The Literary Chick Review – Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone

The Literary Chick Review – Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone

Ladybug, ladybug fly away home,
Your house is on fire,
Your children all gone.

Some nursery rhymes chill one’s bones. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary has veiled references to torture under the reign of Queen Mary I — “Bloody Mary.” Ring Around the Rosy might insinuate the black death. Ladybug, Ladybug has no use for subtle allusions, however; in this nursery rhyme, the horror is overt — your house is on fire, your children all gone. You can hear the high voices of children creepily chanting the unsettling lines, which Stefan Kiesbye has taken for the title of one of his eeriest novels.

We see the German village of Hemmersmoor through the eyes of four of its children, Christian, Martin, Linde, and Anke. Like author Shirley Jackson’s unsettling small towns where malice underlies the surface, the foul air and low lives of Hemmersmoor permeates the novel. The book begins and ends with Christian who has been described by the author as “the only one to be able to form the story, the one who ventured away and returned, and he’s also the one who never thinks of himself as right or justified. He follows his own very crooked compass and acknowledges the evil in him.” Martin, the village gendarme’s, or policeman’s son is benign and has a conscience that ends in him rejecting the inhabitants as he marries, and he does his best to keep his family insulated. Linde and Anke begin as best friends until an unforgivable betrayal severs their friendship. A perverse carnival-like atmosphere permeates the book.

The children spend much time at the Old Mill, the scene of the brutality of Swedish soldiers against a miller’s family and property during the 30 Years’ War, playing their own unsettling reenactments of the tale. The author stated that this scene was a “dirty answer” to the terrifying children’s book Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill by Otfried Presussler, recently made into a movie. Krabat is a beggar boy who works for a master ceaselessly grinding grain and learning the black arts from him along with 11 other boys until good conquers evil. Good doesn’t stand a chance in Hemmersmoor. Like Krabat, Your House is a very German book, with its black magic reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm grimmest tales, only modernized, as if narrated by The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling.

Ominous village baking contests. persecution of attractive women as witches, a terrifying dare by one child to another on the icy lake, and a mysteriously abandoned camp, the entrance to Hell may or may not be in Hemmersmoor. Kiesbye says that Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone “is a dirty lovesong to the landscape and its people. It’s all wrong and twisted, but it’s your life, you need to know and accept that. You don’t have to like it.”

For the trailers for Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone and Krabat and The Sorcerer’s Mill go to:–DI0

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What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire by Charles Bukowski

What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire by Charles Bukowski

Gambling is generally understood as a metaphor for giving up control of your fate. But a gambler knows that’s not true; a gambler knows you can’t win if you don’t play. Losing is the cost of trying to win. And losing and uncertainty hurt. Charles Bukowski knew this.

Born Heinrich Karl Bukowski in Andernach, Germany, Bukowski grew up in California with a frequently unemployed, violent father and a sorrowful and ineffectual mother. Schoolmates ridiculed him for his German ancestry and his extreme case of acne. As an adult he became a raging alcoholic and gambler, and also either a ladies’ man or a misogynist, depending on whom you spoke to. And all along he wrote – prose, poetry, essays, mostly about the type of people who frequent bars and racetracks. He made himself the bard of society’s margins, and in doing so became a cult hero. Mickey Rourke played Bukowski in the 1987 movie Barfly.

“Eleven years shot through the head”, Bukowski writes of his time spent as a United States postal worker. Days as a carrier readying himself for monsoons, hostile people, vicious dogs, or insanity of some sort on his route. Nights as a clerk leaning against a cushioned stool, sentenced to perpetually sorting letters. Supervisors with vendettas, wives and girlfriends with vendettas, even the birds seem to have vendettas. Watching good men letting themselves be destroyed by the mind-deadening monotony of it all. “Well, as the boys said”, Bukowski writes, “you have to work somewhere. So they accepted what there was. This was the wisdom of a slave.”

Shortly before his 50th birthday, Bukowski resigned. It is then that he became his most prolific as a writer. He never said it was easy. “Things get bad for all of us, almost continually”, he writes, “and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.”

What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire is a posthumous collection of Bukowski’s poetry. Bukowski is among the more accessible poets, in that his poems border on prose, and that was deliberate. In Christmas Poem To A Man In Jail he wrote:

“I don’t like poetry for example,
so I write mine the way I like to read it”.

The poems range from stories drawn from experience, of his childhood and of betting parlors, of poetry readings and of benders. Dissipation became part of his image (his publicist warned him not to let his readers know when he stopped drinking), but few poets can match him for economy and precision.

This is not to say he romanticized the hard life he mostly chose – the drinking, the gambling, or the writing. In Combat Primer, after listing the trials faced by a slew of famous literary names, he writes,

“it’s that kind of war:
creation kills,
many go mad,
Some lose their way and
can’t do it
a few make it to old age, a few make money,
some starve (like Vallejo),
it’s that kind of war:
casualties everywhere.”

The long mind-numbing hours Bukowski spent as a postal worker and quitting that job, detailed in his book Post Office, inform many of his poems. In Wasted, he warns against dying with regret,

“too often the people complain that they have
done nothing with their
and then they wait for somebody to tell them
that this isn’t so.
look, you’ve done this and that and you’ve
done that and that’s
you really think so?
of course.
they had it right.
they’ve done nothing.
shown no courage.
no inventiveness.
they did what they were taught to do.
they did what they were told to
they had no resistance,
no thoughts
of their own.
they were pushed and shoved
and went obediently,
they had no heart,
they were cowardly.
they stank up life.
they stank up life.”

Don’t look to Bukowski for a feel-good hug. None coming. Bukowksi does tell you in the exhilarating and frightening roll the dice what to expect if and when you do throw off those shackles.

“if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind.
go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
4 days.
it could mean freezing on a park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
worst odds
and it will be better than anything else
you can imagine.

Bukowski’s roll the dice sings with lightning.

Are you ready to ride the lightning?

The Literary Chick is honored to be among those chosen to read at Three Rooms Press 12th Annual Charles Bukowski Memorial Reading on Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 6:30 PM -9:30 PM at Le Poisson Rouge 158 Bleeker Street, New York, NY 10012. We hope to see you there!

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Sergio Martino’s ‘All The Colours of The Dark’ (1972)

Sergio Martino’s ‘All The Colours of The Dark’ (1972)

Sergio Martino’s ‘All The Colours of The Dark’ (1972) was pretty cool and is a weirdly varied Giallo mash-up of all sorts of colours and hues.

Living in London, Jane (Edwige Fenech) has been having nightmares: her sister advises psychotherapy; her boyfriend Richard (George Hilton) suggests drugs from the pharmaceutical company he works for whilst her sexually flamboyant neighbor tells her that joining in a black mass and having a satanic orgy is the way to rid her of her fears. So quite a range of suggestions but what are the motives behind these pieces of advice?

This is a twist on ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) as we follow Jane through ever increasingly surreal paranoid dreams where it seems she can trust no-one as well as covering those areas so beloved by Italian thrillers of the time – the films of Hitchcock and Freudian analysis. This allows ‘All The Colours of The Dark’ great latitude for stylistic variation as one moment it’s a straight-ahead thriller before swerving into Dennis Wheatley style Devil-worship conspiracy territory with hints of Kenneth Anger interspersed by bizarre dream-sequences with an almost Jodorowsky-esque surrealism. This gives the film a really nice feeling of variation as there’s always something different and juicy to sink your teeth into every few minutes meaning the best way to describe the film is, at the risk of sounding like Alan Partridge, that it’s like a particularly well-prepared (and maintained) carvery.

The directing is also stylish and exciting with Martino slipping nicely between Jane’s dreams, “reality” and visions leaving us guessing till the end exactly what is going on – as with so many Gialli it’s not so much a case of finding out who the killer is but discovering what the movie is actually all about in the first place.

‘All The Colours of The Dark’ is really worth checking out: Fenech and Hilton are on top form; there’s a typically nice score by Bruno Nicolai and the London setting gives the movie a unique feel and tone, sometimes feeling like ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (1981) or, oddly enough, sometimes ‘Lifeforce’ (1985) and ‘The Omen’ (1976). If you’re a fan of the genre you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

The Literary Chick Review – Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The Literary Chick Review – Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Something horrifying – beyond horrifying. A glimpse and your mind unhinges. You attack, rabidly, indiscriminately, destroying everything, even those you once loved. And in your uncontrollable frenzy, you will finish the job on yourself. That is the horror in Josh Malerman’s Bird Box.

But first, there is the woman, gaunt standing in the kitchen, thinking. She peers through her window at the heavy fog outside. Will it give her and her two young children the cover they need to escape the abandoned house they have lived in, alone, for 4 years? Will the fog last? They need the cover to go 20 miles downriver in a rowboat to find safety. And even in the fog, they must go blindfolded to escape the thing that is following them, the thing they should not – must not – see.

Bird Box deftly snaps between present and past to tell this tale of survival against psychological and physical terror. It flashes back to when Malorie, pregnant with her first child, and Malorie’s sister hear the initial reports of these occurrences, originally termed as The Russia Report due to sightings there, begin being reported. Cut to a man, driving. The passenger, his friend, asks him to pull over, and when the car has stopped he rips the driver’s lips off with his fingernails. Cut to a woman dispassionately burying her children – alive – before slitting her wrist with shards of broken dishes. Two elderly sisters out on a leisurely walk start biting people. They mutilate a friend who tries to stop them.

Before every terrifying turn, the attackers had seen something that seems to have set them off. But what?

A national curfew is ordered. People are instructed to blacken their windows, lock their doors, stay inside. But a siege is a siege, and there are cracks in the barricades. Malorie’s sister is found dead in the bathtub, eyes wide open, a scissors sticking out of her chest.

Pregnant Malorie runs and comes across a house, already occupied by Tom, a kindly former teacher, Jules, seemingly second-in-charge, Felix, a shivering remnant of a man, Cheryl, a hard as nails survivor, and Don, an ambivalent presence. They agree to let her live with them. Supplies of food and water are stored in the basement but these are finite, and blindfolds must be worn when they go out to forage.

They are joined by two more people looking for safety, sweet Olympia, who is also pregnant, and Gary. Gary tells the story of having fled the safe house he was in after one of his housemates, a man named Frank, decided that all the killings were simply psychosomatic reactions and tore down the curtains.

Malorie is safe with this band. But is there evidence that not everyone is who they seem to be?

Josh Malerman is a singer/songwriter for the Detroit band High Strung. His Bird Box was recently made into a film starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich that is available on Netflix. Paintings by artist Lily Morris, who was recently interviewed by The Literary Chick, will be featured in the film. The Literary Chick’s Holy Trinity of Books, Music, and Art are all here for this one, how can you go wrong?

The Man With the Golden Arm – Nelson Algren

Beautifully written, deals with tragic, depressing subject matters in a poetically artistic way. Sad and bleak, was very glad to have finally finished this one just to escape the world it put me in. Will never be able to forget it. Think Selby via Faulkner, with a bit of Dostoyevsky, Hugo, and Tennessee Williams mixed in. Subject matter and conclusion may be too much for many.

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