A Head Full of Ghosts and Robin Hood

A Head Full of Ghosts

I feel like I've read a plethora of is she or isn't she, is it him or is it nothing, ghosts or mental illness or whatever stories lately. By which I mean I've read a number of books recently that could be construed in many different ways. The little Stranger by Sarah Waters for instance raises more than just the question is the house haunted? If it is haunted, who's doing the haunting? Is it a deliberate haunting or is it more like your classic poltergeist; a manifestation of teenage angst? Or is it all a bizarre, bizarre series of manipulations designed to bring about the secret dream of one of the characters?

Paul Tremblay's novel A Head Full of Ghosts raises similar questions. It is the somewhat fragmented story of two sisters (and their parents, but the sisters are the most important characters.) Merry is eight, a little older than the age of reason according to the Catholic church, and Marjorie is 14, in her early teens and having a very rough time. She is displaying some pretty serious symptoms of mental illness but her father, who's recently lost his job and become a bit of a religious fanatic, convinces himself that she's possessed.
As peculiar as it sounds I'm sure to some people the idea of possession is easier to deal with than mental illness. Even with the best medication and care, illnesses like schizophrenia can be devastating and extremely difficult to treat. If you've bought into the pop-culture version of exorcism that is pretty easily treated. Bring in a priest, Bing Bam Boom, chuck out the demon and everything's fine. You hardly have to raise a sweat and it's all over and done with.

Dad takes this possession concept one step further and brings in, with the help of the priest, a reality show production company, which is offering to pay them a substantial fee; large enough to get the family back on its feet. And thus begins the filming of a show called The Possession.

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you were a child and all your classmates, teachers and neighbors were watching you on television once a week? If every detail of the tensions splitting your family were broadcast to the world? If everyone was debating what was real and what wasn't? What a nightmare.

The novel cuts back and forth in time, jumping from the present, fifteen years after the show ended, back to when Merry was a child. This gives Mr. Tremblay the opportunity to include plenty of foreshadowing and suspenseful comments. Part of the story was told in blog form, written by a character dissecting and critiquing the show. This was my favorite part of the book as I found her insights quite interesting.

While I came away fairly satisfied, my middle son thought the book never really delivered. It seemed to be leading up to something but never quite got there. For myself, while I enjoyed it and was interested, it definitely didn't live up to the cover hype. Stephen King says it scared him but it didn't scare me, much. Maybe this is one of those times where expectations work against you. If I hadn't thought it was going to be extra scary maybe I would have been more frightened.

You can read an excerpt here: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062363237/a-head-full-of-ghosts

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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire

Going a completely different direction, I just finished reading Howard Pyle's 1888 take on the Robin Hood legend. Unfortunately I read it on the Kindle and the copy I read was lacking the gorgeous illustrations that usually accompany the text. But it was still a fun read, filled with old ballads as well as vignettes of Robin and his Merry Men's lives. My favorite is when Will Scarlet comes to Sherwood. As the popular meme goes, this is someone who gives zero fucks. He is strolling along, dressed in fancy clothes, smelling a flower, when he runs into Robin, who immediately gives him grief for not living up to Robin's ideas of masculinity. Robin thinks he can best Will in a fight, but we all know that fancy dressed dudes who love flowers can have surprising martial skills. This book is particularly appealing because of the strong bonds the Merry Men have for each other. Friendship is nice, isn't it?

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Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a link to the world's greatest amusement park: Diggerland. https://www.diggerlandusa.com/ This is the perfect place for your Mary Margaret Road-Grader role play and of course appeals to those of all ages infatuated with giant machinery. (If you haven't yet read Mary Margaret Road-Grader then please do, it's available at Strange Horizons for free. http://www.strangehorizons.com/2001/20010129/mary_margaret.shtml)