“Monstruary” by Julián Ríos, translated by Edith Grossman (Knopf, 2001)


Spanish author Julián Ríos, of Loves that Bind and Poundemonium, brings us his latest piece of work, Monstruary, at the hands of translator Edith Grossman.  Monstruary is a complex weave work that simultaneously confuses and elucidates.

Our lead character, Victor Mons, is a painter whose most recent collection is titled Monstruary: “a menagerie of personal demons summoned from the disturbing and often erotic images of his past.”  The reader travels sidecar to Mons’ mind, as the painter sets out into the world to discover the muses for his palettes.  Along the way we meet a multitude of different characters: beautiful models, fiendish figures, phantasms and prostitutes.  Then there is the architect who is attempting to deconstruct a real city by constructing imaginary ones, and the anonymous patron who wishes to have his portrait painted upon the very skin of his mistress.

In Monstruary the reader is taken on a Technicolor trip by the create and skilled hand of Julián Ríos, creating a story that is quite unlike any other.

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Originally published on October 8th 2001

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Electric Light” by Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001)

Heaney’s New Poetry

Electric Lightstarstarstar

After last year’s bestselling success of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, renowned author Seamus Heaney now brings us his latest collection of poetry, entitled Electric Light.  The collection is split into two sections: a) sweeping poetry, starting off in Heaney’s homeland of Ireland, and then traveling all over the world, from Belgrade to Greece, and b) moving poetry dedicated to those who have passed away like Ted Hughes and Joseph Brodsky.  Offering fresh language, as well as plenty of his own style, Heaney takes the reader on a most unique journey.

“At Toomebridge”

Where the flat water
Came pouring over the weird out of Lough Neagh
As if it had reached an edge of the flat earth
And fallen shining to the continuous
Present of the Bann

Where the checkpoint used to be.
Where the rebel boy was hanged in ’98.
Where negative ions in the open air
Are poetry to me.  As once before
The Slime and silver of the fattened eel.

“To the Shade of Zbigniew Herbert”

You were one of those from the back of the north wind
Whom Apollo favoured and would keep going back to
In the winter season.
And among your people you
Remained his herald whenever he’d departed
And the land was silent and summer’s promise thwarted.
You learnt the lyre from him and kept it tuned.

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Originally published on October 8th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Cabal” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 3 of 3: “Cabal”


Cabal: The anthology starts off with this novel from Clive Barker.  In the remote town of Midian, there is a race of the undead, similar to vampires, and yet different; the sun kills them, they feed on human meat.  They also have strange powers, where they can metamorphose into flesh-hungry beats with astounding strength.

The min character, Boone, “thinks” he has committed an uncountable number of murders and goes to Midian, where he feels he will fit in.  There he is set-up, the murders are blamed on his without question, and he is shot and killed.  Except, for the trap fell, he was bitten by one of the Nightbreed, becoming one of them.

The time is now at hand.  The Breed have been in hiding for too long, and Boone now knows where the Breed reside.  En force they will come to wipe them out, but the Breed have other intentions in mind.  Led by Boone, they will combat the humans and fight for their right to survive.

Cabal was made into a movie, under the title Nightbreed.  The story is one of Barker’s short novels, only 195 pages long, but like his other works, it is a masterpiece in itself, reaching out and titillating the human psyche with its supernatural hands.

“The Life of Death”: A church from the seventeenth century is being demolished, while onlookers wish otherwise.  In the church is a crypt, but within are not a collection of organized bodies, but piles of them, tossed in without concern, and they appear to have suffered from some disease.  Now this disease has been released into the open; the problem is nobody knows it exists.

“How Spoilers Bleed”: Locke has “bought” a piece of land in the jungle of Brazil, but the Indians who have lived on this land for centuries do not agree.  What I the white man’s greedy answer?  To kill them all off with disease, but the Indians also have a disease of their own kind to give to the white man.  It is a disease that causes the skin to split and bleed upon touching any surface.  The death is most painful and unstoppable.

“Twilight at the Towers”: A member of the KGB wishes to be one no longer.  He wants to disappear into the democratic world, with the help of the British Security Service, in return for trade secrets.  There are also the inhuman experiments the KGB has been performing, creating their very own beasts.

“The Last Illusion”: The illusionist has had enough of the crowds and the life of trickery.  He has staged his last illusion, one in which he will disappear forever.  The wife of the illusionist hires a detective to find out what happened to him.  The detective, Harry D’Amour, goes on a great adventure in trying to find the master illusionist.  Along he way he will see sights that are not humanly possible, and feats that defy the wildest imagination.  “The Last Illusion” was made into a movie, under the title Lord of Illusions, starring Scott Bakula.

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Originally published on October 8th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“In the Flesh” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 2 of 3: “In the Flesh”

In the Fleshstarstarstar

BIOGRAPHY: Clive Barker is the bestselling author of nineteen books, including Weaveworld, Imagica, and Galilee. He regularly shows his art in Los Angeles and New York, and produces and directs for both large and small screen.  Recent projects include the Oscar-wining film Gods and Monsters, and an exhibition of erotic paintings and photographs, The Weird and the Wicked.  He lives with his husband, the photographer David Armstrong, in Los Angeles, along with his family of dogs, rats, geckos, iguanas, and turtles.

“In the Flesh”: A new inmate has joined the prison: a descendant of a man who murdered his wife and children; the man was hung and his grave is under an old bush.  The inmate, through the powers of the supernatural, is able to transcend the real world and pass into the plane of death, reaching the town where murderers live after they die.  There he finds his grandfather and a reconnoiter of the unusual kind takes place.  But what the inmate doesn’t know is that the grandfather has other plans in mind, which involve a trade-off, bringing his old body back to life, where he will be able to continue where he left off.

“The Forbidden”: The true story to the successful movie, Candyman, brings a college student to the ghettos of New York, where she hears the local legend of the man who smells of sweets and takes lives.  The police pretend he doesn’t exist, even though lives have been taken.  It is all very much shrouded in mystery, as Helen tries to solve what is really going on.  There is a final confrontation between Helen and the Candyman, while the world around continues on as if nothing is happening.

“The Madonna”: In a special building of astounding architecture there is a supernal activity taking place.  In a pool the genesis of this metaphysical creation happens.  A female beast of disgust, creating imps of revulsion, which are suckled by lolitas of captivating beauty and innocence.  And when people discover this repulsive Eden, they inevitably engage it, but then an astounding change takes place from which they can never return to their former selves.

“Babel’s Children”: A small island in Greece supports a prison facility of the most exceptional kind.  A group of the most powerful people on the planet, created after the Second World War to control worldly decisions.  Their existence must remain hidden, since they are like gods.  But when they are visited by an inquisitive female, all this will change, and their existence is brought into doubt.

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Originally published on October 1st 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Black House” by Stephen King and Peter Straub (Random House, 2001)

Territories Band With the Dark Tower

Black Housestarstarstarstar

On September 15th, twenty years ago, twelve year-old Jack Sawyer received his first experience of the Territories – a fantasy land created by the great minds of Stephen King and Peter Straub.  On September 15th, 2001 Black House was released; the compelling sequel to the 1984 bestseller, The Talisman.

The deal with sequels is that they tend to suck, especially when they are compared (Jackie Collins comes to mind), but Black House reaches in and grabs you by the guts from the start.  Once again King and Straub have done what they do best, and Black House may well in face be their best yet.

We last left little Jack Sawyer on the shores of the Pacific, having saved both his mother and her twinner in the Territories, as well as defeating the horrid man Stoat.  Black House starts you off with the omniscient guidance of its talented authors in the small, quaint Wisconsin town of French Landing – the same towns that have made it into King’s books; a nice surprise here is that it isn’t the unknown hinterlands of Maine.  Jack Sawyer is a retired LAPD detective (the reason for his retirement gets explained later in the book) living in French Landing.  He no longer has any recollection of having traveled to anywhere known as the Territories.

But French Landing is about to be struck by a serial killer who has a passion for kidnapping little girls and boys – and there’s biting involved, ladies and gentlemen.  The killer, whose identity is revealed early on, has a little knack that none of the others at the old people’s home possess: he can skip into the Territories.  As to what he becomes over there, I’ll let you find out for yourselves.  Meanwhile as the disappearances continue and the bodies begin to mount up.  Jack is dragged into the investigation in various ways, all of which he doesn’t wish to partake in.  The killer also has some clues to give Jack about his past in the Territories, the very history he has tried so hard to forget for the last twenty years.

But that is not all.  For you Dark Tower fans, King takes the helm at certain parts, throwing you lines of information along the way, revealing more of the enigmatic words: Breakers, the Crimson King, those darned Low Men in Yellow Coats, and yes, even the Beams get mentioned here.

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Originally published on September 24th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Hollowpoint” by Rob Reuland (Random House, 2010)


The first novel from the Brooklyn assistant district attorney, Hollowpoint is about the murder of a fourteen year-old girl in the slums of Brooklyn.  The question is who is the killer?  The case is left to be solved by the main character (also an assistant district attorney) Andy Giobberti.

Though the language is somewhat lacking in structure, drive, and colorful imager, the book maintains the important issue of remaining realistic.  That is what makes this book readable; the reader is constantly telling themselves that this is a story and nothing else, except they keep questioning the validity of this thought.

Reuland has been associated with John Grisham in writing Hollowpoint and though the personal events may be similar (Grisham was a lawyer, then he began writing books about lawyers), the writing styles are totally different.  The language is amateurish and almost annoying in some cases, but the book remains true and that is what spurs the story along.

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Originally published on September 4th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Being Dead” by Jim Crace (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)

Being Deadstarstarstar

“‘It’s not as if . . . ,’” she said.  And then her scalp hung open like a fish’s mouth.  The white roots of her crown were stoplight red.”  A couple suffers a horrific fate at the hands of a granite-club-wielding  murderer, while they enjoy each other on the beach of Baritone Bay, where they first met.  This is the premise of Being Dead, from English novelist Jim Crace, author of Quarantine and Signals of Distress.  “Crace is a writer of hallucinatory skill,” says John Updike.

The novel begins with the two bodies lying in the sand, his hand latched on to her shin, a symbol of their unbreakable love passing into eternity.  From there the novel takes three directions.  One is the incidents that lead up to their deaths; another is how they first met, then fell in love, married, and spent the following thirty years together; the last is the succeeding days of their corpses suffering the wear and teat of nature and the weather, as their bodies remain undiscovered.

Who would have thought it possible that a novel about the death of the main characters would be published?  Being Dead cannot be locked into one specific genre, but seems to flitter over them all, one minute taking you to the horrors of their deaths and decay, the next dabbling in the moving love story that kept them together for so long.  Crace has a writing style that is truly unlike any other.

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Originally published on September 4th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“LT’s Theory of Pets” by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster Audio, 2001)

LT's Theory of Petsstarstarstar

Stephen King brings us a surprise publication with LT’s Theory of Pets, a new audiobook from Simon and Schuster audio.  This is Kin’s latest audiobook release since Blood and SmokeLT’s Theory of Pets is a short story read by the author, recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and therefore a sure Stephen King rarity.

LT is the narrator of the story, telling the story to the other main character.  The story he recounts is one that he tells to many people and as often as possible.  In this story he reveals his theory of pets.

The story is about his relationship with his wife, and how one day she just isn’t there with his wife, and how one day she just isn’t there anymore.  All that remains is a long, detailed note and the cat.  The cat that LT bought for her years before, but instead of fixating on his wife, the cat immediately attaches itself to LT and a bond is formed; as for the relationship between cat and wife, it borders on cruel and evil.  Then there is the dog that Lt’s wife bought for LT, because he liked the dog on Frasier.  Once again a strange, almost supernatural situation takes place, where the dog attaches itself to LT’s wife, while it and LT become nemeses.

And so the story is told, from beginning to end.  But then you think the tape is coming to an end, a change takes place.  LT’s Theory of Pets takes a turn for the dark and horrific, creating a cold feeling within you, leaving you ill at ease.

With this unique recording, for the first time, you are listening to Stephen King with an audience; you laugh along with them when he tells his funny and sometimes obscene jokes, and then become scared and a chill runs down your spine as you hear a dead silence, punctuated by Stephen King’s nasally voice, and you realize that everyone is just as scared as you.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Inhuman Condition” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 1 of 3: “The Inhuman Condition”

The Inhuman Conditionstarstarstar

In the mid-to-late eighties, after the first three successful installments of the Books of Blood, the next three in the series were released under the same title.  Earlier this year, these three books were re-released in paperback from Pocket books.  The Books of Blood IV and V were published under the names of the first short story in each respective book: The Inhuman Condition and In the FleshThe Books of Blood VI was published differently: joined with the novel Cabal, the four stories are added on after the novel, providing a very nice anthology for fans of Clive Barker.

“The Inhuman Condition”: Two thieves decide to vent their anger on a hapless hobo, while the other sees little use in this and decides to wait at the side while the other two reduce the vagabond to a bloody pulp.  Karney, while he impatiently waits, finds a piece of rope with three knots in it, belonging to the now bloody hobo.  Taking the line of knots home, he furiously begins to attempt to untie one.  It takes him days, but finally it is complete and a supernatural beast is released.

The same occurs with the other two knots.  However, the hobo wants the knots and its beasts back, for they are very much a part of him in a way that the reader cannot possibly imagine.

“The Body Politic”: A story where one’s hands attain their independence and seek out a way to separate themselves from the unwanted body they are connected to.  Like some nightmarish disease, this spreads to many people, and scenes are revealed in amazing imagery by Barker’s skilled pen, of hands detaching themselves from their respective bodies and then strangling and strangling until there is not longer any movement in the husk that the hands were once connected to.

Only one man is able to devise a plan that will lead to the extinction of this army of protesting hands, though he carries it out at the sacrifice of his own life.  Nevertheless, the world is safe again, for the moment.  In another place, a new horror animates itself in rebellion.

“Revelations”: Two of the characters in this story have been dead for twenty years (he from a bullet shot by his wife for cheating on her; she from the electric chair after being tried and convicted for the murder of her husband).  They return to the scene of the crime in an effort to understand what went wrong.

At the same time there is another couple, he an annoying Bible-thumping evangelist, she submissive and unquestioning.  But this night will be different.  This time she will no longer submit to his whim and that of God; she will stick up for herself for the first time.  It will end in bloodshed and death, in a grand finale where shots will be fired.  The end is already determined.  And then again, not.

“Down, Satan!”: A man loses his belief in God, his new plan is to find Satan and deny him, proving to God how faithful he is.  To bring Satan to him, the billionaire creates a pseudo-Hell in North Africa: “There were ovens large enough to cremate familiars; pools deep enough to drown generations.  The new Hell was an atrocity waiting to happen; a celebration of inhumanity that only lacked its first cause.”  Though he is unsuccessful in ensnaring Satan, the many pain-inflicting tools of this New Hell begin to work, seemingly of their own accord.

“The Age of Desire”: A new drug has been invented, one which turns on the libido to its full potential and lets it rule the body over the brain and the heart.  The first time it is administered to a human, he rapes and kills the doctor then escapes.  The other doctor disappears into hiding.  The police arrive and pick up the pieces and try to understand what is going on.  Meanwhile the infected human, possessed by what he considers an all-consuming fire on his skin, attacks the nearest person (be they male or female) and proceeds to abuse them in every sexual way possible.  His desires rise to such a crescendo that he proceeds to find a sexual interest in inanimate objects, such as brick and stone.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm” Selected and Edited by Jack Zipes (Norton, 2000)

Tales of Them Fairies

Great Fairy Tale Traditionstarstarstar

In a new text from W. W. Norton and Company (publisher of many of your textbooks) comes the latest compendium of the founding yet moving stories of Europe that are fairy tales.  The Great Fairy Tale Tradition, selected and edited by Jack Zipes, has just about every fairy tale you could want.  The book has also been published in the Norton tradition, with thin-leaf pages that hold a large number of words, making the book smaller than the thousand pages insinuates, and therefore lowering the price.

Some of the more familiar fairy tales in this anthology include: “Puss in Boots,” “Rapunzel,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”  The difference here is that the fairy tales are in their complete original form (albeit translated), just as the author originally wrote them.  This is a book that anyone with an affection for fairy tales could do with.

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Originally published on September 4th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.