Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NOCTURNES by John Connolly

The Book: John Connolly, NOCTURNES. Hodder & Stoughton, 2004 (first U.K. edition), signed by the author. Fine condition.
First read: 2004
Owned since: 2004

If you want a ghost story for Halloween, here's your book. I am particularly fond of this book, as it was a gift from the author, sent while I was driving from Los Angeles to Maine. When I arrived in Maine, it was waiting at the top of a pile of much less pleasant mail, and it felt like a welcome-home present.

NOCTURNES is a collection of short fiction, bookended by two novellas set in the present day. "The Cancer Cowboy Rides" is a supernatural Western, with a truly horrifying villain; "The Reflecting Eye" features Connolly's series character, Charlie Parker, and could be an extended prologue to his most recent novel, The Unquiet. In between are a series of ghost stories that could be set, for the most part, at any time; several are inspired by the Edwardian tales of M.R. James, and feel rooted in a more secretive, decorous time.

It takes a lot to scare me on paper, but "Deep Dark Green" did it; it is less a story than a painting with words, about the intoxication and terror of teenage sexuality. "The Inkpot Monkey" is a wicked cautionary tale about the price of success as a writer, and "Miss Froom, Vampire" might have made me think twice about moving to a small town as a single woman, if I'd read it ahead of time. "Some Children Wander by Mistake" is not a good bedtime story for anyone who has issues with clowns (and really, what sane person doesn't?).

NOCTURNES is the book I'd recommend to anyone new to Connolly's work. On its face, it's not much like any of his other books, except for THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS -- but it's a sort of tasting menu of all the things that interest him as an author, and already seems to hold the germ for whatever follows.

Five Random Songs

"Love Will Tear Us Apart," Wonderlick. I love this song so much I have three different versions of it in my iTunes: Joy Division's original, Nouvelle Vague's bossa nova cover, and this acoustic version by the guys who used to be Too Much Joy. This one might be my favorite.

"It'll Come to You," John Hiatt. From Slow Turning, Hiatt's meditation on midlife.

"Dog," El Perro del Mar. My current favorite musical trend is the resurgence of 1970s-style pop. Listen to this CD and you'll understand why.

"I'll Be Home," Howard Tate. Old school R&B for the 21st century, arranged and produced by my old friend Steve Weisberg.

"Damned Old Dog," The Roches. Dizzy's been messing with the Shuffle again... time for the morning walk?


Bill said...

Erin McKean, editor of the Oxford American Dictionary, has a hard-to-believe number of cover versions of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" on her iPod (I'm thinking she told me something like 72, but that can't be right, can it?).

AnswerGirl said...

Wow. She sounds like someone I would really like to know, for a whole host of reasons. Can you introduce me?

Peggy & Scott said...

Check out ......

AnswerGirl said...

Ooh, cool site! Thanks, Scott!

Erin said...

I only have about twenty-five. But I'm always looking for more ... I think the Calexico one is my favorite.

Thanks for the intro, Bill!

Another great site for covers:

AnswerGirl said...

Hey Erin, welcome and thanks for stopping by! Right after responding to Bill's comment, I went to iTunes looking for more covers -- iTunes has *57* different versions of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" -- and the Calexico version was the one I downloaded, as a Halloween present to myself. It's great.

Erin said...

57! I'd better get crackin'! :-)

AnswerGirl said...

The song is also a plot point in a great, overlooked thriller called "Series 7: The Contenders," which is worth a place on your Netflix queue, if you haven't already seen it.