Month: October 2012

Oct 31

Books That Scare Me: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Dystopian, Religion, Women's Studies 39

Happy Halloween, Bookworms! Today we’re going to discuss one of the most frightening books I’ve ever read: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This book combines several of my biggest fears. First, I have an irrational fear of cult activity. I’m ALL ABOUT freedom of religion… Until your religion tries to take over a government. I also fear those who would take my autonomy. I know that it sounds ridiculous in 2012 to think any American male would seek to take away my right to vote, own property, or… read. Frankly though, that isn’t true the world over.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in the USA after a militant Christian group seizes power from the government. Actually, they sort of show up and machine-gun Congress… (I would absolutely not take this book as an attack on Christianity… It’s an attack on theocracy of any kind, but given Atwood’s audience she wisely assumed that biblical references would be most familiar.)  This story is told from the point of view of Offred. Offred was once a typical American woman. She was married with a child and had a career and money of her own. It’s never really explained how it came to be, but it’s strongly implied that something (perhaps radiation?) has rendered a large portion of the female population infertile. Once the cult government takes over, they sift out the “fruitful” females and assign them to “deserving” men as handmaids. Any of you read my review on The Red Tent? The idea behind “handmaids” is Old Testament. Jacob has two official wives, Rachel and Leah. Rachel has trouble conceiving, and sometimes Leah just gets tired of popping out babies. Their solution is to bring on “handmaids” to conceive children in their stead. Like… rent-a-uterus. So the righteous yet infertile women get to have husbands and raise families… But the handmaids are the ones who actually have to birth the children… And suffer through the super creepy copulation ritual Atwood outlines. Gross. (Although, really, it’s sad for the “righteous” women too. They sure as heck aren’t fond of the copulation ritual either.)

The Handmaids are also required to wear a bizarre red costume and a weird white wimple. I guess peripheral vision is also off limits.

Offred and the other handmaids in this tale are stripped of their names, their identities, their possessions, and their families. Literally, their names are changed from things like “Katie” and “Sandy” and “Lauren” to Of-insert-husband-here. So like, assuming my weasely husband was my “master,” I’d no longer be Katie, but Ofjim.  They are treated as breeding stock and denied even the right to READ. Literally. The handmaids are in charge of some of the market duties and the new society has gone so far as to replace shop signs with pictograms to keep women from reading. KEEPING WOMEN FROM READING!!!  The horror!!!

Thanks, Margaret Atwood, Children of the Corn hadn’t quite scared me enough. Just add the scariest cult EVER to the mix. Margaret Atwood is a completely amazing writer, and also Canadian. Politically, at least from my limited (seriously limited, I hate politics) understanding, Canada tends to be a bit more liberal policy-wise than the USA. I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that Atwood is quite liberal ideologically either.  In fact, there’s mention in the book of an “underground female-road,” that spirits oppressed women from “Gilead” into Canada. Don’t worry, Ms. Atwood, I’m not offended that you made my home country into a scary dystopia. The book was too awesome to take offense. Anyway, this book was written in the 80s and Atwood was freaked out by the rise of the televangelist, who are often quite traditional when it comes to women’s roles. I can’t really blame her for being a little afraid of televangelists. I find Jack Van Impe quite frightening, myself.

People listen to that guy. They like send him money and believe him when he says ‘robits’ will bring about the end times…

This post is not about politics though. It’s not about religion either. I’m also not saying that televangelists want to machine-gun Congress and impose theocratic rule. I’m totally NOT CONDEMNING anyone’s universal right to believe in what they hold to be true… Unless what they hold to be true means that I don’t get to read, because I’m NOT okay with that. Seriously NOT OKAY with that. (Apologies to anyone who reads this who happens to love Jack Van Impe. You’re entitled. It’s just he makes funny faces that make for amusing screen caps. And he pronounces “robot” funny. I have a very animated face as well. It’s a good thing I’m not on TV.)

Have any of you bookworms read The Handmaid’s Tale? What did you think of it?


Oct 30

Books That Scare Me: Room by Emma Donoghue

Frightening, Psychological 34

It’s still Hallo-week, Bookworms. Today we continue down the tunnel of terror as we explore books that completely freaked me out. Next on the list of nightmares is Room by Emma Donoghue.

Room is told from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy named Jack. Jack doesn’t understand the world around him, but through his description of his surroundings, the reader pieces together the situation… Jack’s mother was kidnapped at the age of 19 and has been held captive in a sound proof garden shed for years. During that time she’s been subjected to systematic rape by her captor which results in pregnancies. The first pregnancy ends with a stillbirth, but the second produces Jack.

Don’t let the colorful cover fool you, this is NOT for the faint of heart.

Jack’s story begins as he describes his day inside the room. They have a bathroom, a kitchenette, a bed, and a television. Because Jack has never been outside, he believes everything he sees on television is make-believe. He is has few toys and books, but his “Ma” makes do with what she has. She puts forth an absolutely valiant effort to give Jack some semblance of childhood, despite her circumstances, and the circumstances surrounding his conception. The midday routine of “screaming” gives some clue to the terror “Ma” lives in. Even though the shed is soundproof, once a day she and Jack make as much noise as possible yelling for help, hoping against hope that someone will find them. Reading this book make me claustrophobic… I felt shut in, trapped, and terrified.

Midway through the book when Ma arranges a jail break by faking Jack’s death. Once they’re out of the room, Jack’s adjustment to the outside world is heart wrenching. Ma’s reaction is… What you’d expect of a young woman confined to prison by a rapist for years… It’s a study in psychology and post traumatic stress disorder. How much can a human be expected to take without spontaneously combusting?

This book is amazing, but it is absolutely heartbreaking. What truly makes it terrifying is that this sort of thing actually happens. Jaycee Dugard was discovered alive around the time I read this novel, and it hit awfully close to home. I’ve not been able to bring myself to read Dugard’s memoir, but I can’t imagine the horror. Or Elizabeth Smart’s ordeal. How do you recover from a long captivity and go on to lead a semi normal and productive life?!

You know how your mom watches 20/20 and thinks you’re doing every drug known to man? No? That was just my mom? Well. My mom was convinced I was doing everything from huffing spray paint to tripping on acid during my teen years (none of which I was doing, BTW, MOM!) My mom also lectured me never to walk alone at night, a rule I broke regularly in college. The girl in Room did nothing more than leave the college library after dark and was kidnapped by a madman. In some ways, this book is even more frightening than a dystopia. No need for nuclear war or religious cult takeover. This could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time… Be careful out there, and learn some kung fu ninja moves or carry pepper spray… Just in case.

Are you paranoid now? I am! Have any of you bookworms ever become so involved in a book that it affected your everyday life?


Oct 29

Books That Scare Me: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Dystopian 24

Muahahahaha Bookworms! (Did you enjoy my maniacal monster laugh?!)  Today is the official beginning of Hallo-Week, so I’m going to celebrate by discussing some of the books that scare the crap out of me. I have probably mentioned this before, but I’m not a huge fan of ghost stories, demonic possessions, and the usual frightful fare. I’m sort of a chicken and I don’t like having nightmares. Just because I don’t dig the traditional supernatural horror stories, doesn’t mean I haven’t read anything horrifying… Stephen King I may have to take in measured doses, but I have some terrifying tales to share with you! First on the list of books that scare the boogers out of me: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The Road is the story of a man and his young son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I read dystopias all the time… So why is this one so flim-flamming scary? This book paints the absolute BLEAKEST apocalypse scenario I’ve ever read.

The cover is bleak and terrifying too!

Some unexplained catastrophe has wiped out most of human life on earth. It’s also decimated the plant life, sea life, and animal life. There are a few humans left rattling around the planet, but it’s not pretty. Most of the survivors belong to cannibalistic gangs. Growing food isn’t even an option! Somehow whatever happened (meteor strike maybe?) has put the planet in a hazy fog and the lack of sunlight has killed all the vegetation. It’s horrifying. The survivors who don’t feast on the flesh of their fellow men or barbecue babies scavenge for canned goods and hiding places.

The man and his young boy are never named, but they’re each other’s entire worlds. They carry around a gun containing two bullets, just in case. Better to die swiftly than be captured and harvested for meat. This book follows the man and boy on their journey across the desolate landscape looking for a safe place to call home.

A side effect of the cataclysm is a permanently tainted air supply. The boy and his father constantly wear masks to try and filter the ash, but the pollution has taken its toll on the man. What do you do for a chronic lung ailment when there are no doctors and no medicine? I won’t give away everything, but I will tell you there’s no happily ever after to lull you to sleep at night.

This book disturbed me on many levels. First, it’s always a shock to remember just how quickly “society” could fall by the wayside in the event of a catastrophe. Second, there is just no hope. They can’t escape to a nice little farm somewhere and make a life and refuge for themselves, because nothing will grow. There is no sun. The soil is depleted. Trees are toppling over at the roots. Even if they can survive the marauding packs of cannibals, where are they going to go? What are they going to do? There is absolutely no escape and it scares me silly. Heebie jeebies all over the place.

What’s the most frightening book you’ve ever read? Was it scary in a traditional sense or more of a I’m-about-to-have-a-panic-attack-thinking-about-this way?


Oct 26

Confession Friday: I Watch Too Much TV

Blogging, television 15

Happy Friday Bookworms! You all know I love reading… But, we’re living in a digital world. Bloggers cannot love on books alone. Let’s talk TV! More specifically, let’s talk about FUNNY TV. With all the political ads and the world chaos and whatnot, laughing is good for us!

Stuff That Makes Me Laugh:

1. Parks and RecreationI freaking love this show. I want to be friends with Amy Poehler. I want to have her over for a slumber party and give her ginger baby kisses. Also. Ron Effing Swanson. OMG.

Don’t lie. You want to kiss that baby too.

2. 30 Rock: Tina Fey! Liz Lemon is like the American Bridget Jones. Love love love. And Alec Baldwin? I have never laughed as hard as I did during the Generalissimo episode.

This shouldn’t be as funny as it is. And yet…

3. How I Met Your Mother: Sure, it’s taken 8 seasons to meet the mysterious mother. But who cares? Who knew that Doogie Howser, MD was going to grow up to be so friggin funny? Who among us does not have a friend who is just like Ted Mosby? Oh, you don’t? Well, you can borrow my friend. He’s fantastic. And single. Ladies? Anyone?

From Doogie Howser to Dr. Horrible to Barney Stinson. Neil Patrick Harris, will you ever cease to amaze me?

4. Here Comes Honey Boo BooI am everything that is wrong with America. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. This show cracks me up. FINALLY- a reality show with self-aware subjects! These people are under no delusions about where they stand. They burp, they fart, they chew tobacco. Whatever. They know who they are, they love each other, and they didn’t bat an eye when Baby Kaitlyn was born with an extra thumb. Do I think they’re great role models? Meh, probably not. But are they the worst thing ever? No way. THAT was Jersey Shore. You better “redneckognize.”

Seriously. An extra thumb. Kid’s got 11 fingers. So did Anne Boleyn. And before she lost her head, she was a queen. Don’t worry, Baby Kaitlyn, it’s not legal to decapitate wives anymore.

5. BunheadsIt’s like Gilmore Girls, but with ballerinas! It’s a truth almost universally acknowledged that bookish girls LOVED Gilmore Girls. Rory did so much to promote reading for teenage girls! There’s a lack of constant  book references on Bunheads but that fast paced witty delicious dialogue is there in all its glory. I used to dance, so this has an added bonus for me. Long live Amy Sherman-Palladino!

I never looked that good in a leotard. In case you were wondering.

6. Renovation RealitiesHubs and I watch this together. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a reality show about homeowners who attempt to do their own home renovations. Only, they never know what they’re doing. We watch, we laugh, we heckle. “Oh look at that bonehead trying to take out a load bearing wall!” “He didn’t turn off the power!!!” “Just hire the plumber already, you nincompoop!”

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a novice using a jackhammer.

7. ShamelessThis is on Showtime, so unless you pay way too much for cable or have some sort of subscription thingie, you can’t watch it. But OMG you need to get a subscription thingie because this is the best show ever. The Gallaghers make me feel so well-adjusted! They’re hilarious in the most offensive way possible, so if you have ANY hot button issues, just don’t watch it.

Edgy. Brilliant. Based on a British show. How can you lose?

7. New GirlI love a good ensemble cast, and this show is fabulous. Schmidt, the recovering douchebag gets the best one liners. Jess is brilliantly awkward and sweet. Nick is a prematurely crochety old man and chronic under achiever. Winston has a set of foibles a mile long. I love seeing people act like dorks on TV. I’ve never been cool, I like seeing my own kind represented!

Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!

8. Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23This show is on the edgier side, but if you’re not especially sensitive it’s hysterical. (Shameless requires like ZERO boundaries to enjoy it. This is much tamer.) James Van Der Beek plays a hilariously douchey version of himself. It’s like every Hollywood cliche rolled into a single character. I adore celebrities who can make fun of themselves. Especially when they can do it outside the confines of SNL.

Dawson is the Moon!

9. Happy EndingsIt’s smart, it’s funny, it’s set in ChicagoThis show is beautifully random. A V-neck intervention? A man who literally hibernates? This show has so many neuroses- heaven’s to Betsy, I LOVE crazy people!

Trivia Time! Damon Wayans, Jr. was in the pilot for New Girl, presumably because he didn’t expect Happy Endings to get picked up for a second season. It did, and now I have two shows about neurotic late 20s-30 somethings to watch!!!

10. The Office: I know, I know. It’s past it’s prime, but I still love these characters. I’m invested in Jim and Pam and Oscar and Andy and Dwight and the whole gang. It’s still funny.

I hear Dwight is getting a spinoff. Let’s hope it doesn’t go the way of Joey from Friends…

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I have writer’s block so I’m totally cheating on this bad boy. Honorable mentions go out to Raising Hope, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, The Middle and everything else I laugh at that I forgot to list. You know I love you. I promise to be back on Monday with something of substance. Have a fantastic weekend, my little worms!


Oct 25

I'm A Sensitive Soul, Though I Seem Thick Skinnnnnned…

Blogging, Humor, Personal 27

Happy Thursday, Bookworms!

I was having a hard time deciding on what to write today, so I’m straying a bit from books. The other day was rough for me. Like the great Pumbaa in The Lion King, “I’m a sensitive soul, though I seem thick skinned.” I got my feelings hurt, so I was down in the dumps. Jim knew I was feeling crummy, so he decided to bust out his dimpled charm and send me flowers at work!

Gorgeous, right?

Regular readers know I have a penchant for flowers. (Interested readers can check out my post on The Language of Flowers HERE) I spent a couple of summers and school breaks working in a flower shop, so they hold a special place in my heart. The shop I worked in received our online orders as computer printouts, but flowers are an old fashioned business. A lot of places aren’t computerized and write card messages out by hand.

Jim and I have a weird little relationship full of quirky inside jokes. For example… I went through a phase of calling Jim a “jerk weasel” when he displeased me. If he gave me a hard time about my cooking, he was a jerk weasel. Insisted on tickling me until I got the hiccups? Jerk weasel. Eventually the nickname was shortened to “weasel.” And it’s sort of taken on a life of its own. Sooo… my flowers came with a cutesy card message.   It read:

Dear Katie,

You are becoming a great blogger. Long live Words for Worms! More blogs about weasels!

-A Local Weasel

Funny right? Well, it’s HYSTERICAL if you’re us. Instead of a computer printout, I received this:

See the beautiful handwritten cursive?!

That’s right, Bookworms! Some sweet floral shop employee had to read that oddball message and write it out. It really is lovely cursive, but I’ve got to tell you. Card messages aren’t usually a creative business. 99% of the stuff we sent out was: Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, With Deepest Sympathy, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Holidays. The usual bland greetings. Once, someone quoted Dave Matthews lyrics on a card to their girlfriend, and we talked about it for days. Jim is probably on some sort of list now. That florist is probably submitting his note to some florist weird card message contest (I don’t think those exist, but they should.) If the flowers hadn’t cheered me up on their own, the idea of a complete stranger signing a card from “A Local Weasel” pretty much blew the top off my happiness meter.

Best Husband Ever.

Thoughtful Weasel.


Oct 24

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: Everyone's a Douchebag

Classics 23

Hello Bookworms!

I got some (affectionate) crap recently from Heather at B(itch)Log for displaying an Ayn Rand cover on my blog. The blog header is a poorly executed instagram photo of my “smart looking” bookshelf. The Chic Lit Shelf and the Series Shelf aren’t ready for prime time. Why did I decide to read The FountainheadTwo reasons. One- it’s one of the books that Charlie is given to read by his teacher in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Charlie is instructed to be a filter, not a sponge.)  Two- that awful Robbie guy in Dirty Dancing is reading it when Baby confronts him about being a two-timing filthy excuse for a human being. He says he has notes in the margin…

So. Smarmy! Anybody else cheer when Jerry Orbach took his check back?!

In my quest to read all the books Charlie read, and discover why evil Robbie thought being a jack wad was okay, I picked up a copy. In a nutshell, I hated every single character in this book. I hated Rand’s philosophy. But I found the story absolutely enthralling. It’s like watching Dance Moms. You want to look away, but you can’t!

The story centers on this brilliant architect named Howard Roark (coincidentally he’s a ginger. Anybody else notice the prevalence of red headed characters in literature?) Roark is absolutely convinced of his own genius, but he’s thwarted at every turn by the uninspired. He refuses to stoop to convention, and he’s horrible with people. But the man, can design a modernistic building with the best of them. Frankly, I despise modernistic architecture. I like big old Victorian houses. Houses that look like they’re made of gingerbread. I have no need for those weird square minimalist houses… I even hate Roark’s art. But I digress.

Seriously… Be a filter, not a sponge. If you’re a sponge and take this all to heart, you’ll turn into a giant jerk. For reals.

While struggling to make something of himself, Roark meets Dominique. Dominique is pretty much the male version of Roark. She is brilliant as well, but just soooo bored with everything. She admires Roark’s conviction and his individualism. Even after he RAPES her. Seriously, Ayn?! Seriously?! This isn’t General Hospital. They aren’t Luke and Laura. It’s INSULTING that you would even insinuate that a woman would fall for her rapist. Just. Ugh. That part made me so angry! Like Feminist-Zilla wanted to jump into the pages and SMASH THINGS.

There are other characters floating around this book. Rand paints a picture of a giant conspiracy of powerful people promoting mediocre talents to high positions. They just sit around being evil and toying with people. Hating on geniuses and promoting collectivism over individualism. I’m not saying that being an individual is a BAD thing. Far from it! Let your freak flag fly! Get down with your bad self! Contribute what you do best to the world! But don’t get so wrapped up in your own brilliance that you wreak havoc on the world around you. Nobody likes a douchebag. Nobody.

Any of you Bookworms ever read a book that you loved and hated simultaneously? Serious cognitive dissonance up in here. Let’s talk about it!


Oct 23

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction 8

Hi Bookworms!

Today is a big day. Today my first guest post is going live on Filing Jointly… Finally.  Blogstalker Book Club kicks off with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

And now for some shameless groveling… I need for all of you to go on over to Lauren’s blog (click HERE) and LEAVE COMMENTS. See, we need Lauren to continue believing that I am awesome. So if she gets lots of comments, she’ll think, “Ah yes, Katie is excellent, let’s keep her around.”

Pretty please? Thank you ever so much!



Oct 22

Eventide by Kent Haruf (My Neighbors are STILL Cooler Than Yours)

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction 11

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

Did everyone have a lovely weekend? I got my Halloween cards ready to send out. I hear the Post Office is having money problems, but it’s not my doing. I send out greeting cards for a multitude of holidays, and some for no reason at all. (Except, you know, Grandma is a good enough reason to send cards on any given Tuesday.) I also made 300 trick-or-treat bags for the little ghosts and goblins that will descend on our neighborhood.

Hey Trick-or-Treaters! Bring it on! Also, I am bad at using my iPhone flash.

My weekend kicked off with another meeting of the neighborhood book club, affectionately known as Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons! (Could someone explain to me exactly what a bon bon is? If there isn’t chocolate involved, I’m going to have to rethink my naming strategy.) This month’s book selection was Eventide by Kent Haruf. This may sound familiar to regular readers because it’s the sequel to Plainsong which I already reviewed.

It’s funny, because they’re in rural Colorado. No “tides” where there are no major bodies of water. Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m overly literal. Let’s make jokes!

Eventide picks up 2 years after Plainsong left off. Possibly my biggest gripe with this book was that the last book ended with a cliffhanger of sorts… There was that awful redheaded kid whose family was going to sue his teacher. Since the teacher was a main character, I was all attached to him and concerned about how things were going to play out. You know how they played out? Neither do I. That asshole kid never showed up in the sequel. Guthrie was still teaching, so I can ASSUME that whatever went down went down in his favor, but I don’t like having to ASSUME things when there’s a perfectly good sequel that could explain them. Sigh.

Otherwise, I loved this book. I think I liked it even better than the original. Is that even allowed? Are sequels allowed to be better? Maybe not in Star Wars (ooooh burn on the pre-quels) but certainly in Holt, Colorado. For a small town, Holt sure has its share of heartbreak. Neglected children, orphans, ranch accidents. Honestly, I haven’t cried this much while reading since Beth March kicked it in Little Women. It felt like a healthy cry though, and I was quite pleased with the way things wrapped up for the residents of Holt.

Eventide shared the same beautiful simplicity of writing that Plainsong did. If you’re interested in an honest, somewhat bleak, but ultimately heartwarming view of small-town America, I recommend both of these books.

So Bookworms, are there any sequels (movies, TV, books, etc.) that YOU liked better than the original? Let’s discuss!


Oct 19

Friday Fall Fun Swap

Blogging, Personal 31

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

A few weeks back, Joules at Pocketful of Joules had a most delightful idea. She thought, “Christmas is ever so far away, let us bloggers give each other gifts because it is fun!” And thus, the Fall Fun Swap was born. (Joules is secretly the Queen. Shhh, don’t tell.)

Her Majesty Joules arranged for a group of bloggers to swap gifts, Secret Santa style. Since it’s a fall theme, we’ll call it Secret Scarecrow style. On Wednesday, I came home to this:

It’s a box of MYSTERY!

I contemplated naming the box and making it my new pet, but Jim decided that he had a sharp key that could handle the packing tape… Inside we found… MAGIC!

Oh, you wanted close ups?

First, let’s talk about the NUTCRACKER that’s a SCARECROW! So THIS is what nutcrackers do in the off season! I worried that they suffered a high unemployment rates, but it seems they’ve got it all figured out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lifeguards in the summer. We’ve named him Reginald vel Johnson. Jim’s a big Family Matters fan.

Oh the pumpkin? Yes he’s delightful too, isn’t he? His hat is downright Suessian- whimsy goes with everything, I tell you. And the candle? The delicious Yankee candle? It smells like heaven a spice cupboard. Seriously, we burn through so many fall scented candles… Pumpkin spice, apple cider, autumn wreath… It’s like my Secret Scarecrow KNOWS me.

I’m sorry, did my gushing not sound sincere enough? Because I don’t know if you really understand how freaking much we love Halloween here at the Gingerbread House.

Yes. We are THOSE people.

If by “gaudy” you mean “tasteful and fun,” you’d be absolutely correct.

Reginald vel Johnson looks quite happy in his new home with the Disney Haunted Mansion memorabilia.

The Dr. Suess pumpkin seems pleased to be with his kinfolk and the Halloween Tree.

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to my Secret Scarecrow! A secondary part of the Fall Fun Swap was to try and guess which blogger sent our gift. Utilizing exhaustive internet stalking techniques, I have come to the conclusion that my gift is from the lovely authoress from Life’s Too Short to Play Possum. (If I’m wrong, thank you Secret Scarecrow who is NOT the lovely authoress from Life’s Too Short To Play Possum!)

Unofficial poll for the bookworms- is anybody else out there THIS into Halloween?! We get between 250-300 trick-or-treaters every year… It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.


Oct 18

The Stand by Stephen King… Or Katie vs. Taylor Swift

Contemporary Fiction, Dystopian, Supernatural 48

Yesterday I got a flu shot. Jim works for a hospital, and every year they have a huge initiative to get as much as the staff vaccinated as possible. This year he came home acting very self important. He told me that the flu would be responsible for the Zombie Apocalypse. Since he’d been vaccinated and I hadn’t, I’d become a zombie, he’d have to put me down, and then he’d find Taylor Swift to be his replacement wife. I wasn’t about to let THAT happen. If the world is going to end, it’s going to end with Jim pestering me to clean the toilets. Taylor Swift would only write songs about his love of disinfectant- but would she disinfect?! Really, this was a flu shot of spite.

I had to go to the doctor for a checkup anyway, so when they asked if I wanted a flu shot, I accepted. I was feeling pretty smug about it, until my arm started to hurt. A lot. Stupid sore arm. Now I’m stuck battling zombies with one arm. Pfft. When Jim got the swine flu a few years back, I didn’t even get sick. I’m probably IMMUNE to the zombie virus anyway. Now I have flu shot buyer’s remorse. So… In honor of my flu shot, zombies, and infectious diseases of all kinds, we’re going to talk about The Stand by Stephen King.

Good vs. Evil. Super Flu. Apocalypse.

The Stand is one of two Stephen King novels I’ve read. The other, Bag of Bones, gave me nightmares, and that was REALLY tame. No scary clowns, no possessed twins, no child cults. I know my psyche well enough to know I can’t handle the King. But I LOVE dystopian fiction! Every book list I came across listed The Stand as one of the all time best dystopian novels, so I got brave. The novel is nothing short of epic. I mean that literally as well as figuratively, because this sucker is long. It’s also awesome.

The basic premise of The Stand is that the US government has engineered biological weapons. One of those weapons, a super flu, is released accidentally by a lone security guard trying to escape his military base. This flu kills 99% of the population. It’s not just a virus, it’s a mega mutating virus. Once a body begins to recover from the infection the virus changes and finds another way to kill them. It’s crazy. But it’s only 99% lethal… So there are a handful of people who are immune. The survivors slowly come across one another wandering about the country (King never really says if the virus spread past the US, but it’s implied that it’s a worldwide thing. He just didn’t write about, you know, the Chinese survivors. Because he’s from Maine, what does he know about Chinese apocalypse survivors?) The American survivors all begin to have dreams of an old African American woman and are drawn to her Midwestern farm. There, the mysterious old black woman known as Mother Abigail rallies her “troops” and heads off to re-establish society in Colorado.

At the same time that Mother Abigail is gathering the righteous, a sketchy supernatural being named Randall Flagg is gathering his own dark troops in Vegas. It all comes down to an epic battle of good vs. evil with the survivors of the plague. Toward the end it gets a little bizarre. I’m not opposed to supernatural happenings or religious imagery in any way… But… The Hand of God (literally… a hand coming out of the sky) smiting the evil doers was a bit Old Testament for my taste. In any case, you should read this book. It’s creepy. It gives a great picture of what happens to humanity in a disaster scenario. It’s allegorical and meaningful… And there are weasels. How often do you get to read books with weasel imagery?! I bet you didn’t even know there were weasels in North America, did you? They like eating birds. And, according to Stephen King, Righteous Old Ladies’ hard won chickens.

He’ll smite you. Weasel style.

December 21st is just around the corner. Any of my bookworms prepping for Doomsday? (I doubt it, because if you were prepping for Doomsday, you’d be canning tomatoes and not reading my blog right now, but you know.)