Saturday, September 12, 2009

Going Native by Stephen Wright

A man walks out of his life in the midst of a dinner party on the East Coast somewhere. He may steal a green Galaxie automobile. Nearby, some awful crackheads have sex, score, and argue. Someone steals their green Galaxie. A hitchhiker kills a truck driver on the Interstate, then later hitches a ride in a green Galaxie. A young woman runs away from her family with her boyfriend, later ditches the boyfriend for a man driving, yep, you guessed it. Some guy involved in porn goes to a party and his car is run into by our old friend the GG. And so on. These vignettes of wrecked and unpleasant modern lives have three things in common: sex, drugs, and the green Galaxie. It’s a collection of meaningless searches for meaning. The writing is occasionally clever, but usually feels like it’s trying way too hard. There is also a certain pre-911 self-absorption that was common to fiction in the nineties, but which now just feels a tad petulant. I’d skip this one if I were you.

The Woods Are Dark by Richard Laymon

What a turd. This horror novel is an incoherent mess and dirty in a way that reminds me of a kid drawing pictures of genitals with crayons. I doubt even Dimension Films would option a script for this thing. Plot: Two women driving at night stop in a dinner. They are kidnapped to be sacrificed to a local tribe of savage barbarian sex-fiend man-beasts. Some other dumb shit happens. Beasts win.

Lucky for Laymon, I was trapped in a middle seat on a trans-Pacific flight between two chattering Chinese and no choice but to devour his crappy horror novel.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Since I wasn’t a theater guy after high-school, I missed out on Beckett earlier in life. But after Rushdie quoted him in one of his essays in Imaginary Homelands I became intrigued and decided to dive into his most famous work. Waiting for Godot is a compelling, hilarious, though-provoking piece in which, as a famous critic once said, “nothing happens. Twice.” It’s almost true that the purgatorial setting and nearly nonsensical dialog between Vladamir and Estragon are beyond puzzling. So much has been written about this intentionally opaque work that it’s hard to imagine anything I can add, except to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the play, and enjoyed even more trying to interact with Pozzy, Lucky, and the text after the fact, in ways that I think the author might well have appreciated.

(What do I think? I think that despite Beckett’s denial, Godot is God, the men are in Purgatory awaiting a conclusion or judgement on their lives. I think that Vladamir has a venereal disease and that Pozzo is a demon of some sort who is punishing the hapless ‘Lucky’ who is a standin for mankind as a whole.)

Woman in the Dark by Dashiel Hammett
This mini-novel is vintage Hammett, but there’s a reason that it isn’t as well known as The Thin Man or Maltese Falcon. His style is minimal here, terse and so unadorned as to be little more than a sketch of actions at some points. A damsel in distress appears in the night and a manly hero rescues her, which quickly turns things into a man-on-the-run tale. It’s not particularly interesting unless you really like the genre or the time period, but it would likely have made for a popular movie in the middle of last century.

Imaginary Homelands by Salman Rushdie
Rushdie’s essays are as good as his novels, if occasionally equally unfocused. In this collection, written between 1982-1992 we get some pre-Fatwah Rushdie. He is younger, perhaps a bit more arrogant in some ways, and just as outspoken and bright. These essays, about politics, literature, history, sports, and music ramble across themes, but always return to the notion of home as more than a location. There are a total of almost seventy-five essays here, which reveal a mind that is unable to rest with comfortable definitions or life unexamined.

This book seems to be out of print. I looked high and low for a second copy to give to LT, (whom I thought might find Rushdie’s comments on Borges interesting) but was unable to find it in any new bookstore. So if you find a copy somewhere at a used bookstore, grab it and run like hell!

Shanghai City Guide by Lonely Planet
A useful overview of one of the world’s megacities. It seems clear that the authors didn’t particularly enjoy their time in Shanghai, but then, I can also concede a number of their observations about the pollution and exhausting climb for status and wealth that seem to so occupy the citizens. Their several sidebars on “The jews of Shanghai” also struck me as a little odd, as other ethnic minorities don’t seem to get similar coverage.

Lonely Planet guides are typically a little better than this. And not a single one of the various drivers I had was able to decipher the map in the center of the book, which made it more or less useless too. So, maybe try a different guide if you need an overview of Shanghai.

The Shining by Stephen King
Somehow, years ago when I was trying my damndest to read everything Mr. King had written I missed this old chestnut. Perhaps odder still, I’ve still never seen the famous Jack Nickelson film of the same name. So I was in for a delightful treat when I found a tattered bright yellow copy of the novel at Halfprice on one of the infernally hot summer days we’re all enjoying right now.

The Overlook Hotel isn’t hot. At least not outside the boiler room in the dead of winter. And that’s the setting where Jack and his family end up trapped while ghosts eat their sanity and make them turn on one another.
The Shining is a tight psychological thriller for the first two thirds, a well written survival horror piece for the remainder. Vintage King. REDRUM.

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone

Stone chronicles the depressing collapse of the sixties and the morally bankrupt characters in his novels always remind me of lost children wandering around the remains of a birthday party that ended hours ago because their parents never came to pick them up.

Dog Soldiers tells the tale of a heroin smuggling deal orchestrated by two former marines still living in Vietnam. They return to the US with more smack than is good for anyone, and they draw a collection of their former lovers and friends into the messy deal, which ends in ruin for almost everyone. This is all set in California, the canyons of LA, the mean streets of Oakland in about 1973. Peace and love have died, and only sex and drugs are left. There’s a sense of intense paranoia, as if everyone might be running a number of some kind. (And most people are.) Our characters are all awash in philosophies, from zen to… weirder stuff. But none of them are able to really pursue enlightenment of any kind, because they are all too drug addled.

Ultimately, this is Stone’s message in Dog Soldiers: That the movement(s) of the sixties got sidetracked, trying to take shortcuts, or becoming wrapped up in hedonism, and ended up missing the more high minded, spiritual targets they initially sought in the communes and San Francisco gatherings of the mid to late sixties. What remains is a sticky criminal residue of paranoia, psychosis, and social fragment. It’s a message we hear at the end of Easy Rider; (“We blew it.”) and hear echoed in A Scanner Darkly.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
An jaded aging rockstar buys a dead man’s jacket from the internet. Then things start to get evil.

The premise works. The dialog is believable, the characters are interesting, if clichéd. The evil is small bore haints, wicked stepparents and the like. People learn things about themselves and some of them don’t make it.

Quality horror, especially in a debut novel. Reads almost like… oh, I don’t know… a young Stephen King…

Cause, oh wait, he is. Well, that’s cool anyway. Street cred for not having your dad endorse your book on the back jacket, and for using a psudo-pseudonym, I suppose.

It’s also cool that The Shining is dedicated to this (once) young man, even if it has no relevance to this particular tale.

Good pulp horror novel. I’ll buy the next one.

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett
Take a tour of steamy Bangkok’s red light districts, prisons, and police stations with your guide Detective Soncheep, the last honest detective in the city. Mostly, he’ll take you to tourist destinations, like Khao San, Pattaya, and so on. But he’ll also muse a lot about prostitution, tell you all about the drug Yaa-baa (speed), and let you in on a murder in the jade-smuggling/sex-change/S&M industry.

This is a fun noir style novel written by a farang, but with a superficial understanding and discussion of thai culture. It’s seedy, seamy, never really dull, and has enough occasionally well written paragraphs to hover just so slightly above crap, but still firmly in the pulp-o-sphere.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
This collection of terse, heartbreaking little stories are mostly about infidelity. Carver’s vision of the desolation of suburban America is distinct and his eye for detail is superb, though it tends to only light upon the melancholy. Twelve stories here chronicle the dissolution of marriages and relationships and the fallout of same. Carver’s dialog and ear for language is superb; hardly a word rings false in this collection. Sad stories from the sixties which chronicled the dissolution of the idealized American marriage.

Planet Law School II by Atticus Falcon
Writing under his silly pseudonym, Atticus Falcon slams the pedagogy of law school’s case method, reveals the men behind the curtain trying to part students with their money while not teaching them anything, and rails against the incompetence of most lawyers. No wonder he needed to protect his identity!

But along the way in this nine hundred page journey, he also opines on almost everything else under the sun, and gives the reader a very firm grasp of the basics of studying law in the US. I suspect that the “PLS Method” he proscribes is likely a very effective, if very time consuming, way to both get good grades, and to emerge from law school much better prepared to practice law than most of your fellows would be.

This book is eternal, but every time you get sick of Falcon’s screed, he introduces some fascinating new topic, or delivers a paragraph that just seems so very right on target that you can’t help but to keep reading. Anyone who is considering law school should read this book, just… take it with a few grains of salt.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut’s sad funny little tale about the firebombing of Dresden is a fast tragic-comic romp which is still probably the best example of his writing. I read it back in high school and enjoyed it immensely, and again in the early part of this summer in South Austin with no less love. I’d love to grab it and include a quote here, perhaps from the beautiful image in which time reverses so that the buildings all grow back together and the bombs fly up into the air where the airplane hanger doors shut quietly, and the planes fly backwards to land in reverse on the runway and the pilots and crew all walk backwards down the tarmac and return on boats to their homes in America and the bombs are disassembled in reverse and their dangerous chemicals returned to elements and carried backwards into the mines beneath the earth where they can never hurt anyone again.

But alas, we’ve moved from the library on Mosquero into an apartment near the Arboretum. So like almost every other book I own, Slaughterhouse Five now lives in storage, awaiting the return of a new gilded age when it will be able to go back on a shelf where it belongs in some new library somewhere else.
And on the third day, it continued raining. But no one here complains because we need it so badly. The professor is away on Cruiseapalooza, and I'm taking a break from working on finishing the book. Which means it's time for a long overdue update! This set were read in June and July of 2009, while still living in South Austin. I'm writing this from an apartment in North Austin on a rainy Saturday in Septmeber.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Starting Off Right in Law School by Carolyn J. Nygren

I purchased this helpful little treatise a few months ago off At the time, it seemed like law school might be an interesting backup plan in a world tilted a little sideways. It still might, but the current near-collapse of the Biglaw institution in the US makes a person think twice about jumping into very real and immediate debt in exchange for the possibility of future long term satisfaction and recompense.

In any case though, I hate to buy a book and not read it.

Nygren’s tiny little tome tries to explain to the incoming One L some of what they’re about to encounter. From her initial overview of the US legal system, to some interesting case studies of inadvertent fishbone consumption, she tries to help prepare you for the type of caselaw reading and analysis you’ll be expected to undertake in the first semester. Having discussed much of this with the Professor while reading it, it seems a useful primer. She tells me that a number of the lessons herein would have been a great compass for her in those first confusing months of study, when even knowing how to read a case, how to identify the cause of action, the issues, and so on were all foreign.

I’ve got two more of these “before you start law school” type books on the stack, so once I’ve read them, we’ll see how this one compares.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Another Booker prize winner, but… not quite where it should have been. Now maybe this is because Adiga has (in my mind) big shoes to fill. Big indeed. And he strives mightily at his task. We’ve got the obligatory framework story (open letter to Wu Jintao), an unreliable narrator (criminally negligent, you might even say), a lot of (bitter) thought about the role of colonialist countries in the formation of the crappy plight of the poor in the developing world. There’s also at least a little clever wordplay. Somehow though, the whole just falls a little short. I’m promised an Indian Palahniuk and I get a petty schemer instead.

Adiga tells us of a “truer” India. It’s a place of filth, lies, deceit, prostitution, degradation of every sort, in which a teeming amoral populace strives to put their boots on the head of the person beneath them. His Ganges teems with sewage and the corpses of the dead. The streets of Mumbai and Bangalore are filled with dead children gnawed on by rats. Our narrator – well, he’s an enterprising lad to be sure – don’t trust him for a minute.

It’s not this darkness that bothers me. Indeed no, I understand very well that Adiga is playing his part in the creation of the mural of English writing Indian fiction. First we had the fictionalized, idealized imposition of an external narrative of the subcontinent. This was the Raj Quartet era of fiction about India – emeralds, elephants, the exotic beauty of the tiger and the kama sutra. (Rudyard Kipling wrote in this tradition even earlier, I suppose.) Later, we get Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, (we’ll even be generous and include) Jhumpa Lahiri, and the like. They told us something closer to the truth, maybe. It was still gilded and fantastic, but at least it was an authentic worldview, albeit from those from the upper classes of Mumbai who managed to get western educated. Theirs was a multitude of voices, hyper educated and as attuned to the nuance of language as only a polyglot can be.

And then comes Adiga like a graffiti artist coming along to scratch in grubby coal atop the highbrow oil paintings of old masters. “No, no,” he writes. “Fuck you guys. This isn’t my India that you write about. It’s as big a pack of lies as the narratives of the imperialist swine. Your education and erudition might make you sound smart, but it’s made you forget what it’s really like out here in the darkness. Let me tell you a truer story, about filth and poverty and corruption lies and murder. ‘Cause that’s India. At least it is to me.”

And that’s the story you get from the White Tiger. It’s interesting, especially taken in the context I’ve just described. It’s even an excellent novel, perhaps. But a Booker Prize? Well… For that, I need to be shocked, dazzled, enlightened, or at least two of the three.

However, I’d read Adiga again, if only because his voice is (to me) fresh.

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

What a fine, delightful, playful and sensual novel! Rushdie’s tale cavorts between the Mughal empire in India and the Medici’s great Florence of around the same time period. The novel is filled with historical detail, but at its heart is a wonderful mediation on the relationship between creators and their creations. Also, there’s plenty of sexy sex, delightful wordplay, deftly interwoven narratives and stories, stories and more stories. Rushdie succeeds wildly in keeping hundreds of shimmering plates in constant motion before catching them all stacked neatly, taking a bow, and leaving you with the unshakable sense of having just watched a master perform.


As an aside, I've just started adding tags for author to these posts, so you can sort by author finally... Not sure why it took me so long to think of this. :)

Step Across This Line by Salman Rushdie

Oh sir, you have done it yet again. Read mostly in the Fairmont Waterfront on the Vancouver harbor in the first month of the year, this fine collection of essays landed in a suitcase and didn’t get finished until a different man read it months later in Puerto Vallerta. I suppose that’s fitting, since Rushdie himself wrote this as a lot of different men over a span of years from 1992 to 2002. And reader, let me tell you, you’re in for a treat. In 400 pages of dense, playful, angry, erudite and brilliant essays covering a wide range of topics, from The Wizard of Oz, to English footie, to his thoughts on the fatwa, Rushdie reminds us that he’s not just an important writer – he’s an important thinker. We get Christianity, judiasm, islam (of course), Pinochet, oral sex, infanticide, partition, Mercator projections, Bono, Bridget Jones, Ghandi, Babur, globalization, Nabakov, 9/11, Sammy Beckett, Kosovo, Elian Gonzales, Bush & Cheney, Yates & Faiz, tabloids, and a treasure trove of other topics.

This is a fantastic collection of essays, and as the title indicates, keeps coming back to a central theme that must have been very much on Rushdie’s mind at this time: lines, borders, their crossing; in short, the transgressive.

I’ll stop now, from fear that further expressing my admiration for Rushdie may begin to border on the sycophantine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini’s followup to The Kite Runner takes us back to Kabul for another closeup look at the Taliban’s evil. This time our narrator is a poor village woman, the bastard daughter of a wealthy merchant. She’s married off young to a creep from Kabul who abuses her and his second wife terribly. Things proceed from here, and we end up with a well written version of “Sleeping With the Enemy in Kabul.”

The prose is good, though not great. (But far better than my Pushtun or Urdu, so really, we should just be saluting Hosseini, and not worry about being too critical on this front.) The plotting is stronger than in the Kite Runner.

I enjoyed learning more about poor benighted Afghanistan and about some of the simple kindnesses and beauty that can help bring color and happiness to even the most unfortunate of lives.

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell

Continuing my efforts to better understand the economy as a whole, and make up for some of the things I didn’t study during undergrad, I spent a pleasant hour flipping through various books on the economy. This one seemed the most complete and most basic at the same time.

Six months later, I finally finished The Big Book of Economics! At six hundred pages of not-that-dense economic theory for beginners, this one took a while. Certainly not as long as if I’d read a complex book of economic theory for smart people, but still an accomplishment of sorts.

Dr. Sowell of Stanford University is a dedicated scholar of Milton Friedman and similar schools of thought. He’s bright and his style feels approachable without being overly dimmed down.

In twenty-five chapters he covers such topics as Prices & Markets, Industry & Commerce, Work & Pay, Time & Risk, National Economies, International Economies.

The book was informative, and I now feel like I have a much firmer grasp of basic economics. I’d be remiss not to mention a few problems though. First, the book has a particularly right-leaning conservative bent and occasionally gets on a high-horse. Second, the organization is odd, such that section overviews come at the end of the section, with the sections themselves preferring to jump straight into sub-topics without any preamble or indication as to the fascinating twists and turns the subject matter will take.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Mayberry

When the TERRORISTS start creating ZOMBIES to attack the US, you know we’re fucked. Luckily, Detective Joe Ledger is there to save the day with Ju-jitsu, an MP5, and some hand picked members of Echo squad! The results are… perfect for beach reading!

Not sure I really need to say much more about this book. Did I mention TERRORISTS and ZOMBIES on the same plate???

Read it on a beach in Akumal in March while the Professor celebrated her spring break.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This delightful little tale about a boy named Nobody represents the best of what I think Neil Gaiman does well. The idea is fun. (“What if a little boy were raised by the ghosts in a graveyard?”) The prose is easy to read and playful. The story is both light hearted and macabre at the same time. And Gaiman manages to play with some fun tropes without appearing clichéd. (Like Slias the never-called-vampire-vampire, or Gulhiem, the city of the Ghouls.)

Great, short little novella, without much lasting meaning, but with lots of fun imagery.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

So yeah. I read the tween vampire romance thing. I’m not ashamed. Not too ashamed anyway. Think about it the way you would Harry Potter and you’ll feel less guilt about how delicious it can be sometimes.

Twilight is the first in a four novel series Mrs. Meyer wrote over the last four to six years. There is a movie, which I’ve not seen. The novels sold; bigtime.

So I read through them in the first month of this new year, amid the tumult and pomp of presidential transition and towards the springlike week of Valentine’s Day. They were a great candy coated escapist fantasy.

Bella Swan moves to the town of Forks. She’s an odd-girl out, who doesn’t fit in with much of anyone. She’s awkward and charming and horrifically self-absorbed. Then she meets the Cullen family and her world is changed forever. Cause… You guessed it. They drink blood like barflies shoot tequila.

This first novel deals with Bella’s budding relationship with Edward, and her coming to grips with the supernatural elements of the world around her.

It’s short, written at about a sixth grade level.

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
In the second installment, things continue more or less in the same tempo as they did in Twilight, only with a change of leading man. As the title indicates, the werewolves which were hinted at in the first novel come out to play, and we learn lots more about them. Poor Bella is heartbroken, and cries entirely too much throughout this book. Jake’s loveable demeanor and the ending redeem what is otherwise the weakest entry in the series.

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
The tween vampire bit takes a step forward here and we get a healthy tale of teen boys fighting over the girl they both want. Of course, one is a vampire, the other a werewolf, but hey, that’s what you get when you take a trite trope, like using vampirism as a metaphor for budding sexuality. However, the yarn is entertaining, very fast to read, and I almost guarantee you’ll go out to buy the next one right away. Because, while Mrs. Meyer seems as unaware of convention, or the rich canon in which she is writing as one could imagine, she does make you want to know what happens next to Bella, Jacob, Edward, Alice, and the rest.

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Here, in the final installment of the mighty Twilight series, things take a big leap forward. For starters, the book is much longer than the previous three. Second, the writing style and narrative jump about five grade levels ahead. We’ve finally got sex, some seriously gruesome scenes, and so on. One gets the feeling that Mrs. Meyer either had a lot of help here, or that it took her a thousand published pages to get warmed up, and that she’s finally come into her own a bit.

The plot takes a radical right turn pretty early into the novel. There’s a cool final showdown, and things are resolved to my satisfaction at least. The core mechanics of the series are still all here: pain, love, loss, angst about feelings, etc. (So don’t expect literature, just expect a slightly matured and longer version of the previous novels.)

As some reviewers have noted, the fourth book can be considered a bit clumsy (like Bella), because almost everyone gets what they want, and frequently we have to bend through some pretty uncomfortable suspensions of disbelief in order to accept the whys and wherefores of the deal. But everything is nicely wrapped up in a bow by the end, so you get what you came for, I suppose.

I’m comfortable saying that I enjoyed this series. I bought the central tenant, and the special powers that the vampires have make you want to be one. So it’s aspirational, and cheesy, and crunchy like popcorn without offering any real sustenance.
So I've let another season get behind me without updating. Shame on me.

But today I had a fun little conversation about a few books, and remembered that I'd been remiss...

First the personal update, then posts covering January through April 1st. Now, April still seems like three lifetimes ago, but it's late enough tonight, I've got some new demands on my time, and I don't want to do Mrs. Carter and Mr. Rushdie (among others) the discourtesy of hurried posts. So you'll just have to live with a few new books for now!

The Professor and I are still living in the house in South Austin. I'm now a free agent, no longer under the employ of the racecar shop in Vancouver. It's sad to say goodbye to that beautiful city and some of the friends there. But I'm not too sorry to have had to do a lot less travel this spring, and I'll not miss some elements of the job. On to newer and better things!

In other news, the Professor is now officially esquire tambien. So that's cool. The future is otherwise uncertain, and as Terminator reminded us this past weekend, there's no fate but what we make it. So wish us luck with whatever that ends up being.

Now, back to the books!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson

I love Bill Bryson. His great natured goofy commentary on anything and everything makes him a charming companion to explore almost any topic alongside. Neither Here Nor There lets the lucky reader tour continental Europe will Bill, from the frozen northern reaches of Scandinavia to the overcrowded bazaars of Istanbul. Along the way, you get to watch Bryson drink a lot of beer, fantasize about various Euro-lasses, and take a lot of trains.

You also get a fine history-lite commentary on many of the cities he visits.

Bryson is, simply put, a treat to read. He feels like a friend, and one whose opinion on nearly everything you’d be eager to hear. His everyman’s tone masks his interest in the erudite, and his sense of humor neatly disguises all the education he’s able to slip in to every work.

Great, fun stuff!
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

Another recommendation by (soon to be Dr.) KMK. As a fellow Word Worm, she gets my geekish infatuation with the OED and tales of a lexical nature.

The Professor and the Madman tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between an Oxford lexographer who is the leader of the efforts to build the first version of the Oxford English Dictionary, and an American Civil War veteran who is his greatest help, despite being confined to a lunatic asylum for being, um, crazy. The creation of the OED alone is a fascinating story, involving, as you might imagine, nearly seven decades and hundreds of thousands of word citations and sources. As the definitive compendium of English language usage, the OED is much more than just a dictionary; it’s a fantastically ambitious scholarly undertaking which comprised the life-work of many of its contributors.

The book is short and peppered with OED excerpts for various relevant words. It’s also, paradoxically a bit too long, as it becomes frequently repetitive, and often delves into detail that is so beyond irrlevent as to not even serve to provide texture. It seems clear that the core notion was a good one, the tale itself interesting, but that most everything can be said in about thirty pages.

Overall, this is a fun pop-history of the founding of the OED, and a compassionate look into the lives of two men who were deeply involved in its creation.
The Damnation Game by Clive Barker

“It wasn’t difficult to smudge sexuality into violence, turn sighs into screams, thrusts into convulsions. The grammar was the same; only the punctuation differed.”

Somehow, this quote nicely sums up what makes Barker’s writing unique. It’s the most sensual, overtly sexualized horror I’m familiar with. The Damnation Game takes the Books-of-Blood era Barker style and turns it into a horrific, full-length beast of a novel. It is quite simply the most evil book I’ve ever read, and absolutely not for the faint of heart. Virtually no taboo is left unexplored, and the vile and loathsome are paraded across every dark corner of London and post-war Warsaw.

The plot is detailed but fairly simple: a gambler makes a Faustian deal.

Bonus points for: the coolest necromancy I’ve read in a novel, some truly disturbing stuff, including the first use of the word “autocannibalism” that I’ve ever read.

At nearly five hundred pages, The Damnation Game is meaty enough that it takes a bit of effort to get through, but if you like your horror and perversion raw and wriggling, then it’s a fine ride.