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I appreciate horror but partake of it so rarely that I make an effort to read some every Halloween. Like last year, I got off to a late start, but here's what I read:


069) Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub, finished November 16

I picked this book up from the school library and it sat in my bag for a few weeks while I read my ultimately disappointing choice for Halloween Book of the Year (see below). It's by the author of last year's Halloween book, which I had also been a bit underwhelmed by. But this was a nice bite-sized novella and heck, there it was in my bag, so I gave it a shot.

Pork Pie Hat is an old jazz musician our narrator interviewed years ago as a grad student. The novella consists of a previously unpublished story about Hat and Halloween, specifically, why he never leaves his room on Halloween.

The story is pretty realistic and believable which is hard to do when you eschew supernaturalism and still need a person permanently changed, but Straub pulls it off. The questions the narrator asks at the end (and the answers he hints at) both enhance the mystery of Hat's tale without being foolish enough to provide authoritarian answers. It lets coincidences remain coincidences without denying their explanative powers.

In short, it's an excellent Halloween read. Friendly to the curse-averse (one in the entire book and that to explain why there are no others) and the gore-averse (it's mostly offstage or barely described). Plus, it's about two boys wearing ghost-sheets and experiencing horror. And isn't that what Halloween's all about?
two or three days


068) Off Season ("The Author's Uncut, Uncensored Version!") by Jack Ketchum, finished November 14

So apparently this novel is famous in horror circles for being terrifying, grody to the max, and CENSORED.

I picked this paperback up at a dollar store the same time I bought Stephen King's terrific nonhorror novel The Colorado Kid, in large measure because of the King blurb on the cover: "IF YOU READ OFF SEASON ON THANKSGIVING, YOU PROBABLY WON'T SLEEP UNTIL CHRISTMAS." The reason three years passed between reading Colorado Kid and Off Season? I believe my Uncle Stevie.

But, yeah, I should be sleeping fine.

When I started reading the book, I wondered if this UNCUT, UNCENSORED version maybe put back in all the tedious time-waste of scene-setting and character-development and other plodding, boring, poorly written crap that made up the first half of the book. Even the characters I got to know, I never really got to like them (except the sheriff, I guess). And so it's Night of the Living Dead ending fell flat for me (although, worth remembering, NotLD also fell flat for me.) When I arrived at the afterword and learned that, in fact, the similar ending was intentional, I was pleased with myself for noticing the reference. That was probably the best part of the book.

The novel is a Sawney Bean story set on the Maine coast, and the inbred cannibals are genuinely awful, but they're so awful that I found them hard to ever really believe. So while Ketchum's inflinching staring at their abominable acts certainly got under my skin, I never cared and so I was never scared.

The 2006 reprint comes with a related short story, fwiw. I can see why the book was controversial when it was released (absurdly graphic sex! and violence! and cannibalism!), but I don't get why it's still remembered.
about three weeks

Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the review of 67.
067) Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, finished November 6

Read the reviews of 61-66.
066) Nurse Nurse by Katie Skelly, finished November 3
065) Best American Comics 2012 edited by Françoise Mouly, finished November 3
064) Everything We Miss by Luke Pearson, finished November 1
063) Amulet: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 30
062) Amulet: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 25
061) iPlates: Volume One by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished October 22

Read the reviews of 57-61.
061) Amulet: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 14
060) Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 13
059) Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 10
058) Feedback by Robison Wells, finished October 9
057) Mormons in the Media, 1830-2012 by Jared Farmer, finished October 8

Read the review of 56.
056) The Garden of the World by Lawrence Coates, finished October 5

Read the reviews of 52-55.
055) The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake, finished September 27
054) Lote That Dog by Sharon Creech, finished September 25
053) Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, finished September 24
052) Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse: It Only Hurts When I Pee by Ben Templesmith, finished September 24

Read the reviews of 49-51.
051) The Zabîme Sisters by Aristophane, finished September 20
050) Little Death by Thomas Kriebaum, finished September 16
049) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11

Read the reviews of 44-48.
048) American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent, finished September 7
047) Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, finished September 6
046) Simply Science by a number of authors and illustrators for All Aboard Reading, finished September 5
045) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach, finished September 3
044) The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore by Nancy Butcher, finished August 27

Read the reviews of 40-43.
043) How to Analyze the Works of Stephenie Meyer by Marcela Kostihova, finished August 13
042) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, finished August 10
041) Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina, finished August 1
040) If You Believe in Mermaids . . . Don't Tell by A.A. Philips, finished July 28

Read the reviews of 37-39.
039) The Smartest Man in Ireland by Mollie Hunter, finished July 27
038) Blockade Billy / Morality by Stephen King, finished July 12
037) Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins, finished July 9

Read the reviews of 34-36.
036) Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished July 2
035) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, finished June 27
034) Kampung Boy by Lat, finished June 22

Read the reviews of 29-33.
034) The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple, finished June 20
033) Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, finished June 18
032) Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, "finished" June 18
031) Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, "finished" June 15
030) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, finished June 9
029) Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, finished early June

Read the reviews of 25-28.
028) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, finished May 24
027) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, finished May 16
026) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, finished May 10
025) Dominant Traits by Eric Freeze, finished April 10

Read the reviews of 21-24.
024) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, finished April 2
023) UNTITLED MS by Kyle Jepson, finished March 12, 2012
022) The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 4
021) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, finished March 3

Read the reviews of 14-20.
020) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
019) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26
018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25
017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20
014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15

Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11

Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23

Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5

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