Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scary books and movies, Part Three: Son of Scary Books!

Susan's picks:

At this time of the year, remembering scary books and movies, I would have the say the Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King is one of the best. It is a chillingly narrative of a town with a monster that kills monthly. King doesn't waste a single word.It is a short, to the point book. Tense and with an unexpected hero in Marty Coslaw, a wheelchair bound small boy. I couldn't put the book down and the movie was just as good.

Another horror book that made a great movie is Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Chilling. The plot centers around a happily married young woman, living in New York, that awakens to find herself pregnant. Slowly, through subtle details, Rosemary becomes suspicious of her loving husband and seemingly supportive neighbors. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it, but there’s an especially chilling line near the end. Let’s just say that the phrase “has his father’s eyes” will never sound quite the same again.

Watch these movies with someone. Or read them alone - if you dare.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scary Books & Movies, Part 2

Nancy's Picks:

When I was in my twenties I read "The Stand" by Stephen King. It is an apocalyptic tale in which survivors of a world-wide plague are caught up in a battle between the forces of good and evil.

Mr. King scared the doo-wah-diddy out of me with this book. I give him credit for being an excellent writer, but confess I never again read one of his books. My psyche is too fragile and impressionable for his genre.

You would think this experience would have constituted a complete lesson for me, but, no. I actually completed the lesson a few years later by seeing the movie "The Omen." Ever seen this gem? It's a good movie to see if you're interested in feeling slightly uneasy FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

"Personally, I prefer The Birds." 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favorite Frights!

Melon votes for Godzilla as favorite movie monster.
Since it is the season for ghosties and ghoulies and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, we thought we’d talk a bit about scary books and movies. Horror like beauty is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

First up is Jeanne:

I don’t read a lot of horror books any more. I did while I was in high school many, many years ago. There was this new guy, Stephen King, and he did some good books like Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot. I read Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I read a lot of Shirley Jackson, like We Have Always Lived in the Castle (still a favorite) and The Haunting of Hill House. I read a lot of forgettable books, too; so forgettable that I have forgotten them. Then a neighbor recommended that I read Richard Matheson’s Hell House (also known as The Legend of Hell House) because it was the scariest book he’d ever read.

The plot was fairly standard. A group of researchers go to an allegedly haunted house. It’s a diverse group, of course, with skeptics mixed in with believers, mediums and scientists. The house in question belonged to an eccentric millionaire who disappeared after some murders; no one knows how he was involved, victim or perpetrator. Naturally—or unnaturally—things start to happen after the researchers move in. I’m sketchy on the details. I do remember finishing the book and thinking, “Well, that wasn’t so scary.”

Pride goeth before a fall.

I hadn’t been asleep for more than a few minutes when I began to dream about the book. I was so badly frightened I sat up the rest of the night and only dozed off after the sun came up. It took several nights for me to be able to sleep without dreaming about a particular scene. I don’t know exactly what it was about the book, but it’s the one that sort of weaned me away from horror. I never wanted to be afraid to go to sleep like that again.

That was the first Richard Matheson book I ever read. He’s one of those wonderful underrated authors who can write stories that linger in the mind. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it is a bad thing! His stories were adapted for film: he wrote a number of the Twilight Zone episodes, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” about the demon on the plane’s wing that only one passenger sees. Or is the man simply hallucinating? He also wrote Bid Time Return, which was made into the movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and was a sweetly romantic story. Possibly his best known work is I Am Legend, a vampire tale that has been made into a move three times and had a graphic novel adaptation, but for all that he remains an author that few people seem to know by name.

There are scary non-fiction books, too. There are at least two non-fiction books that kept me tossing and turning as well as turning pages. The first was Helter Skelter : the True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi, which isn’t surprising: killers are scary, especially ones who are just plain nuts. Just as scary, though, was The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, which was the first time I had ever heard of the ebola virus. I learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about deadly diseases and he made it fascinating and exciting. I found myself holding my breath when the investigators went into a cave where it was suspected the virus could be found. I also used a lot of hand sanitizer and worried a bit when I had a headache. The Hot Zone is a book as thrilling as it is terrifying, and a great reminder that not all monsters come in large packages.

I would tell my scariest movie, but it’s too embarrassing. I found it on a list of the most ridiculous movies ever made. Somehow it seemed really scary when I watched on “Chilller” very late one night, back when I was twelve. Suffice it to say, there was a creature locked up behind a door for most of the movie and all the audience could see was an arm attempting to grab the mad scientist. Perhaps I’ll settle for the more respectably scary “The Birds.”

What would your picks be?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dancing Naked in the Mind Field (and no, that's not a typo!)

Reviewed by Nancy

Are you interested in the opinions of a Nobel Prize winning chemist? In his book, Dancing Naked In The Mind Field (081 MUL Main),  Dr. Kary Mullis offers his views on extraterrestrial life, brown recluse spider bites, the use of paid expert witness in judicial proceedings, intuition, your ten thousandth day, astrology, margarine and cholesterol, LSD and other illegal drugs, and HIV and HIV drugs.

In the first chapters of his book Dr. Mullis describes the “eureka moment” when he figured out polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It was the discovery of this process that won him the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993.

To vastly simplify this concept, PCR is a process by which a strand of DNA can be replicated many times for study.

In my first reading of Dr. Mullis' account of his discovery I confess that about the only thing I understood was the moment when the concept became clear to him and he exclaimed, "Holy shit!" After that I was lost, but it was still interesting reading (sort of).

I am happy to report that the rest of the book was not too much over my head and I really enjoyed it.

Dr.Mullis covers a lot of subjects, and I am glad of that, because this man has an interesting and enquiring mind. He says, "I knew, maybe from birth, where the circuit breakers were." Mullis developed an interest in astrology after three complete strangers guessed correctly that he is a Capricorn. Being a scientist, Dr. Mullis did the math. The probability of these correct pronouncements occurring by chance was 1 out of 1,728. Wow.

I point out the astrology thing as an example of what's going on in this book. This guy's mind is all over the place. His curiosity is not limited to his specific scientific field. He is interested in everything. Furthermore, Mullis seems to be a pretty down-to-earth individual with a great sense of humor.

What is your opinion regarding the presence of aliens on this earthly plane? Dr. Mullis relates an experience he had at his remote cabin in the woods of Mendocino County, California in 1985. It involved a glowing raccoon, and several hours of "lost time." Around midnight Dr. Mullis was on his way to the outhouse which was about fifty feet from his cabin when he saw the raccoon. It was sitting under a fir tree and it glowed. Mullis speculates that this could have been a hologram projected from who knows where. He pointed his flashlight at it, it said "Good evening, Doctor," and the next thing our good doctor knew it was the next morning and he was in a different location in the woods, walking along a dirt road headed back to his cabin.

Some time later he discovered that his daughter, Louise, had had the same experience in the same location, except that she didn't remember any glowing raccoon. Ah, maybe Dr. Mullis saw the raccoon because he experimented with LSD in the sixties before it was made illegal.

See, I told you he has an enquiring mind. Dr. Mullis has been described as one of our more controversial and flamboyant Nobel laureates. Actually, some people think he's a total kook which, I suppose, accounts for why this kook so thoroughly enjoyed his book.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ghosts of Bristol will haunt the library!

Fans of ghostly lore and Bristol history should be sure to come to Main on Sunday, October 17 at 3 p.m. to hear spooky tales from Bud Phillips!  After the stories he will be signing books and yes, there will be copies of the book for sale!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Low Country Summer Makes for Great Escape

Reviewed by Doris

I was hooked on Low Country Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank in the first paragraph. It is the forty-seventh birthday of Caroline Wimbley Levine and she reflects on her life. She is the daughter of Miss Lavinia Wimbley , the Queen of Tall Pines Plantation, who was a force of nature, a doyen of manners, and the iron ruler of Caroline’s and her Tripp’s lives. She is the doting the mother of Eric, a college freshman and all around delightful young man. She is the ex-wife of a crazy New York, Jewish psychiatrist whom her mother told her not to marry. She has two lovers, one of whom is the sheriff. And, she has a drunken, hateful sister-in-law who spawned four nieces from Hell. As you can see, Frank is continuing her tradition of dysfunctional, larger-than-life characters settled in the low country of South Carolina, and she is doing so with her usual mix of humor, attitude, astute looks at life, and characters you just grow to love. Throw in all the descriptions of food and pitchers of sweet tea, and you have a perfect summer afternoon book.

Caroline’s musings during her birthday party are halted by the drunken sister-in-law she hates. Frances Mae (who is from so far on the wrong side of the tracks there are no tracks) is married to Caroline’s younger brother Tripp who has left Frances Mae and their four wretched daughters for Rusty, the love of his life and happiness. Frances Mae has reacted to his desertion by getting even more drunk and leaving the girls to rampage their way through life. When Frances Mae puts the life of youngest daughter Chloe at risk by driving drunk and wrecking, Caroline realizes she has to step up and take control of her family. Reluctant at best to take on the challenge, Caroline knows Miss Lavinia would expect nothing less of her so she sets the course for a family intervention.

From the point when Caroline and Rusty step in to tame Tripp’s daughters and send Frances Mae to her fifth adventure in rehab, the story covers such a huge range of emotions. At times almost slap-stick and at other times heart-wrenching, Caroline deals with bringing a new generation of Wimbley women into the family fold while juggling her men and watching her beloved Eric leave the nest. You know the old cliché, “I laughed. I cried.” Well, I did laugh and I did cry because it is finally a tragedy that turns things around for the Wimbleys. The ending will give you a little surprise, but it makes perfect sense. And, it shows that life does not always work out quite the way you think it will, but it does work.

I love the richness of Frank’s characters. In this book she gives you a look into family relationships whether the family, be it blood or chosen. I love Frank’s smart mouth comments and asides that nail a character or situation perfectly. I love the talk of sweet tea, peaches, strawberry short cakes, and biscuits that are so light they could float away. I love Caroline’s relationship with her son, and I identify so strongly with her concerns as he leaves the nest because my baby is headed to college in two weeks. I just hope I am as wise in my handling of my son’s first serious love affair as Caroline is. Frank gives her books a warmth and humor I love, and under the fluff is a life perspective that is worth viewing.

Look for copies of Low Country Summer at Main under F BEN. It's proven very popular so you may have to reserve a copy. It's worth the wait.