Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

ChemICKal Reactions

Karen L. Newman is a chemist and a poet.  In her poetry, she specializes in the writing of horror poetry.  ChemICKal Reactions brings these two roles together, presenting a whole alphabet of chemistry gone wrong.

The poems are fun to read through.  I found myself smiling at the gruesomeness of some of the possibilities presented, and cringing at others.  To get both reactions within a book that has a fairly narrow range to the premises of each poem is quite a feat.  When I started reading, I first thought, "Isn't this going to get monotonous, dealing with one chemical after another?"  So I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book didn't generate that feel at all.  It's a good indicator of the extent of Newman's imagination that she can make the device work over and over in the collection without it getting into something of a rut.  I am impressed.

As a sort of a side note, I read the volume in its Kindle edition.  Sometimes poetry doesn't look very nice on the Kindle, but ChemICKal Reactions is formatted to handle the device pretty well.   It is one of the better jobs I've seen done with poetry books formatted for the device.  I'm pleased to see it, and hope it means good things are coming in poetry for the ebook reader.

 Subscribe in a reader

Monday, February 07, 2011

What do you get if you mix a little of On the Road with The Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols?  I think American Gods does a pretty good job of exploring that possibility.

It took me a while to get into the reading of American Gods, but that might have had more to do with me than with Gaiman's writing.  Gaiman always tells a good tale, and he is always funny and entertaining.  American Gods is certainly no exception.

The story is fairly convoluted, and you never seem to be able to be 100% sure that you know quite what's going on.  In that way, the book allows you to sympathize with the protagonist, Shadow, because he's forever being led to places and into situations that he can't be quite sure he gets.  He just does what he has to do anyway, and things sort of fall into place in his mind as he goes along.  That's something of a metaphor for the reading experience with this book.  Do things seem a little confusing?  Well, just keep on reading and it will fall into place.

I really enjoyed Gaiman's telling of travels across the US.  The way the travels were woven into the narrative, and the sense of place was built up, was a fun way to make the story work.

The version of the book that I read is Gaiman's preferred version of the text, as per an author's note at the beginning of the book.  I don't know how it compares to other versions out there, but I think you can see signs in the one I read of a sort of careful — maybe even obsessive — attention to the little things that bring the land and the characters to life.  I don't know if I would've been quite as aware of it without that note at the beginning, but the effect of that careful plotting out of all the little things is a good one.

As with any Gaiman novel, this one is worth getting your hands on.

 Subscribe in a reader