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edogawa rampo

books, miscellany, philobabble

The End is the Beginning is the End*

I’m graduating on Saturday. In an effort to combat the debilitating fear and impending doom, I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that I’ve somehow managed to incorporate a few of my favorite things into my academic career. I’ve managed not only to bookend my college experience with my favorite book, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, but I’ve also snuck in my favorite television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer**.

Thesis Components. When one wants to write about identity, heroism, transformation, and regret.

Thesis Components: When one wants to write about identity, heroism, transformation, and regret.

My first encounter with Kavalier & Clay was in my senior AP English class. Our final assignment (outside of the year-long “Senior Project” which also incorporated Buffy- what? I’m nothing if not a dedicated fan!) was a simple book report. The catch was that the list included works like Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits, and among them was Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winner. It was the last book I read as a senior in High School, and by a stroke of luck, it was also the last one I read and wrote on when I transferred from one college to where I am now; finally, it’s become a part of my undergraduate thesis.

As trite as the symmetry is, I’m a little weepy. Of course, using it in my thesis was deliberate, but it was an easy choice given that this beautiful book is a goddamn tome; rich, elaborate, poignant, and inspiring. Naturally, it’s a story about heroism, but it’s also about identity and human connections. Through my third revisit, I still find myself getting emotional, if not more so, given that I’m already aware of how it all unravels.

Obviously, each time I’ve written on Kavalier & Clay has been on a different theme, and this time it’s used in conjunction with the idea of metamorphosis and psychological dissonance. Because, why shouldn’t I make the last major work a giant piece of actual self-help? Right?!

The inclusion of Buffy follows along the same points of choice, but considering that that her character is an inversion of some many traditional tropes, she’s a fascinating character to explore.

*Yes, this is the title of The Smashing Pumpkin’s song from the Batman & Robin Soundtrack (one of the best OSTs, don’t deny it!), and it’s also fitting because I’m including Batgirl into my thesis. Be jealous.

**Today is the tenth anniversary of the series finale! :’) *sniff*


All Hallow’s Read

As many of you probably know, All Hallow’s Read is the Halloween tradition proposed by Neil Gaiman with the simple purpose of giving someone the gift of a terrifically terrifying tale.

Here are my recommendations:

For the teens:

Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories
I read this while I was still in middle school and although I haven’t had a chance to really revisit it since I remember several of the stories leaving me ill at ease afterwards– which is something I love about a great “ghost” story, that lingering sensation of uncertain safety. Suspicion and doubt is always more unsettling than heavy-handed reveals. In the introduction Dahl says it best, that,

“The best ghost stories don’t have ghosts in them. At least you don’t see the ghost. Instead you see only the result of his actions. Occasionally you can feel it brushing past you, or you are made aware of its presence by subtle means.”

For the adults:

Edogawa Rampo, The Edogawa Rampo Reader
This is a more recent read, and I’m actually still getting through it. It’s a collection of short stories as well as essays, all of which deal with mystery, crime, and/or ero guro (“erotic grotesque nonsense”). Stories like “The Daydream” and “The Martian Canals” border on vividly gruesome, and yet I found “The Stalker in the Attic” and even “Poison Weeds” more troubling not in spite of, but due to, the subtlety of them. The issues of capriciousness and ambiguity of morality and human responsibility are presented and handled in such a way that is delightfully disturbing. Moreover, ya gotta love a guy whose pen name is not only a play on “Edgar Allen Poe” (just keep repeating “Edogawa Rampo” over and over again!), but also suggests drunken wandering!

Mark Z. Danielewski, House Of Leaves
Pardon my French, but all I have to say about this book is that is a mindfuck. I read this in high school, and I know that reading it now would vastly change how I perceive and understand it. I’ve also since gotten Poe’s album Haunted, so I can further “experience” this book. Even if Danielewski doesn’t consider this a “horror story”, the density and immensity, no pun intended, of House of Leaves is disconcerting to say the least.

What are some of your favorite ghost/horror/mystery stories?