Book Review: The Light of the Fireflies, by Paul Pen

In Paul Pen’s The Light of the Fireflies, a ten year old boy’s secluded world gets complicated when his sister gives birth in the basement – the only home he has ever known. Days pass, tensions in the basement rise, and the story behind his family’s disfigurement, their eleven-year isolation, and the fire that drove them there loses its simplicity. As the boy struggles to reconcile the broken adults around him with the scarred, familiar faces of his loved ones, the cracks in their truths become too apparent to ignore. All the while, an overwhelming question goes yet unanswered: Why can’t they leave the basement?

My one word reaction: Memorable. When I finished the last page, I was struck with the certainty that this story would stick with me, and I wasn’t sure I wanted it to find a permanent resting place in my mind. From Pen’s unholy descriptions of their physical attributes, to their unhealthy relationships and off-putting habits and quirks, the boy’s family unnerved me to no end. The grotesqueness of the secondary characters almost made my shudder reflex break.

Do I regret the read? Not even a little; it was thoroughly entertaining. The suspense was page turning, and the plot had enough twists that it was sufficiently surprising, even though the child protagonist discovered the truth a little slower than I did.

Because the story is told from the child’s point of view, his thick-headedness was sometimes frustrating. And the fact that most of the novel occurs within the confines of a converted basement became a bit claustrophobia inducing. But Pen handles these two seeming limitations well, making the child believable and managing the limited space through the boy’s POV.

Read The Light of the Fireflies and follow with apprehension as a boy tests his physical and emotional limits and grapples with themes of loyalty, trust, deception, and hope.

The Light of the Fireflies (2016), by author Paul Pen, translated from Spanish (El brillo de las luciernagas, 2013) by Simon Bruni.
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Book Review: A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore

Death upends all worlds, even that of the very average Charlie Asher, beta-male extraordinaire, doting husband, expectant father, and protagonist of Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job.

As a second-string kind of guy, Charlie Asher has never been the center of anything, not even his own attentions. But when tragedy knocks his life off balance, and deathly mishaps and chaotic misunderstandings trail in his wake, he is forced to figure that someone, or something, is screwing with him in particular. And, for his family and his city’s sake, he’s going to have to make it stop.

If stereotypes make you very unhappy, prepare to be offended, because they are rampant. Moore creates a fun family of characters and is not afraid of playing up stereotypes to their most absurd conclusion. Although it’s not very PC, I believe the sheer ridiculousness of Moore’s portrayals make for great satire. His metaphors tickle the ear with droll originality, and his take on Death has the lightheartedness of Pratchett, but without the PG-ness of the Discworld.

If you’ve been looking for something original and funny and a little dark, read A Dirty Job. The quirky cover art is reason enough to grab up a physical copy.

I intend to read Moore’s other works that, I believe, are in the same family of dark humor and I expect to be just as great.

Tl;dr: Christopher Moore took an insecure man and a peculiar baby, a Bowie-esque lesbian, a couple of old lady immigrants with strong accents, and a stately homeless man, and gradually added the forces of darkness; then he poured the mixture out over the streets of San Francisco. Hilarity ensued and I loved it.

Awesome Animation: The Backwater Gospel

When the Undertaker comes to old Backwater, the people look to their fear-mongering minister for answers, while the minister points to the rebellious, crippled minstrel as the cause.

I am always interested in creative personifications of Death, and the Undertaker of Bo Mathorne’s The Backwater Gospel is a beautiful representation of Death as more of a passive usher rather than an active cause. So, what does bring death in the dreary, rickety town of Backwater? Fear .

The Backwater Gospel

Or go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVkDrIacHJM

My favorite aspects were the Undertaker’s characterization and look and the minstrel’s song. The grotesque, angular, splinterey drawing style is eye-catching. The forms remind me of origami, like the drawings want to jump off the screen; it’s a nice break from this cutesy, waif-anime-goddess thing that seems to be overwhelming the internet right now, which I enjoy, but not all the time.

The faded and sepia tones balance out the harsh lines really well and the all-over dustiness of the town is a great effect. The climax was horrifyingly great and the resolution was beautiful.

If you watched the video and you’d like to hear someone else’s well-developed opinion on it, I recommend this great video created by the channel, YouTube Explained.

The Backwater Gospel, EXPLAINED:

Or go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgSCBBbMttY

 

My Habit of Outsourcing Creativity

While watching Dylan Moran on YouTube, I was hit with a “clouds parting” moment of clarity concerning my lack of productivity. Dylan was talking about why some men love watching violent action movies, the kinds starring action notables like Jason Statham.

They’re fabulous…exercises in homicidal… manliness. And – Because that’s what’s happening to you. You’re becoming a blob, so you outsource your masculinity. You watch Jason [Statham] do all that stuff. ‘Go on Jason! Break his other collarbone; I got a parking ticket this morning.’

 —Dylan Moran, Yeah, Yeah – Live in London (2011)

I am a couch-cushion consumer. The kind that, instead of going out and buying things, I stay home and gorge on Netflix and DVRed marathons, swiping and clicking my way through web content on Imgur, YouTube, io9 and Buzzfeed. As a writer, I devote a lot of my time to reading about writing. I read and watch author interviews. I live on blog articles and podcasts on writing of all sorts. I ruminate over novels and comics and short stories and poetry. I occasionally forage for those yummy, bite sized quotes by notable writers, the ones with pretty backgrounds and expressive fonts.

Stand-up comedy can be insightful, can it not? Dylan Moran made me realize I have too long outsourced creativity. I get my jollies from other people’s work. I laugh at other people’s jokes, admire other people’s artwork and work ethic, and squee over anything remotely related to one of my many fandoms.

All this, while I create nothing.

This is my predicament: I have become a creative “blob.” Imagine me rolling down the internet highway, blobby appendages grasping at all things shiny, absorbing them into my blobby green mass. All input. No output. The creative hunger remains, overfed and dissatisfied. My creative cycle is a mouse wheel where Procrastination and I meet a ready supply of entertaining Content and an insatiable Appetite in an unholy foursome, but I’m the frustrated voyeur.

I want to create.

Will this confessional blog post ignite my creativity? I’m hoping it does. And if it does for someone else, even better. I want to be productive. I want to be prolific.I also want to feed without feeling guilty. Because I do feel guilty when I take and don’t contribute. Guilt sucks; it is hell for self-esteem.

So, things need to be done. Ideas fleshed out. Projects committed to and completed. In the graveyard of imagination and creativity, my tombstone cannot say: She Lurked.