Archive for Novel

I Need to Remind Everyone that Gothic Fiction is Badass

Posted in Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

Man, I sure haven’t been keeping my promise to update once weekly, but, as anyone who has ever called themselves my significant other knows all too well, I take my own promises about as seriously as I do Insane Clown Posse– that is to say, not very seriously at all. I break my solemn word like Crash Bandicoot broke crates, or like e.e. cummings broke from conventions regarding the composition of poetry. Nevertheless, I continue to update OMGABAT sufficiently frequently that the last time I did so might be said to have been ‘a week ago’ for convenience in a colloquial context, so I’m content. Purport that I’m rationalizing my irresponsibility if you so wish, but I’m content.

In this post, I’d like to address a disconcerting tendency I’ve perceived in individuals of an age roughly equal to my own, namely a liability to believe that Gothic Fiction is ‘lame’, ‘shit’, ‘lame shit’, or of some other, similar nature that renders the genre unworthy of attention. What misguided individual originated this at once horrifying and laughable idea I cannot guess, though I suspect Chuck Palahniuk on the grounds that the besmirchment of quality literature and the advancement of its opposite is in his interest, that information is irrelevant, for this mysterious propagandist and his disciples have no evidence in which to ground their slander, whereas I am prepared to weave a virtually impregnable defense of overwrought Victorian melodramas.     

If you’re a regular reader of OMGABAT, or have happened to notice that more of my posts fall into the category titled ‘Dracula’ than do into that titled ‘Music’, you may be anticipating the mention of a certain work of Bram Stoker’s, but indeed in this you are mistaken, as the tirade into which I am about to boldly forge concerns an entirely different macabre tale of ancient, decaying edifices and dead who yet tread the earth, one which, unlike the forementioned vampire yarn, never spawned a decent movie– Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. 

I hear you scoff even as I write this, youth of today. “Have you finally forfeited every iota of reason you once possessed?” You’d ask, perhaps not so eloquently, “surely this 19th century romance cannot contend with the work of edgy Gen X scribes and their terse musings on such provocative subjects as booze, drugs, and whores?” In response to this challenge, I turn your attention to Chapter 13 of the book in question, constituted by Isabella’s letter to Nelly Dean imploring to be rescued from the tyranny of marriage to Heathcliff. An exchange between Isabella and Heathcliff’s adoptive brother Hindley, in which the latter articulates his desire to see Heathcliff killed, proceeds as follows:

‘Look here!’ he replied, pulling from his waistcoat a curiously- constructed pistol, having a double-edged spring knife attached to the barrel.

This book features a handgun with a knife on top of the barrel. This isn’t a musket or any sort of firearm for which a bayonet might be an appropriate accoutrement, it’s a pistol, secured to which is a knife that I imagine is at least as large as it is itself. A knife-gun, or a gun-knife if you prefer. Can a mortal intelligence conceive of a more badass machine?  “I know what you’re thinking, punk. Did I fire six shots, or only five? Doesn’t fucking matter, I’m going to cut your throat open!” Though her imagination was tempered by the level of technology extant during her lifetime, Bronte prefigured this: 

Moreover, while I doubt Mr. Palahniuk could hold his own in a Fight Club, Emily Bronte, having lived during a turbulent age in an area frequently beset by riots, was a fucking sharpshooter, and was more than capable, should the need arise, of knifegunning a foe into oblivion. My befuddlement as to why I can’t find a hard-boiled gunslinging poetess with whom to settle down is a diatribe for another day.

Perhaps I’ll fortify my argument with examples drawn from other staples of the Gothic genre at a later date, but, in the meanwhile, I challenge all who remain unconvinced of Wuthering Heights’ hardcore nature to produce a piece of prose which more effectively elicits from its reader the interjection ‘oh shit, you’re so fucked’ than does the inquiry posed by the young Linton as he travels to meet his father for the first time: “Is Wuthering Heights as pleasant a place as Thrushcross Grange?” The poor little shit has no idea what he’s getting himself into, they’ve got knifeguns up there.

— Gothicus Maximus

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The Only Good Part of “True Blood” is the Title Sequence

Posted in Horror, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

As a function the aggressive viral marketing campaign that surrounds it, I can declare with reasonable confidence that most denizens of the civilized world are not only privy to the recent premiere of HBO’s newest drama True Blood, but have some familiarity with its premise, which involves a substantial population of vampires revealing itself to society at large and struggling for acceptance therein. As I do not presently have a subscription to the network on which this program airs, I was unable to view its first episode upon its initial airing September 7th, and thus was at a loss to answer the veritable maelstrom of inquires as to my opinion on regarding the show with which I was met the following day. I scarcely exaggerate in saying that anyone even vaguely aware that I exist approached me at some point in the past week and put forth a challenge to the effect of “Hey Gothicus Maximus, what’d ya think of True Blood?”, all, perhaps unconsciously, resolving to forgo the logically precedent question as to whether I’d even watched it. My 19th Century English Novel professor put forth a pronounced effort, after I had slept through his class, to engage me in conversation in order to solicit my thoughts. 

Were my reaction to such a circumstance equivalent to that of the average individual, I would likely pause for a period of no more than three seconds to lament that, at this time, when my professors have assigned to me more reading than I can complete while maintaining even the most piteous excuse for a social life, I am unable to devote any time to watching a vampire-themed soap opera, then forget the matter entirely, but, of course, I am, in all that I do, hideously far removed from the average individual. The petitions of my close friends, sworn foes, and vague acquaintances had engendered in me a twisted sensation that I had shirked some responsibility– people depended upon me to be ‘that vampire guy’, to have an excessively well-formed opinion on any media peripherally related to the un-dead on the day that media became available to the public, if not earlier, and in that capacity I disappointed them. Driven to amend my entirely chimerical failure, I eschewed my homework in order to undertake the considerable task of locating a recording of True Blood’s pilot in the annals of cyberspace, and, having done so, I am now able to articulate my thoughts: this show, if its general quality can be inferred based on its first episode, is pretty fucking bad.

In authoring drama, a playwright or screenwriter must choose between two means of delivering exposition regarding the present circumstances, personalities, pasts, and guarded secrets of his characters. The first, most commonly favored option is the use of compelling dialogue and dynamic action to introduce plot points and develop dramatis personae. The inexplicably less popular alternative, to which the minds behind True Blood have evidently committed themselves, is to make the protagonist telepathic.

True Blood is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, waitress in a sleazy bar and resident of a fictional Louisiana town, cursed to be constantly besieged by the thoughts of those around her. This is a particular burden because, as she lives below the Mason-Dixon line, everyone she encounters thinks in a thick southern drawl. The shameless caricatures of African Americans she counts among her friends even make a point to avoid proper grammar in their interior monologues, and to punctuate important cogitations with a ‘dayum’. Relief from the agony of ceaseless assault by relevant details regarding her supporting cast comes to Sookie in the form of a vampire named Bill, whose undead mind is inscrutable even to so titantically stupid a plot device as the waitress’ gift. Although the thoughts of every other man with whom she’s acquainted are limited to such musings as “God she’s so hot, god I want to touch her”, or “I need to protect her,” she decides to give the Nosferatu the benefit of the doubt, becoming attracted to him. I suppose her assumption that there’s more to Bill than there is to most men is a reasonable one, as we know that, in addition to sexual objects and the protection thereof, he also thinks about blood.

The vampire as a metaphor for mundane minorities is a mildly interesting proposition, and, surely, HBO realized this, but, somehow, from that realization the network drew the hideously malformed conclusion that a mildly interesting concept with some explicit sex scenes sprinkled over it was enough to constitute good television. I know not why, but for some reason beyond my grasp, I expected something of more merit from a program adapted from a series of romance novels whose protagonist’s name is Sookie Stackhouse. I expected more from my fellow television owners than to be contented with another entry in the virtually endless library of poorly realized romances that use supernatural motifs as a substitute for real depth. 

To afford some attention to a redeeming facet of the wholly disappointing experience that was the hour of time I dedicated to watching True Blood, I will note that the show has a theme song. This in itself pleases me, as I am vehemently opposed to the recent trend of hour dramas briefly flashing a title card in the viewer’s face before cutting to the first commercial break. I require a pastiche of stirring clips set to a rousing score if I’m to be rendered excited for the adventure that lies ahead, and True Blood satisfies this criteria marvelously, as its main titles are not only extant, but awesome. 

Tits! Snakes! Time-lapses of decaying wolf carcasses! I feel compelled to watch the show these precede. Hopefully that footage of roadkill will be reused for a more worthy series at some point within my lifetime. 

-Gothicus Maximus