Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Yes, I'm off by a day. Sorry. I worked a lot of hours this weekend, and spent a majority of my Monday sleeping! And frankly, I needed a little time to process what I read. For the Once Upon a Time II challenge, I choose Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts (336 pgs. William Morrow). I was trying to find a book that would fit in the "Folklore" subcategory and I figured ghost stories would fall here. And I've been really anxious to read this collection every since I found out who Joe Hill really is. As you all know, I'm a HUGE Stephen King fan.....and since Uncle Steve is Joe Hill's father (his real name is Joseph Hillstrom King), I wanted to see if any talent rubbed off. You know, the whole 'nature vs. nurture' theory. Whatever the reason, Joe Hill seems to be amazingly talented!!
The first story in this collection is called Best New Horror. It's the story of a man named Eddie Carrol. Eddie has spent close to 20 years editing the anthology, America's Best New Horror. After years of reading horror stories, it seems that Eddie has become a bit desensitized. Nothing is new anymore, and nothing is scary. Until the day he received a submission called Buttonboy. The story was sent by a professor from a small university. He had been the editor of the school's literary review when a part-time handyman had asked him to read a story. The story was incredibly good, although the subject matter was extremely disturbing. It was included in the review, but the backlash from the readers was intense. The professor no longer edited the publication, but felt that it should be included in Carrol's anthology. When Eddie started reading it, he couldn't put it down. And he knew he had to include it in his collection. That's where the trouble began: trying to track down the author. What he finds is much more disturbing than the story itself!
20th Century Ghosts is the tale of the Rosebud Theater and it's ghostly inhabitant. The Rosebud Theater is the last of a dying breed. It's an old-time movie house in the days of the multi-plexes, and it's having financial problems. Then there is also the little problem of it's "ghost". Imogene Gilchrist was a huge movie fan. She loved movies. During the opening of The Wizard of Oz in 1939, Imogene had a brain aneurysm and died at the Rosebud. But even death can't keep her away from the movies!
Pop Art has to be one of the strangest short stories I have ever read. And yet, it was utterly fantastic. It's about a boy and his best friend, Art. Art is an inflatable boy. (Yes, I do realize how weird that sounds) Art couldn't talk, but he kept a notepad around his neck. He would write with crayons whenever he wanted to communicate. He had to be really careful around sharp objects (obviously). It seems the life span of an inflatable person isn't all that long. In school, Art was teased endlessly and kicked around often. Until he met a friend. And the two of them became best friends.
This story is so unique and touching. I'm still not sure it's fits with the theme of ghosts, but I'm sincerely glad it was included. Art has a unique voice and is wise beyond his years. For example, they were discussing the number zero, and the fact that someone had to invent the idea of zero. Art said, "Because it isn't obvious -- that nothing can be something. That something which can't be measured or seen could still exist and have meaning. Same with the soul when you think about it." Who writes like that?? Beautiful. I wish I could do an ounce of justice to this story. But I can't. My best advice to you would be to read it!!
As for the other stories, they were great!! It seems that Joe Hill did indeed inherit some talent from Papa King. However, Joe has a voice all his own. And it's fabulous. Best New Horror is a cross between Deliverance and Hostel!! Really fun, unique Horror story. 20th Century Ghosts was a throwback to days of Twilight Zone episodes!! A little surreal, a little sad....and a lot sweet. What else can I say about Pop Art. It was wonderful. It was about bigotry and differences; love and hate; friendship and acceptance; and finally, death. And I honestly wish it was later in the book, because I can't see how Mr. Hill can top that one!!