Monthly Archives: October 2018

Book Review — City of Ash and Red

City of Ash and Red is a Korean story that strikes fear and uneasiness into the reader. The unnamed lead character and narrator works for an extermination company. He’s not the best employee but gets to work at the big office in Country C. Countries and cities are represented by single letters which are not shorthand but signify places unknown to the reader. The reader will not think that country C is North Korea, Poland, or Canada; it is someplace the reader has never been. There is a sense of being lost and to compound that feeling the character also feels lost and disoriented. He loses all contact with his home country. He also learns he is suspected in the murder of his ex-wife. The book takes the reader on a dark, twisting course. In a city where trash piles high, rats thrive, and swirling mists of sprays that are supposed to control the spread of an epidemic cover everything a foreigner must find his way out or in.
Translator Sora Kim-Russell does an outstanding job in translating the story to English while keeping the original feel and intent of the story.  Horror seems to have different flavors in different cultures.  Part of the stories appeal is that is outside of the Western or American norm.

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Book Review — Vault of Frankenstein: 200 Years of the World’s Most Famous Monster

We are quickly approaching the 200 year anniversary of a novel written as a part of a challenge by a British woman staying in a castle on Lake Geneva. Mary Shelley’s little project has become one of the most recognized characters in the twentieth and twenty-first century. The novel floated around with classic literature of the period without making a huge wave until Universal Studios’ full-length movie in 1931. Since that time the Monster has appeared in numerous films and just about every form of entertainment from cartoons (Frankenstein Jr and Scooby Doo), an Aurora model kit, Lurch from the Addams Family and Herman Munster, and even the X-Files. Although these modern interpretations drift from the original storyline, many newer versions try to stick closer to the original in the story of themes such as the series Penny Dreadful. His fame has not been limited to America. A rather comical looking giant Frankenstein monster joins the Japanese monster collection battling a Godzilla-like monster.

The Vault of Frankenstein will give the reader a detailed history of the creature in all his variations. Today’s along with last century’s version of the monster have changed quite a bit. Shelley would never have dreamt that her monster would meet the Wolfman, Abbot, and Costello, or grace the box of breakfast cereal. She would also be surprised to find that there was an Igor (or “eye-gor” in Mel Brooks version) or the movies most quoted line “It’s Alive” was never written in the novel. In fact, the creation of the monster itself is under-represented in the book compared to the movies.

The Vault of Frankenstein is filled with photographs and memorabilia of Frankenstein’s creation. Photos of Shelley’s original writing, movie posters, photographs of the actors who played the creature, and various items and props are included in the pages of the book. The book includes all outgrowth that is influenced by the creature’s fame — from the Monster Mash to postage stamps. A well written and illustrated history of a cultural icon.

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Book Review — Lovely Seeds

I picked up this book after reading another poem from Swaney in an anthology. I was expecting more of a traditional poetry collection. It was not. What I did like is the central theme that follows the life cycle of a plant for seed, soil, water, growth, and restore. Each entry is short and offers bits of insight and self-esteem boosting advice and thoughts. It seems to be closer to a feel-good book than poetry. Little can be considered poetry in any traditional sense, but it does fit nicely into the “Instagram sensation” of poetry that has been popular with the younger crowd. It is a well thought out work, but I am not sure its poetry.

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Book Review — Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and Future of Wine in China

Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and Future of Wine in China by Loren Maysharkis a history as well as the current demand for wine in the country.  There are a few points that must be considered when China and wine.  First that China does contain 20% of the world’s population and that in itself creates a massive demand for a product.  Secondly, China has had a long history of wine not only rice and plum varieties.  Third, wine is the most popular alcoholic drink in the country.

Perhaps the most surprising is the rising quality of domestic Chinese wine.  My initial thoughts of Chinese wine were akin of Morgan David and other bottom shelf wines.   Those wine do or at least did exist in China as well as dangerous chemical concoctions labeled as wine.  A government crackdown has supposedly ended the practice of fake and dangerous wines.  There is, however,  a market for high-end bottles to be refilled with low-quality wine and a growing counterfeit label business.

Mayshark presents an interesting history as well as an examination of the current wine situation in China.  Partnerships with France and other countries are creating a large market. Tariff retaliation with America are preventing US imports and China does not have surplus enough for meaningful exports.   This is a very informative and enlighting look at a side of China that is rarely seen.

 

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Poetry Review — The Drum That Beats Within Us

Mike Bond’s collection of American poetry opens the reader to the wide-open nature of the mountainous North West. From the Native Americans to the ranchers, the region inspires the reader with rugged land and its wildlife. There is a primitive feel to the poetry that reflects the rustic nature of the land. It is the Great Spirit links people to the earth and the environment that science seems too refined and sterile for. It is the beat that mimics the human heart in the state of nature and also a reminder of how man has changed not only the landscape and the planet.  The poetry is a symbol of beauty that reminds us to tread lightly on the earth much like its first inhabitants. A beautiful collection of poetry that will make the adult reader remember his childhood draw to the West.

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Poetry Review — Seduction: New Poems, 2013-2018

Seduction: New Poems, 2013-2018 by Quincy Troupe is the poets latest collection of poetry. Troupe is an award-winning author of ten volumes of poetry, three children’s books, and six non-fiction works.

Troupe offers a unique perspective on African-American life from Jazz to the shootings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin. Troupe plays heavily on two themes. The first is the substitution of “eye” for “I.” The “eye” is all-seeing whereas “I” is open to interpretation and our own prejudices. The eye is everyone. We see the news. We see the violence. We see the racism. The eye is also the key to seduction. It is what draws us in. We live in an age of visual stimulation and Troupe uses that to draw the reader into his poetry.

The second theme is seduction in its various forms. Troupes connection with jazz and Aretha Franklin offers positive temptations. Seduction, too, offers a current and relevant examination of society. We are seduced into our own world through electronic devices. We are seduced by politicians that do not serve our interests. We are seduced into action movies at theaters, and sometimes become victims of the violence that is being glorified.

The “eye” is all of us which makes this collection, not just an African-American poet speaking but, collectively all of us. We all see the same things. We are seduced by many things from jazz to the “orange face doofus.” We must join the eye with the seduction and examine what is really seducing us because there really is a difference in quality and consequences between a singers voice and racist politics.

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Poetry Review — [Dis]Connected

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[Dis]Connected is a surprisingly pleasant project of poetry and short fiction. Halket takes a dozen young poets and assigns them a task. First, they each contribute three poems. Second, they will be put into a random order and asked to choose one poem from the poet that they are paired with and write a short fiction influenced by that poem. The short fiction should contain a line or two from the poem but also be creative and not just a prose retelling of the poem.

Yena Sharma Purmasir writes the poem “Things That Aren’t True” and tells of her life in things that are not true about it. Ian S. Thomas takes the poem and weaves an eerie story about hitchhiking and paying what is owed. The poets do a wonderful job in their own poetry and an amazing job in the short fiction. The stories all have fine threads that tie it back to the poem. This becomes an amazing treat for the reader. Not only is the reader contemplating a poem but also discovering its relationship to a short story. At times it seems like solving a mystery when the reader’s mind clicks and sees a connection.

Halket presents an excellent selection of poets and offers much more diversity than usually seen in anthologies.  Although she does praise social media for helping poetry, most lovers of poetry will be happy to know that there are no “Instagram sensations” and writers of platitudes in this selection.  Here are real poets who also do a fantastic job at writing prose.  [Dis]Connected is probably the most ambitious and impressive project I have read this year.

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