Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
by: Jonathan Howard
This book was incredible fun, except for when it wasn't. I'm partial to stories about deals with the devil, and partial to stories about circuses and carnivals, and this is a novel about both. There were so many compelling, gory, sly, and touching fragments (yes, touching; it's not quite the word I'm looking for, but I can't think of one that's less generic... something that hits you in the back of the throat, anyway, or the bottom of your stomach), but they didn't stick together for me. I didn't feel the locomotive bearing down; didn't feel compelled to read at inconvenient hours. It felt like a box of shiny trinkets and, no matter how hard I shook it, it never sorted itself out into the wonderful device that I wanted it to be.
Lux the Poet
by: Martin Millar
I like Martin Millar. I like how briskly his stories move, and I like how they remain somehow stripped of padding despite the way they veer through a totally bizarre mash-up of things: ghosts and fairies and Led Zeppelin and drug addicts and sex and poems. He is very funny. But not funny in a slapstick sort of way. He lays out the absurdity of being a person, the way we can be so incredibly good and surprising right next to the way we can be downright hideous. I do think that I would be much more obsessed with Millar though if I had been a young person in the 70s, as opposed to not having existed yet. There's a flavor in his books that I feel I don't have under my skin. I can appreciate it, but I can't revel in it.
by: Neil Gaiman
Coraline is one of my favourite books. I find it utterly terrifying and comforting, and also the kind of book that is dangerous for me to read before bed because it invades my dreams. I read it again because it was the selection for the YA bookclub that my sister and I host at work. I had forgotten how much it feels like the stories I liked best when I was younger, the ones that turned corners of the world inside out so I could see that the shadowy things that I almost saw were actually real. It's a small-ish book, but it wraps around your head completely and lodges there, like there were bits of it that you already knew.
The Ghost in Love
by: Jonathan Carroll
I thought I didn't like Jonathan Carroll's novels. I really enjoyed some of his short stories, but disliked The Marriage of Sticks so much that it persuaded me to leave all of his other novels on the shelf. I only broke down and read this one because I was tired of everyone telling me that it was "my sort of thing, you know, beautiful and sad and full of weird stuff." I was secretly hoping that it wouldn't be my sort of thing at all. But there is a ghost in it who loves to cook, and talking dogs, and little pieces that really are beautiful, sad, weird, &etc. that made me want to thump the book's cover and say, "that's exactly right!"
The Wild Things
by: Dave Eggers
I thought that I would love this book, but it annoyed me so much that I wanted to yell at it every night when I read it before bed. I recently read an Eggers short story that knocked my socks off with its merciless wittiness and odd perspective. I was prepared to be similarly blown away by this incarnation of a picture book that I always found vaguely upsetting. I thought it would be like one of those weird little branches that people sometimes force into bloom by keeping them in vases -- extremely artificial and somehow fascinating because of how out of context it is. The novel grated on me though. It made the Wild Things into giant personifications of issues. It made Max into a child with issues. It made the story into one of those contemporary allegories about dealing with issues, which I guess might be what so many books that I do like boil down to, but here it was so obvious that I felt like I was drowning in it.