Through the Woods, Forfeit, Slay Ride

Through the Woods

I've mentioned Emily Carroll in this column several times, because she is so amazing and inventive. She draws the most beautiful, disturbing comics, many of which have a root in various fairy tales. Her story His Face All Red (discussed here: was probably the piece that first got her the kind of acclaim that she deserves. A couple of years ago she published a gorgeous collection of her work called Through the Woods, which I finally read last night. As a result I didn't get to sleep until five a.m. Yes, for me her work is that scary. The one that I found most perturbing is called A Lady's Hands Are Cold and has the bones of the story of Bluebeard but the flesh is new. A young lady is told to marry a gentleman but once she is ensconced in his home she hears a wailing voice singing a dreary song of death. What would you do? Maybe what she does and maybe not.

My Friend Janna is about a pair of young ladies who are fake spiritualists until something happens and the real supernatural world intrudes. The Nesting Place begins with terrifying stories a mother tells her daughter and then goes on to be even creepier. Our Neighbor's House starts deceptively quietly and quickly goes all south. And of course His Face All Red is included in this collection, which all revolve around the terror found in or near the woods.

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Forfeit and Slay Ride
My mom tried to pass her love of certain authors down to me, but I was maybe too young to enjoy them at the time. She would read me a paragraph or two and I would just be thinking I wanted to be outside playing. But later I did come to love two of her favorites; P. G. Wodehouse and Dick Francis. But rereading two of Mr. Francis' early works, Forfeit and Slay Ride, I can see why I didn't like them when I was younger. They both have kind of strange attitudes towards the women characters. In Forfeit the protagonist is married and his wife is mostly paralyzed from polio. As a result he indulges in short flings, hopefully with women who don't get emotionally attached and ask for more than he can give. In the course of writing a series of investigative articles he meets a woman called Gail and they fall into bed together. This is all sort of background to the central mystery of the novel, which is interesting and clever, but to me the final resolution of his lady situations seemed much too facile and objectifying. I wonder of the author wasn't influenced by the popularity of the James Bond books and was trying to infuse that whole “sexy douchebag” flavor?

I felt something similar in Slay Ride, which is about a young man who is an investigator for the Jockey Club, who goes to Norway when an English jockey is suspected of stealing thousands of kroner from a Norwegian racetrack. The protagonist is immediately infatuated with the head of security's wife and spends too much time wondering if she cheats on her husband. And at one point he says, in reference to another woman, something along the lines of “Widows are made for comforting.” Seriously? Thank God I have read Mr. Francis' later work and am pretty sure this bizarre attitude is only temporary.

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Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat more of a reminder than anything else. If you haven't been to your library lately you might want to see what new things they have added. Almost everything I am reading these days is coming from the library. I think I sent twelve books back today. I am so lazy I don't even go to the library. I look things up on their website and place holds on what I want. When they are ready they go to the library where a friend works and she brings them back to me. (In exchange for me letting her take my car to work.) The older books I am reading are often not available at my county library but I can get them through inter-library loan. This means I can check out anything in the entire state of Maryland, including the contents of the fabulous Enoch Pratt Free Library.

And of course there is much more to the library than books. You can do all kinds of research, including genealogy, or take classes, or go to anime or knitting club, or bring your young one to story time, or check out toys. My library used to check out paintings but I am not sure if they still do that. Some libraries even have seeds! And that's not counting more mundane things like DVDs and CDs. There really should be something for everyone.