Monday, December 5, 2011

Dollar Bin Book Review:The October Country(1955)

By Eric Polk(Yes Reaplings, I'm Back!)
One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever been given as an artist was to study the influences of your influences. Without them, your favorite(insert author, musician, painter, etc.) probably would have chosen a different life path.
For me, my biggest influence as a writer is the legendary Stephen King. And because of him, I have been able to expand my literary horizons beyond those told by Maine's finest export. One of those  great horizons belongs to Ray Bradbury. I loved Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Martian Chronicles so when I found this collection of 19 short stories, one of which includes his famous shorty, The Jar, I knew this was a must read.
I'll review each story individual and rate them accordingly.

1)"The Dwarf"
The owner of a Hall of Mirrors and a young carnival-goer observe a dwarf who uses the mirrors to make himself seem taller. A bit of a mean-spirited tale that really didn't light my fires at all.

2)"The Next in Line"
A couple staying in a small Mexican town comes across a cemetery which holds a shocking policy regarding the interred whose families cannot pay. A near-perfect short story. The wife in this tale slowly descends into insanity. This is the kind of tale I like.

3)"The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse"
A thoroughly dull man becomes the new avant garde craze precisely because he is boring. A decent comment on the human condition in the mid-20th century.


A man becomes convinced his skeleton is out to ruin him, and consults an unorthodox specialist. An ok story, nothing very special.

5)"The Jar"
A poor farmer buys a jar with something floating in it for twelve dollars and it soon becomes the conversation piece of the town. However his wife begins to realize that she cannot stand the jar or him. Considered by many to be his masterpiece, it's a good tale but I don't understand why this is lauded. Not enough layers of depth for me.
6)"The Lake"
A man revisits his childhood home and recalls a friend who drowned in a lake during childhood. A sad tale if nothing else.

7)"The Emissary"
A sick boy who cannot go outside has only two connections to the world, his dog and a woman who lives in the neighborhood. However the neighbor dies and the dog inexplicably runs off. One of his finer works if you ask me.
8)"Touched With Fire"
Two old men make it their mission to push fulfillment on unhappy people. They unsuccessfully try to do so with a woman whose story ends bloodily. It was first published under the title "Shopping for Death". In terms of storytelling, this is what The Jar was lacking. A full-bodied tale.
9)"The Small Assassin"
A woman becomes convinced her newborn baby is out to kill her.The best of the stories in this collection. It's scary, warped. It's perfect!

10)"The Crowd"
A man discovers something odd about the crowds which form around accidents. Rather amusing.
A boy lives with his mother in a vast secluded mansion. She raises him to be God after telling him his father, the original God, was killed by beasts outside.  An ok fantasy tale. Not much more.
12)"The Scythe"
A man comes into possession of a powerful scythe and a wheat field. He discovers that the task of reaping is more than meets the eye. Very timely considering our current economic state.

13)"Uncle Einar"
One of two stories in this collection to feature members of the Elliott family, a collection of movie monsters and immortal beings. This story focuses on a character named Uncle Einar, who tries to find a way into the skies after damaging his wings. Can pass for a child's tale and still be worth the read.
14)"The Wind"
A former travel writer becomes mortally afraid that the winds he has defied around the world are gathering to kill him. The only real clinker in the collection. Safely skip.

15)"The Man Upstairs"

A young boy suspects the man renting the upper room of his house to be more than a man How bout that! Mr. Bradbury tells a vampire tale! And he doesn't sparkle!

16)"There Was an Old Woman"
There was an old woman who defied death for years. Death tricked her one day and stole her body but she wasn't going to let that stop her. Another funny story.
17)"The Cistern"
A woman describes to her sister how magical the land beneath the sewer must be, where lovers are reunited in death, torture and anguish. So-so.
The main story concerning the Elliott family. It concerns their return to the ancestral home in Illinois for a gathering, and is seen through the eyes of Timothy, a mortal child left on their doorstep who longs to be like them. Einar from "Uncle Einar" figures prominently. A very sweet and touching story of a monster family.
19)"The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone"
Fans track down a writer who chose to withdraw into seclusion and cease writing, and get his story from him. An appropriate way to end this collection.

There you have, Reaps. Keep reading!



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