The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Would Be YOUR Mash-Up?

      Tonight there was book-selling (by everyone). There was stalking (by me). And there was salivating (by me, again).

       Here are some of the writers who were there:

Cathi LaMarche--memoir-writer extraordinaire


Marcia Gaye--she writes memoir pieces, she writes romance, she writes poetry.
(And everything she does she does well.)
 
 
 
Doyle Suit--a more humble, a more generous writer, you'll never find.



Margo Dill--She has a new picture book out.


       A large group of local authors (65, I think) gathered together tonight in O'Fallon, Missouri. I sat a few feet across from an author named Shannon Yarbrough. His book cover intrigued me.


      Yarbrough's novel is a mash-up. Emily Dickinson meets Frankenstein. Okay, they don't literally meet each other... but you get the idea.

      Here is one Amazon review of Dickinstein

There's something about a book that doesn't live up to your expectations - especially when that book and its author have expectations of their own that blow yours out of the water.

I originally heard of Shannon Yarbrough's Dickinstein: Emily Dickinson - Mad Scientist from Jerry Wheeler of Out In Print: Queer Book Reviews. He ranked it as one of his top 13 for 2013. Intrigued, I marked it as a To Read on Goodreads. Surprisingly, Mr. Yarbrough contacted me, offering me a copy of the book for an honest review. So note to self: you never know who's looking at what you post!

Other than watching the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I've had little experience with the monster mash-ups released over the last few years. While they seemed right up my alley, I just hadn't gotten around to reading them yet. I envisioned campy, tongue-in-cheek narrative where, in a fit of machismo, Mr. Darcy pulls out a weed whacker and goes to town on a bunch of the walking dead. That's what I expected from Yarbrough's Dickinstein, too. Well, not so much Mr. Darcy, but maybe Emily Dickinson running around like Madeline Kahn at the end of Young Frankenstein. Instead, what I got was a thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful exploration of life and death, and faith and science.

In the book, a young Emily Dickinson receives a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and is fascinated by its premise. She decides to make a machine of her own - a "second life apparatus" as she calls it - to bring back the small, dead creatures she finds in her regular walks through nature. Successful with her experiments, she confides in a few close acquaintances. A couple of these confidants suggest that, with the help of her device, she might bring back a human being, something she'd not really considered before. This was her gift to nature; she'd not given much thought to playing God. But when a close friend dies unexpectedly, she finds herself willing to do anything to save them.

Yarbrough wrote Dickinson like he knew the woman - intelligent, witty, peculiar, and reclusive. I could easily envision the Dickinson in this novel as the prolific woman of letters history has shown her to be. Her love of nature, her fascination with death, her idiosyncrasies - they are all deftly handled by Yarbrough in his eloquent and poetic prose. His writing made me feel as if I was one of the fortunate few that Dickinson let in to her small circle of friends, walking the garden paths of the Dickinson Homestead with her and exploring the town of Amherst, Massachusetts by her side. It had the feel of a very private memoir. And each time I opened its pages, I felt as if I'd been given admission to her personal world. Dickinson's joys and fears, her insecurities and secret desires all played out beautifully on its pages.

Not satisfied with one style of prose, Mr. Yarbrough threw in a second, something more in the vein of Shelley's Frankenstein. I was surprised when he went all gothic on me for several chapters toward the end of the book as the plan to bring a human being back to life unfolded. It felt as if he was channeling one of the romantics for several thousand words. Then he finished the novel by returning to the quieter, more contemplative style from earlier in the book.


     I kept gazing at that book until I could stand it no longer. I had to buy a copy.

      What would be your mash-up? Twisted minds want to know.

15 comments:

  1. So good to see you last night, Sioux. And Dickinstein sounds fascinating! I will have to check it out. Thanks for the write-up.

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    1. It was so good to see you as well. Did you leave without buying a book? If you did, you're a stronger woman than me.

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  2. Ah, Dickinson. I've always loved her "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," and it sounds as if your author friend (because I'm sure you're best friends now) did her justice.

    I'm a big fan of mash-ups--one of my favorite PB manuscripts is a mash-up of a dozen nursery rhymes. But I've mashed fairy tales, too. Maybe I need to mash up a fairy tale with a good nursery rhyme? :-)

    (And P.S. Sounds like an amazing evening--65 authors?! That's something!)

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    1. Cathy--I imagine your fairy tale-nursery rhyme would be a rollicking good time--for adults as well as kids.

      PB? Published Before?

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  3. Thx Dear Sioux, for the pics and write up. You always make any gathering more fun.

    Mashups. I'm thinking Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens. "Twas brillig and the slithy toves" seems to describe lots of his malevolent characters.
    I'd love to read a Carroll/Dr. Seuss story but imagine not being able to understand a word!

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    1. Marcia--I could say the same thing about you. I mentioned you to several new-to-me people on Thursday. I'm always glad to have you to chat with--even if it' in small snatches.

      Perhaps YOU need to write a Carroll/Dr. Suess story, and you can also write a translation. I mean, I loved Dante's Inferno when I was in high school, but I would have understood very little without the translation/accompanying notes.

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  4. I can't believe I missed this event. I was thinking it was next week... ack, still trying to get my act together from being out of town... and now going again (out of town).

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    1. Lynn--You are a busy woman--gadding about the country here and there. Enjoy your trips.

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  5. Great coverage of a fun event! I was glad to see you and a bunch of other friends, and I got to meet a few authors I've always wanted to meet.

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    1. Tammy--It was great to see you as well. Thanks for coming.

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  6. I'm not good with this mash-up stuff. I'm still recovering from finding out that England is an ISLAND! And, more recently, that Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas. News travels slowly here in my neck of the woods.

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    1. Val--The Yellow Rose of Texas? Really?

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  7. The event looks like fun. Again, as usual, I'm too far South.

    As far as the mash up---I don't know! I read your post the other day and waited to comment because I've been thinking about it. Still can't figure out a good one. The book you describe is intriguing, though. Maybe Dracula and Edgar Allan Poe, or Dracula and Stephen King. Dark, for certain, but probably be pretty cool.

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  8. Lisa--Dracula and Stephen King? That DOES sound cool. I'm sure King reads my blog (ha!) so perhaps your suggestion will inspire him to write his next novel...

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  9. Sounds like a very interesting book, and that's not even a genre I read. Hope all the authors sold lots of books!

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by...