Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Book: Horrorstör

Author: Grady Hendrix

Type of Book: Fiction, horror

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s not too odd, per se, but it’s horror and it’s the week before Halloween so…

Availability: Published by Quirk Books in 2014, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I can be pretty rough on horror novels. I’m persnickety. I own that. But I also have come to understand that it is bad faith for me to use the same metrics of quality to discuss every genre of book I read. It’s not that I’ve come to expect so little from horror novels that I embrace anything that isn’t overt crap. Rather, I’ve come to understand that you cannot evaluate a cat using the same criteria one uses to evaluate a dog. They’re both pets but they’re still wholly different creatures and a cat would fare poorly if one expected it to herd sheep, guard the house or stay off the top of the refrigerator. I don’t regret the bad reviews – some savage – I’ve given to the horror genre thus far because even evaluating them as cats found them lacking. But I did realize that most horror often has a different goal from that of mainstream literature and I need to keep that goal in mind as I discuss horror novels.

That whole paragraph is a long-winded way of saying that I enjoyed Horrorstör as a fun, at times silly, horror novel. This isn’t Joyce Carol Oates drifting in and out of genre as she engages in her unique brand of literary hypergraphia. It’s not Ray Bradbury. It’s a pleasant diversion with a clever concept and within those parameters this is a good book. Not a great book because pleasant diversions can still demand top-notch characters and fresh plots, but a good book because it’s entertaining – it’s a very quick read – and because sometimes having a clever-enough hook can make a book of this sort worthwhile.

Horrorstör is that book you’ve seen on bookstore shelves, the one that looks like a knock-off of an IKEA catalogue. It’s set in an IKEA-like furniture and house accessories store, called Orsk, and this location of Orsk seems to be stalked by some unspeakable evil that a handful of employees must battle in order to survive a night spent on the sales floor.

Quick synopsis: Amy, the heroine of this book, hates her life and her job at Orsk, but she is behind on rent and takes an overnight shift in order to try to make up the rent shortfall. She, another female employee called Ruth Anne and their boss, Basil, discover two other employees have remained inside the store without permission in an attempt to have a seance and contact the evil in the store, hoping to record the results and possibly land a reality show gig. They soon discover that the store harbors forces far worse than they initially imagined and that the store was built on the location of a former mental hospital run by a madman who has not let death prevent him from engaging in horrific and cruel experiments. Not going to spoil how it ends but it concludes in a manner that could result in a follow-up novel, sort of open-ended but the conflict involving Amy and Basil resolves well-enough to stave off annoyance that elements of the novel were not completely concluded.

The novel itself is visually appealing (with enormous font size, which is one of the reasons most readers will power through the book in a couple of hours) and at the beginning of each chapter there’s an ad for an Orsk product, like chairs, sofas, small clothing wardrobes and the like. The items become more sinister as the book goes on. A later promotion is the “INGALUTT,” which has the following product description:

Submit to the panic, fear, and helplessness of drowning, with the hope of death a distant dream. This elegantly designed INGALUTT hydrotherapy bath allows the user to suffer this stress again and again until the cure is complete. Available in night birch, natural maple, and gray oak.

If you are someone who enjoys this sort of thing, this will be the price of admission for this book. I for one like these sorts of silly ads and they remind me a bit of the clever ads one finds at the backs of Jasper Fforde “Thursday Next” novels. But if this is not something that rings your bell, the rest of the book may fall a bit flat because the visual appeal and scene structure based on the IKEA parody are the backbone for this novel that, while amusing, is rather familiar in concept and execution. 

Jim Goad’s Gigantic Book of Sex

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Jim Goad’s Gigantic Book of Sex

Author: Jim Goad

Type of Book: Non-fiction, parody, humor, human sexuality

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: There are some writers whose body of work points towards odd, even if they occasionally produce work that would appeal to the average reader. Jim Goad is one of those authors.

Availability: Published in 2007 by Feral House, you can get a copy here:

Comments: This discussion is the stretching I need to do before I attempt the marathon that will be my discussion of the compilation of Jim Goad’s Answer Me!, plus a pdf of the infamous “Rape Issue,” which Goad was kind enough to send me. And it will be a pleasant stretch because I found this collection of Goad’s articles over the years to be interesting, amusing and at times, strangely touching. It’s always a good trip when someone invites you into his or her id, albeit sprinkled with mini hoaxes along the way.

There is no way to discuss all of these articles covering almost every aspect of human sexuality unless I really abused the good nature of every person who reads here, which means there is a chance I will not discuss your favorite article and you will think me an asshole. I’m just discussing the ones that stood out for me in some manner or other. Sorry about that, but please be sure to share your perspectives in the comments.

Goad, because he is a man largely misunderstood by liberal audiences and one of those writers about whom people form opinions without ever reading a word he has written, stands in a unique spot. He’s a scoundrel to some and as a result, everything he writes is seen as a real attempt to harm. But he’s also such a good writer that if one does not know who he is, he can make a simple person think that children direct porn and that pugs survive gang bangs. Part of me wants to call such people idiots but I can’t because I personally know folks who were certain Bonsai Kitty was for real and they aren’t completely without merit. But it is a unique place for Goad to occupy – a man seen as a monster by some extreme feminists who can still plug into moral outrage and provoke panic in even the most over-the-top articles. It’s a talent, to be sure. Believe me, there have been times I would love to fuck with people’s minds but I lack the dedication. Or the talent.

On the cover of this compilation, Goad separates this book into “Fake,” “Real,” “Opinion” and “Personal” and I will just follow that handy separation as I discuss the articles that stood out the most for me.

Shroud of the Thwacker by Chris Elliott

This post originally appeared on I Read Everything

Book: The Shroud of the Thwacker

Author: Chris Elliott

Type of Work: Fiction, Parody

Why Did I Read This Book: Back when the Cassie Edwards Black Ferret plagiarism mess hit (yeah, read that hot mess when you’ve got some time on your hands because it is hilarious as all get out), I found myself reading sites about plagiarism because I was working a miserable cube job and wasted every possible minute I could of The Man’s time. I was shocked and appalled to see Cabin Boy listed as a plagiarist and made a mental note to buy the book and find out what was what.

After reading the book, I thought, “Aha! Morons don’t understand them some parody, represent!” Then I went back to reread the site referencing Elliott’s supposed act of plagiarism and I’ll be damned if I truly understand what happened. Referenced a robot that didn’t exist, a robot that was a hoax and violated copyright? What? You read it and tell me. All I can safely say is that I consider this less plagiarism and really more a mild publicity stunt amongst tricksters, but then again, I refuse to admit that the man who stole my heart as Larry in Groundhog Day would steal anything else.

Availability: Published by Hyperion in 2005, you can get a copy here:

Comments: It’s gonna be hard to give two craps about this book and review if the following do not apply to you:

–You have a mild crush on a balding man who used to write jokes for David Letterman.
–You read and had a violent reaction to Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait Of A Killer: Jack The Ripper — Case Closed, in which she pins the Whitechapel murders on a famous painter, using less hard proof than I use when I look at my nine cats, the hairball befouling the living room carpet and decide Wooster did it on the basis of his twitchy whiskers (actually, this is a mildly unfair assessment – if the wad of wet fur is white, it was undoubtedly Wooster).
–You read and found interminable Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.
–You read and were largely ambivalent about The Da Vinci Code.
–You find puerile humor as hi-larious as I do.
–You embrace the ridiculous more than anyone else you know.

This book is a murder mystery in which an intrepid police chief, his spunky ex-girlfriend and mayor Teddy Roosevelt try to solve a series of prostitute murders in New York, wherein the time-tripping Chris Elliott plays no small role. Really, this is the only way to recount the intricate, insane plot. It is laugh-out-loud funny, witty, and surreal, and like the best parody, shows zero love for the sources it takes to task. In the book, Elliott calls out Patricia Cornwell’s grandiose and bumbling attempts to call case closed on a murder that has stumped experts, uses most of Carr’s set up in The Alienist to frame this book, and exposes a massive, historical cabal, but unlike the sinister Opus Dei of The DaVinci Code, we’ve got the Mummers and a very hungry dinner date willing to decipher for his supper.

Oh, what a silly book this is. Delightful. Full of gross and insane jokes. So of course I think I may be the only person on the planet who loves it. Seriously, who could not love the following passage:

“What can we get you to drink?” inquired Teddy.

“Maybe something light. Caleb, dear, what was that delightful drink we used to order at Hurley’s?” She was looking directly at the police chief, but he wasn’t looking back. “Oh yes, I remember. I will have a powered opium and liquid ether frappe, with a shot of pure laudanum.”

“Waiter!” cried the mayor, “One God’s Own Enema!”

If you don’t find the above quite amusing, this is not the book for you,as the entire book is more or less the above quote. It has no redeeming value other than comedic entertainment. Period. End stop. So if you are pretty serious about your reading materials, read something else. Something by Tolstoy. Or maybe Agatha Christie. Perhaps Audrey Niffenegger. Yeah. Her. That woman who wrote about the time traveler’s wife and no one cared about her plot holes, did they? DID THEY? Just please don’t read my guy Chris and bitch because it made no sense to you and because he covers the inevitable plot issues caused by intense lunacy with even more lunacy.