I went to Stephen King’s house for my birthday

I went to Stephen King’s house for my birthday

Well, not exactly—today is my birthday, and I went to Stephen King’s house last week. But I went partially as a birthday gift to myself, since 2020 has squashed all my international traveling dreams for the time being, and King’s house has been on my list for awhile. Why not go to Maine in the fall, (on a sanitized, less-than-half-full plane), social distance in a small town (comparatively—Chicagoan here), and see some sights?

For the record, I wore a mask and so were most people I saw in towns in Maine, though as you can see, I removed it for this little photo shoot.

Everything about this house was cool, from the detailed, wrought iron gate made to look like spiders and a spiderweb, to the bat and three-headed dragon sculptures serving as miniature gargoyles, to its blood-red color (not to mention the red balloons left by someone—or something). I would expect nothing less from the King of horror. And the fall foliage only added to the aesthetic.

It was a rainy day in Bangor, but it cleared up right before I arrived at the house (thanks, goddesses). I got few minutes alone to take photos before others who made the pilgrimage started showing up in staggered groups of two, ending with about 7-8 people total before I left, though I’m sure people come and go all day. It was nice to see how calm and respectful fellow King fans are, especially considering the driveway was open and anybody could’ve walked onto the property—warned first, of course, by a “24-hour surveillance” sign.

While most fans hope to catch a glimpse of the author himself, I’ve read that King no longer lives here full-time (I’m sure the most prolific horror writer in the U.S. has a multitude of homes). He and his wife Tabitha are in the process of turning the house into an office for King’s estate, a home for his archives, and a writer’s retreat for visiting writers.

The wooden sculpture in the front yard was just unveiled in April 2020. King hired Josh Landry, a chainsaw sculptor based in Maine, to transform the dead remnants of a massive ash tree that was partially removed a few years ago into a sculpture featuring animals and books. The longer I looked at this, the more details I noticed, like that the legs of the bookshelf are made to look like human legs and feet, and the dog at the bottom appears to be a Corgi, a nod to King having been the owner of multiple Corgis, including his current familiar, Molly, aka the Thing of Evil.

While in Bangor, I saw a lot of King-related sights, namely because King based the fictional Derry, Maine featured in some of his novels—including arguably his most ubiquitous, the nearly-1,200-page IT—on the town. I have more photos and experiences from those spots I’d love to share, so stay tuned for an IT-centered post sometime before Halloween!

P. S. If you’re interested in planning your own Stephen King-inspired trip to Bangor, I recommend this travel blog, Oddities & Curiosities. These guys made a custom Google map showing exactly where all the hot spots are, and I found it really useful. I’ve also heard of guided tours in Bangor for all things King, but I didn’t look too much into these in favor of keeping social distance.

Aside

Whatcha readin’?

I want to review more books on this blog, but I’ve been dreadfully behind on my reading goal for 2020—for a lot of reasons, like being busy with work, moving to a new apartment, a global pandemic, among other things—so now I’m playing catch-up. And in lieu of a review right now, here’s what I’m currently reading (or reading soon).

(Not pictured: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin. I’ve been reading it for 84 years. Don’t @ me.)

Look at this cute little stack.

All from the library except the top one. And (unintentionally) all different genres! Sci-fi, horror, contemporary fiction (kind of an umbrella term but, more specifically, like, non-genre bestseller fiction), memoir, and thriller/mystery.

  • A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green: I spontaneously grabbed this sci-fi novel in a local bookstore because I’m a fan of Green’s brother author John Green’s novels—not knowing it was the second book in a duology. Whoops. So, now that I’ve caught up and read book #1 (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing), I’m finally digging into this one.
  • Malorie by Josh Malerman: The sequel to Bird Box, which I read last summer after seeing the Sandra Bullock Netflix movie and learning that it was also a horror novel! I’m excited for this one; only a few pages in and shit is already going down.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I know only two things about this novel that lead me to picking it up at the library: 1) It has gotten excellent reviews, 2) There’s a miniseries with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington I want to watch (that has also gotten great reviews) but I’d rather read it first.
  • Over the Top by Jonathan van Ness: I haven’t read a memoir yet this year, and normally it’s one of my top genres. JVN is adorable. I love his work on Queer Eye and his commendable work on his own Instagram stories documenting his four cats eating breakfast every morning. If I’m being honest, that’s what pushed me to finally grab this one. *LOLs in cat lady*
  • Someone We Know by Shari Lapena: I’m a sucker for a good mystery and/or thriller, and I’ve enjoyed the other novels by Lapena I’ve read (A Stranger in the House and The Couple Next Door). Thinking I’ll probably crack this open after Malorie.

What are you reading?

100th post!

100th post!

I’m having tons of fun on this blog—it’s something I would do even if it were a shout into the void (though, really, isn’t everything?), but it’s even better to share the love, so thanks for following and/or popping in!

For my 100th post, I thought I’d share my own bookshelf. This one I’ve only had for about a week. I love it. I recently moved and figured that was as good an excuse as any to upgrade from my overflowing four- to a six-shelfer.

Fiction section. The gap on the top shelf next to Hank Green is where his An Absolutely Remarkable Thing should go but I’m currently reading 👀
Nonfiction in the middle. My baby poetry collection on the bottom (though, in all fairness, the Norton Anthology is DENSE). And the one Funko Pop I own, Sabrina Spellman with Salem, next to The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, which is *chef’s kiss* if you like creepy things.

Here’s to the next 100! Thanks for reading.

Death of the author and J.K. Rowling

Death of the author and J.K. Rowling

©E. Hull, 1827

Sigh. This is happening.

The concept of “death of the author” was introduced by French literary critic Roland Barthes in 1967, the most basic definition of which argues that an author’s intentions and biographical facts (their politics, religion, etc.) should hold no special weight to readers’ interpretations of their writing. That, once published, the text belongs to the reader, not the author—i.e., art should be separate from the artist.

It’s a concept that’s supes tempting to use to make it easier to cope when one of your favorite authors has outed herself as cringey.

Siiiiiiigh.

Three things first—contradictory, perhaps, but to be fair, this is a tricky subject:

  1. I’m very sad about J. K. Rowling’s recent comments. I’m sad to see this side of her and sad that she’s choosing to die on this hill, in such a weird time, at that. I’m disappointed that she’s using her (highly influential) platform to promote the harmful notion that trans women are a threat to cis women’s experiences. I’m sad she’s alienating so much of her fanbase and colleagues (not to mention sullying her own legacy). Seeing this unfold, and after reading through her 3,000+ word blog post (in which she writes ‘woman’ is not a costume, opposes trans people using the bathrooms of their preference implying they’re predatory, and shows derision for inclusive language like “people who menstruate,” claiming that terms like this are degrading to women, when ironically she’s the one who would like to define women by and reduce them to uterus ownership), this whole thing has felt kind of like mourning to me—I used to really love her and this whole thing is just sad.
  2. Not to be The Onion‘s “Man Always Gets Little Rush Out of Telling People John Lennon Beat Wife” guy, and I know this argument may come off like I’m grasping at straws—and maybe I am—but I think it’s safe to say we all like art created by flawed artists. If we stopped engaging with pieces of art because their creators held a bad opinion, I would hazard a guess that that takes most art off the table for our enjoyment. Am I going to avoid listening to “In My Life” or the Sgt. Pepper album because Lennon was a dick to his family? No. But at the same time I’m not going to justify his bad behavior, nor go around praising him as a peaceful figure. All that said, I understand this isn’t a one-to-one comparison with Rowling, because one of these people has been dead for decades and the other is alive and actively tweeting and influencing.
  3. I will always love the Harry Potter series. It’s been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t, as a 31-year-old who started reading the books at 12. It played a big part in my friendships, my passion for reading and writing. It probably indirectly influenced my decision to become an English major. The culture around the series and its film extensions has been such a source of joy for me and countless others. The same way I won’t give up listening to The Beatles despite Lennon’s behavior, I can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to Harry Potter. But I certainly won’t be going around touting J. K. Rowling as a wonderful author or inspiration anymore.

Now that I’ve got my feels out of the way, let’s revisit “death of the author” (DOTA).

The thing is, as tempting as it to cry “DOTA” about J.K. Ro, it doesn’t really work. DOTA is merely a literary theory about separating the author’s background and ideals that could’ve influenced their work from the text itself. It’s also about separating the author’s intent for the text from our own interpretation of it (e.g., Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is widely read as being anti-meat, but Sinclair really wrote it as a rally for socialism). It’s an academic tool. It doesn’t apply to fuckery being spewed by the author long after the text was published.

So, how do we reconcile our love for Harry Potter with the ickiness of its creator?

The answer: I don’t know.

My take: Continue to love and read Harry Potter if you want to, if it’s so deeply a part of your life and formative years that it would break your heart to let go. I fall into this camp. But trying to morally justify Rowling’s opinions only helps exonerate her and could help continue to feed her influence to spread harmful ideas about a marginalized group. Like the thing, with the awareness that the thing’s creator is problematic, and with the awareness that the way you talk about it or promote it could promote those views.

That said, I don’t know what this form of art consumption—the kind where you like the thing but don’t want to endorse the thing’s creator—looks like yet.

In the meantime—and especially if you’re on the side of Rowling—you can learn more about why the “gender critical” mindset is just thinly veiled discomfort with (at best) or hatred of (at worst) trans people from one of my favorite YouTubers, Natalie Wynn:

Why I underline and highlight in my books

Why I underline and highlight in my books

I used to think that writing in books was sacrilege.

Then, freshman year of college, I was reading a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson that I had borrowed from my cousin and clutched my pearls when I came across a highlighted paragraph. “Why would you do that?” I asked her, scandalized.

“Because I might not read that book again, and this way I can remember the parts I liked,” she answered matter-of-factly. I’d never thought of it like that, as a way to preserve your love of a book, rather than a sign of careless treatment of it. I changed my mind in about .02 seconds and I’ve been marking up my books ever since. (Never the library’s or any I borrow; I’m not an animal.)

It’s nice to grab a book from the shelf sometimes and page through, reading passages I’ve marked. It’s how I source a lot of the quotes for this blog. And even if I start by reading a few highlighted lines, I may get pulled in and wind up reading an entire page or two—or just decide to start over and read the whole book.

So, funnily enough, my intent in underlining and calling out passages to keep love of books and stories alive without having to read them again, often results in my reading them again.

I’ve played myself, but also not.

Happy underlining, folks.

The Beauty and the Beast library

The Beauty and the Beast library

©Disney

Probably my favorite of the Disney Princess classics, 1991’s Beauty and the Beast features a gorgeous castle library and a bookworm heroine. What’s not to love?

I know I wasn’t the only kid whose mind was blown every time they saw the animated library revealed in sweeping angles when the Beast gifts it to Belle. I couldn’t imagine ever having enough time to read all those books, and definitely thought, “But how do you even reach the ones on the high shelves?” If the Beast had been cooped up there all those years, at least he had no shortage of stories to read.

While a lot of libraries were probably used as inspiration, some point out the similarities between the library in the Disney film and that of Admont Abbey’s in Austria. It’s the world’s largest monastery library and is home to 70,000 books. (Also, you might recognize the ceiling artwork as being similar to the ballroom’s in the film’s “Beauty and the Beast” AKA “Tale As Old As Time” scene.)

©Stift Admont
©Disney

Belle spoke for us all when she said, “I’ve never seen so many books in all my life!”

The B&tB library is clearly well-loved: In my google-searching, I came across this insane LEGO set custom-created out of 25,000 pieces by flickr user Sarah von Innerebner:

Okay, I’m off to go dream about having a reading room even one-tenth the size of this one in my home someday. In the meantime, we can make like pre-castle Belle and hit up our (eventually reopening) local libes.

©Disney
I started a blog

I started a blog

I know—who gave me permission to be so ahead of the curve?

I may be a little late to the game in 2020, but I made it.

The original idea was to make a blog for book reviews only, but what if I wanted to talk about literature in general? What if I wanted to share book-related memes and videos? What if I just felt like quoting some passages? And what if I wanted to write some book reviews too?

Welcome to The Book Broad, a.k.a. me, a.k.a. this site, where I hope to do all of that and more.

Topics will likely include the genres and series to which I’m most partial—dystopian, memoir, mystery, YA, and horror are up there, for the record—but I plan to get poetry in the mix, along with classics, bestsellers, and then some.

Plus, I want to talk reading habits, writing tips, libraries, adaptations, criticism—I’m so excited, you guys! Check back in and subscribe/follow if any of this sounds fun to you, and thanks for reading.

Let’s get lit!