Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Okay, so in our previous blogs we have talked about fall colors around the country and about fall reading material and how it can be a little heavier - in more ways than one. Well, I think it's only fair we talk about what the end of October makes you really want.....SCARE ME TO DEATH.
It's everywhere!  Stroll through your neighborhood.  Walk down the aisles of your local Walmart, Kmart, Walgreen's, Lowes, Target, Halloween store, etc., etc., everywhere, anywhere can't miss it.  There is just something about having your hair stand on end or your heart race out of control, or a sensation of lacking oxygen to the point you feel you may faint. How about the feeling you get riding on the Demon or one of the other roller coaster at Great America amusement park (not very amusing for me).  It's a feeling that you can't explain that starts with a tingling in your toes and works it's way up to the trembling and quaking in your stomach, up to the tightening in your chest, to the knot in your throat until it emanates in a blood curdling scream you didn't even know you had inside you.   People want to be scared

Let us start with the way we are decorating our homes.  We are decorating in ways never dreamed of 10 or 15 years ago.  I have learned that Halloween decorations are outselling Christmas decorations now.  There are elaborate graveyards complete with headstones, massive skeletons swinging from trees, monsters that come up out of the ground (thank goodness in Tucson the ground is so hard, I haven't seen any of those around my neighborhood yet), witches hanging from rooftops, doorway hangings that absolutely terrify toddlers.  There are orange and purple light sets that decorate trees, rooftops, windows, bushes and fences.   And don't forget the old stand-by haunted houses, haunted mazes, haunted amusement parks...well I think you get the idea.  We want our senses challenged in macabre ways.

Take a walk with me down memory lane of the horror movies and how popular they have always been.  My husband still remembers and talks about his older sister taking him when he was very, very young (too young to be viewing a movie like that one) to the movie theater to see Wolfman with Lon Chaney. Can you say Frankenstein or The Mummy with Boris Karloff or Dracula with Bela Lugosi?  I think these were the original 'scare me to death' movies that helped spawn many of the ones that are enjoyed by many people today. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anybody their titillations, but I personally have sworn off of most of the horror movies of today and the past maybe 15 years or so.  The special effects that started with the Friday the 13th and Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies just made them a little too realistic for me.  I just cannot  do any of the slasher movies, believe me I tried for the sake of my marriage and my children.   Everyone loved the slashers except me.  Don't even mention Candyman!!! OMG!  I would totally freak out if I saw one of my kids standing in front of a mirror repeating the "Candyman, Candyman, Candyman" phrase that supposedly brought him out of the glass.  I can't even tell you how that movie terrified me.  I prefer suspense thrillers like: Se7en with Brad Pitt, Silence of the Lambs (trilogy), Inception and Shutter Island with Leonardo DiCaprio, the Indiana Jones series….those types of movies.  Suspense and thrills without so much of the blood that comes along with slashers. 
All the above leads me to – you guessed it – wonderful ‘scare me to death’ - 'thrill me and chill me' novels.  How about a little hair-raising with Stephen King?  Too many to count!  The Stand, It, Salem’s Lot, Cycle of the Werewolf, The Shining, and the one that had me looking under my bed in the middle of the night…Pet Semetary.  The list is endless.  What about Dean Koontz’s Sole Survivor, Shattered,  Demon Seed, Intensity or Watchers.  Mr. Koontz also has too many to count!  I think you are getting my drift though….there is nothing like using your own imagination when reading a book.  You get to put whatever leading man or woman in the starring role.  You get to make a scene as bloody or suspenseful as you can take.  A good author leads you and guides you but gives you enough leeway to use your imagination. A well written book will have different slants to tantalize every reader.  That is why book discussion groups are here to stay.  You may see something completely different from what another reader sees and the only way this gets brought forward is by discussing the book.

Who’s your favorite horror author?  I’ll lead with a list….I am actually listing them in the order of their popularity along with one of their works of fiction.  You fill in the blanks with others you enjoy and

 H.P. Lovecraft ……………..The Dunwich Horror
Stephen King …………….….Nightmares and Dreamscapes
Richard Matheson …….….Stir of Echoes
Edgar Allen Poe ……………The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Clive Barker …………………The Hellbound Heart
Robert Bloch ……………….Psycho!
Ramsey Campbell ……….Demons by Daylight
M.R. James ………………….Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
Peter Straub………………..Shadowland
Joe R. Lansdale ……….…The Drive in  

Friday, October 7, 2011


I’m sure I have mentioned this before, and I am also very sure I will mention it again…I have my mother to thank for instilling the importance of reading in me.  Our trips to the public library when I was a young girl are still precious memories for me.  I remember trying to understand the concept of someone willing to give me book after book after book – week after week after week – and all I had to do was hand them this little blue card with my name and a number on it.  I mean, I couldn’t even borrow a pencil from one of my siblings that easily!   
 I remember waiting for the latest Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries because I had read all the older copies, much like I wait now for the latest Cornwell, Patterson, Connelly, Johansen, Hoag, and others.  All of the Hardy Boys titles seem to start with The Secret of, or The Mystery of, or The Clue of…  I could never get enough of them; I could let my imagination run wild!   I’m sure some of the deductive reasoning garnered in those early mystery days has helped me many times in my life.  I guess you really never think about where your thought patterns originated, but  I have always had a gift at figuring out the ‘who done its’.  I would watch Perry Mason with my mother (her favorite show) and I would always figure out who the killer was long before Hamilton Burger did.  Ha ha ha.  It also gave me somewhat of an edge in raising 5 children.  Many times the old “Not Me” just didn’t work in our household.  I would get out the old Sherlock Holmes cap and spyglass and before long I would know exactly who had broken the aquarium, eaten all the Twinkies in the middle of the night, or taken something that belonged to someone else.  It gives me the greatest pleasure to watch all of the new detective shows now on TV, and unravel the mystery before the end.  The only problem is….I am soooo darn hard on myself when I don’t get it right.

André Kertész (1894-1985) was one of the most inventive, influential, and prolific photographers in history. For 50 years he took pictures of people reading: rich and poor, young and old, white and black, reading different things—books, magazines, newspapers, documents. The locations vary from slums to penthouse, from country setting to academic study.
Totally oblivious of the photographer, the subjects read while sitting, standing, walking, riding; they read in every conceivable place - at home, in the office, on the streetcar, on rooftops, in public parks, on crowded streets, the restaurant, the theater, the university, etc., etc., etc.    His inspiring book On Reading presents a series of these photographs taken in Hungary, France, and the United States and captures and celebrates the absorptive power and pleasure of this isolated activity. It was first published in 1971, in New York, by Grossman Publishers and has recently been reissued by W.W. Norton.  I have included just three of the photographs that struck me as especially remarkable.  I plan on going to the library and trying to get a copy of the book.  This is one of those books that I don’t think a Kindle will do justice to… 

There are many benefits to reading. I won’t try to go into detail on each one, but here are several for you to think about:
  • a good story can help you forget some of the problems in your own life.
  • can help you to cope with stress and anxiety
  • provides relaxation and escapism
  • sets a good example for younger generations.
  • is an active mental process.
  • improves your vocabulary.
  • gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world.
  • improves concentration:
    • It requires you to focus on what you are reading for long periods.
  • builds self-esteem:
    • The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become.
  • improves memory:
    • Many studies show if you don’t use your memory, you lose it.
  • improves your discipline:
    • Adding book reading to your daily schedule improves discipline.
  • you always have something to talk about.
  • reduces boredom. 
I can actually go on and on about the benefits of reading, but I’m sure you get the idea.  If you want to break the monotony of a lazy, uncreative and boring life, go and grab an interesting book. Turn the pages to explore a new world filled with information and imagination.

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