Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Fave Horror & Fantasy Reads of 2012

Locke & Key by Joe Hill
Turns out that Hill, Stephen King's son, has good a good thing going in graphic novels. Great art, great writing, great fun. Best horror comic book out there.

The Guardians by Andrew Pyper
Tight, efficient writing using a classic gothic motif of three high school friends returning to Grimshaw, Ontario. There, they try to figure out what the hell went wrong with all their lives and struggle with modern male identity. Pyper gets extra points for featuring a hero experiencing the onset of Parkinson's Disease.

The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
Astonishing story-within-a-story, and a single father's fears for his son, including loads of angst about being a failed writer and the perils of the publishing business.

The Drowning Girl by Kaitlin R. Kiernan
Intoxicating mix of myth, schizophrenia, dark fantasy, and stories-within-stories. Metafiction was big 2012, apparently.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Anthony Bidulka's Dos Equis Book Review

My review of Dos Equis, Anthony Bidulka's eighth Russell Quant mystery novel, appeared Dec. 6 in the Winter Reads edition of  Xtra: Ottawa's gay & lesbian news. Bidulka's work is, as always, fun, charming and humorous. This time, the disarmingly human Quant works on a case that showcases the series' minor players.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing

Kyria Abrahams' I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing is a brave, marvelous and astounding memoir. The fact that Abrahams broke away from being a Witness and, moreover, wrote a funny, tragic, and insightful memoir about the experience is both inspiring and admirable. The trick that she pulls off, and a difficult one at that, is imparting enough information about Witnesses (which, I might add, does indeed require a book-length project, unless one wants to stereotype Witnesses), while still garnering sympathy for the narrator and thus explaining her departure from the sect.
In hilarious but often sad scenes, Abrahams describes growing up in a Witness family whose constant visits of encouragements from elders and parents wildly swinging from being devout to lax members of their congregation. Her unhappy home life leads her to impulsively get married at 18. By 19 years old, she is realizes she is in a loveless marriage, manipulated and controlled by her religion, and tries to get out, either through daytime drinking, initially laughable attempts at affairs, cutting, and trying to think for herself. Why does she have misgivings about feeling sorry everyone who is not a Witness, because they will perish shortly after the Armageddon?
The only obvious drawback to Abraham's accomplishment is that she turns to drugs, boozing and sex in her efforts to break away from her congregation. Drugs, of course, and any abuse of the body are anathema to Witnesses, as is sex before marriage. They are allowed to court, marry, and then sex becomes acceptable between two people sharing the bond of holy matriomony and who who love each other. Drinking, contrary to popular belief, is allowed for Witnesses, so long as they drink in moderation. However, by using these means of escape, Abrahams may, unfortunately, confirm devout Witnesses' deeply-held belief that those who turn away from the only true religion are doomed to a life of sin in a world controlled by the devil.
However, I digress. This book is a maddening and brilliant vivisection of a very controversial religion. Why can't JW's give blood? Why can't they celebrate birthdays, Halloween, or Christmas? If anyone was ever curious about any of these facets of the religion, they can find answers to these queries, and much more, here. As well, Abrahams humanizes Witnesses. They are not robots. They agonize with the religion's views on topics such as homosexuality. For those who are curious, gays and lesbians are supposed to be able to study the Bible and build up enough moral fortitude to ultimately become good, end-of-the-world-fearing, heterosexuals.
Author photo of Kyria Abrahams. As she has survived her own self-destructive youth, but also the Jehovah's Witnesses, one feels the need to congratulate her on both counts. Congratulations, Kyria Abrahams. You made it through.
To top off her engrossing story, Abrahams spices every page with pop-culture references, including the JW fear of the demonic Smurfs and how Smurfs are supposedly tools of the devil out to corrupt children. I wonder if Abrahams has heard of Tattoo This Madness In, Daniel Allen Cox's searing novella. In his rough-and-tumble tale, Cox makes an in-your-face, Cronenberg-esque attack on Jehovah's Witnesses. His protagonist turns other witnesses away from the sect, putting them through life-altering, traumatic experiences, and then tattooing each new disfellowshipped member with a Smurf tattoo.

As for I'm Perfect, I have to go with Janeane Garofalo’s blurb on this one–this is certainly the funniest book I have ever seen done by disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness from Pawtucket. In all seriousness, however, Abrahams has done something truly astounding and enlightening here.