Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Through the Cracks is a review series focusing on the ones that got away. These are timeless classics that everyone has read—everyone, that is, except the reviewer, who is finally getting around to reading a book which somehow fell through the cracks and trying to see if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be.

lolita

For the longest time, I didn’t want to read Lolita. And not for any of the reasons you’d expect. I am pretty hard to rattle, and I never considered a tale about a middle-age man’s sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl something I couldn’t handle. It was something else. Something about isolated snippets from the book I had come across by way of a Graduate school lesson on slacks and stresses in prose, or a writer friend reciting for me one of its many eloquent passages. The writing style always struck me as upper crust, elite, ultra-intelligent, private school educated…in short, the essence of everything that makes me truly insecure. Approaching this book was akin to approaching a middle school lunch table where I knew I wasn’t wanted. Give me tales from the good old working class, or junkies even. I could delve into the reasons for this, but I’ll spare you the details of what I really should be paying a therapist to suffer though. Suffice to say, this is the honest reason it has taken me this long to read Lolita, silly as it may be.

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Terrors ed. Charles L. Grant

I’ve been a lover of not particularly good horror movies since high school. It’s an attraction that very few people understand, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me that’s a major part of the appeal. While I have a few friends who are fellow B-horror nerds, I’ve always considered my affinity for bad horror movies my own small protest against societal norms. It’s not responsible, sophisticated, or even civilized to enjoy watching screaming people running full-speed from some slow moving masked killer who oddly always catches up, and so what? It’s not for anyone else to understand, and if you can understand that well congratulations, you’re in the club (gooble gobble…). It’s determined in the womb, really.

Halloween season is when the obsession kicks in full-force, and suddenly it’s not enough to watch bad horror movies, I have to read them too. I have discovered some gems around this time of year like Ryu Murakami’s Piercing, and John Saul’s Punish the Sinners. This year, I turned to a short story collection called Terrors featuring stories from Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, and others. Overall, I found the collection to be sort of enjoyable, but I’m not endorsing it. If I were grading Terrors, I’d have trouble deciding between a C+ and a B-.

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On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Through the Cracks is a review series focusing on the ones that got away. These are timeless classics that everyone has read—everyone, that is, except the reviewer, who is finally getting around to reading a book which somehow slipped through the cracks and trying to see if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be.

Before I read Jack Kerouac’s “fictional” novel On the Road I knew it only by legend, and perhaps this is the reason it’s taken me up until now to read it. On the Road is one of those books with an elusive reputation. For years, I’ve been hearing every imaginable opinion of this book: everything from praises as high as “It’s an untouchable masterpiece,” to Truman Capote’s famous quip, “That’s not writing; it’s typing.” I didn’t know which camp I would fall into: the Kerouac devotees, or those who question On the Road’s status as a classic. Having now read On the Road, I have three strong opinions on it: I wouldn’t change a word of it, I wouldn’t remove it from the canon if I had the power to do so, and I would be a liar if I didn’t admit I almost gave up on it before I realized this.

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Tideland by Mitch Cullin

I am in awe of Mitch Cullin’s novel Tideland, but I am well-aware there are a whole lot of people who would intensely hate this book. The unusual perspective is what I admire most about Tideland, but it is also the very thing that makes it an uncomfortable read. It is from the point-of-view of 11-year-old Jeliza-Rose, a child of irresponsible junky parents. Telling a story through the eyes of an 11-year-old is daring in itself, but to tackle the perspective of a child who has never been to school, and has hardly seen a person apart from her well-meaning but unfit father, and her abusive, emotionally unstable mother, is something else entirely. Amazingly, Mitch Cullin absolutely nails it. Jeliza-Rose has an enormous imagination, and a mind that is always buzzing, but a much more naïve and innocent perspective than we would expect from an 11-year-old. But, of course, her maturity would be light-years behind because of her isolation. The reader objectively sees Jeliza-Rose’s world as lonely and unsafe, but also sees Jeliza-Rose infuse magic into everything around her with a child’s innocence and imagination. Yet, it isn’t that kind of story. Jeliza-Rose isn’t simply rising above her circumstances. The bleakness of her world is affecting her in ways she can’t possibly realize. The reader is left wondering how much living inside a world of imagination is just being a child, and how much might be indicative of psychosis. The next worry is the trouble Jeliza-Rose could find herself in if she continues to refuse reality.

tideland

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The Color Master by Aimee Bender

           I first discovered Aimee Bender as a graduate student, inside a collection of contemporary short stories the Professor assigned for the course. “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” was the selected Aimee Bender story, from her collection of the same title. Immediately, I was captured by how different it was from anything else I had read. It was confusing, surreal, and just comical enough to make me question whether or not the disjointed images and scenarios were supposed to build toward some epiphany.

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