Review of The End of the Sentence

The End of the Sentence is amazing. The End of the SentenceNot only is this well crafted novella a great read, it is also a fitting companion to the autumn winds of October and the upcoming Halloween.

On the face of it, this is a short book about a man running from his past and looking to build a new future. That future turns out to not be what he thought it would be when when he encounters ghosts, murderers, and monsters far out in small town Oregon. But that is only the face of it, and there is more. Oh so much more.

In equal parts ghost story and murder mystery, horror tale and modern fantasy, the authors have woven a story out of elements so familiar that they feel like our own history, but they have threaded these among circumstances so foreign, and at times horrifying, that we recoil. After recoiling though, we must look back and, with the author’s firm hand upon our shoulder, we are drawn back in, and deeper in.

The themes of loss and redemption, grief and hope, abandonment and determination arise again and again to intertwine with every character we meet. These are themes familiar to us all, so familiar that we can forget they are traits of other people’s tales as well. And we may also forget that each of us may respond to circumstances in ways both different and perhaps horrifying.

In The End of the Sentence, Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard have created a wondrous tale of a new American mythology. I anxiously await whatever they will come up with next.

Books & Book Reviews , , ,

The Drowning Girl

If we The Drowning Girlare to disappear into the novels we read, if we are to become one with the characters and the story, what happens to us as readers when the subject is insanity? What if the main character, the primary focus and the book’s narrator is a schizophrenic with a dubious grasp on reality? This is the case with Caitlin R. Kiernan‘s The Drowning Girl, and it makes for a very good but troubling read.

As I read this work of dark fiction, I often wondered why I actually kept going. Was I enjoying the book? Was I drawn into the story? Or was I intrigued by the language and imagery? All of those were true to some extent, but not quite enough to keep my going. I am not one of those people who finishes a book just because I have started it. I am actually quite harsh in my practice of giving up on novels that don’t hold my attention. But that was it, no matter what else I can say of The Drowning Girl, it certainly held my attention.

We have all seen paintings or photographs that we admire. Artwork that makes us think and asks us to examine with a critical eye. We can appreciate the art, but we wouldn’t necessarily call it beautiful or want it hanging on our living room wall. The work is important. The artist is talented. But, there is no way we would want to stare deeply into that vision every day. This is precisely the literary sculpture that Kiernan has wrought.

The main character and narrator of this book, “Imp” to her friends, is having trouble coping with events in her life. This story is her coping mechanism.  From the first page of The Drowning Girl, we are thrown into Imp’s world of double meanings, facts versus truths, and interpretation through examination and exploration. Everything we come across in the story is not what it seems, even the tale itself. Every person or object or event has at least two meanings and just as many or more truths. People are both male, female, and both. Single events happen not once but twice, then maybe not at all. Reality is a matter of perception, and perception is a state of mind. And most importantly the mind is volatile and subject to change.

The novel’s story of mermaids, werewolves, murders, suicides, and the collapsing and expanding of relationships is actually secondary to the darker story of how our minds, and especially the minds of those with mental illness, play tricks on us while laying themselves out as truthful. The horrors of the book lie not in the foul creatures and horrendous acts of the characters, but in the manipulations of perception and remembrance.

This dichotomy within one’s own self is what makes the book so fascinating but also makes it disturbing. It is like staring at a mirror too long, or dwelling on a certain word so long that it loses its meaning and becomes nonsense. I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed this book, because enjoyment is the wrong term for the reaction. But I honestly enjoyed how the book made me think and feel and question, even though the doubts induced will be hard to shake. Those thoughts have taken root in the most permanent but volatile of all places, my mind.

Books & Book Reviews , , ,

Pictures of Charleston Rail

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a book about railroads in Charleston with lots of great photographs would be priceless, right? Well with a little help from the folks here in town, and maybe a few spread further away, that is what I am hoping for.

Charleston South Carolina Arcadia PublishingI am working with Arcadia Publishing, coincidentally located here in Charleston, to produce a book for their Images of Rail series. This is not going to be a dry history, but a look into how the railroads and streetcar lines in Charleston really fit in with local life and helped to shape that life. To that end, I am looking for old photographs that might be used in “Charleston Rail”.

Do you have a photograph of a great uncle waving from the streetcar on which he was a conductor? Do you have a snapshot of the old Seaboard Air Line Railway station at Grove and Rutledge? Maybe you even have a few pictures of relatives coming in to town at Union Station that burned in the forties. Anything like this would be of interest.

The importance of family collections cannot be overemphasized. Vintage photographs become increasingly fragile and by scanning and reproducing them in a book, they become available for all to see. While postcards are great, and well loved, what I am looking for here are actual photographs. They have to be out there somewhere – in trunks, in photo albums, or hanging on the wall.

So please, if you have anything you think might be of interest, just let me know. I would love to talk with you. Shoot me an email, give me a call or jump me in the street. If you choose the latter, please be gentle.

And if you are interested in the book, stay tuned and I will let you know when it comes out. If you subscribe to this site, you will be one of the first to know.

Books & Book Reviews, Trains, Model RR, Hobbies , , , , ,

A Bookman’s Tale

Bookman's TaleA Bookman’s Tale: A Novel Of Obsession by Charlie Lovett is one of the first books in a long time that compelled me to stay up late and read at every free, and some not free, moment I had. I was totally enthralled by the combination of books, history, romance, and dysfunctional personalities. I must say that I nodded my head knowingly a few too many times at the personality quirks of the main character, the bookman, Peter Byerly.

Is this something peculiar to those drawn to books? Is it such a standard trait that we are loners, prone to anxiety, and attracted to not only the lore but the physical characteristics of old books? The worst problem with this novel, if it can be seen as a problem, is that it has reinvigorated my interest in book collecting and has already been the catalyst to a good number of new purchase. I even started measuring my study this evening to ascertain whether or not I have enough room to add another book case. And for those keeping count, that would be a fifth case within that room.

If you are interested in books, in English history, in a good mystery, or a bittersweet love story, I would highly recommend A Bookman’s Tale. Along the way you may just learn something about Shakespeare and the exciting, yes really, world of rare books. I eagerly await Charlie Lovett’s next book. Luckily I don’t have long to wait; First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen is due out in just a few weeks. Yes, I have already ordered my copy.

Books & Book Reviews , ,

Tattoo – The Deed Is Done

I have been wanting to do this for a few years, and have been, it seems, annoying a few people with that desire. I was finally challenged to put up or shut up by my wife via a gift certificate for my fifty-first birthday. She got tired of me drawing on my arm it seems, so she gave me a gift certificate to Blu Gorilla Tattoo. Yesterday I took the bit in my teeth, or the needle in my arm, and headed downtown to do the deed.

Getting the tattooI actually ended up with Chuck at Pepper Shade Tattoo which is the sister shop to Blu Gorilla and is right across the street (and some railroad tracks). Chuck is a friend of my long time buddy Ingrid Tugwell, and so came highly recommended. The shop was cool in that funky tattoo parlor kind of way, though I still cannot get over listening to Milli Vanilli in the place. I am hoping it was just a poor choice by the radio station.
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General, Writing & Tall Tales , ,

The West Model Train Collection

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day hanging out with what one person described as my “tribe”.  The tribe being that group of people who is interested in some of the same things I am. In this case it might have been a fairly eclectic tribe; those folks who are both in to British cars and trains. You see, yesterday members of The British Car Club of Charleston visited the home of member and model train collector Mike West.

Model Train Collection

Now I have known Mike for about thirty years, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered that he, like me, has a things for trains. He started on this hobby when he was just a kid back in the forties and still has some of his original model trains from back then.

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Trains, Model RR, Hobbies , ,