Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What does a Podpeep Read -- c.anne.gardner

I read a lot. I have never consciously sat down to consider the numbers, but I can safely say: It's a friggin' lot. Even while I am working on my own fiction and reviewing for the peeps, I read. I try to keep the idiot box turned off as much as possible in order to get a good 1-2 hours of reading in every night. I think it keeps the brain sharp when it comes to abstract concepts. Reading requires visualization, which requires thinking.

I have been asked fairly often, "What do you read besides review books?" Well, I have a Goodreads page and an Amazon page where I review and rate traditionally published books, but I thought I might share some of that over here as well. We are all readers as much as we are writers, and discussing literary tecnique is one of the many things we do here at the peeps.

At the moment, I am in between review books. I have a review that posted last Friday and another book to begin next week. In the between time, I am reading Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon.

It's different and very disturbing. As of the initial writing of this post, I was about 30 pages in, and while the corn-pone dialect is bothersome for me, I liked where the story was going, so I decided to stick it out. Here is the Blurb:

Theodore Sturgeon's dark and foreboding look at the vampire myth was an instant classic when originally published in 1956. When George Smith is arrested for assaulting a senior officer, a military psychiatrist is assigned to the case. The secret of George's past is unearthed, and a history of blood lust and murder. Innovatively told through letters, interviews, and traditional narrative, Some of Your Blood effectively portrays the tragic upbringing of George Smith to his attempts at a stable life and the great love of his life to his inevitable downfall. Millipede Press is proud to present this masterpiece of macabre literature in a brand new edition.

Over the weekend, burdened with a particularly heinous bout of insomnia, I finished the book. The take on vampirism was indeed unique, one of the best I have read, but that wasn't what struck me most about the "story." This was as far from traditional storytelling as one can get, and would probably have lesser experienced literary critics up in arms. There is only one traditional scene to speak of and that doesn't appear until the very end of the book, which is only 143 pages in total. Dialog is practically non-existent for the exception of two interviews between patient and psychologist, and the remaining narrative is completely exposition. As far as character arc goes, well, don't look for growth here. The monster is created and subsequently remains a monster.

There are a lot of different telling techniques used here to great effect. The book begins with a series of letters back and forth between a couple of Army psychologists who have initially conflicting views on a patient by the name of George Smith. Smith was thrown into lock-up for punching an officer who had become alarmed by a letter Smith had attempted to send home to his girlfriend. The book then flows into a third person narrative of George's life, written by George as instructed in the course of this therapy. Everything seems pretty standard fare for an abused backwoods undereducated -- possibly mentally retarded -- child. But ... nothing should be taken at face value here. Intuition plays a huge role in this story. The intuition of one psychologist who wouldn't give up digging until George's pathology, in all it's horror, is finally laid bare. We don't even know what the letter to his girlfriend said until the very end of the book. Every move each character makes is based on gut instinct. Everyone is speaking in code, hiding and yet revealing their intent at the same time. This is what gives the book its brilliance, not the gripping action, of which there is almost none, but the characterization. The style is very reminiscent of Stoker's Dracula, and George Smith was nothing less than Frankenstein.

Put all your notions of storytelling aside and pick this one up. Its nature is entirely subliminal versus visceral, and it strikes to the core. Very frightening, and yet in the end, disgusted, our sense of humanity shattered, we can't help but feel for George.

Cheryl Anne Gardner


Shannon Yarbrough said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm always on the look out for "old" vampire books, as I refuse to read Twilight. You hear me, Stephenie Meyer?? I REFUSE!

Oddly enough, I'd never heard of this one. Found a description saying it's one of the Top 40 Horror books of all time. I'll add it to my list!

Also, I like this type of post. Always like to see what other reviewers are reading outside of what the blog dictates.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

You are welcome.

The reason I posted this book was because it contains everything most mainstream reviewers would claim is bad writing. Sturgeon didn't do much "bad writing." Certainly not in this book, which would be more of a novella, if you ask me.

If the other peeps don't mind, I plan on continuing this column. I think it helps authors decide if they want to submit to us. They can make an educated decision based on what we read outside of the podcentric world. Not to mention, I just like sharing and talking about literature.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I refuse as well on the Twilight issue. I have read far too much in the vampire genre for this to be fresh and exciting.

I can't comment on her writing though, as I don't indulge in YA books. My tastes aren't quite that tame, if you know what I mean.