television

Robert Bloch and Inside Psycho

Last week brought the final episode of the six part podcast series Inside Psycho. I had been stockpiling them since the first episode released and then listened to them all over a few days’ time. I am so happy that I did, because this series sure was wonderful!

Psycho is a particular favorite of mine. I couldn’t even guess how many times I’ve seen it, and if I’m flipping through channels on TV and it’s playing, I will sit there and watch the rest of it. I love it for so many reasons: Hitchcock, film making/cinematography, creepy and weird, Anthony Perkins is pretty perfect.

With all that said, I must admit, I was a little apprehensive of Inside Psycho. So much has been written and made of the 1960 film, I wasn’t sure if there was anything to add. Would this podcast be more for the neophyte and offer nothing new? I was certainly wrong and delighted about that.

The first episode, of course, talked about noted Wisconsin weirdo Ed Gein, who was the inspiration behind Norman Bates in the book Psycho, written by Robert Bloch. Episode 2, however, revealed so much. Notably, I was unaware that the young Robert Bloch frequently corresponded with HP Lovecraft, the latter who encouraged Bloch’s writing and creativity. The letters have been collected in a book.

All six episodes were stellar. The production itself was an engaging amalgam of documentary-style, radio drama, and a little horror, thrown in for good measure. Yes, of course, there were aspects of the story’s history that I was well aware, but details, for example, like the film making process was more than appreciated. Psycho was innovative in its craft and film making. There was also a particularly humorous account about how the rating censors couldn’t agree if there actually was nudity in the shower sequence.

Also, can you guess another horrifying sight that the censors thought obscene? The shot of the toilet in the bathroom. The idea of showing a toilet in a film or television show was greatly verboten. THE HORROR!

psycho-alfred-hitchcock

Dead lady? Yes. Flushing toilet? GOD FORBID!

Links:

 

FORTITUDE: Recommended Reading

fortitude 1

All is right in the world once again. Personal favorite television show Fortitude is back for its second season in the US (totally jealous of UK fans who got to watch the new season a few months back). I was a bit nervous that we wouldn’t get to continue the complete insanity that is Fortitude as the network that co-produced and broadcasted it stateside when under in the fall.

It returned on Friday! For those who don’t know anything about it, you can watch both seasons on Amazon; I’ve also include the season 1 trailer at the end. We would have to sit here for a while for me to explain what exactly is going on, but briefly, a quiet Arctic Norwegian village is disturbed when a series of brutal death/murders pop up…and that is only the beginning.

fortitude 2

This show ticks so many boxes for me: a chilly, remote climate, difficult characters, mysterious thrills, happenings, and crimes. But it is so much more. It captures the strangeness of it all: prehistoric mammoths, parasites, sketchy Russians, death by polar bear, ghost murder, shamans, Dennis Quaid, British people pretending to be Norwegian, reindeer scientists, the list could go on…

I am also a fan of books that take place in cold places. It is very rare that you will find me reading or writing anything that has a tropical locale. Here are a few reading suggestions for fans of Fortitude or general ice terror.

The Terror is inspired by the ill-fated trip of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, two ships that were tasked with finding a way through the Norwest Passage. However, in The Terror men are not only devoured by disease and starvation, but an unknown monstrous creature stalking them from out on the ice. I’ve read recently that this book will be adapted into a television series. For history buffs, the once lost Terror was found last year and a video of it was filmed by the Arctic Research Foundation.

The North Water is brutal and captivating. Moments can be so visceral and intense in this novel, and it was one of my favorites of this past year. I am baffled by the fact that it was not moved from the long list to the short list for the Man Booker Prize. I am a complete evangelist for it and I think everyone should read it (don’t get put off by the human murder, bear murder, and venereal disease). Two men are aboard a harpooner: one a medic, the other a murder and then a horrendous discovery is found.

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History delves in to both animal cannibalism and human. I generally stay away from deep dive cannibalism (unsurprisingly, I find it disturbing), but this book offers a lot on interesting animal behavior, including misconceptions (re: praying mantis and pet hamsters). It also, of course, explores the fiasco that was the Donner Party. Spoiler alert: Men are much quicker to starve to death than women.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket is Edgar Allan Poe’s only known finished novel. The writing can be a bit stiff, but it’s worth a read as 1. it’s short and 2. it was influential to other nautical works that came after (Moby-DickAn Antarctic Mystery). It’s has all of the makings of a nineteenth century nautical misadventure: calamity, mutiny, people eating, a dog, an enigmatic snow monster.

Has anyone else watched Fortitude? Appreciate the chilly thriller genre? Here’s the aforementioned trailer for season 1.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big little lies.jpg

Back in October, I saw a short one minute long trailer for a new mini-series coming to HBO. Whoever created it was spot on. I was hooked. I had that feeling that marketers shoot for: I need this in my life now. The trailer ended with the note that the series is based on a book. When I looked it up, based on the cover, it appeared very much in the “chick lit” genre and perhaps, out of my normal reading purview. But this year, I decided that I was reading outside of my normal zone and in doing so, it has paid off. Especially for this book.

I also found it surprising that Stephen King, of all people, blurbed the book. His brief sentiment is exactly right. Big Little Lies was a dark, mysterious, funny, adroit novel. It was contemporary commercial fiction at its best.

Somehow Liane Moriarty has written a literary thriller that centers around the parents and children of a kindergarten class in suburban Australia. Immediately, a reader can see why Stephen King liked it. There are flash forwards to police interrogations, hinting at a crime that has taken place at a school function. It was reminiscent of the structure of King’s great first novel Carrie.

I often don’t read commercial fiction, because simply, the writing is tedious and abysmal (I imagine myself typing this with my nose in the air), but I unabashedly loved this. I also really recommend this book as a way to get back into using your brain. I’ve heard from many people that the past weeks have been hard and doing anything constructive, even reading or watching television, has been extremely difficult….

*

While reading this book, I kept thinking that we are in a heyday of excellent crime novels written by women. I generally prefer the types that don’t feature a detective as the main character and are not part of a series. For example, I’ve enjoyed the imperfect Ruth Ware novels and some of Laura Lippman books are decent, but I still maintain the queen bee to be Megan Abbott (I reviewed her 2014 novel The Fever). Over the summer, she was interviewed on Inside the New York Times Book Review podcast, where she made a case that women writers have made a space for themselves within the genre. Abbott, I say, is an expert at “girl voice” and it’s so enjoyable reading. (aside- if I had the reading time, I would love to delve into Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels.)

On the most recent episode of the NYT Book Review podcast, Pamela Paul talks about her recent pleasure read, All Things Cease to Appear, which she described as a literary thriller. I’ve downloaded the audiobook hoping to start soon.

One aspect of these type of books that I usually enjoy is the closeness to the characters and plot. Attention to writing on the sentence level is very important to me (this year, I’ve begun reading James Lasdun, whose books are thin and mysterious, and the writing is so enviable). I’ve never been drawn to hysterical realism, these big books that are more ambitious than anything else. They seem more concern with their “bigness.”

*

But back to this HBO series. It’s developed by David E. Kelley, so I’m hoping he carries over the humor and dark, sharp dialogue and narrative. The book takes place in a beach community in Australia, but the series looks as if it has been transplanted to the craggy and beautiful Monterrey, California. Reese Witherspoon, who stars in the series, also serves as a producer and if you look at her past and upcoming projects, she is very interested in developing films and TV shows from books by women authors.

Last week, HBO released a slightly longer trailer, which shows a little more of the characters and plot. You can watch it on YouTube here, but below is the original one that I watched that got me intrigued (kudos again to the trailer designer!).