Thursday, October 04, 2012

October is for reading

I'm sitting in my office wearing a fleece jacket and wondering if I need a third cup of hot tea. Yep, it's fall! And the best thing about fall is layering up and reading outside in the last sunshine of the year (if you live in Oregon, that is. Those of you in Minnesota are already enjoying your first blizzard!).

I decided that this October, I'd be exploring my influences and sharing them with you--fiction, nonfiction, films and places.

I just finished re-reading a book that I believe is still working its way through my psyche. A remarkable study of family life, The Minotaur, by Barbara Vine (a pen name for Ruth Rendell), is a Gothic novel transported to the 1960s. Like all Gothic novels, the action spins on sex, betrayal, and madness, but the dusty Britishness of the characters reins it all in.

What makes this book work so well for me is the engagement between the characters and the setting. The family lives in an unloved and underfunded mansion, entirely covered with ivy. Far enough from town to require a long hike or a drive, the characters are removed from reality and forced to stew in their own company. In fact, as the book progresses and winter closes its grip on a house with very limited heating, a very gripping sense of claustrophobia settles over the story.

I deeply enjoy novels where the majority of characters are intensely unlikable. Indeed, there are only two really sympathetic characters in the entire book--the others are so pathetic that I found myself feeling sorry for them even as I wanted to kick them in their butts. The ending is really enjoyable.

In case you don't remember, I grew up in a house buried in the woods, a dark and gloomy sort of place. I loved almost everything about it and still pine for it. (Our house was destroyed in a house fire when I was a young teen.) The majority of our community and the communities around it were supported by the timber industry. Needless to say, much of the show Twin Peaks deeply resonates for me--the countryside even looks a lot like home.

I'll be quoting and referencing Twin Peaks all month, leading up to re-watching my favorite episodes in November. To kick it off, here are the opening credits. On the soundtrack, this sounds perfect, but every episode I've ever seen on a television sounds under pitch, just like this copy of the intro does. For some reason, it makes it feel more real!

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