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J.K. Rowling LitCrit

Plus: Cthulhu Saves; Horror Vanishes, and Hell's-a-Poppin!

By Denise Dumars     October 13, 2000

Take me to your Deconstructionist

On a recent trip to the book store, I noticed a stack of litcrit books stacked in the same display with the newest Rowling veri-table extravaganz-o (as the late, great Jim Varney would have said). Just seeing a literary criticism book outside of the musty stacks of academia was jarring enough, but do we really need one on Harry Potter? So I took a look. And my answer, oddly enough, was Yes.

Elizabeth D. Schafer's Exploring Harry Potter, one of Beacham's Sourcebooks for Teaching Young Adult Fiction, turned out to be surprisingly good. Though the cover says this book was not authorized by J. K. Rowling, I hardly think she'd take umbrage with it, as it attempts to explain the characters and their world while at the same timeand this is what sold me on itrecommending other children's fantasy novels, many of which would be my choices over Harry Potter anytime. For a put-down-quickly book, this appears to be very well done.

OK, I'll try not to rag on J.K. Rowling for at least a week, seeing as how she done a Good Deed: According to every news station from here to Edinburgh, she donated the equivalent of $730,000 US to the National Council for One Parent Families, Britain's leading charity for single parents. A single parent herself, Rowling is all too familiar with the trials and tribulations faced by single moms.

Visit our Harry Potter Fandomain!

Cthulhu for President: Why Pick the Lesser of Two Evils?

Let us now praise famous prudish, lantern-jawed horror writers...well, one of them in particular. Where would we be without H. P. Lovecraft? Yeah, I know, maybe writing original stories instead of Lovecraft pastiches? Be that as it may, ol' HPL, as he was and still is known to his fans and friends (yes, a few of his friends are still alive) influenced the modern horror story as perhaps no other author since Edgar Allan Poe. This is why people are still writing books about him, editing and annotating his fiction, and writing the ever-popular take-off on his mythos and worldview. Hey, if he's popular enough to be parodied in The Onion, I guess that means he's pretty important.

Lovecraft's unique mythosfilled with Elder Gods, extraterrestrial Old Ones and forbidden knowledgecaptured what must now be a fourth generation of horror writers and fans. New from Ace in a nice trade paperback format, is Shadows Bend, by David Barbour and Richard Raleigh. In this novel, HPL and his contemporary and friend, Robert E. Howard, best known as the author of the Conan books, take a cross-country trip to try and foil a sorcerer who is trying to conjure up Cthulhu and wreak havoc on the world. It looks like a fun read, and 'alternate histories' of this sort seem to be pretty popular, so we'll see if it has legs.

On the same shelf I found the HarperCollins trade paperback of Tales of H. P. Lovecraft, selected and edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Though the text has shockingly narrow margins, I have to recommend it if for no other reason than Oates' introduction. Oates, like most rabid HPL fans, first read the author at age 13. (Does this mean that the Golden Age of HPL is 13?) 'Genre fiction is addictive,' she states in the intro. 'Literary fiction, unfortunately, is not.' Apparently it was HPL who addicted her.

But the finest in the reissues of Lovecraft's talesand I warn you, the appeals to the English prof in meare the volumes edited and with introductions by the preeminent Lovecraft scholar, S. T. Joshi. Simply put, The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft and its companion volume More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, co-edited with Peter Cannon, are the finest examples of Lovecraft explication. In addition to copious notes, these volumes also have photos, diagrams, chartsanything and everything that would explain a setting, reference, or allusion in these tales. These two books do not cover all of HPL's tales, but for the serious Lovecraft reader, they are well worth getting as a supplement to other volumes and are especially recommended for the new reader as guidebooks through the complicated Lovecraft mythos.

S. T. Joshi's biography of HPL, Lovecraft, a Life, probably rates a review at some point, especially if I can lure the reclusive (just like his favorite literary subject!) Joshi out of his study for an interview.

Hellzapoppin!

Daemonomania is the title of John Crowley's new book, and in somewhat the same way as Shadows Bend, this is a bit of alternate history. In the novel. Dr. John Dee, the famous Elizabethan necromancer, along with philosopher Giordano Bruno, finds his way into some kind of a time loop where the two men learn that our cycle of time is ending. Will they save the universe? Gee, I sure hope so. Crowley is an under-appreciated writer whose work rates more attention.

Two new novels from DarkTales Publishing are well worth a look. J. Michael Straczinski's Tribulations is something a little different from the celebrated creator of Babylon 5. It's a hard-boiled detective novel, very noirish, set in L.A. In the novel crime, reporter Susan Randall gets more than she bargains for when she trusts a man named Raymond Weil for her leads in the story of a vicious (now, is there really any other kind?) serial killer. It seems Weil knows just a little too much about the case...

Yvonne Navarro also has a new historical horror novel from DarkTales. Deadtimes is the story of a woman born in the early 1700's to a white father and a Hopi mother. Mae Johnson may have been cursed at birth, but she doesn't let that keep her from doing everything she can to remain aliveforever, in fact, if possible...

We got so many vamps on the review shelf this month it looks like the local blood bank. We got Anne Rice's Merrick which is about, what? Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man? I have no idea, but I have the feeling my editor will probably want me to review it...also expect reviews of The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's latest St. Germain novel and Laurell K. Hamilton's latest Anita Blake novel. And this doesn't even come close to the number of vampire books coming my way...no, stay, back...help me, Great Cthulhu!

Horror DeadAgain!

Went in to the new Barnes & Noble bookstore in my neighborhood and found the Horror section missing. Not that it was a great horror section; in fact, it kind of sucked, but well, it's the thought that counts. Then went to the B. Dalton in the mall (same parent company, different day) and found their fairly good Horror section missing. Whazzup?

It took two tries to find out. On the first try, I could find no helpful B&N employee to ask. On the second try I found helpful smiling people who really didn't have a clue as to why their corporate masters did anything. A nice young underpaid, over-read woman explained that, well, regional headquarters had told them to put the horror novels in with the reg'lar fiction. Something to do with, 'Nobody asks for them anyway; they just ask for Stephen King.'

I went over to the reg'lar fiction. Sure enough, I had to push past Tom Clancy's jingoism to find Douglas Clegg and wade through Danielle Steele's schmaltz to reach Peter Straub. Some horror writers, by the way, like it this way. They think that being in with the 'fiction and literature' means they've been mainstreamed. Well. I'd be happier if the horror fiction was, at the very least, put in with the SF and fantasy. Then that unknown horror writer wouldn't find his or her first novel buried under a ton of mainstream books where his or her target audience is sure to never see it.

I told the helpful, smiling employee to tell her corporate masters that I'll go to Borders from now on because I like browsing the horror section. Laurell K. Hamilton's books, by the way, had a big sign on them and were shelved in the SF/F section. The only other genre author with a big sign was Stephen King, and he was over in lit'rature with Kerouac. Go figure. I'm going to Borders.

Visit our Horror Fandomain!

And the Winner Is!

A couple of weeks ago I dared the Fandom readers to find me a fantasy novel that I could stomach. One reader suggested any of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. So I checked them out and found one new in paperback: Carpe Jugulum. Yes, it has vampires in it, but they're apparently not scary, just annoying. So we'll see how I do with it. Stay tuned.

Actor David Dukes Dies

According to the L. A. Times, actor David Dukes, 55, died of a heart attack while exercising on Monday, October 9, his day off from filming the new Stephen King miniseries, Rose Red. The ABC production was filming near Tacoma, Washington at the time. Dukes is best known to genre fans for his roles in Rawhead Rex, The Handmaid's Tale, and Gods and Monsters. Dukes was married to well-known L.A. poet Carol Muske-Dukes. They have a daughter and he has a son from a previous marriage. Rose Red was originally slated to run on ABC around Labor Day, 2001.

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