Tuesday, March 14, 2017

“Reading List #8” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally post 29 Apr. 2015, and this appears to be the first appearance (by me) of the phrase “Read a damn book!” Historical! ---RFY]

“The Continuing Adventures of Richard F. Yates: READER! Episode 8!” by Richard F. Yates

Below, you will find chilling documentation of the last four months of my reading habits. (Not for the faint of heart or those easily offended!) What isn’t included in the list are books that I am still working on but haven’t finished yet (MYSTERIES OF THE UNEXPLAINED, Mark Twain’s INNOCENTS ABROAD, Mikhail Bulgakov’s THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, Hans Richter’s DADA: ART AND ANTI-ART, and a few others. I read lots of books all at the same time so that I make sure and get them confused…)

But none of that is important, right? The real reason most of you are here is to look at silly pictures! Here’s one of those!

Reading List 8

(2 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading, for the first time since maybe the late 1980s, Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” It was the first story in the collection HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES (1921) edited by Dr. Dorothy Scarborough. It’s a fun story with a slightly sappy ending, nowhere near as dark as SALOME or THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

(4 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading Gelett Burgess’s “The Ghost-Extinguisher,” which is also from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Early (1905) GHOSTBUSTERS type story (not very humorous and not at all politically correct by modern standards.)

(5 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Herman Melville’s “Bartleby,” which I’ve always remembered as being titled “Bartleby the Scrivener,” but that is not the case in this collection, THE PIAZZA TALES (1856). Still a weird, disturbing, darkly humorous, if ultimately tragic story. I like it.

(5 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Fitz-James O’Brien’s “What was It?” This time it was part of the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK that I found on Amazon. (Last time I read this story was probably in AMERICAN SUPERNATURAL TALES or some other history of horror collection.) Short, short story, but creepy and well told (with an ending a LOT like “Bartleby”!!!)

(14 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading ASCENDING PECULIARITY – EDWARD GOREY ON EDWARD GOREY, a collection of interviews with Gorey edited by Karen Wilkin. Good shit. Gorey is one of my most important influences, and rereading this book reminds me of why. Brilliant man.

(14 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading Bayard Taylor’s “The Haunted Shanty,” another tale from the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. This was an odd, slightly too moralistic tale about a “living ghost.” Today, we in the supernatural trade (I have a Ph.D. in parapsychology from Thunderwood College) would call this an Out of Body Experience tale.

(16 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading Darrell Schweitzer and Jason Van Hollander’s “Those of the Air” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. It was okay, but certainly not the best story in this collection.

(17 Jan. ’15)
I just finished the most horribly racist, offensive, un-P.C. story that I’ve ever read: “Dey Ain’t No Ghosts” (1911) by Ellis Parker Butler, from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. If this tale isn’t the source of every trope perpetrated against African Americans by the early 20th century entertainment industry, then it’s at the very least a perfect example of how terrible the abuses were. The story is written in stereotyped vernacular (with “ob” instead of “of” and so on), shows all African American characters as superstitious and child-like, uses the “N” word—the entire gamit of offensiveness. I read a few lines to Mariah, and she suggested I just skip reading it, but I couldn’t. It’s such a perfect trainwreck of offensiveness… (Plus, I’m a completist. If I’m going to say I read a book, I have to read the ENTIRE book.) In a sense this story shows how far our society has progressed in the last hundred years, but I was still shocked by the content.

(20 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading the play, A SLIGHT ACHE, by Harold Pinter from a collection called THREE PLAYS. It was odd and creepy and funny, but very short. In the Absurdist tradition, I’d say, and hence, well worth the read!

(21 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading “The Transferred Ghost” by Frank R. Stockton, also from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. This story has the oddest and least likely explanation for ghosts and hauntings I’ve yet come across, but it wasn’t particularly funny or entertaining.

(23 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading (yes AGAIN) Edward Gorey’s AMPHIGOREY collection. It’s alway fun and always inspirational. Everyone should read it three times per year.

(24 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading THE WORLD OF EDWARD GOREY by Clifford Ross and Karen Wilkin. In a way, it’s a sad book. It starts with an interview with Gorey, then it continues discussing his work in PRESENT TENSE, suggesting that he was still alive when the content was compiled, and although the copyright on the text is 1996, there is a chronolgy of Gorey near the end of the book stating that he died in 2000 at the age of 75. Still, this is a good overview of Gorey-ness and well worth the entry price for the large number of included drawings, many in color!

(25 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Edward Gorey’s AMPHIGOREY TOO collection. I don’t read it as often as the first collection, but it does still have some fantastic (evil) stories…

(30 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT; OR, WHAT YOU WILL. Still pretty funny, although I had a harder time than usual believing that a brother/sister pair of twins, even if identical and with the female twin dressed as a man, could be mistaken for the same person. Mariah reminded me that Shakespeare often stretched that suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. I suppose…

(5 Feb. ’15)
Finished rereading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Green Tea,” this time as part of the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. (I can’t recall where I read it last time, probably some horror or supernatural collection.) Great descriptions in Le Fanu’s writing, but the silly metaphysical explanation of the cause of the victim’s suffering is so ridiculous as to be almost offensive. Oh well. Not a bad story, other than that.

(9 Feb. ’15)
Finished rereading Richard Sala’s MAD NIGHT for the 4th or 5th time.This is such a creepy, bloody story, hilarious and disgusting, that I like to read it once or twice a year. Gigantic bodycount, crazy characters, gratuitous (cartoon) nudity, and silly gore all over the place! Brilliant…

(19 Feb. ’15)
Finished reading Theophile Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot,” another story from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Witty. Not a bad little tale, but no Mark Twain.

(22 Feb. ’15)
Finished reading “The Rival Ghosts” by Brander Matthews. It was a bit sexist, and played a tiny bit with stereotypes, but these things are so common is the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection that they hardly even surprise me anymore.

(11 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE FANTASTIC FOUR, VOL. 1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The writing was surprisingly clunky, with massive, glaring plot holes and bizarre, illogical twists, but with that said, it was still fun to read. (I can certainly appreciate some entertaining nonsense.) The book, which I bought as a Kindle edition, collected the first ten issues of F.F. and introduced many of the major characters in the series. All told, not a bad way to spend ten bucks. I will definitely be buying more comics in this format.

(14 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading John Kendrick Bangs’s “The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. It was alright…

(16 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Mr. Justice Harbottle” from the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. Not a bad story. There were a few spooky moments, but the end was somewhat anticlimatic.

(17 Mar. ’15)
Finished rereading Henry Kuttner’s “The Graveyard Rats,” this time as part of the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. (I think the last time I read it was in a collection of American horror stories, but don’t quote me on that.) It’s an uncomfortable, claustrophobic tale full of panic and fear. Very effective.

(19 Mar. ’15)
Read Mark McLaughlin’s “Toadface,” another story from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Contemporary sounding story set in Lovecraft’s Innsmith, and not too bad, but it loses something in the mood of the piece when you take it out of Lovecraft’s tone. Just seems much more silly than chilling.

(21 Mar. ’15)
Read a 2014 freebie edition of DETECTIVE COMICS #27, which included the original eight page Batman story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, as well as a couple of more modern interpretations. I prefer the clunky writing and blocky drawings of the original, personally. Most comics today, for some reason, bore me—too slick, too color enhanced, too pretentious (they are COMICS for Bob’s sake), and not very much fun. Notable exceptions: works by Richard Sala, Alan Moore, Mike Allred, Michael Kupperman, Bob Burden, and the weirdos and freaks that do underground stuff like Tykes, Yikes, Land of Nod, and that type of thing. And horror comics. I still like horror comics…

(23 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading JONAH HEX AND OTHER WESTERN TALES, a “DC Blue Ribbon Digest” from 1979, edited by Ross Andru. I’m not much of a western fan, but Jonah Hex usually qualifies as “weird western,” and a friend found the book and gave it to me, so I gave it a try. Not too bad, I reckon.

(25 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading an anonymously written story called “Back from That Bourne” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collecton. It was okay, but a bit dull and rather forgettable. I didn’t laugh, either…

(28 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading the comic collection FANTASTIC FOUR – NEW DEPARTURE, NEW ARRIVALS by Fraction, Bagley, and Allred. Not too shabby. I enjoy Mike Allred’s art style, so the sections he drew were great, and the other bits weren’t too bad.

(28 Mar. ’15)
Read Matt Fraction and Mike Allred’s FF VOL. 1 – FANTASTIC FAUX collection. Very enjoyable. Fun, funny, and entertaining. I will look for another collection by this team. Like!

(8 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck’s (Kirby and Heck drew the artwork) MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS MASTERWORKS VOL. 1, which collects the first 10 issues of the AVENGERS comic. Again, very silly but fun.) Jack Kirby drew the first 7 or 8 issues, then Don Heck took over, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice until I spotted the credits page at the start of issue 10!

(10 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading the story, “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft from a megapack called H. P. LOVECRAFT – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. There is no publication info about who compiled the stories or when this collection was published. Oh well. Lots of Lovecraft!

(16 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading Richard Middleton’s “The Ghost Ship” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Not a bad tale, silly and almost fun, without all the nasty racism that some of the stories in Dr. Scarborough’s collection have been plagued by.

(28 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading the Dark Horse Comics digital reissue pack of CREEPY Vol. 1, which collects the first five issues of the series. Ghoulish but silly horror comics, very much in the E.C. vein of things like TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Good enough for a laugh, and maybe even fun enough to inspire me to buy the next volume sometime.

That’s all the junk I’ve finished in the last few months. Went on a bit of digital comics kick there for a bit, and I was surprised at how well the not-too-large screen on my e-reader presented a comic book page. I’m sure (once I’ve got a few extra bucks again…maybe in September or October…I’ll buy a few more collections!) Thanks for stopping by! Now go read a damn book!!!!

—Richard F. Yates

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