Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Maybe not that new, it actually was posted last May, but that just shows I don’t check Goodreads as often as I probably should.  The reviewer is James Agombar and what’s especially nice is he offers a detailed story by story description, though admittedly with possibly one or two spoilers.  Also some stories don’t go over as well with him as others — two going as low as two stars out of five! — though he admits that those might be a matter of taste.  And, best of all, his overall score for the book is a full five!

As he concludes:  . . . I love the way James Dorr crafts his stories and the strangeness fuses well with his style and clarity.  This mixture represents just what he is capable of in terms of diversity and I’d recommend this anthology to anybody if they are wanting something different to the run of the mill blueprint that publishers seem to want with short stories nowadays.  An excellent and strange journey awaits you in top literal form.  But see for yourself by pressing here (from which you can also click the book’s title at the top for its main Goodreads page, including links for purchasing should one so desire).

Another short Sunday note with a huge thank you goes to writer and artist William Cook whose very favorable review of THE TEARS OF ISIS is now up on Goodreads.  I highly recommend it (ahem!), but here’s a link to have a look and decide for yourself.

The simplest goals of Marxist literary criticism can include an assessment of the political “tendency” of a literary work, determining whether its social content or its literary form are “progressive”.  It also includes analyzing the class constructs demonstrated in the literature.  (From Wikipedia: “Marxist Literary Criticism “)

If you’re a vampire, it helps to be rich.  At least nowadays in the 21st century.  That is, a long, long time ago I had college level courses in theories of criticism and, while a Marxist approach may seem odd for a romantic reunion between two vampires, if you think about it vampirism itself represents a form of class struggle.  But ONLY onlyloversLOVERS LEFT ALIVE is more than just that, it is first and foremost a love story — and, as we shall see, not just between two people, but love and appreciation of life itself.

As for being rich, one has to get blood from underground sources — not only do “traditional methods” attract dangerous attention, so much blood on the hoof, as it were, is polluted these days — and that takes money.  As for class struggle, well, the vampires in this film refer to ordinary folk as “zombies” because, with the rare exception of artists and scientists and very few others, most humans are “dead” to the wonders and beauty that’s all around them.  Worse, in their blind struggle to get by on their own human terms, they’re taking the Earth down the toilet with them.

But we don’t learn much about economics — simply accept that “Adam” and “Eve” (the movie is partly inspired by Mark Twain’s last book, THE DIARIES OF ADAM AND EVE) and Christopher Marlow (the movie abounds with literary references) et al. have the means they require.  Though wonderfully, simply, the movie ends with the lovers in Tangier bereft of everything but themselves (and, well, maybe a wad of cash, but not that much) asking, momentarily, “what do we do now?”  Then, being realistic as well as romantics, realizing what they must.


I’m being purposely obscure in all this because this is a movie one should see for oneself.  It’s a wonder of visuals and sound, including Yasmine in the Moroccan nightclub at the end reminding us once more of the love of music, just as the non-Tangier parts of the movie take place in Detroit, “Motown,” even now still a center of music as well as a city on the decline.  Both beauty and squalor (in which terms, then compare and contrast Eve and her little sister Ava).  In some ways I’m reminded of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, though that may just be my own eccentricity, but like that movie ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is sweet and beautiful yet, at the same time, ruthless and sad.

Or such are my thoughts of the moment, having just come back from an IU Cinema screening of the film.


A pleasant evening.  In fact a pleasant whole early weekend to celebrate the coming of summer, starting with a screening Thursday evening of JODOROWSKY’S DUNE.  This was courtesy of the IU Cinema, a documentary about the Chilean surrealist (who made the cult classic EL TOPO, among others) who was going to make the movie of Herbert’s jodorowsky_dunenovel (but with a really different ending as we find out, and one which I think I would have liked) until the studio took it back from him and gave it to David Lynch instead.  I found it fascinating, including accounts about how he talked Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, and Salvador Dali (yes, that Salvadore Dali, to play the Emperor) into acting in it,  Pink Floyd for music, artists HR Giger and Jean (Moebius) Giraud, etc., with maybe the most interesting being about how it, even if never actually filmed, influenced science fiction movies from the 1980s on, including ALIEN and STAR WARS.   But also even more fascinating was just listening to the artist himself.

“For me, DUNE will be the coming of a god.  I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective.  Open the mind!” — Alejandro Jodorowsky

So maybe one doesn’t really top that, but I’ve just been back home for a couple of hours from a Saturday Midsummer’s Night double header. Science fiction, fantasy, witchcraft, jazz . . . magic and light.  The first part for magic, having to do with a special display at the Indiana University Lilly Library on “Spiritualists, Sorcerers, & Stage Magicians.”  To quote their blog: “In addition to the uncanny display, the opening reception will include a magic show with self-proclaimed ‘spooky magician’ Steve Bryant.  With disembodied ‘stage hands’ to help him with card tricks and eerie illusions, Bryant ensures there will be at least one scream during the show.”  And there was at least one scream, having to do with a snake in a bucket — or was it really?

“’Any magic trick really well done is kind of spooky because it kind of shocks your system,’ Bryant said. ‘Some magicians like laughs, some like applause, I occasionally like screams.’”  As for me, while most of the presentation was with cards (and the occasional disembodied hand), I liked the basketball in the briefcase at the end as well.

But if that weren’t all, at just about the time that ended, to which were added brief talks by the exhibit’s curators plus at least a cursory look at the displays themselves (granted that by then the place was crowded, but there will be time to come back at leisure until August 30), the Art Museum — more or less just across the street — was beginning its own celebration, the return and relighting of the Light Totem.  For this, a bit of history via Wikipedia:


The Light Totem

“The Light Totem installation at the Indiana University Art Museum was completed in 2007.  It was commissioned as a temporary installation to celebrate the 25–year anniversary of the [I.M. Pei designed] Indiana University Art Museum building.  Due to its popularity with the campus and community, Light Totem was approved by the Board of Trustees to become a permanent fixture outside the museum in 2010.  Artist Robert Shakespeare used LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to illuminate both the 70-foot freestanding tower, and the 40-foot tube within the atrium of the museum.

“The Light Totem also illuminates the wall of the Art Museum with a computerized display of changing colors.  Each of the lighted sections can be programmed to project any color and change color up to every tenth of a second.  The entire display uses only 3,000 watts of electricity, about the amount used when a hair dryer and toaster are running simultaneously, according to the artist.  Students often can be seen lying on their backs with their feet up on the wall, watching the colors change.

The thing was, though, the original tower had been intended to be temporary which meant, among other things, some of the welding, etc., wasn’t really up to the standard for a permanent outdoor structure.  So down it went in the spring of 2013 for re-engineering, and now, at the summer solstice 2014, it was time for its resurrection.

In short, from about 7 p.m. on it was party time (though — a perk for having a house practically next to a major state university — I did bug out for about an hour to go home for a snack, as well as make a sandwich for a late supper for when I returned for good), dancing outside or just listening to jazz by local band The Dynamics, self-guided art tours inside (I mostly contemplated sculptures of the Buddha in the Gallery of the Art of Asia and the Ancient Western World, on the second floor, which seemed somehow right), until 9:30 and near-dark.  And then a few speeches, including by artist Rob Shakespeare, a sort of relaxed pseudo-ceremony, and . . . the re-lighting!

For more, enjoy its picture.

It may not be my favorite show ever, but there was a lot to like in GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY in its premiere last night in the Indiana University auditorium in Bloomington Indiana.  Bloomington Indiana?  Yes, that’s the area composer/lyricist John Mellencamp hails from, although librettist Stephen King (who is, however, also an amateur musician himself) may be of more interest to horror readers.  Billed as a “Southern Gothic supernatural musical of fraternal love, lust, jealousy, and revenge,” it was reportedly reworked from more of a straight musical theatre format when it previewed in Atlanta last year to what band leader and musical supervisor Andy York has described as a radio show.  Think something like Nashville Tennessee’s Grand Ole Opry (though in this case perhaps moved a bit farther south into Mississippi delta country) with performers seated on stage, moving to a center stage spotlight in turn when it’s time for them to perform.

And so, in a way, they do as individuals and small groups, their songs going in increasing depth into their own stories, all the time circling the main plot having to do with a family tragedy that occurred in 1967 — and threatens to be recreated forty years later with a new generation.  Then add, stage right, the Zydeco Cowboy acting as a sort of chorus/narrator, Greek tragedy style, and, stage left, “The Shape,” as also narrator and deus ex machina although, in this case, more devil than god.  And, maybe a little bit reminiscent of the film CABIN IN THE WOODS, certain roles and motifs must come into the story, even if sometimes seeming a little forced (although in a good way), because . . . well . . . that’s the way folk legends of this sort work out.

Then a final note, while the audience gave it a standing ovation, I didn’t hear people walking out humming favorite tunes.  Because that’s not the way that part works, but rather it was a case of the music building up on itself, bringing the audience into the mood, until, as a whole, the entire thing seemed to blend together in a way that ultimately seemed to be just what the story required.

For a quick change of subject,  Damnation Books has announced they’re “celebrating October with a 50% off promo code good on our website all month.  Enter 31Halloween2013 at checkout.  It’s good until November 1st at”  Not being told otherwise, I assume it’s good for all titles, including TELLING TALES OF TERROR:  ESSAYS ON WRITING HORROR AND DARK FICTION (cf. January 7 2013, December 13 2012, et al.), edited by Kim Richards with, as the blurb tells us, “Introduction by James Dorr.  Essays on writing horror and dark fiction by authors Kim Richards, Paula Johanson, Bob Nailor, Ivy Reisner, Mitchel Whitington, Carol Hightshoe, Cinsearae Santiago, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Kathryn Meyer Griffith, Lisa Morton, Sephera Giron, and Jason Gehlert.  Includes advice from current publishers.”  So, yes, it’s self-serving, but I recommend this for writers above a beginning level, interested in advice in some depth on particular aspects of horror writing such as suspension of disbelief, use of the occult, point of view, dialogue, setting and mood, etc., ending with a roundtable of specific insights by the publishers who might be buying one’s stories.

Then, as an example perhaps of horror mixed with science fiction, the sale also presumably includes my own (ahem) novelette THE GARDEN.  For more on it as well as TELLING TALES OF TERROR, press Damnation Books’s website address, above, and take it from there (the way the site is set up, I find it easiest myself to search directly for a book’s title rather than trying to narrow it down by genre, etc.)

“It’s that time of year again horror fiends.  A time when our admittedly odd sensibilities overtake the nation.  When stores have motion activated demons, and buying fake blood is so very easy.”  So has said M.R. Gott before on his blog WHERE THE DEAD FEAR TO TREAD.  And so today the countdown to Halloween begins with, for me at least, a review of the Japanese film and all around fest of laughs, gore, and bad taste, VAMPIRVAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN 3E GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL.  Nevertheless there are redeeming qualities, especially in the acting ability of Yukie Kawamura as vampire girl Monami who she plays with a deadpan charm reminiscent of Carolyn Jones as Morticia in the original mid-60s TV version of THE ADDAMS FAMILY.  At least, that is, if Morticia had been a Japanese schoolgirl.

Long-time readers may recall that a similar review appeared here on October 28 last year (with a follow up October 29, exclusive to this site), but this time, for those who might have missed it, there’s ample opportunity to search for the film and find your own copy.  I wouldn’t recommend it though for the family children, the overly queasy, or the harder-nosed of the politically correct.  Or maybe any of the politically correct.  For which, to find out why, amble over to M.R. Gott’s site by pressing here, scroll down, and look to the right.

Last night a really nice review of THE TEARS OF ISIS appeared on Amazon stating that, among other things, “It flows so well that you may not immediately see the overall picture that [has been] knit so well together.”  And although the “stories range in length and genre,” the darkness overall is also noted.  So be forewarned (or, I never said I wasn’t a horror writer), but if “dark” is your thing, although some stories may be darker than others, you might consider giving the collection a try.  Just click on its picture in the center column for more information including ordering.

It has not always been that everyone has loved THE TEARS OF ISIS (see, e.g.,  June 1).  Chacun à son goût, eh?  But if you should read it or have already and found it worth while, you might also think about writing your own review.  The info behind the book’s picture in the center column also includes, for those who scroll down almost to the bottom, an email address reviewers can use to ask for a free electronic edition.  And any honest review (though preferably good, to be sure 😉 ) would be much appreciated.

And lest one wonder what “Medusa in the rear view mirror” has to do with a nice review of THE TEARS OF ISIS, press here to see the review for yourself.  Image

Also Untreed Reads Publishing has announced that “all Untreed Reads titles will be on sale from Friday-Monday in The Untreed Reads Store at a discount of 40% off. No special coupon codes will be needed. The discount will be taken during the checkout process.”  They also note that by buying directly from them, “people get PDF, EPUB and Kindle formats for the same price as buying just one format from any other vendor.”  And while THE TEARS OF ISIS is published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and, hence, is not a part of this sale, you can take advantage of Untreed Reads’s offer by checking out any or all of PEDS, I’M DREAMING OF. . ., and VANITAS, all of which are displayed to the right in the center column.  And, while you’re there, you also might look at Untreed Reads’s 2012 New Year’s anthology YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR with its lead story, “Appointment in Time,” written by . . . me.

And it’s not really a novel either, but it is about a specific horror, that of cancer.  “I need stories; good stories” the original call read.  “Not just good stories, but great stories to help this anthology sell and make the profits to help thosImagee kids in need.  I am looking for allegorical horror stories where the monster represents cancer.  And while this is a book to help children, the stories do not need to be young adult.”  The book in question, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing’s charity anthology BLEED (cf. July 13, 8) with profits to go to The Children’s Cancer Society, and with my story “King Rat” in it (originally published in GOTHIC.NET, March 2002), about a politico-economic system itself gone cancerous.

This pre-publication review of BLEED on HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS doesn’t exactly mention my story, but it does single out a few others and adds that everything in the book is worth while.  To see for yourself you need just press here.  And then in September BLEED should be out itself, with an opportunity then to read “King Rat,” not to mention the rest of its contents, and see for yourself.

Then, already published, the Dark Moon Books anthology AFTER DEATH (cf. April 17, 3, et al.) was reviewed on Friday by SHOCK TOTEM with my piece in this one, “Mall Rats,” one of the ones specifically commented on.  To read about it and its companion stories, press here.

Into each of our lives comes the occasional unexpected treat.  Sunday I received an email from Untreed Reads Publishing (cf. Aug. 2, Jul. 8, Dec. 28) that my e-book VANITAS had been reviewed on NightOwlReviews.  But that’s not all.  While, according to Untreed’s Editor-in-Chief Jay Hartman, it’s “extremely difficult to get even a three-star review out of NightOwl,” mine copped 4.75 stars out of five, just the tip of the right-hand point of the rightmost star missing, putting it between  “Top Pick and I’m looking for more by this author” and “Top Pick – All Time Keeper Shelf” according to NightOwl’s own explanation key! 

Now you know the next time they review anything by me, they’ll find a reviewer who thinks it sucks, but for now, this week, let’s bask in the glory!  And what the heck, you might even want to buy a copy — it’s only a buck and a half in your choice of a variety of electronic forms.  To do so and/or to get more information, click on the picture in the column to the right, the one with all the purplish blue, but first (because, between you and me, the cover picture doesn’t really have much to do with the story) you can read the review here.

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