Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Total Skull: The Happy Man, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The October Faction

Things that brought me delight in June, 2018.

Eric C Higgs, The Happy Man
Since I couldn't find the book I had intended to start, I picked a book to read at random from my pile--Eric C. Higgs's The Happy Man. I did not expect to be quite so enthralled by this stunning tale of madness. The Happy Man is either a bit prescient or makes a successful argument that things never change in America: the possible of "illegals" crossing the border hovers in the background--but of course the real danger is home-grown and deeply rooted in the culture of upwardly mobile white America. Charles Ripley seems to have grasped the American Dream by the balls: he's got a nice house, a good job, a pretty wife--but when Ruskin Marsh and his stunning wife move in next door he begins to feel like some essential piece of his happiness is missing. The novel proceeds a bit like American Psycho, with strong notes of Poe and even James Hogg lingering at the margins, but as the slimmer work The Happy Man is much more incisive. 

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."

Steve Niles and Damien Worm, The October Faction vols. 2-4
Stories about monster hunters hunting monsters are seldom simply about monster hunters hunting monsters. Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have been a very dire proposition if it were just about slaying vampires; the show lived and breathed because it brought in all the anxieties that come with high school and young adulthood--sometimes alongside the monster stomping and sometimes metaphorically as the monster stomping. That The October Faction inhabits a similar space isn't necessarily intriguing on its own, but by choosing to focus on parenting and the evolving role of family it hits fresh territory.

Sleep, The Sciences
I finally got some time to sit down and spend some time with this one. If you've heard a Sleep album before, The Sciences won't surprise you--but Sleep really does excel at riffs the size and weight of concrete slabs. Of course, since the record was released on 4/20, you can expect that the toke-references run deep. Sleep isn't content to sing the gospel of weed, however; they weave a science fiction mythology around their consumption that hits with the force of a debut record instead of an awaited return.

The Night Walker
While the rest of the world goes apeshit for "arthouse horror" like it's an unheard of thing, I'm back on my bullshit watching the creaky b&w horror films that only William Castle could perfect. Although it's never shocking, The Night Walker has some truly uncanny moments--the marriage scene with the mannequins is going to stick with me longer than anything I saw in Hereditary.

Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristatina, InseXts, Volume 2: The Necropolis
Amidst all the Victorian body horror, the second volume of InseXts leans heavily on the theme of "Western culture has traditionally made women into the objectified subjects of art rather than allowing them to be artists themselves." Although this is a point historically demonstrable, it also felt a little too obvious--and, more importantly, like a point betrayed by InseXts own sense of eroticism and pin-up sensibilities. Up until the fourth-wall breaking end that is; okay, you got me, comic, didn't see that gimmick coming and I give you credit for it.

Honorable mentions
Anne Somerset, The Affair of the Poisons (which we did a podcast episode on)
Frank Miller, Sin City, Volume Two: A Dame to Kill For
Races of Eberron
Explorer's Guide to Eberron
The Book of Vile Darkness
The Babysitter
Adventures in Middle-earth: Mirkwood Campaign
Ocean's 8
GLOW, Season 2
Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula