Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Hampdenshire Wonder

J  .D. Beresford 1911
Eyre & Spottiswoode

In an effort to ‘touch the roots of Science Fiction’, our book club is reading as many of the Pre-Golden Age classics as we can reasonably stomach. This might be a noble, but vain effort. But dammit, we’re going to try. I know you are anxiously awaiting my review of ‘Herland’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
According to the ‘Anatomy of Wonder’, which is an amazing reference for science fiction fans, this odd tale is the origin of the Superman Myth. Wikipedia gives him a hat-tip for creating the wunderkind. I’m not sold on this, certainly the New Testament may have something to say about this.
The book opens on a train where the narrator encounters a strange babe in the arms of his mother. To put it bluntly, the lad has a huge head and crazy eyes.

I thought the child was a freak; an abnormality: and such things disgust me."

Anyone who meet the eyes of this “Very Remarkable Child” is entranced and shaken. The only person who is immune to his gaze is the ‘Harrison idiot’  (his term), a man who was born with an overlarge head as well.
The narrator, whom I would label an unreliable one, then disappears for  a few years while the lad grows into a creepy toddler. There is nothing truly remarkable about his parents other than his father, Ginger, is a cricket wunderkind. For some odd reason, the author spends 23 pages of the book describing in minute detail the accomplishments of Ginger and the ins and outs of cricket bowling (pitching). This was for the most part incomprehensible.

If you are interested in pre golden age science fiction, read this book. What I can say is that I was initially unimpressed. Upon reflection, I would say my feelings are mixed.
I will tell you that the epilog is the best part. I kept thinking throughout the book that this would have been much better if Lovecraft would have written it.                                                              

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ghost Songs

Regina McBride
Tin House Books

“I am subject to enchantments.”

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for writing an honest review.

Regina sees the ghosts of her father, and other more terrible things, after he and her mother both commit suicide.

“They’re horrific, these things”... “Not like the strange, gentle ghost of my father.”

The author traces her early life through short vignettes of joy and heartbreak.
It reveals a grim portrait of a second generation Irish immigrant family. They must deal with the disappointment and guilt of losing the American Dream. The family moves to a place that is totally alien to their temperament, and they then turn toward bitterness and madness.
Having been raised Roman Catholic, I understand Catholic guilt, it is a powerful and terrible thing. It stays with you your whole life.

[suicide]”Anyone who does such a thing removes himself from the grace of God

I initially had some difficulty following the story as she jumps back and forth through the first twenty years of her life. We see her triumphs, happiness and her family's slow decent into madness. But, the style becomes a jarring Kaleidoscope of memories that draws you in.

I read the first part when I first received the ARC. I really wanted to find out how her parents died. But, I put it down, to finish a biograph of George Orwell.
When I picked it back up I was immediately sucked back in. I finished all but the last five pages in one evening.
I became interested in this woman’s life, entranced and concerned. While we don’t see a moment where all is resolved, that’s why this is a memoir, and not fiction. I would certainly recommend this book to someone who enjoys memoirs, and even those willing to try.
Perhaps a quote that I read sums up my feelings on memoirs, “None of it happened and all of it’s true”
I enjoyed this book very much!
You can purchase a copy here or here.