Trash Cinema, Weird Travel And Freaky People: Bizarre Book Club Non-Fiction Special

Merry morning my little chimpanzees in the planning stages of taking over the world. I’ve been reading lots of weird things and here they are:

Death Confetti: Pickers, Punks and Transit Ghosts in Portland, Oregan, by Jennifer Robin death-confetti-510x801

This is, no exaggeration, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I follow the author on facebook as well and, seriously, her status updates are miniature masterpieces.

Jennifer charts her non-linear journey from reclusive childhood to Portland artist with description as biting as William Burroughs and prose as rich as Anais Nin, but also completely unique. Sometimes she just remembers a character from her past, sometimes a full anecdote, sometimes she’s just looking at people on the bus, but all are beautiful. How can you not be fascinated by an intro like this:

“My directives, as established at seventeen—to experience real emotion, real contact with other people, all of the things you only learn by sucking cock, smoking rock, climbing cliffs, sleeping in catacombs, getting pregnant, and making a lot of mistakes—were fully enforced at this time. Within a year of my arrival I was playing in an electronic noise band. On and off-stage, we made—or perhaps “were”—performance art.”

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero ohm

I have genuinely never laughed so loudly and consistently at a book. If you’re unfamiliar with Tommy Wiseau’s complete mess of a film The Room, first of all where have you been, and second please watch it right now. Our fascination with it is hard to explain to people who don’t love terrible films. Example conversation with a friend:

Friend: Are you coming to Ian’s later?

Me: Yep. I’m bringing The Room

Friend: What? Not again. I’ve got Lolita at home, I’ll bring that

Me: Noooo, I can watch a good film anytime. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MEEE!!!

And so on. Greg is the guy who played Mark (Oh, hi Mark) and he recounts the complete debacle from beginning to end including the first time he met Tommy and the events that led to his making the film. What elevates this above merely poking fun at an eccentric is the genuine level of affection – though sometimes tested – and desire to understand Tommy. He’s not a monster, he has real feelings and a desperate need to be an actor, and perhaps another reason we enjoy The Room is his sheer determination to make that happen. As Greg says, “The Room is a drama that is also a comedy that is also an existential cry for help that is finally a testament to human endurance.”

There is a film coming out, called The Masterpiece, based on this book. I, for one, will be watching it.

Everything Wrong With The Room In 8 Minutes Or Less:

Dandy in the Underworld by Sebastian Horsley dandy

“Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a peacock without a cause, I am a piece of transcendent trash – a futile blast of colour in a futile colourless world.”

If Sebastian had been born in the 1800s he would be one of those sons paid by their wealthy family to stay away. He crashes through life like a mixture of Byron and Withnail, rarely likeable but always interesting, an artist who’s biggest art piece was himself.

On a whim he goes diving with sharks, has a fling with gangster Jimmy Boyle, bets on the stock exchange and becomes horribly addicted to heroin and crack. When he has money he doesn’t respect it, when he doesn’t he’s desperate. He makes no excuses for shoplifting and generally being a louche, entitled rich boy and if he did I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed reading him as much. He died aged 47 of a suspected overdose.

(Be warned, I suspect he says things because he likes to be ‘shocking’):

A Curious Guide To London by Simon Leyland curious

Yes, yes, there’s the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square blah blah. Where are the corpses? A common cry, and one this book would like to answer.

Beneath the respectable layer of London’s past is a hidden world of information, such as the peculiar shrub in Chelsea Physic Garden that gave John Wyndham the idea for Day of the Triffids, St. Sepulchre’s watch house in Holborn (built to keep an eye out for grave diggers), the Haymarket cat opera (exactly how it sounds) or the leftover ‘snob screens’ in The Lamb pub which protected delicate wealthy eyes from the sight of the common man.

It’s separated into districts so you can have a flick through next time you go to London and see what’s about. If you’d like to see a bit more of weird London via a guide have a look at this spooky tour we embarked upon for Halloween.

Midnight Movie Madness by Ian Watson midnight-movie

A cavalcade of truly terrible films, this collection takes you from Maniac ‘director’ Dwain Esper‘s exploitation efforts, through fifties B movies to nonsensical modern day fare. Some of the descriptions made me chuckle out loud, particularly in the WTF section.

If monster movies are your thing, or perhaps overseas oddities, each film has been separated into categories ( I like categories, don’t I? I never realised that before), making it easier to dip in according to mood. Enjoy!

Book Review: Surrealist Women, An International Anthology

Hello my little dustpan brushes sprinkled with attractive gems. Recently I read Surrealist Women: An International Anthology. The kindle version is slightly cheaper than the hardsurrealist-women-cover copies but still costs a whopping thirty pounds. I do think it’s worth saving up for, however, as it is an almost exhaustive encyclopedia of all females involved in the art movement from the twenties to sixties counter-culture to now, including examples of their work.

The essays at the beginning of each new era, separated into chapters, refutes the idea that women were not as involved as men. While they were not seen as full members during the twenties they were just as passionate, and only a decade later their participation exploded. It only seems to be outside critics and scholars who have omitted them since.

This passage offers an explanation for the reticence at the start (Andre Breton’s wife, Simone Kahn, wrote several letters to her cousin Denise Levy in the early years): “Although masculine egotism surely existed in the Surrealist Group, what is known of Kahn’s correspondence refutes the temptingly simple but shallow argument that the relatively small production of the first women surrealists can be blamed on male chauvinism alone. What held these women back, more than likely, was a complex of inhibitions and fears inherited from centuries of French and European patriarchal, capitalist, Christian culture; notions of “feminine reserve,” “woman’s place,” and “biological destiny” that they had internalized more or less unconsciously as children and which continued to wreak havoc in their psyches in later years, despite themselves.”
Meret Oppenheim's 'furry cup'
Meret Oppenheim’s ‘furry cup’
The author mentions other biographies of individuals but Surrealist Women is packed with primary research and any omissions of a particular writer/artist’s contribution to surrealism is addressed. She also looks at surprising aspects of surrealism, such as it’s affinities with Trotsky and other leftist leaders as well as feminism. In the early thirties the wall street crash brought a tide of woman-hating against those who ‘stole the jobs of men.’ Two high profile murder cases took place in France during that time, the Papin sisters – maids who killed their bosses – and Violette Noizierre. Both were reported vitriolically by the press as examples of women running amok, but apparently the Surrealists were one of only a few groups to point out that all women involved were being abused and possibly acted in self-defense.
I discovered several writers and artists I had never heard of as well as learning more about others. As a huge fan of Anais Nin I was excited to discover Nelly Kaplan who, under the name Belen, wrote “erotic tales of black humor.” She is also a filmmaker, one of her best known being A Very Curious Girl (1967).
There was also Suzanne Cesaire, born in Martinique. Though her husband, Aime, often overshadowed her, she was very active and started the magazine ‘Tropiques’ with him. There’s Joyce Mansour, the best known Surrealist female poet once told by Breton himself “Your gift is that of a genius,” and Rikki Ducornet, artist as well as author, who has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges among others.
I enjoyed it and learned a lot, and now have plenty of further reading and art to explore, as will you.
Below is a short documentary about Leonora Carrington, also featured in the book. Incidentally one of her stories is in The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, another I highly recommend.

Bizarre Book Club – Spooky Halloween All Hallows Read Horror Special

This post is brought to you by the Parlour of Horror Blog Tour. Parlour of Horror, nothing keeps your teeth whiter.

poh-november-horror-fiction-blogathon

Last week I went to The Sherlock Holmes pub in London, near Trafalgar Square, and took some pretentious pictures for my next batch of mini-reviews:  sherlock-holmes-pub-1sherlock-holmes-pub-2

I genuinely liked it in there, the weird Victoriana made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Anyway, on to the horror.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The night when the whole world as one raises the dead and eats so many sweeties (candy) that we glow iridescent with e numbers.

I’m sorry that I can’t send these out to you personally as you’re supposed to for All Hallows Read, but maybe you can pass them on after purchasing them this year. Let’s begin!

The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson.

As well as being a member of The League of Gentlemen and a playwright and author, Jeremy Dyson is a big fan of Robert Aickman (as am I). This is definitely noticeable in this themed collection of ghostly weird tales, which is a fictional account of a journey across the UK to collect local scary stories. Like Robert his stories are often not spelled out, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about what happened and why. It’s very clever, atmospheric and genuinely creepy.

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi helen-oyeyemi

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a nice children’s book about a married couple who are foxes, but it’s not. There are barely any real foxes.

I found Helen Oyeyemi‘s book very exciting simply for the way it bent my mind. Was it a collection of short stories? Not really. A novel with a single, flowing narrative? Well, no…

Mr Fox is an author who kills off all his female leads, and Mary Foxe is a character of his whose head he chopped off (there are many references to the Bluebeard fairy tale). Or perhaps she was his real wife whose head he chopped off? The pair of them imagine various scenarios in which she’s a romance novelist, a florist, a model and many more, the stories getting darker and stranger but always beautiful.

Helen Oyeyemi manages to take an idea that was cliche by the time it appeared on The Twilight Zone, a character speaking to it’s creator, and turn it into something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. My brain crackled like popping candy and I think yours will too.

100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories by Michael A Arnzen

These flash horror stories are deviously good fun. Split into sections covering the different aspects of horror (gory, supernatural etc) they often don’t become clear until you’ve thought about it for a few moments, and then you’ll be pondering them for quite a while afterwards.

If you have a spare few minutes you can dip into any section and read a tiny story, or sit down for hours and read lots in one go.

Ecstatic Inferno by Autumn Christian ecstatic_inferno_cover

These short stories are very beautifully written and there were so many sentences that made me green with envy. They span science fiction, fantasy and horror, but each tale has a dark Gothic magic behind it.

You’ll find Siamese (conjoined) twins navigating their sexuality, something happening to the children of an earth colony on a cold, barely inhabitable planet, Gods running the government and much more. Nicely creepy and very intelligent.

Ta dah! Have a wonderful Halloween and try not to eat too many sweets (who am I kidding, stuff yourselves silly).

Cannibalism, Starvation And OJ Simpson – Bizarre Book Club True Crime Special

Hello my little packets of single use HP Sauce! Welcome to another round of stuff I’ve read.

I love true crime books, the weirder the better. An honorary mention goes to Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farm Murders by Angela Buckley. Although the murder of infants is abhorrent it’s not quite odd enough to make the list. Fascinating book though and meticulously researched. starvation-heights

Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen. The Victorian era was obsessed with fad diets and peculiar cures, and none were odder or more sinister than Starvation Heights.

Claire and Dora Williamson were two misguided upper class sisters, believing a trip to Linda Burfield Hazzard’s isolated ‘health farm’ in the Pacific Northwest will do them the world of good. It didn’t and that’s an understatement. We follow them from hopeful, rather naive beginnings to madness, starvation and desperation, as they blindly follow Linda’s prescribed diet of a few peas and sips of broth while signing away all their worldly goods.

Written in a novelesque manner (is that a word? It is now), I occasionally wished Gregg would hold back his tendency for poetry and just state the facts. However it’s absorbing, bizarre and deeply sinister, and you can’t help being fearful for the two women.

The Law’s Strangest Cases by Peter Seddon. I love this book so much. OK, the laws-strangest-casesauthor’s sense of humour is occasionally annoying, but only very occasionally – most of the time it works or he keeps it to himself.

The cases are mind boggling (I never thought I’d use that term, yet here we are) stretching from the beginning of law to the late nineties, including the shipmates of cabin boy Richard Parker who was feasted on while adrift at sea. Bizarrely it doesn’t mention the novel of Edgar Allen Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket: a cabin boy named Richard Parker was eaten by his shipmates while adrift at sea – and it was written forty-five years previously. Life of Pi author Yann Martel was no doubt aware of this fact when he named his Bengal tiger Richard Parker.

Other fascinating moments include the gruesome origin of the phrase ‘Sweet Fanny Adams,’ a parrot whose screeches proved a mitigating factor and a man whose solution to annoying visiting relatives was to SET THE HOUSE ON FIRE.

If I Did It by OJ Simpson. OK, I want to make a couple of things clear: I didn’t pay for this book, I downloaded it. I’m sure that will infuriate some people but I didn’t want to give out any money for it, I would have felt dirty. I also couldn’t finish it – if you could throw a kindle book across the room I would have done.

He’s really not a very nice man. The entire thing is a litany of excuses and misdirection – I’m a great guy, I was married to a crazy person, I never called her fat when she had a baby she was the one making my life hell about it, I was understandably angry when she made friends I didn’t approve of and she was embarrassed after calling the cops on me because she realised it was over nothing, on and on and on.

Part of the reason I wanted to read it was morbid curiosity – I was in an abusive relationship for a few months and in order to stop me pressing charges he turned the whole thing on me, something OJ seems very adept at. In fact, even writing about this makes me feel a bit sick, so I think we should stop it there. Don’t buy this book.

The Girl In Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower by Robert Graysmith. Who was the girl wegirl-in-alfred-hitchcocks-shower saw nude in the shower scene? It wasn’t Janet Leigh. What happened to her afterwards? It turns out she was murdered by a man in 1988 bearing an uncanny resemblance to Norman Bates…or was she?

You’d be right to be confused. The answers lie in this book which I mostly found fascinating, and yet I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I skipped sections. Most people’s complaints with this book, by the author of Zodiac, was that it took so long to get to the actual murder. However I love films and read it more as a biography of a fascinating lady who not only secretly starred in Hitchcock’s movie but posed for art, became a playboy bunny and danced as a showgirl. Despite this there are still moments when it takes too long to get to a point, maybe lingers on a particular scene too long. I did like it though and I do recommend it.

The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton and Other Singular Tales From the Victorian Press by Jeremy Clay. This is a fun read. The stories are short and odd, a bit like me. Admittedly not all are crime, but as they’re all from the papers a large amount are.

Example headlines: Wife Driven Mad by Husband Tickling Feet, Liberals Eat Dog, Killed by a Drunken Bear and Bound In His Own Skin.

Come on now, you know you want to read that.

Farewell my little houseplants of an unidentified variety, see you next week!

 

Modern Gothic, Extreme Horror And Haunted Vaginas: Bizarre Book Club

Today’s pretentious book picture is brought to you by Utopia coffee shop in Southend, Essex. Books, hipster decorations and brilliant drinks oh my!  img_20160806_145807

Good day my lovely packets of weird flavour crisps that you’re not sure if you’ll like at first but turn out to be really good. I’ve read a bunch more weird books so join me on my wild ride. P.S. I’m on rather a lot of painkillers so forgive me if I gibber nonsensically like a drunk aunt on Valium.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. ballad-of-black-tomThe thing I enjoyed most about this modern weird fiction tale was the characterization. Black Tom, a man from 1920s Harlem, is completely believable and draws you into his story of finding a strange book for an even stranger old white man.

Set in the Lovecraft universe, it offers a unique perspective in that the author is an African American man. The dedication is to Lovecraft himself and ‘all (the author’s) complicated feelings towards him.’

Sunruined by Anderson Prunty. sunruined This collection of short stories has a gothic Halloween flavour to it, I could almost smell the Autumn leaves. Or perhaps I was just desperate for Autumn to begin.

They may not always be outright horror, in fact some are probably dark fantasy or whatever the kids are reading these days, but they’re always beautiful and very imaginative. Don’t worry, there’s no vampires, but there are screaming trees and predatory women.

While The Black Stars Burn by Lucy Snyder. whiletheblackstarsburnIt’s very shallow but the main reason I bought this book was because of it’s beautiful cover. LOOK AT IT! Then I was pleasantly surprised by the stories.

There are a number of genres here but mainly science fiction and weird, two of my favourite things. The author uses these strange set ups as a backdrop for everyday feelings, such as the woman in mourning who goes on a space voyage. The ending of this one is wonderfully dark, by the way, as are many of them. Read it!

The Teratologist by Edward Lee and Wrath James White. What a pair of sick puppies. I took a picture of my face whilst reading the second page. THE SECOND PAGE!img-20160823-wa0000

Generally I would say this kind of thing isn’t my cup of tea as the grossness is kind of an endurance test, while the aberrant sex gets a little tiresome. However something about it kept me reading. It sounds like I hated it but I really didn’t, I found the story quite fascinating. Two men, a journalist and photographer, are invited to the house of a wealthy man who secretly collects deformed people and religious leaders and feeds them lust enhancing drugs in order to offend God and bring him to Earth.

I think I enjoyed it, but seriously, only read if you have a strong stomach.

The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III. thehauntedvaginaI expected a very different book to the one I got. I thought I’d be reading a gross, immature comedy with not too much depth, but entertaining. It was entertaining, but it was also a very sweet and heartfelt look at relationships and the odd little things that make us love a person and, often, why relationships don’t last.

It is occasionally a bit gross, such as when the main character oils up to dive inside his girlfriend’s nether regions to explore the strange world within, but sex and love is sometimes gross and messy and we can’t explore these topics without getting a bit dirty.

There we have it! I won’t be posting next week as I’m having a holiday in my house, but you have plenty to be getting on with. Adieu!

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories Anthology – Bizarre Book Club

Bonjour mon petite panier de fleurs! Ca Va? Bien!

Just a quick pop in to say I just finished this book and loved it, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories from Crystal Lake Publishing. Gutted-final-cover-smaller-1000x500The title is certainly right, the stories are beautiful, though some may not be strictly considered horror. However there’s a horror edge to them whether they’re fantastical or realistic, and who cares about genre with writers like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Maria Alexander, Stephanie M Wytovich and lots more?

Some were darkly sad, some gothically beautiful and one or two gave me the genuine shivers, particularly Clive Barker’s Coming To Grief. Another very different favourite of mine was the tragically realistic Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) by Lisa Mannetti. Try it, you might like it, as the teenagers in Public Information Films used to say. However this book will probably not lead to hard drug consumption. Or will it? (No).

Zombie Lovers, Light Bulb Heads And Social Disease: Bizarre Book Club 17

Today’s pretentious book picture is brought to you by Leigh-On-Sea’s The Book Inn. Words galore!madeleine-swann-bizarroGood day weary travelers! Come inside my humble abode and rest your tired bones. have some soup. No, I wasn’t going to rob you, merely draw an amusingly upturned moustache upon your lip.

Let’s get on with the latest recommendations, shall we? There are a couple of books I’vezombie lovers anonymous madeleine swann berti walker promised to read but, never fear, I just haven’t done it yet – their turn will come.

1 The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert by Rios De La Luz. This book of short stories contains fiery Spanish poetry mixed with mostly English words (the author is Mexican American) and strong elements of magic realism, from stress related time travel to fruit containing photographs.

I did Spanish at college and was pleasantly surprised by how much I remembered, but even if you don’t know a single word I imagine it’ll be easy to understand in context. Each word is sprinkled in magic and El Paso dust, reminding us of the proud heritage of the cleaning women characters.

2. Zombie Lovers Anonymous by Berti Walker. Don lived through the zombie apocalypse. There aren’t many people left, but neither are there many zombies anymore. Those left fill their days with going to the bar and hanging around. One day Don decides to visit his ex girlfriend, who has unfortunately (or fortunately) become the undead, and Don just can’t help himself.

Joyously perverse and very entertaining, it made me laugh in several places. It’s erotica with a sense of humour and horror sensibilities. Sometimes it teetered on the edge of revolting but never went too far. However, this is me we’re talking about, I could be very different to you.

madeleine-swann-social-disease-anderson-prunty3. A Light Bulb’s Lament by Grant Wamack. Grant Wamack’s twitter proclaims him to be “A mind-bending entity who happens to be a novelist, rapper, urban mystic and book slinger.” Well, I don’t know about you, but that sounds exhausting!

The person waking with no memory is a common theme, but this time it’s a dandy with a light bulb for a head. The world is dark and snow bound and he, along with a pretty girl with a good singing voice and an amoral professor, have to figure out how to escape the evil Telemarketer.

I enjoyed this a lot, it appeals to my silly sense of bureaucratic humour, and I grew quite close to the characters. It was good fun.

4. Hi, I’m A Social Disease by Anderson Prunty.  As expected from the title, it shows the ugly side of humanity in a variety of ways, from surviving the apocalypse to sideshow revenge. It’s brutal, the characters are lonely and tortured, but it’s well written with enough strangeness and imagination to keep it interesting for me.

Just when I’d wonder if I was reading pure violence and unpleasantness, which isn’t my cup of tea, something very odd or beautifully described would happen. There’s intrigue in this mire.

Well, there we have it, I’m off to skip with rainbow unicorns with massive…ears. Until next time!