What I Read, November 2019

Books Bought:

  • Summer – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • Awareness – Anthony De Mello
  • Hellblazer #1 (2019) – DC Comics
  • Basketful of Heads #1 (2019) – DC Comics
  • Doctor Strange Annual #1 (2019) – Marvel Comics
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #1 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #2 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • The Collector’s Dracula Book One (1994) – Millennium Publications
  • Nosferatu: Plague of Terror #1 (1991) – Millennium Publications
  • Nosferatu: Plague of Terror #2 (1991) – Millennium Publications
  • Nosferatu: Plague of Terror #4 (1992) – Millennium Publications

Books Read:

  • Monsters Among Us: An Exploration of Otherworldy Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms, and Odd Phenomena – Linda S. Godfrey
  • Dracula: A Mystery Story – Bram Stoker
  • Basketful of Heads #1 (2019) – DC Comics
  • Doctor Strange Annual #1 (2019) – Marvel Comics
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #1 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #2 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • The Collector’s Dracula Book One (1994) – Millennium Publications

I hadn’t intended such a horror-themed collection for November, but let’s go ahead and start back at the beginning. October.

As I was picking out books for the month of October, browsing my shelves for unread titles and walking around the library, I happened upon Godfrey’s Monsters Among Us. It was a little heftier than some of the others I was looking at, so I waited to start it until the last moment. It missed its inclusion into October’s list so it got stuck here.

In Monsters Among Us, paranormal researcher Linda Godfrey speaks with people who have had and does investigative work regarding unusual events. These events take the form of upright dog creatures, individuals transforming into beasts, mysterious lights, household supernatural occurrences, and other strange items. When it comes to the mysterious you run into the very typical kinds of questions:

  • How accurate is the reporting of the event?
  • How trustworthy are the witness statements?
  • How far off-pitch is the reporter’s opinion on the subject?
  • And, of course, what actually happened?

Now in general, I tend to believe some things well within the realm of wu-wu. Mysterious forces, supernatural occurrences – I think that there is plenty we don’t understand as a race, and perhaps we’ll never understand. That being said, some items here gave me pause. Logical fallacies in the way the conclusions were made for instance. I have a thing about logical thinking, and incorrect use of syllogisms is one of my pet peeves. (Why, I couldn’t even begin to tell you.)

And still, this book had me wondering. I find myself looking around, checking the woods as I drive. There are places I’ve marked on the map that I want to visit: Skinwalker Ranch in Utah and Black River Falls in Wisconsin. I like the unknown. I think more of the world should be unknown.

That is a good segue to Dracula. Man, this book consumed my month. Partially due to my only giving it about thirty to forty-five minutes a night. But I was committed, and I was going to finish it. So I did.

I like what was said about it in the foreword: “Dracula is one of those books people are familiar with, without ever reading.” And how true that is. I had tried reading this book years ago, but it was beyond me then. It would have been beyond me now, was I not so intent on getting through it. The language is heavy, told in first-person narratives either as journal entries, articles, logbooks, or letters, memos, and telegrams. It runs fairly chronologically, but with some jumpiness.

For a book over one-hundred twenty years old, it still works very well. Though the world is smaller than it was then, what with the internet, telephones, and airplanes, the quiet corners of the world could still hold unknown horrors (as Linda Godfrey tried to illustrate). As a matter of fact, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is a partial adaptation of Dracula, imagining the vampire curse arriving in a sleepy New England town, rather than in London.

And I like the characters better than what I’ve seen in the film adaptations. Lucy isn’t as flirty, and much more likable. Harker has a hard time but owns up to what needs doing. Van Helsing isn’t one-note, but rather himself fights against science to accept the possibility of such horror. And Dracula, who is barely present as an actual character throughout much of the novel, is the mystery, and the terror. And I think that’s where the sticking power of the book lies – in his absence, more than his presence.

It’s like Spielberg’s Jaws. What with so many mechanical problems, the shark wasn’t able to be in many of the scenes it was planned for. And yet, most film historians agree that’s what makes the movie effective. That it stays hidden.

In Barry Keith Grant’s Quick Takes Book, titled Monster Cinema, he writes, “Betokening the importance of the monster’s physical difference, monster movies are often structured around the gradual reveal of the creature or creatures, building suspense and expectation in viewers until the inevitable ‘money shot,’ a dramatic peak when the monster in all its intended hideousness is fully shown.”

Of course, Stoker’s Dracula looks fairly human, if one of “extraordinary pallor.” Only when the monster is revealed can the protagonists envision the nonhumanity. “Dracula is a gothic horror novel, an adventure novel, and a character study of evil, all in one book.”

Sometime during the month, and in my reading of Dracula, I was informed of DC Comics partnering with Joe Hill to release a series of horror comics. Well, I tracked down Basketful of Heads at a shop I used to frequent in Longwood while I was on my way to a gig in Orlando. Issue one is all set-up, with criminals on the loose, hero and heroine in a house with the potential for catastrophe, and a magical Nordic axe. Issue two came out on Wednesday, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

So, being in the comic shop I perused some other titles. I picked up some Dracula comics, and a few Nosferatu issues to complete a four-issue arc. Also Doctor Strange and Hellblazer. November remained a month of delving into the unknown.

The other books I purchased were Knausgaard’s Summer to complete my four seasons, and Awareness – one of Timothy Ferriss’s most recommended books. I’ll read that in December.

And that, as they say, is that. The lineup for December is less classic-heavy, I assure you. I’m currently eyeing a book by Bill Bryson, or maybe The Adventures of Tintin. We’ll see where the mood takes me. Until then…

Weekly Rundown

Yes, I think that has stuck. I like it. It’s kind of like my weekly check-in, but with less introspection. Just things that have caught my attention.

What I’m reading: Monsters Among Us: An Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms, and Odd Phenomena by Linda S. Godfrey. I wanted to get one more seasonal read in before November. Well, what to say. Do you believe in spirit creatures, possessions, skin walkers, UFOs, or otherworldly portals? Or not? Either way, an interesting book broken down in case studies. 

Additionally, if you check out the @WerewolfReports bot on Twitter, you can keep updated on odd werewolf sightings… If you believe in that kind of thing.

What I’m listening to: Lore, from Aaron Mahnke. Specifically the Trick or Treat episodes from 2016 and 2017. But, listen to whatever you feel like. Or, watch the video series on Amazon Prime Video!

What I’m spending time with: Switching over my recording from Audacity to GarageBand. I host a radio show twice a week, which is prerecorded and aired on 107.1 WZEA. Until recently I had used Audacity. However, since updating the MacBook, my microphones don’t work for recording. There’s a cumbersome workaround, but I’d rather have a simple time making my episodes. So I’ve been looking at the GarageBand recording platform. It seems that there used to be a Podcast recording option, since removed, but it works fairly well. I’ll give it a try, and either continue on it, or switch back when the new update for Audacity comes out.

Other things of interest this week:

  • This article from Vice on what the absence of humanity would look like on Earth. It’s something similar to what I’ve been contemplating, like in Because one day we die. What do we individually leave behind? And, what as a species will be left?
  • Seth Godin on his late friend Lionel Poilane, who owned a bakery in Paris, Poilane’s  daughter Apollonia’s new book.
  • Looking to the future, my friend and I are planning a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Doubtful it will be next year, because I’m looking to do some fun work over the summer, prime hiking time. So the possible start is March 18, 2021. We’ll see how our plans go between now and then.
  • Maria Popova on Thirteen Years of Brain Pickings. A great website, with great weekly emails.
  • Another listen: Marketplace’s Conversations from the Corner Office with Walking Dead Content Director Scott Gimple.