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Thread: What are you reading?

  1. #171
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    King has needed a good editor since about 1990.

    I still wonder if the rumors about his wife writing a few of his books is true. Cause Rose Madder,Gerald's Game and Dolories Claieborne do not feel like King's normal writing style at all.

  2. #172
    Intellectual Carrot Scott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newt Cox View Post
    King has needed a good editor since about 1990.

    I still wonder if the rumors about his wife writing a few of his books is true. Cause Rose Madder,Gerald's Game and Dolories Claieborne do not feel like King's normal writing style at all.
    I can see that. Same thing with George Lucas. I know there's so much money wrapped up in supporting these guys as an IP unto themselves but they are really disingenuous about who contributes what to their success and work.
    "When I die, I hope to go to Accra"

  3. #173
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott View Post
    I can see that. Same thing with George Lucas. I know there's so much money wrapped up in supporting these guys as an IP unto themselves but they are really disingenuous about who contributes what to their success and work.
    Tarantino/Roger Avery. Those early scripts are amazing. Everything after Jackie Brown (thanks Elmore) has not been.
    I'm bitter, I'm twisted, James Joyce is fucking my sister.

  4. #174
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Tolch View Post
    I thought his Dark Tower stuff was boring as hell.
    I enjoyed that dog's dinner of a movie more than two of the three books in that series that I've read.
    I'm bitter, I'm twisted, James Joyce is fucking my sister.

  5. #175
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    Quote Originally Posted by agent999 View Post
    Tarantino/Roger Avery. Those early scripts are amazing. Everything after Jackie Brown (thanks Elmore) has not been.
    Agreed.
    "When I die, I hope to go to Accra"

  6. #176
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Monroe View Post
    The title story from If It Bleeds is excellent - a sort of sequel to The Outsider. What Reacher book did you get? They're all great, except the most recent that Child wrote with his brother (he's handing the series off to him which sucks).
    WITHOUT FAIL is the one I checked out.

    Tried reading the new one that he co-wrote and didn't make it through a quarter of it.
    "The popcorn you're eating has been pissed in. Film at 11".

  7. #177
    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agent999 View Post
    I enjoyed that dog's dinner of a movie more than two of the three books in that series that I've read.
    Ha, me as well.

  8. #178
    Quote Originally Posted by Newt Cox View Post
    King has needed a good editor since about 1990.
    I'm convinced that the most prolific authors may be addicted to writing. That combined with any person having only just so much creativity in him can lead to an author searching for things to write about, oftentimes seemingly plucking subjects out of thin air. "Hey, there's a set of the novelty toy known as chattery teeth. I think I'll write a story about it called...'Chattery Teeth'!" "Hey, there's a piece of exercise equipment known as a stationary bike. I think I'll write a story about it called...'Stationary Bike'!"

    Which sort of brings me to my next posting...
    VHS will never die!

  9. #179
    So, Ramsey Campbell.

    As I began a mission months ago to acquire the entire YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES series and then read each volume, I felt the same dread I've always felt any time I've gotten an anthology that contains one or more of Campbell's stories. I've stated elsewhere in this thread that I'm more a fan of pulp horror than the "quiet," "dark fantasy" offerings from writers like Campbell (as well as Charles L. Grant and Dennis Etchison, whom I won't be discussing here at this time). Yet reading the praise heaped on him in the intros to his work plus the status he seems to have attained over the decades ("greatest living writer of horror fiction"), I thought it would only be fair to give him another shot. I decided to go through every anthology I had and the ones I was buying, pulling out stories by him for examination. I also reread DEMONS BY DAYLIGHT (an old collection of just his work that I already had), and I bought another book that exclusively features Campbell, ALONE WITH THE HORRORS. In total, I read around 80 of his short stories.

    It might be a conservative estimate to state that at least 90% of his stories involve people seemingly losing their minds (possibly as a result of some psychotic or schizophrenic breakdown), suffering from unsettling hallucinations with one or more of their 5 senses. Characters - oftentimes drab civil servants with not particularly intriguing thoughts (no offense to civil servants) - will perceive something unnerving just outside the periphery of their senses, only to learn it's some mundane, common item. For instance, more than one story has a person being frightened by a pile of clothes or a garment draped over a chair in a bedroom that was initially thought to be a menacing presence, supernatural or otherwise.

    To be frank, this gets exceedingly tedious after a while.

    The story "Above the World" is a great example of a man who is possibly going crazy constantly questioning the nature of everything he observes. "Was that a stamp on its corner, or a patch of moss?" "Beyond that uproar, were there voices? Could he cry for help?" "Had a sheep followed him?" "Was it the shifting of grey trees beneath the lowering largely unseen sky?" "Was he hearing muffled voices up there?" "...did each patch of lichen seem to suggest a face?" "Were there many different faces, or many versions of a couple?"

    Perhaps no story carries the central theme of a character going insane to as far an extreme as "Concussion." The reader never quite knows if the main protagonist is experiencing frequent delusions in an epoch-oscillating reality, or if the whole thing is conjured from his imagination. It's certainly headache-inducing. Nevertheless, I will say in this tale's defense that it could be argued the author does hint at a possible physical origin for the weird occurrences, something he rarely does.

    Another aspect of Campbell's writing that some might find annoying is his obsession with metaphor and simile. It doesn't bother me too much, but it sometimes can be really distracting when he inserts stuff that is supposed to add to the overall atmosphere in the middle of some kinetic scene, during which you don't really care what the state is of the surrounding fauna or flora. It tends to pull you right out of the action. Some might find the analogies themselves to be esoteric, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, you could say one person's "esoteric" is another person's "creative."

    Like a lot of writers, Campbell seems to favor certain words, as I saw them crop up a lot. A couple I quite often encountered were "slither" used to describe a person's motions, and "yawn" to describe what openings or gaps of any kind do (in one story called "The Fit," clothes draped over chairs even appear to be "yawning"!).

    I truly believe Ramsey Campbell would have made a wonderful horror poet - likely the greatest one in history - if there were such a sub-genre. (Yes, I have heard of Edgar Allan Poe.) But as a constructor of narratives that feature enthralling events...not so much.

    So when I hear or read praise for this author, I always think, "Is there something I'm missing? Is my taste in horror just not broad enough?" I'm not saying I'm like the skeptical kid in "The Emperor's New Clothes"; I just can't imagine anyone other than maybe his colleagues who are providing all the accolades reading one of his stories and then exclaiming to a fellow fan of the genre, "Man, you have got to read the latest Ramsey Campbell. It's amazing!"

    Despite what I wrote in that last paragraph, all was not lost in my undertaking. Of the 80 or so I read, there were nearly a dozen tales that I actually did enjoy: "The Scar," "The Guy," "The Man in the Underpass" (which I didn't completely understand, but I just couldn't stop saying "Pop a cat a petal" for a day or two!), "Heading Home," "Baby," "Dead Letters," "Where the Heart Is," "Meeting the Author" (one plot element of this reminded me of THE BABADOOK), "See How They Run," "The Alternative," and "Passing through Peacehaven." Perhaps I like them because almost all are structured in a style so different from how Campbell normally writes (i.e., there's more emphasis on pulp than poesy), it wouldn't be difficult to mistake them as being composed by someone else (which is not a claim I am making, by the way).

    (Note that when in the past I've listed faves from the YBHS volumes, I purposely left out some of Campbell's contributions, just because I knew I would eventually be making this separate post. For the record, "The Scar" and "The Man in the Underpass" were amongst those.)

    Interestingly, I have seen a couple of movies based on his novels that I really love: THE NAMELESS and SECOND NAME (the latter adapted from Campbell's PACT OF THE FATHERS). In fact, some readers in online blogs have commented that his novels are superior to his short stories. Which makes me wonder if I should give some of those a go. Maybe I will. But not yet. I need time to recover.

    Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading my assessment of this writer. I would love to hear others' reactions to my perspective...regardless of whether you are in agreement with me or you're, like, "Hey Lorne, you really are a stupid moron/imbecile/idiot for not appreciating the superior writing prowess of the greatest living writer of horror fiction!"
    VHS will never die!

  10. #180
    My history with Ramsey Campbell is that I picked up a few of his novels back when I was a Lovecraft-mad teenager, and... never got very far with them, for very much the reasons you describe, Lorne. I also read some of his early Cthulhu Mythos stories in anthologies etc, and they seemed like pretty poor HPL pastiches, so -- subsequently didn't bother with him for a long, long time.

    I've always enjoyed various non-fiction stuff and articles he's written however, and have likewise been curious about the reverence in which a lot of horror fans hold his writing, so a couple of years back, I picked up a copy of the anthology 'Cold Print', collecting some of his earliest published work. I soon realised however that, whilst the stories in the first half of the book are indeed primitive/ridiculous Lovecraft imitations, they need to be viewed in light of the fact that - checking the copyright dates - they were mostly published by August Derleth at Arkham House before Campbell was even eighteen years old (something he addresses with suitable wit/humility in his introduction).

    Skipping through those and moving onto the more 'mature' tales in the second half of the book, his writing clearly took a huge leap forward during his 20s, and there is a run of stories - 'Cold Print', 'The Tugging', 'The Faces at Pine-Dunes', 'Blacked Out' - which absolutely floored me. In fact I'd go so far as to say they're probably the best / most powerful Lovecraft-inspired stories I've ever read from a "modern" (ie, post-1940s) writer, capturing the mystery and derangement of HPL's fiction brilliantly without actually falling back on imitating his style or aesthetic, and combining that with a sense of '70s British working class identity and (in some cases) an insight into flawed/dysfunctional family relationships which makes them feel really unique.

    Anything else he wrote in that vein, I would absolutely love to read, but unfortunately the last (and latest, chronologically speaking) story in the book, 'The Voice of the Beach', seems to have already moved on toward the style I remember from his later novels - a densely written and entirely subjective/ambiguous pile of paranoid, mental breakdown stuff which, though skillfully done, was a chore to get through and generally not a whole lot of fun.

    Nonetheless, those 'mid-period' stories impressed me so much that I've subsequently picked up a few of his early novels, which I'm looking forward to getting stuck into as soon as the weather turns cold again (as I suspect they're not exactly summer reading).

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