Monthly Archives: October 2014

Halloween at Bookshelf Battle HQ – Watching Elvira: Mistress of the Dark

Well, in a perfect world there would be a fabulous, rockin’ party here at Bookshelf Battle HQ but instead, I’m passing out candy and watching that 1988 classic, Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark.  For those who weren’t around in the 1980’s, she was pretty much the funniest part of Halloween.  Sadly, no one has ever picked up her torch to become the next generation’s Halloween celebrity.  That’s ok – perhaps she is just one of a kind and irreplaceable.

What the heck is Elvira anyway?  Does anyone have the definite answer?  I’m pretty sure she is a witch.  I’ve heard theories that she was a vampire but she never really did anything vampire-y.

Her schtick?  She would poke fun at the worst monster movies of all time – you know, back in the days when you needed your network to run a movie to watch it and you just  didn’t have the ability to get on your computer and literally watch any movie you wanted.

I just checked out her You Tube Channel (she’s still going strong after all these years) and learned that she has had a new series on Hulu this whole Halloween season.  Wish I knew about it sooner – maybe I’ll check it out or maybe I’ll wait until next year.

Anyway, here’s her Hulu trailer:

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Happy Halloween

Boo! (k) s

Happy Halloween, everyone.  The Bookshelf Battle month of Halloween literature has cruised along non-stop but alas, it must come to an end, for the Fall/Winter tradition of America is as follows:

  • October – Celebrate Death
  • November – Stuff face with game bird
  • December – Celebrate Jesus’ Birthday by Asking a Fat Man to Bring Us High-End Electronics that will be obsolete by Valentine’s Day

Seventeen days of Halloween literature posts – bringing you discussions of horror classics, zombie fiction, vampires, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and more!

Plus, I tweeted Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” in its entirety!  No one has ever been that a) awesome or b) stupid or c) had a desire to waste time in such a ridiculous manner before.  Check it out at #tweettheraven and as always feel free to follow me @bookshelfbattle

Alas, starting tomorrow I’ll have to leave the horror fiction fest behind but – is there really any good Thanksgiving fiction?  Hmmm…maybe I’ll have to divebomb straight into Christmas fiction.

After all, this is that odd time of year where you walk into the store to find a) half-off clearance on psycho zombie masks next to b) Rudolph and Santa Claus paraphernalia, wrapping paper, candy canes and so on.

Thanks for reading, fellow bookshelf battlers.  Until next time, this is the proprietor of an underappreciated book blog signing off.

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Double Double Toil and Trouble – The Witches of MacBeth

Happy Halloween!

Have you ever wondered how witches obtained their witchy personality traits?

***Crickets chirp***

Ahem.  This is your cue.

“Hey!  Bookshelf Battle Guy!  How did witches obtain their witchy personality traits?”

Oh thank you, Reader.  I thought you’d never ask.

Well, the common conception of a witch is a nasty old hag throwing all kinds of weird ingredients (usually animals or parts of animals) into a boiling cauldron.

We could discuss all day witch-tastic imagery from all sorts of literature but to me, Act 4, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth stands out.

So park your broomstick and grab your eye of newt, because here are some excerpts and quotes:

SCENE 1 – A cavern – in the middle is a boiling cauldron.

Thunder.  Enter the three witches.

FIRST WITCH

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d

SECOND WITCH

Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined

BOOKSHELFBATTLE – So, four then?  The pig in your hedges whined four times?  Why are you hags making this so difficult?

THIRD WITCH

Harpier cries, ‘Tis time, ’tis time.

FIRST WITCH

Round about the cauldron go;

In the poison’d entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone

Days and nights has thirty-one

Swelter’d venom, sleeping got,

Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot

BOOKSHELF BATTLE GUY: Pot of poisoned entrails?  That doesn’t sound charming at all.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

SECOND WITCH

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog

Wool of bat and tongue of dog

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

BOOKSHELFBATTLE GUY – My condolences, amputated animals.  Apparently witches used to think your parts were magical.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble

THIRD WITCH

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclips,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron

For the ingredients of our cauldron.

BOOKSHELF BATTLE GUY – OK, now they’re getting ridiculous.  I don’t even know where to begin.  First of all, allow me to apologize for the racial insensitivity.  What can I say?  This is an excerpt taking from a 1500’s era writer who was writing about ancient witches so it is not like you can really expect a lot of political correctness.  Also, how many babies were getting strangled in those days that their fingers were just apparently readily available to be tossed into witches’ brews?  Those were dark times, my friends, dark times indeed.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

BOOKSHELFBATTLE GUY: – This took place in Scotland, didn’t it?   Where would they have even found a baboon?

ENTER HECTATE to the other three Witches.

HECTATE

O well done!  I commend your pains;

And every one shall share i’ the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

MUSIC AND A SONG: Black spirits…

HECTATE retires

SECOND WITCH

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks,

Whoever knocks!

ENTER MACBETH

MACBETH

How now, you secret, black and midnight hags!

What is’t you do?

BOOKSHELF BATTLE GUY:  I have no comment, other than I think it is funny that MacBeth openly refers to them as hags.  “Hello, hags!”

Well folks, that concludes my discussion of MacBeth’s witches.  Grab your wolf teeth and dragon scales and toss them into the comment section.

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Readers, if there’s one lesson you ever learn from this humble book blog, I hope it is this one:

Never make a deal with something or someone evil.

You scoff but you know it is true.  Ask a source of evil to make you win the lottery and you will…only to get hit by a bus on the way to cash in the ticket.  Evil has one of the twisted view of irony ever known.

So tonight, in bookshelfbattle.com ‘s ongoing Public Domain Horror Fiction Series, check out the short story, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, first published in the early 1900’s.  Short summary – A couple and their adult son find a Monkey’s Paw from India.  Supposedly, it has the power to grant wishes.  Sadly, they learn the hard way that with their wishes comes evil irony.

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/12122/12122-h/12122-h.htm

“The other two wishes,” she replied rapidly. “We’ve only had one.”
“Was not that enough?” he demanded fiercely.
“No,” she cried, triumphantly; “we’ll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again.”

– W.W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw

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The Cask of Amontillado – Thoughts, Review, Analysis

If you are one of the 3-5 people who read this blog on a regular basis (make that 6 whenever my Aunt Gertie can figure out how to turn her computer on) then you have probably become exhausted by the virtual Poe fest it has become around here as of late.

What can I say? ‘Tis the season for spookyness.  And few authors are as spooky as Edgar Allan Poe.  Don’t worry.  By Saturday it will be the season of stuffing your face full of game bird and arm twisting your loved ones into purchasing you high end electronics that will coincidentaly become outdated by next Christmas when a slightly modified version arrives.

“Buy the iPad.  No, buy the iPad 2.  No, buy the iPad 3, now with flavor crystals!”

So let’s talk about The Cask of Amontillado, Poe’s 1846 short story.  I’ve posted the full text.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.  It’s ok.  We’ll wait.

You’re back?  OK good.  For starters, we have Montresor, a character that you might refer to as “an unreliable narrator.”  He introduces the story by informing the reader that Fortunato has irreparably insulted him.  Montresor does not describe in detail what exactly happened, so have no idea if Fortunato did indeed engage in an unspeakable, unforgivable act upon Montresor, or if Fortunato just doled out one of those insignificant slights that we all have to deal with on a daily basis.  Someone accidentally bumps into you on the street and doesn’t say excuse me, someone eats the last slice of pizza you were saving – these things just happen, and most normal people just let them go.

But most people are not Montresor.

For purposes of this blog, let’s just assume that Fortunato erased Montresor’s DVR, on which had been stored an entire season’s worth of Dancing with the Stars.  Montresor will now have to face a life where he not only a) does not know which star danced with who but also b) which stars were judged to in fact be, the better dancers.  Truly, a gruesome fate I would not wish on my worst enemy.

At a carnival in Italy, Montresor meets up with Fortunato and informs him that he has purchased a pricey wine – Amontillado.  Montresor worries that he may have been ripped off, that the wine may only be an Amontillado knock-off.  (And hey, if you ask me, if you’re buying your Amontillado off the back of a truck or from a shady character on some dark street corner instead of from a reputable, licensed and bonded Amontillado dealer, well then frankly sir, you takes your chances).

Fortunato fancies himself a wine aficionado and Montresor takes advantage of this.  Montresor drops hints that he’d love it if Fortunato would accompany him to his family catacombs (because apparently in the Europe of yesteryear, people would just have an underground area where they would store a) the bones of their dead relatives and b) booze because it stays cooler underground) to taste the wine and confirm whether or not it is actually Amontillado.  Montresor furthers adds he’ll get Luchresi to taste the Amontillado instead.  This infuriates Fortunato, as he considers Luchresi to be a rival to his own wine tasting abilities.

It’s basically the equivalent of telling Superman, “Oh no, Superman, you take a rest.  I’ll call Batman to come get the bad guy.”  Superman would totally kick the bad guy’s ass rather than be one-upped by the Caped Crusader.

Montresor leads Fortunato deep into the catacombs.  Now, all this time, Fortunato has been wearing a jingle belled jester’s hat (Poe’s heavy handed way of letting you know that you should consider Fortunato to be a fool).  Fortunato is also three sheets to the wind and drunk off his behind having spent the day at the carnival drinking anything not nailed down.  So in other words, Fortunato is in a very vulnerable state and Montresor takes advantage of this.

At one point, Fortunato does reveal his condescending side by poking fun at Montresor for not being a mason.  Fortunato says he is a mason and shows Fortunato a trowel – an ominous sign of things to come.  However, Fortunato meant the Mason organization, not an actual person that works with brick and mortar.

Montresor chains Fortunato to a wall in a small area and then walls it up with bricks.  As he does so, Fortunato states a hope that this is just a joke and then eventually says the famous line, “For the love of God, Montresor!”  In other words, he’s essentially telling Montresor to show him some pity and let him go, that this whole idea of bricking him up in a wall is pretty dang unreasonable (the understatement of the year).

When Montresor is about to put in the last brick, he calls Fortunato’s name.  Fortunato does not answer?  Why?  Who knows?  It could be Fortunato did not want to give Montresor the satisfaction, could be that he just gave up and did not want to talk anymore, could be that the exhaustion of the whole experience wore him out and he died.  The real question  – did Montresor care that Fortunato did not answer?

Montresor ends the tale by noting that Fortunato has been in the wall for 50 years untouched.

All in all, a spooktacular piece of literature by one of the horror genre’s classic masters.

 

 

 

 

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Aliens!  Spaceships!  Intergalactic travel!  The most unbelievable part?  For me, it is that this novel was first published in 1898, a time of virtually little to none technology at all (at least compared to today’s standards) and yet the author was able to envision beings from outer space utilizing technology to attack Earth.

Thankfully, it still hasn’t happened, but it just amazes me that a person who grew up in a time of the horse and buggy could have had such a vivid imagination.

Check out Project Gutenberg’s free copy:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”  – H.H. Wells, The War of the Worlds

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Voter Lookup

Hi Diddly Doodly, Blogarinos.  Your friendly neighborhood book blogger here lending a helping hand to those fine folks at wordpress to help you, the reading masses to learn more about voting.  Quick!  Someone nominate me for sainthood.

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

When I first heard that FOX was going to put out a Sleepy Hollow TV show, I naturally assumed this would be yet another example of Hollywood hacks scraping the bottom of the barrel to bring us yet another overdone idea rather than go to drawing board and come up with something fresh and original.

I was wrong.  They came up with a fantastic spin on an old legend and I must admit it is one of those shows I now look forward to watching every week.  I particularly enjoy Ichabod’s observations of the modern world around him.

But before it was on FOX, or a Tim Burton movie (which was also excellent), it was a tale written by Washington Irving.

And like the Horseman’s knogan, Mr. Irving’s copyright protections are equally non-existent.

Thanks again Project Gutenberg for preserving classic stories like this one for the ages.

Check it out:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41

“I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access; while others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for a man must battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand common hearts, is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette, is indeed a hero.” – Washington Irving,  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – Hound of the Baskervilles

In case you didn’t hear, Sherlock Holmes is now in the public domain!

So if you are reading along with bookshelfbattle.com ‘s Halloween Literary Extravaganza, then head on over to Project Gutenberg and check out one of the scarier mysteries in Sherlock Holmes’ Case files.

A link to The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes)  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2852

“Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill.” – Sherlock Holmes

An astute quote as it can not only be applied to the instant situation that Holmes and Watson found themselves in the middle of, but also to a variety of occasions that happen in life.  Change happens and we rarely know ahead of time whether or not said change will be for the better or worse until after it has already happened.

Happy Reading!

 

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The Raven in Four Easy Steps

I was hoping to do a whole verse-by-verse analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Raven” but honestly, who’s got the time?

I’ve been tweeting it all month, thus proving to the world a) my love of literature and/or b) my quintessential nerdyness.  Feel free to check it out at #tweettheraven or follow along @bookshelfbattle

Anyway, here are some thoughts:

1) Take out all the darkness and the poem’s construction in and of itself is beautiful.  The rhyme scheme, the positioning of the words – it is a very carefully crafted piece of art and the painstaking time it took to put it together shows.

2) What’s it about?  I suppose it could just be about a bird that flies in, parks its birdy butt on a bust above the narrator’s  chamber door and refuses to leave.  I don’t know about you but I hate it when that happens.

3)  But it is really more than that.  The narrator lost his love, the late Lenore (assumably the name was chosen because it rhymes with “nevermore.”  He interrogates the the feathered intruder – Will he ever find peace and forget Lenore?  Will he ever see her again in Heaven?  All his questions are met with a stern and absolute, “Nevermore!”

4)  So what’s the meaning?  The raven in this poem is a voice of an unrelenting, irrevocably unflinching, “No!”  Sometimes in life, a door closes and once shut, can never be opened again.  Whether it is the death of a loved one or a missed opportunity, no matter how much we sit around and try to distract ourselves with TV, movies, video games, iPads (or quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore) there is still that little voice in our heads, not unlike that of a pesky little raven, that reminds us, “No!  You can’t have X (whatever it is you miss).  Get over it!  Move on!  Not happening!  NEVERMORE!”

So that’s it.  Thank you fellow literature enthusiasts.  This has been The Raven in four easy steps.

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