So I was once a virile young man, full of pluck and vigor, racing around declaiming truths, drinking drinks, leaping atop cars and escaping the police. I would stay up all night with my friends debating what we should talk about next, and was ready to head out to the local Stake and Shake at the drop of the hat.
How have times have changed.
Now nothing pleases me more than to lie supine on my chicory colored couch, feet propped up on blood orange cushions, a mug of tea steaming at hand, a good book ready to be cracked and devoured. Olives and pecorino cheese in the fridge, free trade dark chocolate cookies in the cookie jar, slippers on my feet and jammies on the rest of me. No longer do I suffer from wild desires to improvise at life, but now am content to float downstream at a sedate pace, wise and weary, sampling literature and old songs.
How did this happen? Where did it all go octogenarian? Surely it has something to do with the bevy of good books I’ve been reading of late. Which books are those, I hear you cry from the comfort of my chicory couch? Hold your horses, young whippersnappers, and I’ll tell you.
You know how a T-Rex will chomp down on its prey, and then toss back its head and open its gullet wide so that their snack can slide on down into that pit of bubbling T-Rex acid? That’s what I did with The Red Tree, chomped down good one night, feet up on my blood orange cushions, and didn’t get up until it was all done and gone. Caitlin R. Kiernan can sure write. If you like your horror subtle, Lovecraftian, complex and annotated with esoterica derived from the myths and legends of New England, then try this one on for size. Complex characterization, creepy for as much as it insinuates as it reveals, The Red Tree is a mind warp, a pulling back of the curtain even as you try to close your eyes.
Next on the menu was Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, that classic tale of manners and blades, a delightfully acerbic mixture of duels both martial and verbal. If you dig intrigue, salacious affairs and character driven plots, if you like dilettantes a decadence, if you enjoy the back and forth of witty repartee, than you can’t go wrong with this one.
Currently I am reading Big Machine by Victor Lavalle. I done purchased it for the sole reason that it was awarded the Shirley Jackson prize in 2008, and hell if that ain’t a heckuva recommendation. So far so good, the protagonist has quit his job as a train station janitor to hie his way up to the hinterlands of Vermont, where he and seven other strangers are being offered a job as unlikely scholars in what seems to be a recondite library. Has promise, but what’s better, the narrative voice has a wonderful eye for detail and a plangent humanity that will make any encounters (hopefully imminent) with the supernatural all the more tangible for it.
So that’s me, old aged and hoary with wisdom and wine. I’m going to go fix myself another cup of tea, or maybe go reckless and eat some mango. That mean old mango tree in my yard has been dropping mangoes like it’s its business, which, when I think about it, I suppose it is.