Friday, July 24, 2009

Blame This One

I was nine. Loved horror movies. It was summer, if I recall correctly. The trailer played on the television. The Shining. It looked terrifying. The fine print in the ads encouraged me to read the book. I encouraged my dad to make a run with me to 7-11. I told him I wanted ice cream. What I wanted was the book.

My parents never really denied me books. They said no to toys, candy, animals. But rarely did they say no to books, and this was no exception. They didn't care that it was out of my age range. Later my mom said she was probably wrong to let me read it at such a young age, but I disagree.

Stephen King's book terrified me. It freaked me out. It had me jumping at every stray noise in the house. It also inspired me. I knew then and there that I wanted to create that same feeling in people, and it was when I finished that book that I knew I wanted to be a horror writer.

I still have that book. It's seen better days. There was a time when I was more superstitious and believed it caused my parents to fight. (They seemed to have massive arguments whenever I read it, which was usually once or twice a year.) It has tape on the edges, and try as I might not to bend the covers too far, the spine has stress wear. Hell, I've had it thirty years. You have to expect that sort of thing.

I am not anywhere near what I'd call a successful writer, but I've accomplished more than most ever thought I could. I have a book, a few short stories published, and enough non-fiction out there to destroy a city. I want more, and will never stop, and I blame that book.

I think every writer has one of those moments. One of those experiences when the light bulb just turns on. It's a beautiful feeling, and it puts your mind at ease because you suddenly know what you were meant to do.

I hope to someday thank King. I wrote him once, but I don't know if he ever got it. If not, consider this my thank you. If it weren't for your imagination, my imagination would have never had a place to go. Thanks to you, I'm not killing people ... at least not for real.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The One Book ...

It's the one book in my library I suggested my ex-wife never open. Its words and images are enough to cause PC readers convulsions of the highest order. It is badly written rage, hatred, disease courtesy of Randall Philip.

Extermination Zone.

Tales of child sex abuse, images of deformed people and other transgressive surprises await inside. Philip, who lived in Philadelphia and was involved in all kinds of nefarious stunts, is an outsider among outsiders and his book proves why. It's not something easily digested, and nor should it be. But should it be taken seriously?

Yes and no.

There's no doubt in my mind that Philip is a dangerous individual. There's also no doubt that a lot of what he writes about is mere fantasy meant to be shocking in the most base way possible. He succeeds beyond measure, but it comes with a blow to his credibility.

This isn't a book you see on a lot of shelves, and I don't even know if it is in print anymore. I received it as a review copy many moons ago. I looked Philip up on the net recently and couldn't find much of anything either (though I didn't look too hard), so it's quite possible he's dead, in jail, or went on to change his name and form an acoustic hippie band. Either way, the book is out there, haunting readers with its child sex slaves and paranoia. Sublime art? Sick performance piece in written form? Delusional mind outlet? I don't know, but it's not for the innocent or even the tainted. Read at your own risk.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter Boy Genius

The Harry Potter movie opens tomorrow, and I assume it will do well at the box office. In the world of books, the boy magician pulled off a remarkable feat: getting kids excited about reading. You can't dispute that regardless of what you think of the books. I haven't read them and have no desire to, but plenty of people did, including those who never read. That speaks volumes.

By all accounts, the books are "good." Not great, but "good." I could care less, however, because it got people lining up outside bookstores for each new volume. When's the last time you can remember that happening ... at a bookstore? Exactly. If "good" books get people this excited, imagine what would happen if they discovered "great" books.

I have heard some people blame the Harry Potter phenomenon on herd mentality. If these were movies instead of books, I would tend to agree. Books are an emotional investment, though. The herd doesn't have the patience to engage in that prolonged of a frenzy. I believe the people who stand in line, dress like the characters and can quote passages (and often do), are genuinely excited about the books. Since that's the case, I can't really poke fun at them, but can instead applaud them for being as open possible with their love of the written word. I thank you, and every person concerned with the future of books should thank you.

So, to all the Harry Potter fans: Thank you. Your love of this book restored some of my faith in humanity.

I'm still not reading them, though.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Humboldt County Library Cuts Hours

Those living in Humboldt County now have to deal with the Eureka branch (and possibly others) cutting five hours a week out of its schedule. This was done as a "proactive" step in light of California's ongoing budget crisis.

As anyone who follows these things knows, libraries are quick to be victims of budget cuts. In this case, the powers that be decided one of the best things they could do would be to cut the hours to save money in their reserves in case anything happens. Whether that's good or bad really depends on what you think the outcome of the budget crisis will be.

Patrons of the library are used to this sort of thing, and while I use the Eureka branch of the library, I doubt the time changes will affect me all that much. For others, however, this could be a major inconvenience. They will need to decide if five hours spread over a week, however, is better than the library either closing for full days (more than it is now) or closing period.

If you love your library and think it is vital to your community (which it is, if only as an information source), let it be none now. As California goes, so does the rest of the country.