Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In Defense of Lovecraft: Lovecraft Country

I made room for Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country on my shelf because, hey, it's Lovecraft! Ancient gods, mystery cults, cosmic horrors piercing the veil of sanity...what's not to like?

Here's what I don't like, and take extreme umbrage with. There has been a growing trend to look at Lovecraft-not his fiction, not his impact on genre literature-but at Mr. Howard Phillips himself, and say: this man was a racist, and his fiction, his legacy, requires correction.

What's the purpose of conjuring up nightmarish elder things when there are real monsters lurking in America? That's what Ruff would have us think-that since there were (and still are) real dangers in our society, wrought upon us every day by the racial divide sown into the very fabric of this country's creation, that there is no place for imaginative horrors and fantasies. Not by racists like Lovecraft, that is.

Through his character's mouths, Ruff says as much in one of the episodes in Lovecraft Country. The man's a racist, so his work shouldn't be read, shouldn't be praised. That sickens me to my core, and I'll tell you why.

1. In the twentieth century, for the entirety of the twentieth century but perhaps moreso in the 1920's during which Lovecraft was most active, everybody and their mothers were racists. Not only in America but especially in America: with a long history of slavery, then segregation mixed with terrorism, scientific racism, and an American eugenics movement (YES-the thing that brought Nazi Germany to the Final Solution), racism has always been and continues to be the order of the day. That doesn't make it okay, that doesn't normalize it, but it does contextualize it. Lovecraft, while sometimes vocal about his racial inclinations, was no better or worse than most of his New England neighbors. You only know that about him with more certainty because he was a writer. To define him by this is a nonstarter; it's not news, and it's not a definitive piece of his identity as a writer. To say that, based on his ideas about blacks and other ethnic minorities, his literature is not worth reading, is assinine. That kind of thinking would wipe from the earth practically everything penned by a white person until possibly the end of the twentieth century, when thinking about race in terms of cultural relativity even emerged as a school of thought.

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Not even close, Ruff. Not even close
2. Matt Ruff couldn't shine Lovecraft's shoes. I read for about 75-100 pages, then I had to stop. For a book that touted itself as the answer to Lovecraft's whitewashed universe, the book was empty. The characters were flat, their universe was bland, and there was no mood whatsoever to be had in any of the short little tales that are only connected by the thinnest of threads. There was a seriously missed opportunity to inject African-American culture into this work in a real way. I'm thinking specifically of the "Which House," where the female character speaks to the ghost haunting the house, very calmly, in a defiant, stereotypically "uppity" manner. Why not deal with spirituality in black communities, Ruff? WHY THE HELL NOT???

But no. Everything was told in such a perfunctory, matter-of-fact way, that I could never connect to the characters, never feel the impact of their stories. First they got shaken down by the side of the road. After that, the protagonist's father is found in the basement of an arcane society that wants his blood. They escaped, then tried to find a diner that would service them.....

And it goes on and on like that. There's no emotion for any of the scenes, no matter the nature of the danger being faced. Both the perils of the Deep South and the unspeakable terrors of the Mythos can send shivers down one's spine. This book does neither.

3. It isn't the next Beloved. I'm a cultural historian by training. I've spent many years up to my eyeballs in the ideologies that have shaped this country into the divisive, hateful, self-important, deluded, bloodsucking thing that it (mostly but not always) is. So trust me when I say I know with a deep sincerity the scars of racial injustice in America, as much as someone can without it having been my own experience. On the literary side of things, I've read a tremendous amount of tremendous African-American literature. This is not that. This is a haphazard cobbling together of borrowed ideas watered down with nothing new or provocative added to the mix. What's written in these pages is in no way a contribution to a robust, meaningful, compelling literary history.

It's not what I expected: I expected a story that came at Lovecraft from a positive place, something that could add layers of racial dimensions that Lovecraft would not, indeed could not have thought of himself. Something to enrich the mythos, to enhance it. But it's not a bright and shining example of African-American literature. And it isn't genre fiction, by any stretch of the imagination. Which leaves us with nothing-just an empty shell of a book with Lovecraft's name on the cover.

That name, by the way, the one you would have us forget in favor of your own? That name on your cover is the only reason anyone took a second look at this book. And you would spit in his eye? Shame on you.

**New Author Goal: 11 out of 30**

Friday, June 16, 2017

Paper Thin - The Night Circus

I really wanted to like The Night Circus. It had all the pieces-a mysterious circus of dreams, competing magicians, a love story. At least, that's what the back of the book tells you. The only thing that was good about this book was the image of the circus it evoked, and the similarly mysterious but very chic Midnight Dinners hosted by the circus proprietor Chandresh.

Image result for the night circusBut that's all there is to it. How real magic operates in this universe is never specified, to the point where something intended to be mysterious just comes off as vague. Especially when the main tension of the plot is a magical competition between two young novices, Marco and Celia, pitted against each other without their consent by their mentors, who I think are supposed to subscribe to different forms of magic, or different approaches to magic..I can't really tell you, because I was never told myself. Too much was lacking in this story, for the sake of pretty words.

There's no chemistry: The supposedly star-struck lovers almost never see each other. They have no reason to get together, other than that the book demanded it of them. There's no sizzle on the page, and romantic, dramatic scenes are hollow and empty, without feeling a bond between the characters. Not to mention, there's the slight problem of the girl Marco has been living with for over a year, who he seems to like, but then ignores-that did not endear him to me at all. Their supposed romance doesn't even have the backdrop of the magical brinkmanship I was led to believe the book was about, because they don't view each other as competitors. It's their tutors who are at war. Given the eye-rollingly obvious homages to The Tempest, my guess is the author was going for the love-sickness of Romeo and Juliet, but Shakespeare this girl is not, and the few lines dedicated to the romance plot are empty. But without that, there is no plot, so....

Image result for the prestigeThe book's narrative is occasionally non-linear, and sometimes years pass (or so I'm told, but since nothing ever changes I find that hard to believe),  and it's very hard to see an urgency in this competition. It is too subtle-we are told the stakes are high, but it could take forty or more years to complete? And the players (and by extension, the reader) don't even understand the game they're destined to play? I was hoping for something more like The Prestige. Now those mofo's hated each other, constantly compelled to one-up each other. That's what this book needed: a real sense of competition, and of development, both of plot and character. There was a potential story between the senior magicians, Prospero and Alexander, but that's not the story we're told. Lots of potential and imaginative concepts were lost on this paper thin plot, where even the mains felt like extras. That's how shallow and flat they were.

K Rating: 4/10

**New Author Goal: 10 out of 30**
# 8 was Ilana C. Meyer's Last Song Before Night. I didn't review, because I didn't finish. It dragged.
#9 was The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Want a review?  Pretentious, metaphysical, self-important bullshit. There you have it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12: Blog Tour Day Fifteen

I've had a blast on this blog tour, sharing all the intimate details of A Vision in Crimson. I hope you've found something to enjoy too. If you've had as much fun as me, stop on by sometime, or drop me a line here at Bathory's Closet. We'll be closing out this tour with a final couple of highlights and last lingering lines to draw you into my world.

June 12: Spotlight
Cloe Michael's Reads

June 12: Spotlight
HeadTripping Books

Friday, June 9, 2017

June 10: Blog Tour Day Thirteen

We're in the home stretch for what has been a fabulous blog tour. On the agenda today are a few spotlights.

June 10: Spotlight
Reader's Handbook

June 10: Spotlight
Lovely Loveday

**Today is the last day to get A Vision in Crimson on Amazon for only 99 cents! Time's a wastin!!**

June 9: Blog Tour Day Twelve

A reviewer puts in their two cents today about A Vision in Crimson, along with a spotlight. Join the conversation--I'll see you there!

June 9: Spotlight
For Love of Books4

June 9: Review
Fantatical Paranormal Romantical

**June 3 through June 10: A Vision in Crimson is available on Amazon for only 99 cents! Grab your copy today!! Time's running out!**

Thursday, June 8, 2017

June 8: Blog Tour Day Eleven

More delicious breadcrumbs up for viewing today. Make sure you get your daily A Vision in Crimson fix!

June 8: Spotlight
Lisa-Queen of Random

**June 3 through June 10: A Vision in Crimson is available on Amazon for only 99 cents! Grab your copy today!!**

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 7: Blog Tour Day Ten

A couple of lovely blogs have offered to host me today, featuring an interview and a sneak peak or two into A Vision in Crimson. Come have a short read with me!

June 7: Interview
Literary Musings

June 7: Spotlight
Simply Kelina

**June 3 through June 10: A Vision in Crimson is available on Amazon for only 99 cents! Grab your copy today!!**