30 January 2012

The Shadow over Innsmouth


The Shadow Over Innsmouth was a return to form for me after reading Lovecraft’s The White Ship, an ethereal, almost dreamy story.  Shadow, on the other hand, sits squarely within the parameters of most of Lovecraft’s work, showcasing the horror of what lurks just beyond normal human experience.
Set in the fictional town of Innsmouth, it tells the story of an unnamed narrator, a young man (who Lovecraft named Robert Olmstead in his notes, apparently) taking a vacation around New England to visit his familial roots.
Drawn by a sort of macabre fasciation, he passes through the town of Innsmouth on his way to Arkham, where he discovers that the inhabitants have, for several generations, been engaged in a pact with sea-dwelling creatures who, again, go unnamed, though later works would refer to them as the Deep Ones.  These humanoid fish-frog creatures have been providing the townspeople of Innsmouth plentiful fish and gold, in exchange for breeding with them, producing hybrid creatures that start their lives as human before eventually taking to the ocean and gaining immortality as they transform fully into Deep Ones.
Shadow was far more action-oriented than the prior works of Lovecraft I have read, featuring an exceptional chase scene as the narrator attempts to escape Innsmouth, which contained some of the most tense of Lovecraft’s narrative I have yet to see.
It was the ending, though, which was perhaps most striking, as the narrator realized his own links to Innsmouth, and the choice that lay before him.

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Books: Finished Believer Beware and started on The Family.

Bottles: Chappellet 2008; Orin Swift Papillon 2006; Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009.  All in the course of a trip to Memphis, TN.  It was divine.

Writing: Working on a fun little short story that will never see the light of day but pleases me to write.

Guitar: Getting my guitar back from the shop today, with a new tremolo bridge!  Yea!

25 January 2012

Opus One 1999


It's taken me a while to get to a place where I felt able to write about what was truly an amazing bottle of wine: Opus One 1999.

Opus One has always hovered at the margins of my awareness of Napa wine, both alluring for its pedigree (Mondavi and Rothschild) and exciting for its unattainable prices (around $200 at retail most times I've seen it).  And yet, in Louisville I finally bit the bullet and bought a bottle at The Oakroom in Louisville, Kentucky.

After decanting, I finally got the wine, which was a deep blood red.  The nose was amazingly potent - tart fruits, an almost metallic minerality, and then, almost overwhelmingly, the aroma of black walnuts.  The scent was so strong it reminded me of playing beneath the one in my grandma's back yard when I was younger.

The first taste was of cool, bracing fruit, but it then transformed, passing through dry, minerally, slaty, and then on to a final taste of almond and oak.  A clean, herbal finish lingered afterward.

The Opus One followed two other bottles, one of white and one of red, shared among 12 people and several courses of meal, too involving to take notes on everything, but I made an exception for the Opus One.  It was an amazing bottle to share and enjoy.

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Books: Nearly finished with Believer Beware.

Bottles: Had a bottle of 2008 Chappellet Napa Cabernet last night which was delightful.

Writing: Having fun with a silly short story that is sort of purely for my own amusement and that of my friends.

Guitar: Guitar in shop while I'm in Memphis, though I did play around on my lap steel some in the few days I had at home.

23 January 2012

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire


A Lion Among Men is the third book in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years, a re-imagining of the land of Oz first illuminated by L. Frank Baum.  Picking up the story - sort of - where Son of a Witch left off, Lion tells the story of - who else? - the Cowardly Lion, named Brrr by Maguire.
Like Son of a Witch and Wicked before it, I found myself immersed in the story - the world and the characters are compelling, thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable - and yet, this being the third book in the series, I have learned to be somewhat reserved.  Maguire enjoys setting up mysteries and teasing the reader - and I have no problem with that - but the answers are often frustratingly unforthcoming.  Not only that, but it seems with each new book I have to say goodbye to characters I had come to know and meet new ones, only to have those taken away at the end of the story as well.
Perhaps I’m simply expecting the books to be something they’re not; perhaps my mind simply wants the Wicked Years to be more like The Wheel of Time, where characters come and go but always come back again.
I also found Lion somewhat muddier as regards to what the author wanted us to take away from the book, even more-so than Son of a Witch.  I enjoyed the book, and it certainly got me thinking, but unlike Wicked I didn’t come away feeling that my perspectives had truly been challenged or changed.
All that said, I still enjoyed the book, and I look forward to Out of Oz, the next book in the Wicked Years.

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Books: Reading Believer, Beware, a collection of essays on religion.

Bottles: Oh my, enjoyed two nice bottles in Orlando: Naia 2006 and Bodegas Leda Vina Veijas 2003.

Writing: Toying around with some fun short stories.

Guitar: Been travelling a lot, so the guitar is in the shop for a new tremolo bridge.

05 January 2012

The White Ship by HP Lovecraft


The White Ship by HP Lovecraft
Delving further into Lovecraft’s work, I read his short story “The White Ship”.  It was a stark contrast from the previous two stories I read - “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Colour Out of Space” - and conveyed an ethereal, dream-like story.
It followed the voyage of a man named Basil Elton through a series of dreamy harbors, past mysterious shores, and eventually to the utter edge of the world, all while aboard The White Ship, captained by a figure known only as the bearded man.
The language of the story bordered on the poetic; it brought to my mind the Elven poems of Tolkien (though perhaps simply because I’m also currently engaged in my annual reading of The Lord of the Rings); he passes misty shores, majestic cities and immense rivers.  The names Lovecraft invokes for the locations - Thalarian, City of a Thousand Wonders; Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained; Sona-Nyl, the Land of Fancy - are wildly different from R’lyeh where dead Cthulhu lies dreaming, or Yuggoth where the Mi-Go dwell.  The names in “The White Ship” seem, like the White Ship itself, to float out of a pleasant dream, rather than a nightmare.
I suppose, in a way, it’s difficult to quantify “The White Ship.”  It almost seems like some sort of psychedelic trip - indeed, I imagine it would be quite impressive to read while listening to Dark Side of the Moon.  Actually, everything is good when read while listening to Dark Side of the Moon.  Even so.
Either way, it was a nice reprieve from the grim stories that came before it, and which will no doubt come after it, as I journey through Lovecraft’s works.

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Books: Finished  A Lion Among Men, reading Out of Oz right now, then Ready Player One.

Bottles: Tried a bottle of Bl├╝feld Riesling.  Not bad, but not spectacular.

Writing: Still on hiatus.

Guitar: "A Pocketful of Stones," and soon to be starting a new bar chord exercise, which I sorely need.

02 January 2012

Savigny-les-Beaune Les Montchenevoy Patrick Javillier-Guyot 2002

I enjoyed a bottle of Savigny-les-Beaune Les Montchenevoy Patrick Javillier-Guyot 2002 at a very good restaurant called The Oakroom in Louisville, Kentucky.  It was the first of three bottles that evening, and the only white.

I have a soft spot for white Burgundy, and I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle.  It had a heady nose of honey and surprising notes of mint.  On the tongue, it displayed the buttery feel I have come to know and love from good white Burgundies, with smooth fruits that evolved through sweet and spice into a lingering finish with a strong note of cinnamon.

I shared the bottle with quite a few people, as it turns out - there were 12 of us - os we all got rather less than a full glass, but it was an enjoyable bottle, and I was glad to share it.  It complemented the cheese plate we had quite well, though I was sadly unable to make individual notes on the cheeses.

The dinner was so absorbing that I forgot to record the second bottle - though if memory serves it was a Washington Syrah - but I definitely recorded the last bottle of the evening, 1999 Opus One.  My tasting of that will follow soon.

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Books: Read A Lion Among Men, reading Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

Bottles: Bought some recently but haven't drank it.  One prize is a bottle of K Vintners Ovide-en-Cerise 2009.

Writing: Still on break from Into the Shining Sun and getting some great feedback from the people who read the draft.

Guitar: Started looking at "A Pocketful of Stones."