Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
October 14, 2018
The Ballad of Black Tom, etc.
Category: Books … Miscellany … Serious

Do you have any places that fill you with an inexplicable sadness?

So there's this section of road I occasionally have to drive -- I've probably mentioned it before -- and whenever I drive it during the evening I'm overcome with a deep and overwhelming depression. Like, suicidal depression. If that road had an exit to the Key Bridge, I'd probably steer my car right over the edge; if I kept a gun in the car (I don't own guns), I'd likely pull over and shoot myself in the head. That feeling is perhaps especially jarring because it usually follows otherwise positive and encouraging experiences -- when I land on it in the evening (for some reason I'm unaffected when I drive it in daylight), I'm usually on my way home from a writing group session or the horror book club meeting or the Renaissance Festival. I don't know how I'd feel if I ended up on that road after a particularly long and shitty day, and I'd be both curious and terrified to find out.

Anyway! Tonight the horror book club met, and it really was a great session. We discussed The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle -- which was easily my favorite book that we've read thus far. (Seriously, I liked it so much that, shortly after finishing the library copy I'd borrowed for the assignment, I ordered a copy for my personal library and another to give as a gift.) As I might have noted elsewhere, it's super rare for me to identify with literary protagonists (and protagonists in media in general), but I did connect with Tommy Tester (who ultimately becomes the titular Black Tom), though even without that angle I think the story is a worthwhile read. We also discussed H.P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook," from which LaValle took many cues for his own novel (it's essentially a revisionist -- and way less racist; frex, no character sports a "hatefully negroid mouth" -- retelling of Lovecraft's story), and as you can imagine that conversation touched on quite a few interesting topics.

And once we finished discussing the assigned reading, both with respect to their own merits and in relation to each other, and after we talked about the appeal of Lovecraft and Poe (we've decided to read Poe stories to discuss at the next meeting) and other horror authors for whom atmosphere and setting can be more important than characterization or plot, the conversation moved to tangentially related topics, such that there were multiple silences that seemed to herald the end of the meeting -- and then one of us would say, "Oh! That puts me in mind of..." and the conversation would be quickened anew. During the last such pause, it seemed as if we were ready to part ways, and then the group moderator put in, "Oh! Did we tell you? We came to see Timon!" And I was like, "What?! No! You didn't tell me that! I'm so glad you came! (Why didn't you stick around afterward??) And what did you think of it?" and the exchange that followed prolonged the meeting for yet several more minutes. By the time we finally parted ways, we'd run 46 minutes beyond our scheduled 1-hour length.

(Incidentally, the moderator also came to see Merchant, and I actually do think he stuck around afterward -- and for some reason, perhaps still caught in the rush of performing and unused to seeing him in any context outside of our monthly meetings at Panera Bread, I didn't recognize him at all. I'm sure I was polite and thanked him for complimenting my performance and for coming to see the show, but I imagine it is odd and oddly discouraging to interact with someone who should know you and respond accordingly but who clearly doesn't at all.)

So that was my evening, and by almost any measure (except perhaps the overpriced nature of my admittedly delicious chai tea latte) it was positively delightful.

And also -- though it meant skipping a visit to the Target location I would have passed on the way -- tonight I elected to take a different route home so as to avoid the sadness road. I'm inclined to think that was the right call.

-posted by Wes | 11:50 pm | Comments (0)
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