What’s Rick Been Reading?

Quick one today. I’m going to be out til early next week with visiting family, so I’ll give you this to tide you over. It’s our first-ever installment of What’s Rick Been Reading? Because you really want to know.

Rick’s Been Reading The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales by HP Lovecraft

Yep. Lovecraft. When I was just a little Rick, in elementary, junior high, and a couple years in senior high, I was a voracious Stephen King fan. I’ve always kind of been off-balance, but that part of me sort of sat on the back burner for a while. I’ve since gotten back into the bizarro world of horror literature, and have slowly absorbed a sizable portion of the work of the guy that created this guy:

Your sanity has a flavor

The Thing on the Doorstep also includes the longer works The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and At the Mountains of Madness, which are both really good, and the short story “The Music of Erich Zann”.

I don’t know if I prefer this to its Penguin Classics companion book The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. I like them both pretty well, but this one has fewer first-person stories with irritatingly archaic spelling than The Call of Cthulhu. I think the further along Lovecraft got into his writing, the less reliant he got on “telling” a story, as in first-person, and “presenting” a story, as in third-person. Granted, even in the third-person, he got into the “omniscient narrator” mode a lot, but it was still a step up from story after story of “I cannot tell you how much sanity I may have left!” or “Surely you’ll think I’m mad!” and statements approximating that sentiment.

In any case, I suggest both of these books. Once you get past the archaic spelling, the formulaic pattern of his early stories, and the racism/classism that runs throughout some of the works, they’re really good, creepy stories. There were a few points in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and the titular “The Thing on the Doorstep” that I was well-and-truly creeped out.

Rick’s Been Reading Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez

For those who don’t know, Jhonen created this:

He also created Squee’s Big Book of Unspeakable Horrors, but I digress.

Johnny is… well, he’s a homicidal maniac. He’s also the writer and artist for “Happy Noodle Boy”. Jhonen somehow squeezes jabs at goth culture, jabs at high school culture, jabs at southern California, jabs at humanity, jabs at God, jabs at Satan, jabs at parents, and other various jabs at other various groups, bizarre Cthulhu-oid/Lovecraftian monsters, and still has room for profuse swearing. This probably sounds odd coming from the guy that, just last month, told you that PBS’s Martha Speaks is one of the best shows on television, but Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is one of the singular best creations in the history of comics. And this was in the mid-1990s.

The book is comprised, mainly, of the collected seven issues of the original series of JTHM, minus a few “non-necessary” comics (which Vasquez dubbed “Meanwhiles”), and some notes at the end. From what I understand, the “Meanwhiles” are collected into the aforementioned Squee. However, the “Happy Noodle Boy” pieces (which the character of Invader Zim seems almost totally based on) are included. The art is entirely black-and-white, and is extremely detailed. It uses non sequiter writing and art constantly. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly for the ADHD set, but it’s quite intense. I couldn’t read it for more than about half an hour in a single sitting, and neither can my wife. It’s very dense. Very, very dense.

But it’s all worth it. The misanthropy and general philosophy of the book are exceedingly dour and existentialist. Johnny’s loathing of both himself and society could probably be the work of a thesis paper, if it isn’t already. Really, if you’ve got one of those friends that seems like they always want to stab the eyeballs out of some customer service rep at a department store and you have no idea why, this book might help you understand that friend better. If you’re the sort of person that would stab eyeballs out… well, it’s probably for you. You’ll probably giggle with glee. I know I did.

But I laughed my ass off in Pulp Fiction when Marvin got his head blown off, so who am I to be the judge of what’s funny?

Anyway, there you go. This has been What’s Rick Been Reading?

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