Literary Inspiration: Duma Key

Duma Key Main Collage

Or Pet Sematary II: The Golden Years: But not Maine this time; Florida. ¬†‘Twas too weighty a title, however, so Duma Key it was. ūüėČ

So for those curious as to how I’m doing on my friend Julie’s reading challenge – terribly! I am doing terribly. I’m not even 10 books through the 24-strong list of challenge themes, and that’s in part because I keep picking gigantic tomes like this one, another 700-page Stephen King bruiser that takes you from Minnesota to Florida and back again, with stops at Insanity Isle and It’s Raining Frogs Junction in between. ¬†I think Duma Key nicely satisfies the “Cover art that draws you in” test Julie laid down for the challenge – I particularly like the partially submerged, holographic lettering of King’s name.

Duma Key Cover Collage

The basics: Duma Key is about – and told from the perspective of – 50-something Edgar Freemantle, construction company president, formerly of Minnesota, now of Duma Key, Florida. There are a lot of “formerlies” in Edgar’s life at the beginning of the novel – former job, former marriage, former¬†body, the latter down one right arm following a gruesome workplace accident. ¬†But it’s not so much the physical afflictions – the amputated arm, the pulverized ribs – that trouble Edgar’s mind, it’s Edgar’s mind itself, which, damaged just as badly as his physical body, turns toward anger, confusion and random, violent outbursts in the wake of his terrible accident. ¬†Most of the people in Edgar’s life stand by him during this upsetting time, but many do not.

After his wife leaves him, one of Edgar’s therapists asks him if he ever enjoyed any kind of creative outlet as a younger man. ¬†Edgar replies that before he devoted his life to the construction company that made him a millionaire many times over, he liked to draw, had even once entertained the notion of going to¬†art school. Agreeing that art is an important part of both physical and mental therapies, the doctor suggests Edgar take up drawing once again, and maybe seek out a major change in location while he’s at it.

And so Edgar moves to Duma Key, Florida, a rather runty, overgrown spit of land clinging desperately to the Gulf Coast, taking up residence at a gigantic, rose-hued house-on-stilts he affectionately dubs Big Pink. Inspired by the gorgeously lurid Gulf sunsets, Edgar begins to paint.  At night the creeping tide makes the shells that build up beneath the house clatter together, and they sound like bones.  Or voices.

Duma Key 1

And I won’t go any further than that, because to do so would ruin the Kingsian journey and that aggravatingly persistent – but still enjoyable – feeling that you, the reader, are being inexorably driven toward something you’re not entirely sure you want to discover. It actually reminded me very much of Pet Sematary in that way – another story of family, those we’re bound to by blood and those by choice, and the grim decisions we’re forced to make to preserve those bonds. ¬†Also ghosts, the discovery of a late-in-life mentor type, middle-of-the-night visits from should-be-dead people, a sassy, prescient old person, and endless marches through claustrophobic underbrush.

Also a lot of Surrealism – of the artistic variety, although I think that’s a pretty apt descriptor for the entirety of Duma Key. ¬†I definitely felt like my head had been messed with a trifle after I finished the book, a comfortably uncomfortable feeling that lets you know you’ve really discovered something special. ¬†Very enjoyable, even if I “Whuuuuuuu?”‘d the ending hard. ¬†Wouldn’t be a Stephen King novel if the final pages didn’t leave you deeply perplexed, I suppose.

Literary Inspiration: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box Collage

You’re a child of the 1990s if you can’t read that title without thinking about Nirvana, but here at least I’m talking about the novel Heart-Shaped Box, a ghost story penned by author Joe Hill. ¬†Hill is actually the nom de plume¬†adopted by Joseph Hillstrom King, son of Stephen. ¬†You probably have heard of him; think he’s written at least one or two things over the years. ūüėČ

Heart-Shaped Box satisfies the “found fortune” requirement of my friend Julie’s reading challenge; I plucked this dog-eared paperback off the shelf of my building’s community “library” (AKA The Dumping Grounds of Grisham, Connelly, Steele, Grafton and Patterson.) That another person in my building, where the average age is about 75, read this rough-and-tumble, punk rock story about an aging rocker fleeing the ghosts of his past is nothing short of amazing to me – I thought all literature in this place began and ended with well-worn copies of Judith Krantz’s Scruples flopping open to the raunchily vanilla sex scenes.

Right, so the deets. ¬†Wealthy, semi-retired, not-quite-washed-up goth rocker Judas Coyne purchases a haunted suit off an online auction site as a lark. ¬†And a lark is all it is; Judas doesn’t actually buy into the goth trappings of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that has made him a household name. ¬†But something about owning a vintage, possibly ghost-inhabited suit speaks to both the darker AND lighter parts of his soul, and he happily places a bid.

When the suit shows up, neatly folded in a black, heart-shaped candy box, but reeking of the grave and stuck through with sharp, invisible sewing pins (one of which badly pricks his girlfriend’s thumb) the bloom is off the rose. ¬†Judas orders the suit from his sight, but as these things go, bad things never stay down for long, do they? ¬†And the suit is a very bad thing, indeed, as was its previous owner, a sadistic hypnotist who blames Judas for driving his step-daughter – one of the rocker’s many ex-paramours – to suicide.

Heart-Shaped Box Fingers

What follows is a hybrid of the “haunted” novel – ¬†haunted house, haunted road, haunted past, haunted soul¬†– as Judas, his lady Georgia and their two dogs, Angus and Bon, hit the road in a desperate attempt to shake the vengeful ghost nipping at their heels (and hands; Heart-Shaped Box is nothing if not a story preoccupied with brutal, disfiguring hand injuries. ¬†It’s really one of the odder literary quirks I’ve ever encountered.)

To that end, while reading this book, I tried very hard not to fall into the trap of comparing Hill’s work to that of his father’s – it’s an unfair comparison, and one I’ve no doubt he’s been subject to his entire life. ¬†But I’m incredibly familiar with his father’s literary quirks¬†(the graciously grumpy old-timer delivering reams of folksy dialogue, the prescient 12-year-old as a stand-in for the author’s younger self, an aggravating tendency to telegraph major character deaths hundreds of pages in advance) and for the most part, Hill avoids them. His writing is smoother than dear old dad’s, for one thing, the story paying out in an easy, lyrical, constantly-moving fashion. His characters are also more surefooted than his father’s – in King’s novels, when the going gets tough, the tough go insane. ¬†But in Heart-Shaped Box, when confronted with the things that go bump in the night, Hill’s characters just accept it – “Turns out ghosts are real. ¬†Now what are we going to do about it?” It’s refreshingly proactive.

But those rough bits of literary grit are what make King’s novels so beloved in the first place – the perfect imperfectness of the truly weird and wonderful. ¬†Hill deals in a similar sort of marketplace, but it’s a tidy, sanitized one as compared to his father’s junk store of the mind. ¬†Which makes for a really well-written story that clips along like a house on fire, but also lacks any real permanence – once I return Heart-Shaped Box to the solarium library, I probably won’t ever seek it out again.

This tie-in manicure hits all of Heart-Shaped Box’s broader themes – blood, leather and rock ‘n’ roll (especially the leather, here Nails Inc.’s Leather Effect in Noho, a cool textured polish.)

Heart-Shaped Box Collage Bottle

Literary Inspiration: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Let's Pretend Collage

The fifth prompt in my friend Julie’s reading challenge was to tackle a book in your to-be-read pile that you’ve overlooked time and time again. ¬†For me, that’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), a hilarious collection of sweetly horrifying true life tales from blogger Jenny Lawson. ¬†My best friend gave me this book years ago, after assuring me that I’d find more than a little in common with Lawson’s various embarrassments, and probably also piss myself from laughter. ¬†And so taking her recommendation to great heart, I promptly stuck the book on the shelf beneath four other things and then totally forgot about it. ¬†Slick.

But some gentle nudging in the form of this reading challenge encouraged me to release this forgotten gem from bookshelf purgatory, and I’m glad I did, because Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was hella funny. Lawson gets a lot of mileage out of a very unique childhood, one that mirrored a lot of moments in my own rural upbringing, only writ extra large and super bloody. ¬†Seriously, there are SO many stories involving taxidermized animals and her crazy Viking father’s penchant for traumatizing his daughters with pelt-centric pranks. ¬†It takes a special kind of writer to wring the humour and humanity out of a dead dog story, and yet Lawson manages it. ¬†I tittered throughout and was sad when I finished the final chapter. ¬†Thankfully, my friend gifted me with Lawson’s follow-up book, which is also currently languishing on my shelf, though not for much longer.

This manicure is inspired by the inside cover art of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, a 1950s-style collection of hand-drawn pigs, foxes and raccoons in various states of repose (if by “repose” you mean setting up a lighting rig.) ¬†They’re probably stuffed. ¬†Everything in this book seems to come back to taxidermy in one fashion or another!

Let's Pretend Nails

I employed a bit of animal fakery in this mani myself, eschewing my normal free-handed approach for an attempt at stamping (key word here being “attempt,” because lordy, do I suuuuuuccccck at stamping.) ¬†I used MoYou London’s Enchanted stamping plate #14, which features a charming assortment of twee little animal designs, including a sweet pug design I stamped onto my index finger in honour of Lawson’s dearly – and somehow hilariously – departed pug, Barnaby Jones Pickles. ¬†In solid black as against an ivory creme, OPI’s My Vampire is Buff, I think the overall effect looks a bit like faded print on a slightly yellowed page of your favourite, much loved book. ¬†So pretty much perfect inspiration. ūüôā

Let's Pretend Stamping Plate

Literary Inspiration: The Guardians

Guardians Fingers

The fourth prompt in my pal Julie’s reading challenge was to tackle a book that was a gift or loaner. ¬†It just so happens I was gifted with a number of books this past Christmas, so I was all set in that department. ¬†My choice? ¬†The Guardians, a novel by Canadian novelist Andrew Pyper.

The Guardians is a mystery – also a haunted house story – so without giving away too much of the plot, it’s about a group of friends who return to the small Ontario town they grew up in following the death of a childhood friend and teammate. ¬†So Guardians as in the hockey team the boys play on, and also, as it turns out, guardians of dark, disturbing secrets – your pretty traditional Stephen King-ish fare as told through the lens of small town Ontario life (as opposed to Maine, Maine, always Maine.) ¬†It was well written and flowed nicely (I did have the dubious benefit of being ridiculously ill when I read it, so I had an entire day to devote to nothing but its reading) but the ending completely fell off the table. ¬†I felt like my cat when she tracks a fluttery thing off the side of the television – I kept flipping through the final two or three blank pages, apparently trying to will a more definitive ending.

These nails represent the lettering on the Guardians’ jerseys. ¬†The book doesn’t actually stipulate the Guardians’ colours, so I went with my high school’s combo of purple and gold (which I realize is far more football than hockey, but I really wanted to use a purple polish today, the end!)

The Guardians Book

Literary Inspiration: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

HP Collage

Being one of maybe only half a dozen people in the entire world who had not yet read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the second last book of the Harry Potter series, I thought the theme of magic and fantasy in my friend Julie’s reading challenge was the perfect time to rectify this literary shortcoming. ¬†And then, as always, I did some thematically-appropriate nails, this time a swirly, twirly, free-handed mani inspired by Felix Felicis, the good luck libation Harry wins for his extracurricular activities in Potions class (which just might include whipping up this delightful Every Flavoured Bean sudser from Dreaming Tree Soapworks. ¬†That or, you know, accidentally flaying Malfoy alive in the girls’ toilets.)

HP Nails Again

So what did I think? ¬†I actually found it VERY slow going. ¬†Until things really began to take off in the final 100 pages, much of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince felt as though it was treading (Inferi-logged) water – Ron’s got lady troubles, Harry’s got friend troubles, Dumbledore’s got Horcrux troubles, Malfoy’s screwing around in the Room of Requirement and Slughorn’s being obstructionist. ¬†Lather (with this fun soap?), rinse, repeat.

HP Soap Collage

Yet despite believing that the story could have used a bit of trimming, I ultimately find no fault with its fans for wanting to spend as much time as possible in Harry’s bewitchingly magical world. ¬†It’s such a special place; I don’t mind treading water for that (just not that skanky lake water filled with dead bodies; damn, Rowling, things got real dark real fast! Thank goodness for that glowing green light out in the middle of the lake. ¬†Let’s just grab this invisible chain and haul ‘er up and see what we’re dea– oh. ¬†Holy hell, Rowling, why the nightmares?!)

Literary Inspiration: The Walking Dead

the-walking-dead-collage-again

After kicking off my friend Julie’s reading challenge¬†with my favourite novel, The Virgin Suicides, an ultra light and breezy choice (sarcasm), I thought I’d lighten things up a bit by diving into the comic book world of The Walking Dead, where of course nothing bad ever happens and everyone lives in perfect happiness perfectly, forever and ever (further sarcasm.)

The second challenge prompt called for a book inspired by art and literature, be it art history, a book on technique or, say, a comic. ¬†I went the comic route, seeing as The Walking Dead Compendium 1 is right on my bookshelf (as is 2, for that matter), and as a casual viewer of the show, I’ve always been a little curious as to the similarities and differences between it and the books.

Compendium 1, a MASSIVE, forearm-taxing beast written by Robert Kirkman, Charles Adlard and Tony Moore, clocks in at 1,000 pages and covers the first 48 issues of the comics. ¬†Save a childhood obsession with the graphic novel Tales From the Crypt, comics as a storytelling format have never really been my thing – I prefer novels. ¬†And indeed, I had a bit of a hard time getting into a decent reading rhythm with the comics, with the dialogue either entirely absent (Rick waking up from his cop coma) or spurting from characters like word vomit (pretty much anyone upon introducing themselves to THE GROUP; after that you won’t hear from them again until they die.) Which might just be the style of comics in general, although if the show is any indication, I think that one may be particular to The Walking Dead. ¬†I also found there to be a weird condensing of seemingly-pivotal moments (Rick’s awakening, Shane’s death, THE GROUP’s introduction at Woodbury) in favour of endless scenes of morality talk (but again, that might just be The Walking Dead.)

the-walking-dead-book-and-fingers

But after an initial period of hesitation, I started really, really getting into the story, digging hard on the parts where the book and the show would intersect and then deviate once again (Carol and Tyreese!  Super unhinged Hershel!  Sexy Dale and Andrea time!)  It was all going so well.

Where the comics lost me, though, and where I ultimately stopped reading, was with the introduction of Woodbury.  Fans of the show will remember that during the third season a new villain was introduced by the name of The Governor.  Completely insane by any definition of the word, The Governor of the TV show was an authoritarian psychopath with fish tanks full of walker heads in his livingroom, a zombiefied daughter in the closet and a super big hate-on for Rick Grimes.  So not a good guy.

But The Governor of the books is the WORST guy, a violent and sadistic rapist who cuts off Rick’s hand within about six frames of meeting him (there’s that pacing thing I was talking about) and gleefully, and repeatedly, assaults Michonne over PAGES.

As a matter of personal principle, I don’t watch or read anything that heads too far down the path of sexual assault (cruelty towards animals and torture porn as well.) ¬†My tolerance for that is practically nil. ¬†It’s insulting and uninspired writing used by lazy authors who can’t think of a motivating event for their female characters beyond rape (looking at you, Game of Thrones.)

So when the books Рwhich to that point had been bleak, yes, and shocking, also yes, but still very much in keeping with the PG-13 tone of the show Рtook a hard, hard turn into ultra heavy sadism (there is one image I wish I could unsee that will haunt my dreams forever) I checked the hell out.  I feel like there may have been a switch in authors at this point, the change in tone Рand not one for the better Рis just that jarring and unpleasant.

So The Walking Dead Compendium 1 and I parted ways at about the halfway mark.  But as always, I had to do a bit of nail art to go along with my choice of book, this time a mani showing off my ultra tiny lettering skills, because every other option was just too depressing or inappropriate.  Which is just The Walking Dead for you (I should create a macro for that phrase.)

the-walking-dead-fingers

Literary Inspiration: The Virgin Suicides

virgin-suicides-collage

At the end of last year as part of my annual assessment of greatness (doesn’t that sound like something George’s dad would come up with on Seinfeld?) it came to my attention that despite quantitatively reading more than I ever have before, I read just two novels in 2016. ¬†Otherwise, the bulk of my reading was online – my blog, other people’s blogs, and so much infuriating on-the-fly political news, my blood pressure practically demands that I return to the comforting paper (or electronic) embrace of a real novel.

And so I’ve been following along with a casual reading challenge created by my friend Julie of The Redolent Mermaid in an effort to not only read more, but read better. ¬†Also grammar gooder. ūüėČ And because there’s nothing I love more than making life difficult for myself, I’ve added two sub-challenges to the main thread:

1. Where possible, all selections will be made from my own bookcase. ¬†Despite being an avid lifelong reader, I actually fell out of favour with reading as a pastime some years back – that’s not a recent development. ¬†As such, I have a serious backlog of gifts, loaners and hopeful recommendations that require my attention, if only to finally be able to say, “I read that!”

2. To keep it relevant to my blog, I have to do a manicure inspired by whatever I’m reading at the time.

virgin-suicides-book

Which presents a bit of a challenge (within the challenge’s challenge) when the first book you pick to fulfill the theme of a beloved or favourite novel is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. ¬†The entire depressing story is right there in the title – how exactly do I draw nail art inspiration from that? ¬†Carefully, very carefully, and respectfully, being mindful of the overall feeling the book inspires in me as opposed to a strict adherence to its events. Which, absent any context or enjoyment derived from Eugenides paying out the story, are just so, so bleak.

If you watched the 1999 Sofia Coppola movie starring Kirsten Dunst, you’re already familiar with the story and tone of The Virgin Suicides. ¬†The film is faithful to both, chronicling the year in 1970s Grosse Pointe, Michigan over which all five teenage Lisbon girls – Cecilia, Mary, Therese, Bonnie and Lux – take their lives. ¬†The story is told from the perspective of a group of neighbourhood boys whose trainwreck-like obsession with the girls stretches into adulthood, upon which they reconvene one last time for a final forensic analysis of a shattered family, a decaying neighbourhood, the girls’ inexplicable deaths and, indeed, their own passing lives. ¬†Really lightweight stuff!

I think Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of the novel is about as perfect as one can be, particularly that feeling of floating about inside a hazy, pastel-hued cloud. ¬†But in both the film and the novel, there’s nasty little moldy bits creeping in along the edges of all that cotton candy fluff – cracks in the rose-coloured glasses that have let in the rot. ¬†In the book more so than the movie, this is represented by the Lisbon family home, a staid suburban structure whose internal and external disrepair mirrors its residents’ rapidly decaying mental states. ¬†And as the Lisbons incrementally retreat from their friends, their neighbours, the world, the family home, once a bustling hub of shimmery teenage girl activity, becomes a stale, airless crypt housing little more than living ghosts and their moss-covered memories of what can never again be.

virgin-suicide-nails

Super uplifting. ūüėČ ¬†And I can’t really explain why it’s my favourite book 20 years running, except that it just is. The weird heart wants what the weird heart wants, I suppose. ¬†I just hope I did it right with my interpretation of the book’s tone, that feeling of life’s bright spark being born under by decay. ¬†Let’s leave it on that cheery note!