Summer is coming I’m in that Southern Gothic mood again. This year I got in the mood early, before the weather caught up with me. Back at the end of February I ran across Hap and Leonard on Netflix and could not stop watching. I loved every strange, sad minute of it. Netflix only had the first two seasons, but it looks like I can watch the third on the Sundance website. They’re based on Joe R. Lansdale’s books. I’ve never read any of his Hap and Leonard series, but I’ve read a bit of his straight-ahead horror and I recommend him if you don’t mind gore and torture.
I’ve also been watching True Blood free on Amazon Prime. I find Sookie Stackhouse herself (the TV version) kind of annoying and immature, but I enjoy most everything else about the series.
Sadly, my town looks nothing like these shows. My town looks like, well, have you seen the original Footloose? That was filmed around here. Not that romantic. We don’t have sultry evenings filled with ancestral ghosts* and sexy vampires around here, so I’m stuck watching them TV.
Maybe I’ll pull out my billowy nightdress so I can sit on my patio in it, sip a mint julep and pretend I’m in Louisiana. Or maybe I’ll spring for a new one. Gotta have something to cool down these hot nights ahead. A light dress and a good chill up my spine oughta help.
*Okay, we probably do have ancestral ghosts around here, but they’d mostly show up to complain about your skirt length and make sure you dance at least 12 inches apart from each other.
**I swear it was cheaper this when I bought it, though.
Sorry for the lapse in posting. Stress and holidays will do that. I’ve been cleaning house and resetting our routines now that Thanksgiving is done, and now I’m listening to Bauhaus and catching up with all of you. Here, in list form, is what I’m into right now:
Dirk Gently season 2: at first I didn’t know what to think about this new season but now I’m eagerly awaiting the finale. It’s less bloody than the first season and much more whimsical and weird, and I love it at least as much as season 1.
Stan Against Evil: this one is also in its second season but I didn’t get around to watching season 1 until a couple weeks ago. Where has this show been all my life?! It’s the greatest combination of horror, comedy, and relatable humanity since Shaun of the Dead.
Ghosted: Ghosted is a new sitcom about ghosts and monsters. It features Craig Robinson and Ben from Parks and Recreation and it’s cute. The best thing about it is being able to watch it with my kids. They’re getting older, but still a bit young for truly hardcore horror, so this is a nice compromise.
The Italian, by Ann Radcliffe: one of the original “gothic novels.” Radcliffe’s novels are quite long and I don’t have much time to read lately, so it’s taking me forever to get through this, but it’s quite nice so far. It’s atmospheric and mysterious and much more fast-paced than Mysteries of Udolpho.
From Here to Eternity, by Caitlin Doughty: I’m not finished with this either but I’m really enjoying it. If you liked her first book you’ll love this one. If you found her first book a little to graphic in the details of death, you might still enjoy reading this one, which is much more focused on her experience of death rituals around the world. If you like her Ask a Mortician series you’ll love this book.
So that’s how I’ve been coping with life stress and family visits. Those of you that celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving, I hope yours was a good one. Those of you that don’t celebrate it, hopefully you had a peaceful weekend while I was entertaining kids and hosting in-laws.
Kids went back to school on Tuesday, and since then I’ve been binging on Lore. Finally watched the episodes on Amazon, catching up on the podcast as I get some exercise and get the house back in shape.
I’m a sucker for urban legends and historical ghost stories, which is good and bad in this case. Good because Lore is right up my alley, bad because a lot of the stories are familiar already. I like hearing his dramatic tellings, though, with the spooky background music and (in the Amazon version) occasionally gruesome visuals.
My favorite of the Amazon episodes was Echoes, mostly about Walter Freeman, who popularized the lobotomy in the United States. I actually knew a lot of the story from reading Great and Desperate Cures a few years ago, so I was prepared for the shocking images and stories, but I didn’t know much about Freeman himself. It was fascinating and sad seeing his life and work dramatized like that.
The Lore podcast has been around for a while, so you’re hopefully familiar with that already. If you haven’t seen the Amazon series it’s definitely worth a look. It’s very much like the podcast, but with surprisingly well-acted reenactments of the stories he tells.
I’ve been taking time to relax, put my feet up, and work on my shawl. It’s working up really quickly and fits Bane’s “things with wings” theme, so I’m hoping to get it finished in time to post for the craft-along. The original pattern is sparkly butterflies, but in black they look more like moths. I’ll do my best to finish it up and get some nice pictures by month’s end.
To keep me company as I crochet, I’ve been watching Slow TV on Netflix. I worked my way through their “sheep to sweater” world record attempt and it was very pleasant to watch and crochet to, plus I learned a bit about Norway and its knitting history. I especially liked the bit about feminist “hen knitting,” which seems like such a grandmother to pussy hats and saucy cross stitching that are so big right now.
My kids have gotten into the Slow TV, too. They get way too into TV and YouTube sometimes, and this time instead of just taking their devices away I had them watch nature documentaries. That went really well, actually. The kids got really into them.
When I put on Slow TV, though, they got really annoyed. What was this boring crap?
By the end they’d all grabbed yarn from my stash and were crocheting chains like champs. Yes, they tried to knit but couldn’t get it, so they switched to crochet. I’m not prejudiced, I like them both. 😉 I’m just thrilled they want to do something quiet and useful for a change. Enough boring TV and they might even learn to turn those chains around and start a second row.
I finally finished Frankenstein. It was no Wuthering Heights, but it was good. A lot of the themes wear well–the inhumanity of humanity, Dr. Frankenstein’s infuriating refusal to see his responsibility for this mess, the ups and downs of pushing science past its limits–those ideas and more are still compelling after all this time. The vagueness of the actual science wears less well, and I just couldn’t get behind the Monster learning French and pondering the nuances of Paradise Lost just by listening really hard. But this is forgivable. You don’t read Shelley or Poe for their scientific prescience.
You can’t really recommend or fail to recommend such a classic, so instead I’ll say this: it’s about as exciting-yet-flawed as Stoker’s Dracula, more focused than Ann Radcliffe’s work (but less focused than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Invisible Man), and not as romantic and full of atmosphere as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. If you’re really into the foundations of goth you’re either already read it or really ought to. I can’t believe it took me so long to get to this.
And now, out of the past and into the TV present. While I was sick I found time to watch Channel Zero season one and I mostly liked it. Since this is a fairly recent show instead of a classic of Western Horror, I won’t spoil it with too many details. If you like creepypasta you’re probably familiar with the Candle Cove storyline, and for the most part the show did a great job with it. That tooth child (you may have seen it in the trailers) and various Candle Cove puppets are suitably creepy and the plot is interesting. I was totally sold for the first 4 episodes or so, and after that there were some hiccups but I still enjoyed it. Definitely worth a look if you like quirky, atmospheric horror.
As usual, one of my kids brought home germs and gave them right to me. She has terrible timing–I got sick right when our schedule got extra busy for a week or so–and without time to rest it took a while to recover.
So mostly I’ve been finishing some horror novels and spent a precious few hours of rest time binge watching the Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix. It was a fun show, by the way. I liked it for the same reason I loved Shaun of the Dead. They both set ordinary relationship issues against a fun background of blood and guts, and they both pull it off well. It might be hard for a second season to keep the right balance, what with TV shows always having to increase the drama to keep people watching, but I enjoyed this first season.
I also read The Red Queen (sequel to Alice) this week. It was short and very easy reading, but not as compelling as the first book. The first one, while hurtling toward a certain conclusion, had a real sense of growth for Alice. The second one talked a lot about continuing that growth, but action-wise Alice felt very much like a pawn. I know this is meant to mirror the chess game aspect of the original Through the Looking Glass, but it didn’t work for me. In the end, Alice comes into her own power and symbolically becomes a queen in her own right, but the way it was written didn’t really convey that. There were still no real choices for her to make, and it felt like Alice never really escaped being a pawn.
A week or so ago I finished but didn’t mention Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes. I liked it but didn’t love it. The basic plot, about dreams (nightmares maybe) trying to manifest in the waking world, was wonderful. Those parts of the book were grotesque and beautiful. They got lost a bit, though, in the long backstories of every character. I think the backstories were supposed to slowly explain each character’s role in bringing the nightmare to life (or ultimately, not), but they didn’t all fit in the end and some of them seemed unnecessary. The author seemed to have many themes she wanted to explore and they didn’t all fit into one coherent storyline. It’s a shame, because the main thread was perfect.
Now I’m getting around to Frankenstein, the one glaring gap in my classic horror knowledge. I suspect it’ll take longer than the books I’ve breezed through recently. I’ve love to hear what you’ve all been up to lately.