Friday, January 18, 2008

Unreal esoteric women: part I


I've written a couple articles about occult-themed fiction recommendations; although there is so much out there, much of it is pulp, (I do appreciate pulp, but the right kind...) flimsy, too 'slasher', or just plain bad. Obviously, greatly developed characters go hand-in-hand with great fiction, and I have found myself gushing over certain female characters in the reviews.


So, I thought I'd recommend a few books based on some of these characters.


Republic of Love by the unfortunately late Carol Shields: While this smart love-story novel itself is not based around an esoteric theme, the main character, Fay McLeod, is an academic folklorist who works in a folklore center, and is researching a project on mermaids. It's a metaphor within the story of course, musing on the mysteries, elusiveness, and depths of love, but Shields treats the subject thoughtfully and seriously, and it is not fodder for 'wackiness.'


This was the first of Shield's books I read, and it was one of those books I could barely bring myself to read the last page because I didn't want to lose its world. I recently learned it was made into a movie a couple years ago, and watched it on Netflix instant viewing. I assumed it would be awful--in the wrong hands, it easily could have been translated into a sentimental made for TV type thing. But I loved it. There are some fantasy-device type scenes with the mermaids that on their own make it worth viewing. Kind of a styly, silent film thing, cabinet photo vignette, vintage nude photography deal. Loved it.


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Book of Shadows, by James Reese: I'm just going to quote from an article I wrote, because I don't think I can put it better now: [In Book of Shadows, Reese] has included an impressive supporting character, the seductive and profoundly wounded Madeleine de la Mettrie, who is arguably the most compellingly tragic gothic-genre character in recent memory. Madeleine breathes life and strength of will into the clichéd business of being undead, and her storyline is reason enough to grab Reese's book. It is also satisfyingly epic and memorable; it will certainly appeal to Anne Rice fans on the lookout for good, pulpy modern gothic.


In addition to the supporting character of Madeleine, there are other great female characters, including Herculine, the hermaphroditic main character, and her mysterious mentor, Sebastiana. Good news for anyone who loves this book--there are two more in the series now.


Strangely, this book did not generally get good reviews. I don't understand. It's epic, well written, with amazingly developed characters. I suppose the subject matter could be considered indulgent (witches, etc.) by mainstream reviewers.


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Both books are available at amazon for under a buck. More to come...

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