Archive for books

My Book is Officially for Sale!

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2012 by vprime

It’s a momentous occasion for sure. You can now buy my book through Amazon. Tomorrow, it will go live on the Barnes & Noble website. It’s also going to be available through Smashwords, probably tomorrow as well, I just can’t find it today. Read it, review it, cherish it as if it were a precious baby bunny made of solid gold!

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Twisted Fairy Tales, Lovecraftian Dates and More

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by vprime

I suppose this is going to cost me my internet anonymity, if I ever actually had any, but I can’t not mention it. I’ve explained the types of stories I write on my author website KarenDBest.com, so if you’re interested in reading that, it’s available. You can also read a synopsis and the first story of the collection at Beating Windward Press.

It is a bit odd integrating my writing here with my real name and fiction work. Not that I think the two are unrelated in my mind, but I like maintaining different functional personas. I’m not necessarily comfortable having people who know me from other contexts reading my work, but I guess that’s one of those introvert things that I have to get over once bits of my psyche make it out into the public.

Book Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on January 5, 2012 by vprime

There’s a fine line between simplicity and shallowness that fables and fairy tales must negotiate. These are stories, after all, that don’t rely upon the assumption of psychological realism when creating characters. Rather, the fable relies upon types rather than people, which is to say, obviously artificial figures that don’t entirely reflect our reality. The talking animal, the evil witch, the valiant hero: these are essentially paper cut-outs representing parts of ourselves. Part of what draws me to fairy tales is their unapologetic use of fantastical events and figures. There isn’t a tedious explanation of why the big bad wolf can talk to red riding hood, he just does, and the story gets on with itself. That being said, stripping a tale down to its figures can be dangerous if the simplicity exists only because the author can’t be arsed to come up with a good reason why Red should pause to have a conversation with the wolf. I’ve found that the current trend for this type of fairy-tale style writing often cloaks a lack of substance. I bought Stories for Nighttime and Some for Day largely because the cover art of a UFO and tentacle looked intriguing, and the blurbs on the back praising the collection as “a mesmerizing landscape of nightmares, daydreams, fables and parables.” Expecting something like the short stories of Kelly Link, I bought the book.

I should have known better than to trust a blurb.

The first sign of trouble was a table of contents listing over 190 stories in a book of under 200 pages. And before you say “flash fiction” let me state my pet theory that 90% of what is sold as “flash fiction” are story outlines or bits of scene hacked out of context. (Aside: yes, I’ve been guilty of this too. Get off my back–all of you–with that werewolf story!) So, knowing I was about to get the equivalent of a Ramones album (30 songs! All less than 2 minutes long!) I began reading. One could argue that these stories present us with amoral fables—stories in an instructional mode that leave off the moralistic conclusions. Only, I had such difficulty getting over the “who cares” factor that I could not appreciate these as exercises in style. One example, “The Octopus,” presents us with an octopus that has moved into the city and collects spoons. Already, my whimsy meter is overloading. The octopus is named Harley and his two octopus nephews are coming to the city to visit. They visit and the octopus takes them around the city, albeit reluctantly, since, as he explains, he has other things to do. Also there is something about how an octopus who moves out of the sea can live forever, but it has no relevance to anything else in the story. The octopus takes his nephews back to the beach and sends them home. Then he decides to return home himself. That is, we don’t see him deciding, we aren’t even really privy to any thoughts that might indicate the octopus is deciding to return to the sea. Nothing has happened while his nephews have been visiting him that stirs this desire. He pictures his octopus family and goes back into the sea. Ho-hum. So, why is it an octopus? It could just as easily been a story about a guy who moved out of the country. Is there something about an octopus’s point of view that this story needs to have? Give me a reason, any reason, why the protagonist is an octopus and not a shark,  I suspect the octopus was chosen just because it is a zeitgeisty emblem of “weird” and “unique” (check this and you’ll see what I mean) and made the story seem like it had some hidden meaning. The octopus, living forever and collecting spoons are just quirks thrown in to give some semblance of meaning to an utterly dull story. They have no organic reason to be there. For example, this issue of living forever might have naturally occurred to the octopus as it contemplated returning to the sea, maybe? Nope. And the entire book is written in a plodding, stripped-down style that grates the longer one has to endure it. There’s no description or attempted character development to save this Kindergarten Kafka. The other stories are similarly ineffective. In “The End of It All” a man builds a spaceship to search for the wife aliens abducted. He devotes his life to exploring the universe in search of her. On his last day alive he cries out that it was worth all his trouble just to have known the wife and the aliens return her. Pretty ironic, huh? In another story a hunter collects talking heads that convince a boy to behead the hunter. Whatta tweest! Trust me, it sounds more interesting than it is. After a handful of these stories the Twilight-Zone-y twists and 3rd grade writing style get old. I read all the stories, but getting bored less than 50 pages in makes me wish I hadn’t.

If you’re truly interested in the use of fairy-tale tropes in fiction, read Kelly Link or St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell.

Review: A Rebours

Posted in Books, Culture with tags , , , , on May 12, 2011 by vprime

A Rebours is a book about nothing. Well, not nothing exactly. It is mainly a catalogue of things the central character, Des Esseintes, owns. The plot, as such is this: Des Esseintes has some digestive trouble. He moves away from the city in the hope that more aesthetically pleasing surroundings will cure him. It doesn’t. In between, there are long chapters devoted to detailing all things that do or don’t appeal to Des Esseintes’ taste. For example, he redecorates his rooms repeatedly, with extra attention paid to which fabrics he uses, which colors suit his mood, which books he chooses to display. He has a dining room made with fish tanks in place of the windows so that he can pretend he’s underwater. He makes his servants wear fake headdresses so he can pretend they are nuns when he sees them walking past his window. There are chapters listing which Latin books Des Esseintes approves of and which ones he finds vulgar. He makes some perfume, has a turtle covered in jewels and collects a lot of plants that are intended to look fake. Much of the book is taken up with descriptions of paintings and interiors, but there is little to define the character of Des Esseintes other than his possessions.

I found much of the book tedious and skipped many of the exhaustive lists of Latin books in Des Esseintes’ library. There were two incidents that nearly began some character development, both of which suffered for having been mere memories. In the first, Des Esseintes decides he will make a murderer of a young man by taking him to expensive brothels and then withdrawing his financial support. Why does he want to do this? He seems to come close here to acknowledging his own irrelevance. As though by believing he could wield such influence he hopes to prove to himself that something he does has external consequence. But this matter is dropped because Des Esseintes becomes bored with the game before he sees the outcome. I suspect the real matter here is that Des Esseintes, in living a life slavishly devoted to solipsism, may even doubt his own objective existence, and the failure of this experiment would prove that. Therefore, he abandons the project lest he find out the unpleasant truth—that he really doesn’t matter to anyone.

The second incident that raised my expectations was the fling Des Esseintes has with an Amazonian circus performer named Miss Urania. (Hint. Hint. Hint.) Initially, Des Esseintes is charmed by the daring feats and impressive stature of Miss Urania. Eventually, he becomes disgusted that she doesn’t use her superior physical strength to toss him about like a ragdoll. Also, she inconveniently has emotions and preferences of her own which are far too vulgar for Des Esseintes to tolerate. This memory led me to expect that we would learn after all that all of Des Esseintes deathly boredom was due to perverse appetites the sort of which led to imprisonment in those days. No. From there the book laments that the Church isn’t as brutally strict as it used to be and spends several pages describing a specially made volume of Les Fleurs Du Mal which I would very much like to have. On the way to the end, Des Esseintes is physically sickened by the ugly faces of commoners, stops eating and is told by his doctor that if he doesn’t go back to the city he’ll die. The end.

At first I was surprised at Des Esseintes’ religiosity. After I thought it over, it made perfect sense. What’s the joy in devoting yourself to decadent sensation unless it breaks someone else’s rules? Without the Church, there’s not one to define what’s wrong and therefore pleasurable. What Des Esseintes laments when he rails against the marginalization of the Church is the leaching away of transgressive pleasure from life.

A Many-Splintered Thing

Posted in beauty, Books, Etsy, Jewelry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by vprime

I’ll refrain from the obvious Joy Division reference for this Valentine’s Day post. Instead I’ll just borrow a bad pun from Mr. Eldritch. Valentine’s day is an orgy of romantic stereotypes, waxy chocolates and unfelt sentiments. And substituting Lupercalia is already played out. Yeah, if I didn’t look at this holiday with a jaundiced eye, you’d worry. Sometimes I celebrate it, sometimes not, depending on how depleted I feel. I do have plans that I am looking forward to this year, but I’m equally satisfied by staying home and watching a movie. Nonetheless, I do have recommendations should you need dark offerings for that special someone you’ve been cyberstalking.

Hedonist Necklace by Bellalili

This necklace by Bellalili manages to be tough and refined at once. Bellalili’s items combine ornate metal forms with brilliant crystals. I would wear this with anything from a plain black v-neck shirt to a ruffled blouse. It’s big enough to be noticed without crying out for attention. I regularly spy lovelies in Bellalili’s Etsy shop that I admire. Visit Bellalili’s Etsy shop.

Tokyo Milk Tainted Love

Don’t touch me please I cannot stand the way you tease. Tokyo Milk’s Tainted Love has a little less Marc Almond and more vanilla, orchid, white tea and sandalwood. I have Tokyo Milk’s Dead Sexy and wear it often. I haven’t smelled this yet, but it sounds promising. Anything that combines sandalwood and tea is compelling to me. Vanilla is a tricky fragrance note. I can’t stand it in an overly sugary iteration. I’m not sure what has driven the rise of bath and body products that smell like cans of frosting, but that’s the sort of vanilla I avoid. As long as there’s something to dirty up the vanilla a bit, I’m willing to try it. If you haven’t yet smelled the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Snake Oil, do make sure to sniff this magical and delicious combination of vanilla and patchouli. My hope is that Tainted Love mixes a greenish sandalwood with the fresh tea note and the vanilla is warm and complex rather than sweet. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried Tainted Love and can describe it a bit.  Visit Tokyo Milk.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. This new Penguin Classics hardcover has a gorgeous cover worthy of the decadent tale within. This black and white volume would look elegant on your shelf or table. Books are the best gifts ever, in my mind; and even better if the book is beautiful to look at. I am now reading Huysmans’ A Rebours which is the book that turns Dorian from a sweet boy into a lovely monster. To give your love an interesting reading experience, pair this with the highly underrated Dorian by Will Self.  Buy books at Amazon.com

That concludes my Valentine’s suggestions. No flowers, candy or stuffed animals. These gifts are appropriate whether the object of your desire is male, female or other.

Until next time.