May 7th, 2007

  • pgdf

Sixties Novels, Part 11

TWILIGHT CANDELABRA, William Craddock, Doubleday, 1972

I have to apologize for the truncated cover image, which I found on a book-dealer's site. It still appeared preferable to the one I would have produced from my copy, with flash glare!

Well, folks, this book looks, upon cursory examination, to be THE REAL DEAL. A neglected minor masterpiece and cult object of veneration. If you followed the link to Rudy Rucker's blog in a prior post of mine and read Rudy's meditation on Craddock's first and more famous novel, BE NOT CONTENT, you'll have a good idea of the nature of this "sequel." It looks to be THE TIDES OF LUST as written by Philip Jose Farmer in his IMAGE OF THE BEAST mode, with maybe Richard Brautigan holding Craddock's elbow. The book comes complete with a quiz and lists after the conclusion, including:

Twenty-one Drugs Used or Mentioned in TWILIGHT CANDELABRA

Sixteen Sexual Acts Performed or Mentioned in TWILIGHT CANDELABRA

Nine Causes of Death to Be Found in TWILIGHT CANDELABRA

To expand upon the cover blurb, we find this prefatory passage inside:

"A horror story and tight pornographic allegory concerned with a dark and disrespectful grope through circular Eternity in search of a paradoxical parapatterner of simplistic truth guarded by legions of 'dogs, and sorcerors, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.'"

As Homer Simpson once said, trying to explain classic rock music to Bart: "It's BTO--they're Canada's answer to ELP. Their big hit was TCB. [notices Bart staring at him, questioningly] That's how we talked in the 70's. We didn't have a moment to spare!"

Well, Craddock's passage above is how we talked in the Sixties--we didn't have an extra brain cell to spare! Our functioning neurons were all to busy with drug uptake or questioning reality.

Craddock's widow is currently trying to get these books--and further unpublished manuscripts--back into print:

It seems like a perfect project for Wildside or Small Beer or Night Shade, or a similar press of good taste. Get on it, folks!

But until there's a new edition, the scarcity of the first printings has driven their prices sky-high. I nearly jumped when I visited my favorite source for old books, ABE:

There, I discovered that the trade paperback with the $2.95 cover price I had been chucking carelessly about from table to chair was worth from $80-100!

Snatch up the next copy you see!

Zombie Races

Though I'm not intending to review it, I went to a critics screening today of 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle's zombie film, 28 Days Later.  I was interested in this because the film is directed by Juan Fresnadillo, who made Intacto, one of the better thrillers of the new millennium.  The movie is bloody, scary (not for you, Liz), and, unlike the first movie, it keeps the focus on London--I thought 28 Days Later suffered when it moved the characters out of the city.  In the sequel, Fresnadillo keeps the focus on the spookily deserted and runious London, from the docks to Regent Park to Wembley, showing us the extent of the devastation wrought by the Rage.  He boils down the events of the first film into a few minutes of terrifying prologue, focusing on Don (Robert Carlyle), who makes a split-second decison to save himself and leaves his wife to the infected.  And then, it's 28 weeks later. 

The zombies are dying of starvation and the US army has been called in to help restart London.  Don is living in a high rise, protected by the US army.  The virus appears to have spent itself and stragglers, including Don's wife (who's looking a bit under the weather) and kids (Mackintosh Muggleston and Imogene Poots, real-life Harry Potterish names).  Soon it turns out that the virus has taken on a new dormant form.  A scene in a cellar filled with refugees who, in a matter of seconds, are all transformed by the reborn Rage into the infected is truly horrific.

This is a bigger, more ambitious movie than the original.  Wider scope and more violence.   There's a temptation to compare it to Aliens, but there's actually more of the creepy, bleak elegaic feel that was the high water mark of the first movie.  And there are some amazing set pieces:  the firebombing of  Canary  Wharf; three people go for a stroll through the Underground with only a single night vision scope; and a willy-nilly cleansing of Regent Park performed by desperate soldiers so scared that they don't care who's being shot.  There are a couple of wrong notes struck, one by Harold Perrineau as a crazed chopper pilot, but overall 28 Weeks Later is not only bigger, it's better.   The kids, who really are the lead characters, are excellent.  Rose Byrne (an army doctor) and Jeremy Remmer (an army sniper) are okay as their surrogate parents, but don't have much to do.

Won't say any more.  Don't want to spoil it.