Friday, July 08, 2005

Books what I has read by Herge Smith

Day of the Triffids
Battered, but loved.

And Andy said I’d never do this.

It’s just taken a bit of time to get around to it.

Anyway, Herge Smith here with some stuff about books… and for anyone who visits on a regular basis, none of this will be the least bit surprising.

Total number of books owned, ever: 7 books, 5 comic books. Actually I don’t really know, estimate wise, I’ve got about 500 books and about 5000 comic books. Yeah yeah yeah, I know.

Last book I bought: Non-Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk (note the American title is different)– Author of Fight Club. A collection of essays written over the past few years, notably his attempt to be a male escort and a portrait of actor turned rock chick, Juliette Lewis.

It’s always fun reading Chucks blank prose style but this is another of his slightly disappointing books – mind you, when you start out with the sublime Fight Club, what can you expect? Although I hear the new short stories book is decent enough.

Last book I read: David Boring by Daniel Clowes – Another very odd comic book from Clowes which is typically hard to discribe. David Boring has a bad dream quality in the way it all fits together… he’s a master of surreal story telling. Always makes me feel funny after reading it though.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

1.Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I’ll say it only this one time – THIS IS THE GREATEST SUPERHERO COMIC EVER WRITTEN (actually it ain’t – that honour goes to Watchman by Alan Moore, but it’s definitely second best - Watchman is the greatest, this is a slightly more enjoyable read).

Dark Knight Returns
He's nails.

Dark Knight Returns is brilliant – it’s 10 years after Batman has retired, Gotham is in the shit and the people need a symbol and a champion more than ever.

Dark Knight - excerpt
Batman twats Superman, 'bout time.

Bruce Wayne finally comes out of retirement (he's almost 50) and basically author Miller ends up rewriting Batman lore – for example (and remember this was written in 1988)

- Batman’s batmobile is a fully armed tank (like the new movie)
- Robin is a girl
- Joker kills himself by twisting his head round until his neck snaps
- Superman is a puppet of a war mongering moronic President
- Batman fights Superman and almost kills him.
- Batman dies at the end (sort of)

Miller wrote a sequel to this last year, er… not so good.

2.I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Badly made into two film versions, one with Vincent Price called ‘Last man on Earth’ and the other as ‘Omega Man’ with that gun-totting tit, Heston.
It’s about a man who is alone in a world that is now populated by victims of a virus that manifests itself as a type of vampirism.
It’s a riveting read, one of those books that you just have to read in a single sitting.

Despite it’s subject matter, it’s not at all a ‘kick ass actioner’, it’s far more sedate, with the hero attempting to educate himself regarding the effects of the virus.

I am Legend is like all good science fiction, in the sense that when you read it you think it was written a couple of weeks ago. (HG WELLS and WYNDHAM notable mentions here). Legend is exceptionally grim, and is a major downer, but a fantastic page-turner.

3.Post Office by Charles Bukowski. A brutal book – and a Bible for anyone trapped for years in a shitty job, which they only started on a temporary basis.

Bukowski later became increasingly misogynistic in his writing, although saying that the truth is he actually didn’t seem to like anyone much and some of his other books like Women, can be a gruelling read. I’ve read nearly all work of his I can get hold of – but for me Post Office is still the – nothing finer than a first time break through novel – so much fire and passion…

4. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – Actually, this covers the majority of Wyndhams books, which are absolutely amazing reads (he just nipped in ahead of HG Wells for me – if I’d written this yesterday, it would have been Wells with The Invisible Man, but this is how I feel now).

Day of the Triffids has the scariest opening of any fiction novel I’ve read – Man wakes up in hospital, eyes bandaged, he's alone. No one is around. Doesn’t know if eyes will work but takes off bandages, terrified that he’ll still be blind, to his relief he can see. Soon he comes across the staff of the hospital –they are all blind. In fact, all of London is blind, as is presumabley the world.

Although they start out as an annoyance, the genetically created Triffids soon become a major threat in the land of the blind.
A wonderful wonderful book – If you read it now you’ll be stunned by the fact that it carries two very resonating themes - Wyndham wrote this is 1951.

The first in the form of GM crops, or Frankenstein foods – The Triffids are possibly man made. Secondly with the suggestion that the blindness suffered by the people of Earth was caused by a space based satellite weapon.

Wyndham was a terrific writer… his other work (which I love almost as much) includes; The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes, The Midwich Cuckoos and Chocky. A lot of these were considered children’s books at the time they were published, but no longer.

5.The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey. Gorey was a truly fascinating man who wrote crazy verses and drew fantastic scratchy illustrations. His most famous work was probably for the TS Elliott poem Cats. Although I’m far more interested in his own writing.

He wrote and drew hundreds of poems and stories. All of them are what can simple be described as quite peculiar…

For example.

The Hapless Child is about a poor little girl that first loses her father, then her mother… finally being kidnapped by a pimp that prostitutes her out, whilst holding her in a darkened cellar. The lack of light eventually sends her to near blindness. Eventually, she escapes but is immediately run over by a man who turns out to be her father, - not killed in the war as was previously thought. The poem/ verse ends with the father pitying the dying child, but not recognising her as his own. Twisted? Yes, but very beautiful.

Another of his most well known works is ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies’.
This is another of his A to Z poems. Gashlycrumb is basically an A to Z of child deaths. For example,

A is for AMY who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears, C is Clara who wasted away, D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh…

Gashlycrumb - excerpt

However, my favourite Gorey is his poem called ‘The Doubtful Guest’ about a penguin type creature, with a scarf and basketball boots who comes to stay at a family house and never leaves. It is simply divine. I absolutely adore it, it is so unusual and twisted and funny and a joy to read. (And it appears that this little fella has gone to stay with another family…)


Anyway. That’s my fav’s

Next up for this pleasure (chore) are

edwaado at The Fridge Mag
faltanus at A Semblance of Sanity
trillion at Trillobites


MHN for short said...

Most of these I have heard of. Very good kind Sir!

Anonymous said...

(Keith from Minnesota)
Wasn't Village of the Damned actually called The Midwitch Cuckoo? Village of the Damned is the name used by the movies.

Herge Smith said...

Yep. Glad to see you guys are reading down that far.

Cheers Keith.

edwaado said...

Shit. I think I read some books back in school...

Karen said...

Wow, Herge! I never guessed that you were so... err, deep.

Sniffy said...

That's a fascinating mix.

When I was a kid, we went on holiday to Italy and there was this lad living over the road whose Dad was in the American Airforce there. He used to lend us all these fantastic comic books about demonic Nazi soldiers and things and they were amazing.

I like the look of that Gorey stuff. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to any sort of literature and your selection has made me want to explore.

Thank you.

Rainypete said...

I never thought I'd see another copy of Dark Knight Returns as worn out as my own! A fantastic Read. And John Wyndham is a genius, Chrysalis is my fave though.

Definite good reads. A good book is tough to find these days, and the darker the better.

Wyndham said...

I wholeheartedly agree with that list, as you'd imagine, although I don't know the Gorey - those illustrations look beautiful. I'd have to disagree about The Omega Man, though - I know it's cheesy and has Heston with his shirt off - he must have been about 70 even then -but it's one of those movies they played all the time on the telly when I was a kid. Heston was forever going to a movie and forgetting to get back home as dusk fell - I mean, what the heck!

Herge Smith said...

Wyndham - I'll let you have Omega man, you are featured in the list after all.

Yep, Rainypete, Dark Knight has been read and reread hundreds of times since I bought it when it came out.
No version of Batman since has measured up frankly.

thordora said...

Gorey AND Frank Miller! A man after my heart!

The Dark Knight Returns is the first graphic novel I Ever bought!

the triffids always creeped me out, truth be told.

Rowan said...

The Gorey stuff looks like something I might be interested in, what with my feeling for all man kind and whatnot. I didn't take you for an HG Wells fan though (he was the BEST sci-fi writer and way ahead of his time IMHO).

i"m glad to see you have taste in literature, not that I doubted that for a minute.

Ship Creak said...

Interested to see that "His Dark Materials" by Phillip Pullman, didn't get a mention, though.

Herge Smith said...