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  • BN Editors 3:30 pm on 2014/10/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , in cold blood, , , patrick suskind, perfume, , , , , , the veldt, ,   

    The Scariest Stories We’ve Ever Read 

    Scariest. Books. EVER.To celebrate Halloween, we asked our bloggers to name the scariest books they’ve ever read, and most of them got the heebie-jeebies just thinking about their answer. They explored the deepest, darkest parts of their minds to recall that story still haunting them today. We recommend these horrifying books with caution—they could make you sleep with the lights on for weeks. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

    Nicole: Boom. Hands down. No contest. “The Veldt,” by Ray Bradbury 
    There are a number of books that have scared the pants off me­—the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe, Say Cheese and Die, 1984—but legitimately nothing has frightened me more than Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt,” in which a family is destroyed by its not-made-for-Disney Smart House. From the first ominous line, “George, I wish you’d look at the nursery,” to the last sinister cup of tea, the heebie-jeebies are set to stun, probably because the idea that our technology will one day be our downfall seems so plausible. I’ve never been able to look at children, nurseries, or lions the same way.

    Joel: Night Shift, by Stephen King
    The scariest book I’ve ever read is Stephen King’s Night Shift. I know, real original, but there’s something about King’s short fiction that burrows into my brain and refuses to leave (and I suss I’m not the only one, as 10 of the stories in this collection have been adapted for film or TV). Of course, it’s best read on a frigid, sleepless winter night, lest you realize that the climax of “The Mangler” is really quite ludicrous.

    Dell: Perfume, by Patrick Suskind
    In the grimy slums of 18th-century Paris, a baby is born and abandoned. Christened Jean-Babtiste Grenouille by the nuns who raise him, the peculiar boy grows into a sinister man possessed by a cool, dark rage and an unparalleled sense of smell. Though he oddly possesses no odor himself, Grenouille’s exceptional olfactory sense shapes his future, and his demise, and his obsession eventually leads to murder. This novel, originally published in German in 1986, is utterly depraved and diabolical. Indeed, I should’ve turned back the instant I started it, but instead I devoured it. Do you dare?

    Lauren: Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi
    I became a tad obsessed with the story of Charles Manson after reading Helter Skelter. It consumed my thoughts—I couldn’t stop looking up pictures of the crime scene. I set google alerts for Manson’s followers so I’d know if they were released from prison. I spent hours glued to my peep hole, positive my (kind, sweet, Mormon) neighbor was going to murder me in my sleep. It’s because the story was honestly the most horrifying thing I could possibly imagine, and Bugliosi’s crafty telling is so raw (Bugliosi was the prosecutor in the case against Manson) I couldn’t categorize it into a safe little corner of my brain called “stuff that isn’t real.” This is the weirdest, most gruesome story I have encountered. And it totally happened.

    Melissa: “Harold,” by Alvin Schwartz
    Raise your hand if you, too, were traumatized by the blotched, spindly embodied terrors ink drawings accompanying Schwartz’s children’s horror staple, a collection of stories so ghoulish I STILL can’t believe I found them on my third-grade teacher’s bookshelf. “Harold,” the most terrifying of the bunch, tells the story of two disenchanted farmers who take their anger out on a scarecrow they name Harold—until the night they hear his footsteps walking back and forth across the roof of their cottage. It’s not long before the men are driven out of their home by fear of their vindictive living scarecrow, but, of course, they leave something crucial behind. One brother goes to retrieve it and never comes back. What’s waiting for the other brother when he follows is a vision of such singular horror I can still quote it from memory. I’ll spare you: read and discover it yourself.

    Ginni: Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy
    An unparalleled novel of gruesome depravity told in beautiful, raw prose. Falsely accused of rape and then released back into the world, Lester Ballard is a violent social outcast roaming the hills of Tennessee. What he does in the caves out there is shudder-inducing and unforgettably disturbing.

    Shaun: It, by Stephen King
    I first read It when I was a freshman in college, though I had been terrified by the movie for years. If I thought Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown was scary, it was nothing compared to the book version. I spent two sleepless nights staring suspiciously at my roommate’s birthday balloons, waiting for IT to peek out from behind them. After all, what could be scary than a terrifying god-clown that can turn into a spider and feeds on children’s fears? I’ll never look at a storm drain the same way again. Enjoy your nightmares!

    Tori: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
    UGH! THIS BOOK IS SO SCARY! There are books that are scary—like, “whoa, the mom was just a corpse in a rocking chair this whole time?”—and then there are books that are scarring, which is much much worse. In Cold Blood is the latter. Sure, it’s a work of genius, the suspense is unbearable, and the empathetic treatment of the antihero is something to marvel at, but I wish I’d never read it. The utter randomness of the brutal crime is so, so terrifying, and the fact that it’s nonfiction makes it that much worse. My takeaway from the book? You can live in the cutest farmhouse in the sweetest, most innocent town in Kansas, and you will still probably be gunned down after midnight.

    What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

  • Ginni Chen 7:00 pm on 2014/09/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , i know why the caged bird sings, in cold blood, , , , , , ,   

    Which Famous Author Should Be Your Roommate? 

    Ernest HemingwayIt’s well known that some of the world’s foremost literary geniuses have some peculiar personalities and strange writing habits. We all have our quirks, but for men and women of the quill, these quirks are writ especially large. Some are hard drinkers and partiers, some are recluses waiting for inspiration to strike, still others are wildly productive but beset by personal demons. Even if you love someone’s books, do you ever wonder if could you actually live with the artist behind them?

    Take this quiz and see which master wordsmith you should actually live with, and which might be a cohabitational nightmare. After all, there’s nothing like sharing a living space to help you really get know someone!

    1. You and your ideal famous author roommate are decorating.  What goes over the mantlepiece?
    a. Mounted antlers from the prize buck you shot.<
    b. A lavish 19th-century still-life painting of a bountiful feast.
    c. A typewriter and some detective novels.
    d. The first dollar you ever earned.
    e. Eclectic artwork collected from your travels.
    f. Ashtrays, empty bottles, pencil nubs, scrap paper.

    2. What best describes your ideal housewarming party?
    a. Grilling some meat, followed by bourbon, scotch, dry martinis, absinthe…
    b. A costume ball with a ten course meal and wine pairings.
    c. An afternoon garden party.
    d. A rollicking dinner party with an impromptu reading from your new book.
    e. A quiet gathering of friends with some good sherry and card games.
    f. Something fabulous, with celebrities, artists, socialites and lots of gin.

    3. It’s a random Tuesday night. You and your ideal roommate are:
    a. Sparring in boxing gloves.
    b. Living it up at the hottest restaurant in town.
    c. You have no idea where your roommate is. She disappeared a few days ago.
    d. Going for a long walk late into the night, hoping to get lost.
    e. Doing crossword puzzles.
    f. At the Plaza Hotel, holding court and gossiping with the jet-set crowd of New York.

    4. You don’t mind if your apartment is full of:
    a. Cats
    b. Mistresses
    c. Newspaper clippings of strange crimes
    d. I would mind if my apartment were full of anything. I’m kind of a neat freak.
    e. Books, art and good food.
    f. Cigarette smoke and famous people.

    5. What’s your work style?
    a. “Done by noon, drunk by three.” In other words, efficient in the morning and then, not so much.
    b. I work every spare second of the day on color-coded paper.
    c. In the bathtub, munching apples. Or wherever the mood strikes me.
    d. I’m always on the go. Walking helps me think.
    e. I prefer to work in an empty room with nothing no distractions.
    f. I can’t work unless I’m lying down, smoking and drinking.

    If you chose mostly A’s, you should live with…Ernest Hemingway.
    Nobel prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was notoriously a “manly” man.  An accomplished outdoorsman, he went on big-game hunting safaris in Africa and won marlin-fishing contests in the Caribbean. A passionate boxer, Hemingway built his own boxing ring in his Key West home to spar with guests and friends. In between these activities, Hemingway woke early each day to meet his self-imposed quota of 500 words.  He wrote them standing up at his typewriter, and said he was always “done by noon, drunk by three.”

    If you chose mostly B’s, you should live with…Alexandre Dumas.
    The man behind The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo was an extravagant bon vivant, partial to elaborate feasts, wine and women. A gourmand and an accomplished cook, Dumas traveled extensively, hosted parties, entertained a string of mistresses and fathered many illegitimate children, yet he still managed to find time to write prolifically. He color-coded his writing on different kinds of paper, writing his fiction novels on blue paper, penning poetry on yellow paper and composing articles on pink.

    If you chose mostly C’s, you should live with…Agatha Christie.
    Best-selling mystery novelist Dame Agatha Christie, who penned Murder on the Orient Express and the play The Mousetrap, drew inspiration from newspaper articles about interesting true crimes. She’d clip them out and muse over them, eventually concocting an elaborate murder for Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple to solve. She became the subject of a real life mystery herself when she abandoned her car and disappeared for 11 days. When found, Christie had no recollection of what she’d done and where she’d been. As a writer, Christie liked to think up her mysteries in the bathtub while eating apples. She wrote whenever the mood struck her and would set her typewriter down wherever she happened to be.

    If you chose mostly D’s, you should live with…Charles Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, author of classics such as Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, rose to fame and fortune from a hard-scrabble childhood in poverty. Thought to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, Dickens was known for combing his hair over a hundred times a day, cleaning his home obsessively, and even cleaning the homes of his friends. A gregarious and witty man, Dickens excelled at public speaking and enjoyed giving public readings of his books. An insomniac, Dickens spent his nights walking for miles at a time, hoping that the process of getting lost would inspire his creative juices.

    If you chose mostly E’s, you should live with…Maya Angelou.
    The recently departed Maya Angelou, who wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, freely shared her writing ritual with the world—she’d go to an empty hotel room every day, after requesting that the hotel staff remove any paintings, artwork or distractions from the room. She’d then stay in the room and write until 2 p.m. with only a Bible, a thesaurus, a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles.  At 2 p.m., she would return home and edit her morning’s work. Unlike her sparse hotel room, Angelou’s home was filled with artwork and books collected from her travels. She was not only a decorated writer, but a talented cook, dancer, singer, actress, and a prominent civil rights activist.

    If you chose mostly F’s, you should live with…Truman Capote.
    The author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood was known for his star-studded social life, his grand parties and his lifelong friendship with To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee. Capote famously threw the Black and White Ball, a masquerade ball at the Plaza Hotel that everybody who was anybody attended, unless Capote deliberately wanted to snub them. He ran with an eclectic mix of celebrities in New York, including actors, artists, socialites and business tycoons, but he was not partial to many fellow writers. Capote claimed to be a “completely horizontal author” and could only write lying down. He’d spend the day supine, drafting his work in longhand and in pencil, while armed with a cigarette and a drink. Even when writing on a typewriter, Capote preferred to remain horizontal and balance the machine on his knees.

    Which of your favorite authors would you like to live with? 

  • Ginni Chen 5:00 pm on 2014/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: alvin schwartz, , , , , , , , in cold blood, , patrick mccabe, scary stories to tell in the dark, , stephen gammell, , the butcher boy, , ,   

    Beat the Summer Heat with 8 Bone-Chilling Books 


    I grew up in Japan, where, in addition to fireworks and temple festivals, it’s a cultural tradition to tell scary stories during the humid summer months. Spooky stories are popular during that time of year for a couple different reasons. First, Japanese Buddhists believe that spirits return to their ancestral home during the month of August, so it’s the prime time to tell ghost stories.

    Secondly, there is a cultural belief that scary stories will both figuratively and literally “chill” you in hot weather. After all, when you’re frightened, the hair on your neck stands on end and chills run up and down your spine. Thus, theoretically, your body’s physiological response to fear effectively cools you off and you don’t feel the heat anymore.

    To test it out, here are 8 bone-chilling books. Give them a read and see if the creeps keep you cool!

    Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy
    By far the most disturbing book I’ve ever read, but also one of the most beautifully written. In a mere 200 pages, McCarthy takes you through one social outcast’s descent into isolation, violence, and depravity in the deep South.

    The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe
    I couldn’t sleep after finishing this ghastly masterpiece about a young Irish boy. It’s narrated from the point of view of Francie Brady, the only child of an unstable mother and a drunken father. Like all young boys he loves comics, candy, and his best friend, Joe. He’s also a monster.

    The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, by Edgar Allan Poe
    Nobody can give you goosebumps like the Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. I get shivers imagining the dungeons in “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” even when it’s a blistering 90 degrees outside.

    In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
    Capote’s nonfiction book is based on his own investigation into the murder of a Kansas family and interviews he conducted with the convicted murderers. There are innumerable true-crime novels out there, but something about Capote’s classic will haunt you long after you finish it.

    Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz
    These stories might be for kids, but mark my words, they’ll make an adult’s hair stand on end, too. I still get the heebie-jeebies from these classic tales, especially when they’re accompanied by Stephen Gammell’s creepy, drippy, oozy illustrations.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Though not in the vein of classic ghost stories, Palahniuk’s collection of short stories will nonetheless make your blood curdle. The premise? A bunch of writers think they’re on a retreat, then realize they’ve signed up for something much more sinister. What they do in response is incredibly unnerving, gory, and entertaining. You’ll get pangs of phantom pain alongside the shivers.

    Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
    Shelley’s classic never fails to make me shudder while still pulling on my heartstrings. Frankenstein’s monster has been a ubiquitous and influential character in pop culture, but he’s become increasingly less scary over the years. Go back to the original Frankenstein and get properly frightened, the good ol’ Gothic way.

    The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    It’s not a ghost story, it’s not a horror story—it’s even written for young adults to read. It’s nonetheless one of the most brutal, ominous books I’ve ever read. So far this reading list has been about murderers and monsters, but I’ve added one cult classic about a band of British schoolboys, stuck alone on an island with a conch shell. Why’s it on this list? If you haven’t already, just read it and see.

    What books have given you the chills?

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