Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me

Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases MeFatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Recommended to me by the awesome staff at Velocity Comics. Fatale mixes together tentacle monsters & gun-toting flatfoots in an adventure that flips back & forth through contemporary America. Picture a yellow-eyed creepy-crawly hoisting a tommy gun & if that doesn’t interest you, then skip the rest of the review.

The story follows a dark-haired dame who’s nothing but trouble as she seduces man after man to protect her & keep her from the crazy Cthulu-worshipping cultists that made her what she is. Fatale, so far, is a total pulp mash-up & as a result, the characters rarely become more than what they are meant to be. But that’s ok, I get the sense that this is really more about what cool things come out when mixing these two genres, not necessarily any deep characterization or story-telling. It’s ambitious, dramatic, & full of geeky genre fun.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful: Volume 1Penny Dreadful: Volume 1 by Krysty Wilson-Cairns

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A collection focusing on the immediate events before the Penny Dreadful series proper: Malcolm & Vanessa beginning their search for Mina.

Story-wise, the graphic novel is just ok. We get a little backstory on Mina’s actual choices under the thrall of Dracula & we find out what happens to her husband Harker. But the fun of the first season was seeing how the interactions between Malcolm, Frankenstein, Ethan & Vanessa deepened or subverted the original characterizations of the novel & with the original characters like Harker or Lucy Westerna returned, they don’t really have any substance or anything to do.

Art-wise, the book is freaking gorgeous. A hybrid of photorealistic drawing, sketchy kinetic layout & layers of color & symbols make for an impressive presentation that invites you to look further. This one is for the diehard fans & the completists, not really for the merely curious or those new to the show.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

The Complete Fiction of H.P. LovecraftThe Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are two reasons to read Lovecraft:

1.) To understand the mechanics of his universe & how it has enticed other (better) writers to explore it.

2.) To better appreciate other (better) writers writing in response/reaction to Lovecraft’s obsessions.

So glad to be even partially done with this book.

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An Everyday Stranger

Woodford PO
Woodford, VA

The closest post office that would accept our passport applications would not see us until our scheduled appointment in June.  In fact, most of the post offices within a 30-mile radius required appointments & while that did not surprise me, the length of time until our appointment did.  There were only two post offices that had walk-up service & both were small buildings located in the middle of nowhere.

So, impatient & high-strung creature that I am, I got directions to the Woodford Post Office & we headed out on a rainy day.  The building was located somewhere between Thornburg & Bowling Green & we drove narrow, curvy country roads slowly, since the roads were slick & the bends were blind.  We drove past older homes with DIY parking lots filled with fresh gravel & a slew of various cars as well as wild parcels of land that had overgrown logging trails & were flooded at every flat place.  It was hard to imagine anyone turning those pieces of land into anything profitable. It was also hard to imagine that we would see bold-faced RESIST signs lurching from the treeline not far from a home flying a Confederate flag, but that we saw proof of as we inched along.

Woodford Railroad Crossing
Across the street from the Woodford Post Office

As we approached the railroad crossing, the only sign that we were anywhere close to our destination was three greying buildings.  As we slowed, hoping to see some street sign, the entry for the post office popped out behind a stand of sagging wet trees.  We turned & soon found ourselves inside one of the smallest & tidiest post offices I’d ever seen.  It reminded me a lot of the Hartwood Post Office, which had the functional-but-idealistic vibe of New Deal architecture & was also small but tenaciously holding onto its surrounding community.

The woman behind the counter was eager enough to help us, but she only had one question: did we have our pictures with us?  When we said yes, she sighed in relief, “Good, our camera’s been out of film & I’m still waiting to be restocked.”  She processed our forms efficiently, telling us genially that she’d been doing applications for a year & that we really had made the right choice to go with the passport book instead of the card.  “I know its cheaper, but say you’re on a cruise & the boat breaks down.  When they come to get everybody, you won’t be able to go if they’re flying everyone home.  That card is for North American travel only & they won’t make exceptions for you.”  I had to admit I had not thought of this.

Then she came to the place on the form where the dates & destination of travel were listed.  We had left them blank because the band we had planned to see in Canada hadn’t announced its dates or its venues yet.  My husband, more inclined to small talk than I, explained this & when he mentioned that they don’t hardly tour in the United States, she asked who we were going to see.  “Matthew Good,” I said.

Oh,” she replied, clear that she didn’t know who that was, “I was hoping you’d say Rush; I love them.”  My husband & I replied at the same time that we’d seen them in Bristow a few years back.  We talked over each other a bit & I debated mentally whether or not to mention that he’d hated it & had only gone for me, much like this upcoming trip to see Matt Good.  “I’ve seen Rush too,” she said, trying to remember, “When was it?”

I hazarded a guess, “2012?  Clockwork Angels?”

She smiled—a wide, bright smile, “Yeah!  Yeah, you’re right, it was in Bristow.  Oh my god, they were so good!  It was the first time I saw them live.”

“Me too!” I said & we all joked about the scarcity of women at a Rush concert & what were the odds, y’know?  The rest of the paperwork process got a bit lighter & she was patient with us & our questions as she went over the various payment options & expected wait times.  I don’t think any of us wanted to waste this small moment of shared goodwill.

When everything was done, we all cheerfully said our goodbyes & my husband & I headed back out into the drizzling rain, trying to decide how to head home.  “I wonder what its like to work here,” I said as we waited for a train to slowly finish its crossing.  “Do you think its boring or that its peaceful?”

“Its probably boring,” he said, “I mean, its even smaller & more isolated than where we live & you know how it is there.”

I stared out the window & thought Maybe.  But I was also thinking about the Rush concert, where we had sat in a row with some other ladies & at the end, after we had danced & cheered & sang along with nearly every song, one of them had turned to me & said, “God, that was so fun! It’s nice to be near someone who knows how to enjoy a show!”  I thought about power chords echoing out over the overgrown fields.  And I thought, I bet you at least have a few stories at the end of the day.


Early Morning Anxiety

And then you wake up at 2am
And you run through the quick-list of safety checks
(odd sounds? husband breathing? unidentified presence? lights on?)
To make sure
You’re safe
You think briefly of the late afternoon coffee you had (no caffeine after 12pm)
Before your thoughts shatter & pile up treacherously in your head.

And the sky is smeared with amber streetlights bouncing off the mist
And the rain on the window is irregular
And your neck throbs pain to a fine point in your temple
And the choices you didn’t make yesterday return with imagined consequences
And you remember gruesome stories about roaches living in people because
Your abdomen hurts & you think it must be roaches pickled in caffeine

And you want to start crying
But you don’t want to wake your husband
And you want to fill the glass on the nightstand with water
But you don’t want to wake the cat
And then the red numerals from the alarm clock tell you
The exact minutes of sleep you’ll be missing in the morning
And the blue light from the stereo reminds you that your melatonin levels aren’t right
(Clearly, because you are awake).

You’re never going to sleep again because the air is muggy & the arrhythmic rain interrupts your breathing & the false dawn outside is a reminder that you are lying to yourself about the amount of air you have left to breathe & will there even be a world tomorrow if we keep manufacturing plastics & lights & weapons &

Your hair has joined the harmony of pain between your neck & your head
And when your husband shifts uneasily in his sleep beside you
You try to keep your fear contained by counting backwards from 99 by threes
Because you love the threes table & the magical song created by children’s musicians
And covered by rock bands.
You get stuck at 90 & realize how stupid you are, you can’t even get
To the next number without saying 89, 88, 87 to yourself.

The clock turns to 2:45 am & the very fact almost
Brings you to tears again because of Elliott Smith.

Your neck pops and snaps when you move it
And your husband turns, somehow knows you’re awake,
Says sleepily, Are you ok?  What are you doing?
, you say.
You should turn a light on, he says and you mumble something
About writing by feel & the dim outline of the page and
Not wanting to wake him.
He complains about being cold despite burning up to the touch,
Like so often happens now at night, right before you go to bed.

You tell him everything is ok & tease him for not being able to keep his inner thermostat straight.
He keeps asking questions, making sure nothing else has happened or intruded here.
The cat is still downstairs and does not need to be fed,
The circling fan still hums,
The pillow is cool,
The rain quiets.
You arrange the covers better around you both &
Everything is ok.
Everything is ok.