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I finally finished it late yesterday. I'm going to put most of my thoughts beneath a cut so those of y'all who haven't read it (& plan to, and don't want to be spoiled) can skip, but as a summary, I'll say this:

It's the literary equivalent of a hangover, it really is. It left me feeling sort of swimmy-headed and exhausted, loosely haunted with the desire for either a drink to nurse, or to never touch alcohol again. And possibly also for a big solid plate of breakfast and a strong cup of tea. Or Irn Bru. Actually, definitely the Irn Bru. Something sweet, sharp and fizzy to chase away the lingering malaise.

but now on to the nitty-gritty. Spoilerific for both Lie Down in Darkness AND The Ginger Man. Discussion of themes that may be triggery including domestic abuse, incest and suicide. )
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A few more from the primary source heap:

1. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: I probably went through it a little fast; it's not a big book, but the language is dense, and evidently I've lost my tolerance for that heavy kind of prose. Also, you guys, for all of the jacket and preface fluttering about "mounting horror" and whatever, I really just thought it was kind of full of LULZ. I mean, the doctor makes this Terrible Monster (out of corpse parts, lets us not mess around, that's what he's doing) and then brings it to life and it is SCARY and then he runs away and has a fit, and when he comes back, the monster is magically gone! His response: *\o/*. He doesn't seem to grasp that he has any kind of responsibility towards the monster at all, or that having a reanimated corpse on the loose might be a PROBLEM of any kind. Which I guess is the point of the story, but the more I read, the more I was like, WTF is WRONG with you, dumbass? Also, what is this with all of the crying? Seriously, tears gushing everywhere. (See also: my reduced tolerance for that kind of gothic novel.) If anything I wanted more of the ship's captain's story. Less weeping, more sailing adventures!

Aside from all of that, though, it was interesting in the context of larger themes, namely monsters and monstrousness and the making of monsters, which, if I were in a paper-writing mood, might be interesting to try and map onto pop-cultural concepts like Lady Gaga's "Fame Monster". Is fame, and the act of being famous, akin to the creation of Frankenstein's monster? Something that will chase you forever and/or kill all of your friends and relationships?

But of course there is more than one kind of monster, which brings me to:

2. Lie Down in Darkness, William Styron: I'm actually not finished with this one yet. Styron's prose is also dense and heavy, but differently so than Shelley's; I find it restful, in a way, somehow soothing. I guess Southern Gothic I can deal with, Original Gothic, not so much. Here we're back to stories about alcoholic philanderers (a theme found also in The Ginger Man; these books are close together in the timeline, both towards the beginning) but there's an element of monstrousness and monster-creation here, as well. Mainly to do with Peyton, a deceased character who dominates the narrative with her absence. She's repeatedly referred to as being spoiled, and I found myself wondering if she qualified as a monster, created, carelessly, by her father. I'll let you know what I think when I finish.
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Occasionally, when time permits or the mood strikes, I check out one of the cultural objects (resources?) from the lists. (The songs I actually listen to as I'm compiling, and sometimes I read the lyrics, to consider context.) Anyway, here's a brief accounting of recent forays:

1. Spinal Tap: I watched this one for the first time really rather a long time ago, so my concept of it was really a bunch of familiar punchlines strung together. I was kind of startled by how grim and shrill I found it, particularly the deleted scenes. Not that I didn't laugh at "But these go up to 11" or the Stonehenge bit or the part where they explain how they lost their first drummer, or for that matter the part where their current drummer schools a radio caller about baseball. And I kind of about died at the whole black album thing, too. But on the whole it left me feeling sort of worn out.

2. Californication: I had a promo disk laying around with two episodes on it, so I thought, well, why not? OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. I seriously had to watch half of it through my fingers. David Duchovny is super-hot, and all, and he plays an immature jerk with flair and style, but, wow. One character actually refers to Hank Moody as a "retarded man-child." Like that was the exact line of dialogue.

3. Dexter: There was one episode on the same promo disk as Californication. I got as far as the credits and the "previously on . . ." before I decided I was totally bored and turned it off.

4. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: I totally bought this one in the 7-11 because it was a) there and b) cheap. It's mostly a parody of Walk the Line, though they mix elements of Jerry Lee Lewis and Merle Haggard (and probably others) in with Johnny Cash. The biggest prank the filmmakers play is probably that a) the songs, when not flagrantly ridiculous, are actually excellent and b) whoever is doing the singing (John C. Reilly? I don't know) has a beautiful country/rockabilly voice. The movie around the songs is periodically entertaining and periodically really painfully unfunny and every once in a while actually hilarious. (Especially the scenes with the "Beatles".)


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