Sunday, March 18, 2018

Read a Damn Book Project Report

Well folks, I've decided that this blog isn't pulling its own weight, and thus I'm killing it. I'm still reading books and writing "READ A DAMN BOOK" reviews, but I'm posting them at The Primitive Entertainment Workshop and on Ello, where I still have some readers, but I'm no longer going to be updating this site. (I'll leave the reviews that are here up, in case someone accidentally stumbles across them...)

If you want to see what my recent reviews have been, go to the READ A DAMN BOOK LIST, which works like a "Table of Contents," listing all of the books that I have reviewed so far, with links to each review! Thanks for playing!!!

---Richard F. Yates
 (Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

“Read a Damn Book – 074: Alice Roosevelt and the Tunguska Menace”

Once again, I am reviewing an Art Horse production, so FULL DISCLOSURE: this book was written and illustrated by friends of mine. I try to be impartial when reviewing work by friends (and this is technically only the third such review that I’ve done, out of 74 reviews, and that doesn’t seem like too many to me), but bear in mind, I may be unconsciously biased when looking at this book, although I’ll try to be fair. Now, let’s take a look at the greatest piece of fiction with the most striking illustrations ever put on paper!

Daniel T. Foster and Michael J. King – Alice Roosevelt and the Tunguska Menace (2016)

Like the previous Etherverse title that I reviewed (Martian-American War), this book is presented in the dime novel style, with text and illustrations. The book is about 24 pages in length, and is nicely printed (by a local, Longview guy named Pat) at roughly magazine size, 8.5 x 11 inches. (It’s bigger and printed on nicer paper than a comic book, and even slightly larger than the last issue of Wired that I got.) The words were written by Dan Foster, who has affected a style similar to the old pulp stories of folks like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, which adds to the “vintage” feel of the book. Michael King’s illustrations, although there are fewer than in the last book, are still excellent, again drawing on the vintage pulp style, embellished with King’s trademark flare for detail (and crosshatching!)

The “Etherverse” books take place in an alternate historical timeline in which ether fills the void between planets, electro-magnetic engines have been powering Earth ships into space since the 1880s, and Teddy Roosevelt led his famous Rough Riders to Mars to help preserve the freedom and prosperity of the entire human race. In THIS story, the second book in the series, Teddy’s daughter, Alice, goes to Russia with sharp-shooter, Annie Oakley, to investigate a mysterious explosion in the Tunguska region which level trees for miles and sent a shockwave that shattered windows in nearby villages. What they find (no spoilers) is particularly unpleasant, leading to some classic pulp violence and lurid descriptions of the various encounters.

It’s a fun story, with solid characters, a sizable body count, and steampunk-esque weapons and airships all around. The content may be a bit gruesome at times, for some readers, but for fans of vintage pulp and adventure stories, it’s an enjoyable tale, with a satisfying, clever ending. And, again, King’s artwork is always enjoyable, contributing enormously to the tone.

I should mention that there are a few typos in the text, but nothing severe enough to derail the story. The only truly unfortunate thing is that most people, who don’t attend sci-fi or comic book themed conventions in the Pacific Northwest, will probably never run into Foster and King’s work. They are self-published and, as of this writing, do not have distribution for their books. Those interested in buying Art Horse titles will have to settle for a Facebook page and an Etsy store for now, although all of the Etherverse books are available through the Etsy shop. The cool thing, of course, is when independent artists and writers work together to make something NEW and interesting that never could have come from a corporate boardroom, and that’s what the Etherverse books are: two cool guys making some exciting adventure stories because they love exciting adventure stories. Go check them out! You’ll get to read some fun, steam-punk stories, and you’ll feel good for supporting the little guys!

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Commander in Cheap of The P.E.W.)

“Read a Damn Book – 073: Annihilation”

Once again, Mr. Shane Grove has suggested a book for me to read, and this one is a DOOZIE! 

Jeff VanderMeer – Annihilation (2014)

Annihilation is book one in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. It’s an extremely well written tale that falls directly into that gutter between horror and science fiction (where all the best stories come from.) This book, to me, has a very OLD feel, like VanderMeer has been reading a lot of pre-1950’s horror stories, particularly in the Lovecraftian vein, and as a fan of H.P. and his lot, I see this as a good thing. The novel is an exploration story, but one in which the main character sees and experiences things that are beyond her power to describe---which is particularly disturbing for the reader considering the fact that we are depending on the character’s ability to describe what’s happening for us to experience the story!

The book is written in first person from the perspective of a character know as “The Biologist.” None of the characters in the novel have names, and the reason for this is hinted at in the story, but each character has a FUNCTION which is essential to the mission: there is the biologist, the surveyor, the psychologist, the linguist, etc. The story involves four explorers going into a strange, almost alien area separated from the “normal” world by some kind of barrier. Once inside “Area X,” the group are supposed to explore and record observations. They aren’t told what they are supposed to be observing, exactly, or what the actual goal for the operation is, so most of the characters seem confused and frightened almost from the very beginning. There is some understanding that Area X might be growing, and the explorers know that they aren’t the first group to go in---and that previous missions did NOT end well. In addition, and unfortunately for the party, something about the mysterious area tends to warp the explorers’ senses and upset their ability to entirely grasp what’s happening.

The Biologist, who functions as the narrator for the story, is a hyper-intelligent, detail-oriented character, driven by scientific curiosity, but also suffering from a marked detachment from humanity. We learn this not only from her descriptions of her interactions with the other characters, but also from her flashbacks to scenes from her disintegrating marriage. We also learn fairly quickly that her husband was a member of a previous mission to Area X, and that he returned transformed, his mind irrevocably altered by whatever he experienced as part of that mission.

VanderMeer is adept at getting us into the mind of The Biologist, and his prose strikes a difficult balance between descriptive and vague, which I found unsettling and perfect for a character who is under the influence of an environment (and various other factors) that are interfering with her senses and thought processes. The reader is depending on the descriptions and explanations of a character who isn’t certain that her own senses are working correctly, and this increases the tension and unease of the tale.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is a film version of this book coming out very soon, starring Natalie Portman, but I’m finding it somewhat difficult to envision how the director is going to film this novel. The majority of the tale takes place in The Biologist’s head. It’s her describing what she’s seeing or feeling, her having flashbacks to fights with her husband or to previous biological observations that she’s made. When you mix this interior quality of the narrative with the rather “indescribable” elements of some of The Biologist’s experiences, I’m wondering how they can hope to present these scenes to viewers, short of handing out peyote or acid tabs to each customer as they walk into the theater. (Maybe in some markets, this will be the preferred method of viewing the film.) I’m intrigued, regardless, and may even pay money to see the film at the theater---if I have any money when it comes out. (Never a “for sure” proposition.)

Anyway, VanderMeer’s book is short, creepy, well written, and altogether, a fun tale. Some people might find the story to be a bit too weird, but any fan of Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard or any of the “golden age” pulp horror stories will find a lot to chew on here, and if you LIKE the book, there are two more in the series to read, which Mr. Grove tells me are much thicker than the first book! Having not read those, however, I can only say that THIS one is excellent.

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Commander in Cheap of The P.E.W.)

Friday, February 16, 2018

“Read a Damn Book – 072: Make a Zine!”

It’s pronounced “ZEEN” (rhymes with “mean”), and it’s what happens when people realize that they have the ability to put their thoughts or their art onto paper, and then make copies of those pieces of paper and let other people look at them! Zines are cool, extremely easy to make, and are absolutely liberating, and one could even argue that they are ESSENTIAL in a democratic society that supposedly values free speech. 

Bill Brent, Joe Biel, and others – Make a Zine! (1997/2008)

Make a Zine! was originally published in 1997, but the version that I read was reissued in 2008, and according to the authors’ note at the end of the book, the entire manuscript was rewritten for the new edition. This book may not look very big when you first pick it up, but it’s JAMMED full of information that any would-be zine maker will find thought provoking and useful. If anything, there’s almost TOO MUCH information in this book!

Brent and Biel are both long time zinesters, and Make a Zine! reflects the wealth of knowledge that the creators and their contributors have gained from decades of making zines and being in the zine community. The text includes articles on the history of zines, on layout and design, on processing images for maximum visual impact, on drawing comix, dealing with postage, avoiding libel, selling ads, ethics, distribution, and so on… It’s a thorough book and an invaluable resource for someone who is getting into zines and ready to take their project to the next level. There is SO MUCH information, in fact, that it could possibly become overwhelming. This book almost treats zines like a CAREER choice, while insisting throughout the text that zines are just a hobby and that everyone should enjoy creating them without even CONSIDERING the possibility that you might make money from selling them. It’s a strange mixed tone, talking about this great hobby that lets everyone express themselves freely, but then spending dozens of pages explaining how to do be as professional as possible. (I almost feel like I’ve been doing it WRONG all these years… Sure, I’ve had fun, but I’ve never gotten BIG!)

I really do think this book is excellent, and I hope I don’t sound too negative because there is definitely a wealth of information in these pages. Each article covers a well-defined topic, and it explores that topic in minute detail. Have you ever wondered what type of paper you should use when having your zines printed? Some types of paper are much less expensive, but don’t hold the ink as well, which can cause it to smear a bit. Some types of paper are better for highlighting images and photos. Having colored paper for your cover can give your zine a more eye-catching appearance, or maybe you could have your cover printed with a two or three color lithographic process and have the interior printed on a light-weight, white paper to save on the cost, which would become a serious issue if you are printing thousands of copies of your zine. Each section’s topic is thoroughly explored, and there’s usually information pointing to other sources if the reader wants to explore more.

For people who have been making their zines for a while and already have a bunch of subscribers and sales destinations for their work, this book will really help make their zine creation more efficient and improve their production values. However, for a guy like me, who has been making zines since the late-1980s, I find that some people are less interested in “going pro” and just want to make zines because they are fun to make. I’ve rarely printed more than 20 or 30 copies of any of the zines that I’ve produced, I’ve never sold advertising space in my zines, and I’ve never tried to distribute or sell my zines in stores. I make them because I love making stuff. You fold some paper, you put artwork and images on the folded pieces of paper, you write about the topics you love the most (or whatever’s pissing you off at the moment), and then you either take your pages to the library and photocopy them (if the images are only on one side of the paper) or you go to a printshop and drop ten bucks having a professional print your zines (if you’re doing multiple pages and want the images printed on both sides of the paper.) It’s simple and cool and democratic. You can write about anything in the world you want to, and give copies to anybody that you want, without anybody telling you that your story is unprintable or that your artwork isn’t good enough or that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Of course, once they READ your zine, they might say some mean things---humans can be horrible, sometimes---but most people will either be polite and smile and not really care, or they might get really excited and say, “Wow! This is really cool! How did you make it? I want to make one, too!!!”

Make a Zine! also lists all the different kinds of equipment you can buy to help make your zine (things that “only” cost a few hundred bucks but are really useful!), but the only thing I’ve ever bought to help with zine construction (beyond simple office supplies like glue sticks and scissors) is a stapler with a longer than normal arm so that I could reach the center of a normal piece of paper when it’s folded in half. (It cost about $25 at the local office supply store). Other than that, which wasn’t NECESSARY, making zines is cheap. You just need a pen, some paper, scissors, glue sticks or tape, maybe some recycled magazines from the “free” bins at the library (for collaging), and a couple hours of spare time. Want to talk about your favorite bands? Make a zine. What to express your opinions about a political issue? Make a zine. Want to invent a new religion that incorporates modern scientific opinion AND esoteric mythology and magic? Make a zine! Whatever you want to talk about, whatever you are most interested in and love, you can make a zine about it and share it with the world. No one can stop you…

Make a Zine! is a great book. It’s funny, well written, has tons of information and amusing artwork, and it will make an excellent resource for zine makers who are looking to start making their projects more professional. (This book argues that being professional ISN’T a bad thing, and they’re probably right.) I’m going to say that this book would be perfect for intermediate to advanced zine makers. The book is well laid out, and there is a clear table of contents, so a reader who is looking for information on a specific topic can find it quickly and get what they need, BAM!, right there. For a true beginner, however, someone who has never heard of zines or who has never made one themselves, this book might be a bit overwhelming. The characteristic that makes it most valuable to seasoned zinesters, it’s DEPTH of information, might make it unsuited for a beginner just getting into zines. (It might make zine making appear too complex and scare potential creators off.) I could be wrong, of course. Maybe someone could read the book, be fascinated by all the information, and jump right into the zine community from page one, but to me, the book lacks that, simple, basic, “here’s how you make your first four page or eight page zine” section. It doesn’t really start from ground zero. Also, unfortunately, some of the entries in the extended appendices are now out of date, and being that it’s been ten years since the 2nd edition came out, this shouldn’t be unexpected, but it’s still sad seeing contact information for places like Reading Frenzy, a former zine shop in Portland, Oregon, knowing that they’ve closed their doors. (Again, that’s not this book’s fault…) Still and all, it’s an excellent, well produced book, very detailed, amusing, and full of the obvious passion it takes to stick with a hobby like this for a long, long time!

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)

“Read a Damn Book – 071: The Defenders – Marvel Masterworks Volume 1”

I’m still making my way through the digital comics I bought just after Christmas, and this time around I read the first Marvel Masterworks collection of The Defenders. (Twice!) I discovered The Defenders back in the mid-1980s at a 4th of July celebration and flea market at Lake Sacajawea in Longview, WA, USA. I stumbled across a booth that was selling cheap comics (either 50 cents each or maybe three for a buck) and I begged my mom for a couple of dollars, coming home with half a dozen books with characters like “Son of Satan” and “Hellcat” and “Gargoyle” and “Nighthawk,” because I thought that sounded like the type of book I should be reading… I LOVED The Defenders as a teenager, and so I bought this collection to see if the magic was still there…

Roy Thomas, Ross Andru, Steve Englehart, and Sal Buscema – The Defenders – Marvel Masterworks Volume 1 (2016)

According to the introduction, written by Roy Thomas, The Defenders sprang from a storyline he originally wrote in the Sub-Mariner comic, called “Titans Three,” and the original “Titans” were Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, and The Silver Surfer. However, Stan Lee, who was the almighty ruler of Marvel for about a thousand years, didn’t really like other people besides himself writing The Silver Surfer, so Thomas decided to replace the Surfer with Dr. Strange, when the concept for The Defenders actually got moving and shaking. By “moving and shaking,” I mean Roy Thomas was given a book called Marvel Feature for a few issues, which could feature stories about The Defenders, along with some other tales. These first few stories were pretty good fun (in that late 60s / early 70s style) in which Hulk gets mad and wants to “smash,” and the Silver Surfer (who pops in as a guest every now and then) wants to be left alone because humans are so horrible, and the Sub-Mariner is noble but hot-headed, and Dr. Strange is the “master” of the mystic arts, but constantly gets duped or screws up his spells almost causing the end of the world… Great stuff.

Then, by the time the most dysfunctional super-team ever got their own book, The Defenders #1, a new writer had taken over, Steve Englehart, and the stories start getting weirder and more psychedelic. Sal Buscema’s art is very good (compared to the charming but more 50s style of Andru), and rubber starts hitting road. The Englehart / Buscema team puts together some creepy, almost horror oriented tales, lots of knives and demonic beasts, and the tone that I remember from the books I bought that fateful day at Lake Sacajawea is almost complete. They even introduce (or re-introduce) a character called Valkyrie, a feminist warrior created when an evil sorceress grafts an artificial personality onto a catatonic, insane woman. It’s weird and kinda creepy, and for someone like me, very enjoyable.

The books reprinted in this collection are all from the very early 1970s, ‘71 to ’73, to be precise, and they came along at a time when Stan Lee was starting to let other writers with different voices (not just echoes of his own) take a bit of control and move the individual books into new directions. Roy Thomas, the original writer for “Titans Three” and the first Defenders stories, eventually became the editor for the series, and he let Englehart have free reign during his run as writer for the series, and Englehart took it into a much darker and stranger direction. (At least for the stories that I’ve read.)

This is a pretty entertaining collection, and it’s interesting to see how the series developed from a mere crossover event into a solid, dynamic concept. The first few tales in the book are kinda hokey, in that very 1960s, very “Stan Lee” style, but they are fun. Gradually, though, the stories do start to get darker, and by the time we get to Marvel Feature #3, the final story before The Defenders graduated to their own book, things have gotten VERY dark. That tale is about a weird space titan, Xemnu, who takes over the body of an astronaut returning from space and starts a children’s television show so that he can hypnotize a bunch of kids into coming with him on a rocket-ship to his home planet. We never learn exactly what Xemnu is going to do with the kids once he gets them into the rocket, but we assume it’s something awful. AND, unlike a lot of comics in this era, Xemna isn’t messing around and actually KILLS people. Gutsy! It’s dark stuff, and it set the tone for Englehart and Buscema, who took over directly afterward and really created something creepy and entertaining.

So if you like superheroes and magic, light horror and psychedelic art, you will probably enjoy The Defenders first Masterworks collection. The series kept going for about 150 issues, give or take a “giant sized” or “annual” book, here and there, before eventually giving up the ghost. What this mean for READERS is that there are a ton of stories of this stripe out there, if you decide you like the series. I really do, and I’m looking forward to being rich enough to buy the next volume someday! Until then, KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE SKIES! And keep reading. (But don’t strain your neck…)

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

“Read a Damn Book – 070: The Power of Myth”

In my senior year of high school (1989-1990), I took a World Literature class, first period, from an interesting teacher, a Vietnam vet who had a reputation for being unstable, but who I found very knowledgeable and entertaining. As part of his lit course, he showed us this series of videos in which a journalist and a “wizard” talked about myths and religions and about how those related to everyday life. While many of the students in the class slept through these videos, I was hooked…

Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers – The Power of Myth (1988/1991)

Joseph Campbell was a professor of comparative religion studies and a storyteller who wrote several books on mythology. His theories are sometimes contested, partially because he never completed a Ph.D., meaning he didn’t received the official, academic seal-of-approval (me neither), and partially because he tended to gloss over differences in various ideologies while looking for similarities. But this is where his SECOND, and I’d argue more interesting, qualification kicks in. He was a STORYTELLER---an exceptionally well read, analytical, and personable storyteller, whose obvious love for the myths that he incorporates into his tales more than makes up for any “rough edges” he removes in the telling. (Not unlike Neil Gaiman!)

This book, The Power of Myth, is actually a transcription of a series of interviews Campbell filmed with journalist, Bill Moyers, in the late 1980s, shortly before Campbell’s death. The interviews were filmed for PBS, and they cover a number of topics in which Campbell believed mythological stories could apply directly to modern concerns. Interestingly, to me, Moyers is a Christian, a devout Catholic, and Campbell tended to be more of a spiritual but non-religious person, so there’s more than one place in these interviews where Moyers gets very uncomfortable while Campbell is talking about his understanding of how the world works and what myths can tell us about it. For example, early in the book, Moyers challenges Campbell’s definition of “myth” in this interesting exchange:

Moyers says, “You changed the definition of myth from the search for meaning to the experience of meaning.”

And Campbell responds, “Experience of life. …There’s no meaning. What’s the meaning of the universe? What’s the meaning of a flea? It’s just there. That’s it. And your own meaning is that you’re there. We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about” (p. 5).

Moyers, as a Christian, sees life as a testing ground, and the meaning of life is to prove that you are good enough to go to Heaven when you die. Campbell, who was raised Catholic but grew through his studies to see Christian concepts as more metaphorical than literal, believes that living life, HERE AND NOW, is more realistic than considering life the launching pad for some posthumous, secondary existence. This idea (throughout the book) makes Moyers very uncomfortable. For a sick individual like me, this interplay is part of the entertainment value of this book.

I also appreciate Campbell’s suggestion that myths HAVE to keep up with the times, that a myth that no longer in syncs with modernity causes confusion and strife. Campbell says, “On the immediate level of life and structure, myths offer life models. But the models have to be appropriate to the time in which you are living, and our time has changed so fast that what was proper fifty years ago is not proper today. … The old-time religion belongs to another age, another people, another set of human values, another universe. By going back you throw yourself out of sync with history” (p. 16). Though Campbell warns us not to get stuck in ancient belief systems, he also states that our times are moving too quickly for a new, MODERN mythology to solidify. We are in a state of flux, untethered… (And you can see this every day if you look at the newspaper headlines.)

Although some people might find mythological and philosophical discussion boring (certainly all those high school kids sleeping through the videos of these interviews can attest to this), I enjoy the discussions. Not every chapter kept me as riveted as some of them did, but the food for thought in this book is very nourishing. Campbell’s optimism is also very evident, and his love for stories comes through with every line. You can practically hear him smiling as he answers Moyer’s questions and challenges, and hearing him smile makes me smile.

The book may, obviously, be a bit unsettling for people who are deeply entrenched in their religious beliefs, as it treats Christian and Muslim beliefs as mythology, right along with the other ancient gods and heroes, but for people who enjoy stories and who won’t mind the Bible being treated as metaphorical, it’s a fun, entertaining book. There are also videos of these conversations floating around on DVD, as well as an expanded version of this book which includes lots of illustrations and photographs of sacred objects. (I’m poor, so I opted for the cheaper version…) Ready to “get your MYTH on?” Then this book isn’t a bad place to start…

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

“Read a Damn Book – 069: The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved”

John Ciardi and Edward Gorey – The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved (1965)

I can admit, without too much shame, that I’d never heard of John Ciardi before encountering this little book. Ciardi was a well-known poet and scholar (meaning I should have learned about him when I spent all those years studying poetry in grad school) with a sly sense of humor and more than fifty books in his bibliography. (I will certainly be reading more by him in the future.) Edward Gorey, however, is one of my heroes, but you probably already knew that. (I’ve reviewed The Gashlycrumb Tinies and Amphigorey by Gorey in previous RADB entries.) Gorey’s detailed, almost obsessively constructed illustrations and moody panache are exactly my kind of creepy, so when I saw that he’d illustrated THIS book, even though I’d never heard of the author, I knew, instantly, that I had to read it.

The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved was originally published as a poem by Ciardi, and it appeared in The Saturday Review back in 1964. The Gorey illustrated version, according to the copyright info in this book, was created in 1965, about a year later.

Ciardi’s poem is an extremely clever rhyming tale about a peaceful kingdom (by the sea) that is set upon by a “hero” looking to make a name for himself by slaying the giant who roams the countryside, marrying the princess, and getting half the King’s cash as a reward for his bravery. The King, however, in no uncertain terms, tells the hero that his services aren’t needed, that the giant isn’t hurting anyone, and that they really don’t need to be bothered by a loud hero who keeps insisting on disrupting the peace. The hero complains about travel expenses and says that he will NOT be leaving until he has slain something and gotten his reward.

Ciardi’s language is very amusing, striking a tone that reminds me of The Princess Bride. He uses several meta techniques, including a first-person narrator as poet telling the tale, and the story often suggests that the characters realize they are in a fairy tale, though a fairy tale with some spunk, and that they just don’t want to play the game that the hero insists that they need to play. It’s a very short book, but satisfying and clever, and something that I’m certainly happy I now own---and that’s without even mentioning Gorey’s brilliant illustrations!

Gorey is the master of COMPLEX-SIMPLICITY. He makes these drawings that at first glance seem effortless and---well---completely simple: we see a giant lounging in a field smelling a flower, or a king sleeping on his throne surrounded by piggy-banks, or a cannon with a lit fuse (and very little else in the background.) And then, once you’ve taken in these simple images, you look again and realize how detailed they are, how strangely well shadowed the giant’s shirt is, or that the King’s pillow has tassels, or you suddenly see that the wheels on the cannon have life-like wood-grain! Gorey, using thin, clean lines and intricate cross-hatching, brings a surprising depth to his little black and white drawings. (The book is rather small, only about 5 inches by 6 inches, which is a typical size for a Gorey creation.)

AND Gorey even manages to bring his famous “FANTOD” into the tale, a sort of small, scaly dragon creature, who we see peppered throughout the book: sleeping on the queen’s bed or inspecting the lit fuse of the cannon. I love that Gorey can seamlessly insert his person “demons” into someone else’s poem without seeming to strain the mood. It works perfectly here.

Overall, this is a fun, clever book, with safe enough illustrations that most parents wouldn’t be bothered to give it to their kids, but with incredibly sly and clever writing that should impress even a cynical adult reader. If you enjoy Shel Silverstein or Maurice Sendak or even Edward Gorey’s own books, then this will be a welcome addition to your collection. It’s funny, manages to keep Gorey’s usual quality and tone intact, and for the connoisseur of fairytales, has some great meta-elements that raise it about your average “long ago and far away” children’s fare. The only PROBLEM, is that it’s out of print right now, so you’ll either have to try and grab it in a used book shop or pay collector’s prices in online stores (It appears to sell for about $25 and up…) Still, if you find it in a used shop for a couple of bucks, it’s definitely worth the cash!

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)