, and this writing style may end up putting some readers off. Still, if you are interested in history and enjoy horror, give Monsters in America a try. If anything it’ll get you in the mood to watch your favorite scary movies this Halloween!
by Isaac Marion (pub date 4/26/11)
“I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it.”
That is the first line in the book, and I soon as I read it, I knew that I was in for an interesting read. This is another treat that I picked up at my local Borders liquidation sale, which goes to show you that you never know what you can find when you’re not really looking for anything.
Warm Bodies is a novel similar to Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne (which is awesome, by the way). Set in a war-torn future, it’s the story of a zombie who calls himself ‘R’ (he can’t remember his full name). R spends his days wandering around an abandoned airport, struggling to remember anything about his life before he became a zombie. His day-to-day ennui is broken up by infrequent ”interactions” with other zombies, and the necessary hunts for human brains.
During a hunt, R eats the brain of a teenage boy named Perry Kelvin, and finds himself experiencing some of Perry’s memories. R feels an instant connection with Perry’s girlfriend Julie, and slowly earns her trust and her friendship despite the fact that he isn’t really alive. Later he meets up with some other humans and finds himself undergoing some radical changes.
Warm Bodies is an interesting book from a first-time novelist. It starts out with a comedic tone and slowly becomes more poignant as the story progresses. At times it felt to me like the story moved a little slowly, but it has a good ending and at times make some great points about life, death, and what it means to be human. I think I enjoyed Breathers a little more but Warm Bodies is a good addition to the zombie genre and also a fun read.
Fiction Noir: Thirteen Stories
edited by Rick Tannenbaum
(pub date 8/12/11, e-reader format only)
From the same publishers who brought us Dead Artist comes a collection of thirteen dramatic short stories (well, twelve stories and a poem), each dealing with the dark side of human nature. Thirteen Storiesdelivers tension, compelling characters, and occasional violence…all elements which make a good noir tale. This varied assortment of stories takes on a wide range of topics, including suicide (“Loser’s Ledge”), infidelity (“Dangerous Appetites”), murder (“Wrongful Death”), and organized crime (“High Stakes Graft”). The stories all complement each other well, and the inclusion of Ivan Jenson’s haunting poem “Love Noir” at the end adds a nice finish to the book.
For me, the best story in the collection is “Hey Girlie,” in which a 10-year-old girl learns about Nazi atrocities and discovers some hard truths about revenge and justice. Raw and powerful, this story will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. Another standout is “When the Man Comes Around,” in which a police officer dispenses his own brand of vigilante justice. Finally, “Everyone’s a Critic,” about a hit man hired to kill a film critic, stands out for its dry wit.
If you enjoy reading short fiction, check out Thirteen Stories. This stylish anthology contains hard-hitting human drama from a wide variety of talented writers!