Feb 24 2016

Gorey as hell

Adel Gabot

11:00AM

I was struck by this sudden avalanche of tweets, tributes, blog posts and general brouhaha about Edward Gorey, the prolific artist and illustrator, yesterday when I belatedly realized it was the 16th anniversary of his passing. People were just honoring the man by mentioning him and showing samples of his best work.

Gorey had a profound and massive influence on me, and colored a great deal of who I am and what I like to write about. Because as a kid I’d stumbled upon a big old book in the UP Elementary School Library composed of spooky, eerie children’s stories that he had illustrated. I was in 5th Grade back then, and was in a very malleable formative state. Finding this book at that age was fortuitous.

Each story was fronted by a full-page plate of a pen-and-ink sketch, and the illustrations captured my imagination more than the actual stories, which, in retrospect, were simple and childish tales that paled in comparison to the pictures that accompanied them. There were at least two dozen of them in that book. Man.

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Aside from thoroughly creeping out this lonely young boy who sought solace from grade-school madness in the school library during breaks, his wordless and weird, black and white style would stay with me for the rest of my years, informing my likes and dislikes, and forming my baseline grid of what was visually scary.

The staid, angular, sinister yet somehow… regal looks of his characters and creatures spoke volumes to me. The cross-hatching and black shadings of his pen, the weird, wordless silence of his work, the inscrutable monsters and quiet and creepy people in his illustrations in that book simultaneously chilled and delighted me, and Gorey’s work to this day evokes the same emotions, whenever I come across it.

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I can’t remember exactly the name of the book and its author(s) in that library, much less the exact stories and illustrations, but it will always stay with me as a seminal influence, as will Edward Gorey’s body of work.

God bless you, Mr. Gorey, wherever you are.

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Jul 12 2015

Armada redux

Adel Gabot

7:13PM

I have a problem with Ernie Cline’s new novel Armada.

As I pored through it, I was constantly bothered by Cline’s endless use of nerd cultural references, The entire novel is shot through with them, to the point of it being maddeningly ludicrous. It was as if he was just stuffing the novel with references like it was going out of style and it was up to him to keep it alive.

I mean, it’s one thing to use them casually, as an aside or a necessary plot point, but a half dozen per page? It’s distracting as hell!

Another problem: Cline has this habit of making his characters shift their motivation willy-nilly, on a dime. A character would be saying something to another when he would suddenly shift their mood in mid-scene and make the conversation go off on an unexpected tangent, without warning. Like Zack, the main character, would be discussing something seriously with his father when he would suddenly shift to naked anger without any prelude or indication that he was going there. And Cline’s characters do this all the friggin time.

His pacing also leaves something to be desired. Plot points and developments just whiz by as if Cline wanted to get to the action right away and didn’t want to spend time with necessary exposition and character development, so he just jumps right to it. Just like an amateur novelist.

It’s as if Cline didn’t know how to write at all and was just winging it! Tsk tsk.

I didn’t see these shortcomings in his first novel, Ready Player One. Either that, or I was just enamored with the novelty of referencing nerdisms in a book and glossed over it. But here in Armada, it’s worn out its welcome and reading that style yet again is a damned slog.

I know saying this would be sacrilege to the geek and nerd culture that I’m very much a part of, but… I didn’t really like reading Armada.

There. I said it.

Oh, well.

Better luck next time.


Jul 4 2015

Armada

Adel Gabot

8:24AM

Just got a copy of Ernest Cline’s new book Armada (literally the newest—it’s just out this week), for my Kindle Paperwhite yesterday. Been devouring it since, and I’m about halfway through now.

It’s the story of Zack Lightman, a high school senior who’s comfortably enmeshed in geekdom like his late father was, and who encounters… uh, shall we say, interesting things in that field as the story unfolds. The novel’s fairly dripping with pop culture references throughout. much like Cline’s other novel Ready Player One.

As usual, I’m eating it all up, as I’m from the same vague generation as well, and all the references make sense to me. It’s like Cline’s tapping the veins in my mind for all the ore he can possibly unearth, the way he did with RPO. Which is just fine with me.

I’m obviously not going to spoil things for other readers this early in the book’s cycle, so I won’t divulge anything for now, but suffice it to say it’s another doozy of a ride.

Review to come in the near future!


Jun 15 2015

The Dark Tower is pretty dark

Adel Gabot

dark-tower-books

8:02AM

I just came across an Esquire.com internet article this morning talking about how hard it is to adapt Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series into a movie.

I really wouldn’t know, because I never really read it.

What? You never did? But you’re the biggest Stephen King fan ever! You’re someone who discovered him early in your life and read everything he’s ever written!

Well, not everything.

I have to admit, I was a big fan, and I still am. I love King’s writing style so much that I try to emulate him in the stuff that I do. And his topics of choice aren’t that bad either, although I savor the non-horror ones because it proves that he doesn’t have to be a horror-meister to considered a great writer. To date, King has written 54 novels, five non-fiction books and about a couple of hundred of short stories, and I’ve probably read three-fourths of his total output.

I first came across King in his 3rd novel, The Shining, when it was still spankin’ brand new in 1977, when I was 15 years old. I read it and loved it, and then quickly backtracked and read Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot and read almost everything he’d written since. I still have that copy of The Shining somewhere in the house, a hardcover first edition that I treasure.

 

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But there was a time I OD’ed on Stephen King, and laid off him for a long while. I think it was somewhere around the time he wrote Needful Things or Dolores Claiborne, around 1991. I remember starting Needful Things but I can’t remember how it ends, so it must be then. He wrote the bulk of The Dark Tower during that time, and it got shunted aside too.

I found that his writing to be basically repetitive and that he was just doing it for the money. I felt that he was phoning it in, and I didn’t like that at all, so I stopped reading him. But his influence never really left me, and when I got back into writing after my long stint in radio, I still continued to emulate his writing style.

Nineteen years later, in 2008, I got back into “reading” him when I tried listening to an audio book of his new novel Duma Key, read by actor John Slattery. I liked it a lot, although the novel wasn’t really that hot in retrospect.

Slowly, I read some of the work that I’d missed, randomly picking at my missed novels slowly at first. Bag of Bones. Cell. Lisey’s Story. From A Buick 8. The Colorado Kid. I started again in earnest with Under The Dome and began reading his new work religiously again, often getting copies as they come out on launch day. (Kindle e-book copies, mind you. I’ve long dispensed with the tree versions, although I miss them something fierce.)

But I never read The Dark Tower series.

God knows I’ve wanted to, but the thought of beginning that eight-book opus just makes my head spin, and I balk. When my friends talk about it, or articles like that one from Esquire come up talking about how difficult it is to adapt into a movie, I shut them out. I simply can’t relate.

Someday I hope I will work up the nerve to eventually start, and finish, The Dark Tower. But until then, it’ll be pretty dark for me.


Jun 12 2015

Reading, and meeting, Neil Gaiman

Adel Gabot

8:11AM

I recently got started reading Neil Gaiman’s new collection of short stories called Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances on my Kindle, and I’m struck (and pretty intimidated, frankly) by his facility and use of language to put across his ideas. I wonder if I’ll ever get that good.

Neil Gaiman’s always been a role model and idol of mine, despite the fact that he’s just a couple of years older than me. I got started with him through the Vertigo comic Sandman, and marveled at his play on words, seemingly effortless plotting and grandiose, yet seemingly intimate, stories and concepts. I particularly admired his run on the Miracleman comic after Alan Moore gave up on it.

He’s the reason for the title of this blog, as a matter of fact. I was working as Copy Chief for ABS-CBN Publishing, copyediting and proofreading tons of magazines, and when he made a throwaway statement on his blog about blogging being akin to snacking between meals, I immediately snatched it up and made it the new blog’s title.

Over the years I continued to read his books, screenplays and novels and followed his literary career, and when he came to the country several years ago, I got a chance to meet and interview him, and get some of my comics autographed. Suffice it to say I was starstruck, but I think I hid it well enough.

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As part of the Mega editorial contingent and editor-in-chief of Manual magazine, we were the first to have a crack at him at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati. We had a nice morning talking and shooting the breeze with Neil, and the editors took turns asking him questions. We spent the next half-hour that way.

As we wrapped up the interview the guys filed out of the conference room and the organizers were getting ready for the next group to interview him, for some reason I can’t recall now, I got left behind and got stuck with my idol, alone in that Peninsula conference room, for several long minutes.

I had lots to ask him but didn’t quite know how to do it, so we gravitated to that awkward, uneasy province of just making small talk, even though I was bristling with lots of questions. I don’t recall exactly what we spoke about.

In the course of those few awkward minutes, Neil, pleasantly bored, gravitated to the window, which looked out on the corner of Makati Avenue and Ayala, where there was an ongoing political rally in the street. He asked me how politics was done in this country, and I gave him what I thought was a witty answer, and privately hoped that he might incorporate in in his work someday.

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I asked if he could sign some of the comic books I had brought with me that day, and he obliged. Then shortly after, the next editorial group came in, and that was that. There went my meeting with my idol.

I would cross paths with Neil Gaiman a couple more times that week when I went to his signing events at a couple of malls, but never again with the brief intimacy of that interview at the Peninsula. He was a really nice, accommodating person. He even stayed long after mall closing time just to continue signing books for his thousands of fans, I’m told. That’s who Neil is.

Trigger Warning is looking to be another excellent book, even if I’m just starting to read it. I can tell already.