Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Post: Sarah Paige Ryan's Holiday Survival Guide

Oh, the holidays. The shopping lists. The paper cuts. The delayed flights. The family gatherings where Grandma reminds everyone that she thought you’d never graduate from high school. If you’re like me, then the season of giving is a source of both joy and dread. After years of holiday meltdowns, I’ve compiled the perfect survival guide to see you through the merry-making.

You might associate this classic cocktail with the likes of Don and Betty Draper, but I have my in-laws to thank for this hangover-proof mood enhancer. Every year, my relatives gather around the Christmas tree and get good and drunk on their own version of the Old-Fashioned: lemon-lime soda, brandy, a dash of bitters, a slice of orange, a maraschino cherry, lots of ice and, for good measure, a sprinkling of Sweet’N Low.

Bad Sex
Why waste your time on a furtive quickie when you can read other people’s half-baked exploits? On December 6, the British magazine The Literary Review will announce the winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. According to the editors, “The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel and to discourage it." Twelve authors from around the world are on the shortlist, including Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Jean Auel, and David Guterson. Extracts are available online at The Guardian.

A Good Book
There’s no better excuse for retreating to an armchair with an old-fashioned and a warm blanket than a really good read. When the season strikes, I want to be transported to distant locales. I want to ooh and aah over the marvelous and strange. If you love novels, I recommend Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder for its fire and ice evocation of disparate locales (Minnesota and the Amazon) and love and nature. If you prefer to dabble, pick up a copy of The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities and enjoy a bizarre and horrifying collection in which parasites might hold the key to religious ecstasy and mechanical teachers are linked to the development of mustard gas.

Schadenfreude is the time-honored art of deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others. It’s distinctly un-seasonal, but it’s also an invaluable source of relief at a time when there’s so much pressure to love one another. On Wednesday, November 30, at 7pm, the members of the Old Town Writing Group will share their tales of holiday mishaps during the Feast of Fools event at Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins. The reading is free. The writers include Karye Cattrell, Dana Masden, Laura Pritchett, Laura Resau, Carrie Visintainer, and myself. Work off that Thanksgiving stress with stories of social disorder.

Sarah Paige Ryan is a local writer and blogger. Her memoir, Solar-Powered Sex Machine, is available online. Learn more at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Feed by Mira Grant

It is very very rare that I feel compelled to write a book review. I did a few too many papers in college to get excited about the process these days. I'm a simple rate it from 1 to 10, and move on gal. That said, the book I just finished deserved a few words. I want to talk about the book Feed, by Mira Grant.

How do I talk about a book like Feed?
I'm not sure where I could possibly begin.
I suppose I should start with myself, because my experiences deeply colored how I read and felt about this book.

I worked for two years at a major newspaper, and believe me when I say I know the ugly side of the news media. When I left the paper the news was already on its slide toward what I call Infotainment, and away from the Truth. Don't get me started on how I feel about the reporting being done today. I also happen to be extremely political, something that stumps my more apathetic Gen X friends. I'm constantly on my soapbox begging people to get informed and get involved. So why is this important? Oh, didn't I mention? This isn't a zombie book. This is a wake up call.

Feed takes place in the years after the zombie Rising. Life carries on. And zombies are just a fact of life. And the book follows a group of bloggers as they cover a major political campaign. The traditional news has lost its pursuit of the truth, and it is in the hands of bloggers to do the real reporting. The bulk of the book is spent on explorations of the news and politics. It is methodical and somewhat repetitive, though I never balked at its surprisingly laid back pace. You join the campaign trail and get pulled in to a well constructed world, frighteningly familiar in its similarities to our own. The actual zombies take a back seat. Terror, on the other hand, does not.

Feed is a meditation on what it is like to live in a state of constant fear. This is a book where zombies are a clear metaphor for terrorism. Actually, not even a metaphor at times - in places it is even literal. This is a world wherein the people are afraid all the time. They shut themselves in their homes, and they fear their neighbors. It's terrifying. And after reading over and over and over again about blood tests being clean, to the point where it begins to grate, the tension has reached such a point that the payoff is as jarring as it is inevitable when one comes back dirty.

This book won't appeal to everyone. It's not action packed. It's not an all out zombie fest. The terror comes in the form of a creeping dread, and in wanting to believe things will work out when you know damn well that they will not. The fear is not in the moments where zombies are running toward you. It's in the moment you are pulling off your shirt, searching for holes, hoping against hope that you aren't dead and just don't know it yet. Or worse, when you are watching your loved one do the same.

- t

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

You know that all of us here at Old Firehouse Books like to keep up on book to movie or television news. So we have to share the trailer for the upcoming film based on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss with you.

What do you think? Will you see it when it hits theaters in March?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A little too on-the-nose?

Stumbling across the internet, I found this comic strip that seems to sum up the current book-selling climate astoundingly well (though it is, perhaps, somewhat dated by the presence of Borders, may-it-rest-in-peace.)

Thanks to the original authors (and original wits! DOH hoh hoh) Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. If you want to read more of their work, click on this sentence.