Seven Days: Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring and Nakata’s Ringu

Originally posted on brittawrites:

[Largely spoiler-free, beyond public knowledge of the tropes of Ringu and knock-offs]

An urban legend. Your friends challenge you to watch a cursed video — they claim that after you watch it, you will die in seven days. Ghastly imagery. Unexplained deaths. ‘A friend of a friend knew someone who …”. Seeing reflections in mirrors that aren’t there. The confirmation phone call: “Seven days”. Distorted photographs. Pirate broadcasts. Static TV stations. A ghostly hand reaching from the TV, and a girl with long black hair and a white dress crawls from the video into your living room. Seven days.

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Before it was a trope, an icon, a phenomenon, a defining moment in horror, or even a movie, Ring was a book, a novel by Koji Suzuki. Published in 1991, Ring was not translated into English until 2003. Far from a straight-forward horror author, Suzuki specializes in works that bend the nature of…

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Background Music

In a post on PressPlay, Jed Mayer writes about the relationship of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead to the shopping malls and public spaces of his youth:

“Dawn of the Dead is less a horror film to me than it is a distorted snapshot of my youth, one into which I still sometimes escape.”

He also touches on the power of background music–in films and real life:

“The film’s soundtrack consists largely of commercial background music of the period, what came to be called “library music”—LPs that could serve as a ready source of musical interludes to be played in the background…. An unofficial soundtrack release collects many of these from Romero’s film, and for anyone who grew up in the 70s, listening to it is the aural equivalent of watching a super-8 movie of an average, anonymous day out of the past.”

I wonder what it says about people like me–born in the ’80s and ’90s–who seek out the background music of a past we’ve never directly experienced. I used to think that I just wanted to relive the film in my head or perhaps live in the world of the film. I wonder now whether I wanted to live in the world the film was filmed in.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorites from Dawn of the Dead, Herbert Chappell’s “The Gonk.” It received heavy rotation in my college years.

So Many Solarises

There’s a nice comparison of Solaris (Lem, 1970), Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972), and Solaris (Soderbergh, 2002) over at The Verge:

When the Russian film master Andrei Tarkovsky adapted Solaris, he jettisoned almost all of Lem’s philosophizing. (Like Stanley Kubrick, whose 2001: A Space Odyssey he considered cold and sterile, Tarkovsky took a cavalier attitude toward rendering the work of others.) In some ways, his film is richer for it: where Lem executed a thought experiment about alien contact, Tarkovsky moves the focus away from the ocean planet and onto the people overcome in its wake. Most of the characters remain sketchy in Lem’s depiction, but Tarkovsky gives them personalities and human histories.

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Tarkovsky felt like he failed with Solaris because it retained an SF flavor (which he did succeed in stripping from Stalker), but I’m glad that he wasn’t able to rid it of its genre trappings. As it is, Tarkovsky’s Solaris is SF as it should be, concerned with ideas and fleshed-out characters.

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The Literary Flâneur Looks at Ravicka

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If you find Ravicka on the map, throw the map away. The map is not the territory, no matter what the cynics might tell you. It will keep you from ever finding Ravicka. You will never believe in the city unless you become a part of it.

In the beginning of Renee Gladman’s Event Factory, the narrator arrives in Ravicka, a small city-state possibly located in Eastern Europe. The narrator, a “linguist-traveler,” tells us that “[f]rom the sky there was no sign of Ravicka. Yet, I arrived.”

As a reader of Event Factory, I had the opposite problem: I saw all the signs of Ravicka, but I couldn’t seem to arrive. Before departure I’d read a few reports from other readers, so I knew I was in Ravicka from the yellow sky, from the vitality of the architecture, from the citizens fleeing in advance of an unnamed crisis. But characters didn’t make sense, spaces turned out to be mirages, time stood still/reversed/repeated. Though I was there in Ravicka, I couldn’t get into it; the book held me at arm’s length. Nothing seemed to mean anything.

In her foreword to Jessica Fisher’s book of poetry, Frail-Craft, Louise Glück distinguishes Fisher’s poetry from the poetry of the Modernists, pointing out that for the Modernists the meaning of the work was of paramount importance. In contrast, Fisher and her contemporaries, she argues, write about the moments before meaning coalesces from chaos. It is not that meaning is less important to them—it just hasn’t arrived yet.

When I applied this idea of deferred arrival to Ravicka, I found it was easier to understand. Rather than trying to get somewhere, I just hung around like a literary flâneur and observed the city.

If you want to know what happened, click here to read my Music & Literature review of Renee Gladman’s Ravicka novels, Event Factory, The Ravickians, and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge. 

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Soundtrack to ‘The Visitor’

For what will probably be a limited amount of time, Alamo Drafthouse has a 3-track sampler of music from Franco Micalizzi’s soundtrack to The Visitor. 

1. Stridulum Theme – Contains elements of an epic 1970s cop drama score: rambunctious horns, seagull-like flute-work, and emphatic strings–along with some warpy, synthy business.

2. Sadness Theme – This theme is sad, yes, but also very soothing in a funky, easy-listening, way. I especially love the ooooh, ooooh, ooooh vocals. (I think I may have problems.) I’m trying to think of what part of a film this belongs in…the credits, most likely–you know, after the protagonist discovers he can never go back, that the woman he loves was the killer all along, that he was adopted by space aliens and will never, ever fit in.

3. Hospital Sequence – Uh-oh! What’s that? An insistent beat upon a high-hat, an ominous kettledrum around the corner, ratcheting strings, shrieking horns. A Slinky-laser? Something is going down!

If you’re writing a thriller for National Novel Writing Month, these songs will get you in the mood. If you like the music of Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi, or Riz Ortolani, you’ll want these songs.

Get the sampler while you still can: The Visitor 3-Track Sampler

Also, check out that cast: Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, John Houston, Sam Peckinpah, Shelly Winters… and Franco Nero.

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Contours

An eight year-old from the neighborhood is the first to find me. The two-inch-tall grass around my eyes compels me to look straight up into the sky overhead, so I feel him before I see him. The boy shifts his weight from foot to foot, pushing dirt down around each of my kneecaps in turn. Had I buried myself deeper, his load would be less, but the sod cutter only allows for two-and-a-half inches of earth between me and the surface.

I think I might be showing. Perhaps there’s a fault between the two belts of turf I pulled into place overhead. Maybe the boy has studied this spot as I have, has learned its contours, was drawn by the addition of my presence. Stepping onto my chest, the boy looms into view, blocking my view of the sky. I try not to cry as my ribs flex.

The boy looks down into my eyes. I make promises to my future self. Next time I will not cut a hole for my eyes. Next time I will be a tree. Tomorrow I’ll hollow out a tree and wear it as a carapace. Pleaching the plant around my form, I’ll become a part of the landscape that no one will walk on.

Now the boy lies down and looks into my eyes. I shut them tight against his hungry gaze.

Stretched across the ground, his weight is negligible. I wonder what he wants, how long he intends to stay. The grass conducts his heat into the cool earth above me. I imagine myself as a tree and realize that no one ever really hugs a tree.

I open my eyes. He is still up there looking at me. Maybe the tree can wait.

The Stages of My Reading Life

Discovering that the Hardy Boys books were ghost-written.

Discovering that the Hardy Boys books were largely the same story told over and over.

Discovering that the earliest versions of particular Hardy Boys stories (in the books with the brown covers) were actually longer than later versions and filled with more complex sentences.

Chucking Hardy Boys books altogether.

Reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World until my mom found out that there were cuss words in it.