Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Samuel Snoek Brown's "Hagridden" is Bone Rattling.

Several years back, a man I greatly admire, film critic Roger Ebert turned to the internet to explore how others reacted to a film. He described their quotes as "dealing with their feelings"

That's what Hagridden will do.  Make you deal with your feelings.  

Hagridden is a simple construct wrapped in complexities built around two female primary characters, who by being victims of circumstance, have to do horrible, reprehensible things to survive in the Louisiana marsh as the Civil War is flaming out. 

And Sam Snoek-Brown makes you feel empathy, even sympathy for them as they murder without restraint. 

It takes a hell of a writer to do that. 

Much like the Japanese horror film, "Onibaba", the story centers on a woman, and a girl, and they go by no more for names than that, living alone and like feral animals.   This after the loss of both their husbands, one in the war.  They are mother-in-law and daughter-in-law which complicates things as "the girl" wants to shirk loneliness with a returned soldier.

Things get darker as they struggle to survive, drowning in fear, paranoia, and hatred, particularly the woman, who's only real tie to the world and reality is the girl.   Characters with malicious intent and dripping hatred wander this landscape, and Hagridden really makes you come to terms with the concept of "the lesser of two evils" as you try to hash out your understanding of these poor souls while they do what you would never consider.  Snoek-Brown's book creates a nature of lethal violence becoming as easy as you or I would buy something we take for granted.  

You become immersed in the Hagridden world as you are repelled by it and one of the reasons that is so easy is Snoek-Brown's attention to detail.  He's steeped in his knowledge of individual locales as well as real characters and battles of the back end of the civil war.  Equally as sharp is  his vivid and detailed, yet at times wistful descriptions of the day to day minutiae of surviving the unforgiving beauty of delta swamp life and second nature gruel of existence in this time and place, that seems alien to us now. 

Just as real is his grasp of human loneliness and sadness and how they tie to desperations within.  Snoek-Brown details how quickly those emotions lead to free-wheeling lust and need, and just as quickly to greed, suspicion, betrayal and murder. 

Hagridden isn't just a story, it's an experience. And as Ebert described "Halloween", you're not just reading it, it's "happening to you."  Sam Snoek-Brown has created a quietly violent world, enhanced by the lack of quotation marks in it's dialogue, where the silence of it's brutality is just as unsettiling as it's reality. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Where All That Stuff Comes From

I know way too much about Lombardi's Packers for never having been there for their glory, or for that matter, not even having been born yet.

 I know a ton about Milwaukee Brewers players and teams that I never watched.  My favorite all time Milwaukee Brewers bubble gum Card is of a guy I never got a chance to see play, The Boomer, George Scott.  I remember seeing another kid on the schoolyard who had it in his stack of gems and being jealous as hell.  He would accept no trade offers for it..

 It would be years before I was able to get it.

I have too much working knowledge of recording artists that were before my time or before I discovered the power chord and Blue Oyster Cult.

 I know who it was that starred in and the release years of flicks that came out when my parents were kids.


TV Guide, Reading the backs of Baseball & Football cards, (yes, kids, there once was more to them than air-tight sealing, prospecting, grading and getting maximum value for them!!) borrowed library books on film history devoured as a kid, and too much time spent reading (and absorbing) the backs of album covers.

I still remember before the days of cable and non-stop ESPN media-blasting, being shocked by reading on the back of Frank Taveras' 1982 Topps card that the dude somehow stole 71 bases in a season?


Or that Bill Kenney passed for over 4000 yards for Kansas City once!

Really?  To Who?

Did you know (back of a Dokken album cover) that Juan Croucier played for Don's boys before Ratt?

Was there a trade worked out there?

It's amazing where all that clutter came from, let alone that I remember learning it.

Hope I have some GB left....

Anyway, there's some comfort drawn from that old stuff from which I gleaned my knowledge. A simpler time, indeed.  Information gleaned from hard work, microfiche, a library card, and memory instead of a lightning fast Google search.  Old dusty cardboard baseball cards and comic book pages that yellow with time, not the high gloss, freaky bright stock that blasts at you today.  Giant lyric sheets and musician rosters that were readable without needing to squint to see on the opposite side of some pretty dynamic (or cheesy, better yet) artwork on the front of an album cover as opposed as to the less tactile jewel case and inlay card of a CD.

Or worse, in all cases, just a computer download you never actually prove exists other than a e-receipt and a cold icon on desktop or mobile device.

As I'll point out in a future somewhat related post, are we moving too far too fast?  Technology for even life's minutiae has grown far more in my lifetime, or even last 30 years, than it did in the previous 70.  There's something scary and impersonal in that.

I like where my trivia came from.