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Posts Tagged ‘Hans Christian Andersen’

What Scares The Paris Review?

October 31, 2014 | by

1939-E.Lukcs

From a 1939 Dutch workplace safety poster by Gé Hurkmans.

The book I find myself most often recommending—Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps—is perfect reading for tonight, or for any chilly evening, when the fallen leaves outside have begun to mold and decay in wet piles. I may originally have read it in the summer, but so thoroughgoing is its tone of paranoia, cold, rot, and subsumed violence that you can’t easily separate yourself from the refracted narrative of the book’s protagonist, an ESP-endowed teenage girl running with a group of “vampire hobo junkies” in the Pacific Northwest. She’s searching for her foster sister, Kim, along the “highway That Eats People,” and the novel reads like an Orphic descent into a bad dream within a bad dream, with the physical landscape—loamy, waterlogged, and dank—doubling as the psychic landscape: “The land was not to be trusted. Its climate had the potential to make those teetering on the edges of decency spill over into murderville … Psychos tried to plug up cracks with bodies, cloth, whatever’s at hand.” —Nicole Rudick

Scary things I remember: a hand coming out of a box on The Electric Company, the dying boar on the cover of my parents’ Four Seasons LP (made them skip the Autumn movement), “Ode to Billy Joe,” reading The Dead Zone by flashlight under the blanket at camp, The Shining (movie), The Exorcist (book), the prophecies of Nostradamus (had to hide the book), Let’s Scare Jessica to Death on TV on a Sunday afternoon (Sunday afternoon movie), the Twilight Zone movie (had to leave theater), Eraserhead late at night alone in my parents’ bedroom (“You are sick!”), the diner scene in Mulholland Drive (the compressed audio), the distortion of Laura Dern’s face in Inland Empire, “Don't Crash” by Front 242, in the listening room at the school library (do these still exist?), Don’t Look Now, Francis Bacon, Fleetwood Mac, The White Ribbon, the dream sequence in Amour, and the scary-doll movie Sadie made me see last month. The other things I’ve managed to forget. —Lorin Stein

Taylor Swift’s “Track 3” recently made it to number one on Canadian iTunes. The track was a glitch, eight seconds of white noise. I’m open-minded, so I gave it a try, and by lunchtime I realized, rather suddenly, that “Track 3” was stuck in my head; Swift seemed to follow me into the void, filling it with something familiar yet indefinable. In “Track 3” she’s mastered the Freudian uncanny, something that’s frighteningly unknown but brings us back to something familiar. Freud once quoted Ernst Jentsch: “One of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the [listener] in uncertainty whether or not a particular figure … is a human being or an automaton.” I maintain that Swift released “Track 3” in all its uncanniness to confess that she is, in fact, an automaton. If you think your costume is good, stew on that: Swift’s has been better, every day, since 1989. —Alex Celia

Alex jests, but I do not: I really adore Taylor Swift. And that’s scary. She’s just released the best pop record of 2014: the most exhilarating, the most addictive, and also the most inscrutable, the most frustrating. Carl Wilson, the best pop critic writing today, understands—his review of 1989 uses Swift’s famously undisclosed bellybutton as a metaphor through which to apprehend the entire Swiftian zeitgeist. He gazes into her navel “as umbilical nub,” “as median point and sore spot,” “as Jell-O shot dispenser,” “as contemplative locus,” “as camera aperture,” “as teen-pop erogenous zone,” “as pretty hate machine,” “as the whitest thing on Earth,” and “as the omphalos of capital,” among others. No one has better identified the qualities that make her such a vital force in pop, so lucid and so obscure. “You could tug forever at the ends of Swift’s elusive, invisible abdominal bundle of avarice and sentiment, art, ego, envy, love and hate, drought and flood, truth and fiction, savior and monster,” Wilson writes, “and it would never come undone.” If that’s not horrifying … —Dan Piepenbring

There once was a time when the scariest thing imaginable was what one never saw: creaks in the floorboard, the rustling of branches against the window, whispers floating in the wind. It used to be that the monsters in horror films were never seen, which got under your skin: think of the spiral staircase of the original The Haunting, the eerie sobs of an unseen woman in The Uninvited, the psychological violence in later films like The Entity. Then slasher flicks and the “video nasties” of the early 1980s came, and we evolved into the terror porn of the Hostel series to laughable films like The Human Centipede. These films are indeed horrific, but are they scary? It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll stumble upon some sadistic German surgeon, but I turn the lights off every night. So it totally makes sense that The Blair Witch Project made millions of dollars—that last image in the basement is still ingrained in my head because—besides being absolutely terrifying—you never know who was behind the terror. (I still can’t go camping without thinking of the film.) One recent film that stands out, and one that gets better with repeated viewings, is The Orphanage (2007). There’s nothing innovative in the storytelling—haunted house, missing child—but it expertly builds the atmosphere of the remote orphanage and the characters who inhabit it. There aren’t as many thrills as something like The Descent—a great example of what is still possible within creature features–but when the scares come they are genuine. The rest is waiting, anticipating, dreading; there’s nothing scarier than what haunts one’s imagination. —Justin Alvarez Read More »

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Map Your Books, and Other News

June 25, 2013 | by

cafekafkalarge

Café Kafka, Barcelona.

  • A new app, Placing Literature, lets you find literary landmarks and bookstores wherever your travels take you.
  • For your delectation: ten bookish restaurants. (We want to go to Café Kafka.)
  • Everyone knows the original Little Mermaid—walking on knives, sea foam, and all—is anything but cute. At the LA Review of Books, scholars weigh in on the implications of Andersen’s grim tale.
  • A tribute to that publisher’s friend, the subtitle.
  • “The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times.” Verlyn Klinkenborg on the rise and fall of the American English major. 

 

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Don’t Be So Sure

June 10, 2013 | by

where-the-wild-things-are large

“I’m not Hans Christian Andersen. Nobody’s gonna make a statue in the park with a lot of scrambling kids climbing up me. I won’t have it, okay?” —Maurice Sendak, 2004

 

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Crying While Reading

February 6, 2013 | by

rackham_matchgirl1In second grade, I first read “The Little Match Girl.” To the uninitiated, this Hans Christian Andersen tale is about a beggar girl who, on Christmas Eve, warms herself by burning her matches one by one, imagining happier times with her dead grandmother by their light. In a final blaze, she imagines herself warm and happy, surrounded by love and the lights of a Christmas tree. Then we learn she’s actually frozen to death.

I was, to put it mildly, traumatized by the story. It haunted me. In the years since, I have learned that this is not an uncommon reaction; no fewer than two of my adult friends have revealed that, from time to time, “The Little Match Girl” intrudes on their thoughts and casts them into the doldrums. But as a seven-year-old, I was wholly unable to deal with my emotions. For days after hearing the story, I was quiet and withdrawn, my thoughts with the poor, cold match girl and her pathetic wares. My teacher, Mrs. Romer, noticed, and asked if everything was okay. I said yes, but one day, thinking of the tiny frozen body on the streets of wintry Copenhagen during a math lesson, I burst into uncontrollable sobs.

The fallout was humiliating. Mrs. Romer asked me to eat lunch with her privately so we could discuss what was bothering me; who knows what trauma she thought to uncover. I was too embarrassed to admit the actual source of my anguish—I knew it to be wildly babyish, as well as irrational—so I quickly concocted a lame story about my brother having the flu. I guess the implication was that I was afraid for his life; in any case, it was unconvincing enough that she called my parents.

Having learned early the dangers of giving into lit-related emotion, I was pleased to see a feature titled What to Do When Books Make You Cry on Public Transportation on BookRiot. Their advice is common sensical and wide-ranging, but does not address the concerns of younger readers. And, really, there is no time like childhood for emotionally wrenching books—if memory serves, in one school year we read Bridge to Terabithia, Number the Stars, Hatchet, and Where the Red Fern Grows. In one school year! Maybe our teachers were trying to toughen us up for public reading; personally, I think holding it together for Cormac McCarthy is a cakewalk after Sounder. “The Little Match Girl,” however, should be reserved for the truly stony hearted. Or at least the over-seven set.

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New Hans Christian Andersen? And Other News

December 14, 2012 | by

  • A piece believed to be Hans Christian Andersen juvenilia has been discovered.
  • An editorial assistant job listing at Dalkey Archive earns the title of worst job posting ever.
  • The poster gives his side of things.
  • The fracas prompts the obligatory Twitter account.
  • The best parties in literature.
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    On the Shelf

    October 5, 2011 | by

    Hans Christian Andersen.

    A cultural news roundup.

  • Odds on the Nobel?
  • Harry Potter takes his show on the road.
  • But not his e-book.
  • The trouble with Amazon.
  • Bad news for independent bookstores.
  • And chain bookstores.
  • In praise of the Farmers’ Almanac.
  • Hans Christian Andersen to be buried, again.
  • Volume 12 of  Selected Works of Kim Jong-il hits the shelves.
  • “That American culture could bring forth so relentless a critic is perhaps one of the reasons to still think well of it.”
  • A visit to southeast London.
  • Advice for students: “To get an education, you’re probably going to have to fight against the institution that you find yourself in—no matter how prestigious it may be. (In fact, the more prestigious the school, the more you’ll probably have to push.) You can get a terrific education in America now—there are astonishing opportunities at almost every college—but the education will not be presented to you wrapped and bowed. To get it, you’ll need to struggle and strive, to be strong, and occasionally even to piss off some admirable people.”
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