This will be your final warning!

World famous artist and (much more importantly) my cousin JIM SHAW still has two major exhibits of his work on display until the end of January. I’ve written about the one up at Mass MoCa in the Berkshires, which shows much more of Jim’s fascination with superheroes, including a series of drawings combining William Blake reinterpreted in the style of Superman artist Wayne Boring.

I haven’t written as much about his exhibit in New York City, at the New Museum in the Bowery. This second exhibit is called “The End is Here”. It is an overview of his art throughout his career, including his early fascination with reinterpreting various artistic styles of our childhood with more modern, often subversive, themes. One painting, done in the style of Norman Rockwell, shows a pair of boys beside a hollow tree that they have filled with old issues of Playboy. These paintings often show monstrous or surreal images that connect directly to our lives growing up ion “middle America.”

The most fascinating part of this exhibit was a large room dedicated to the religion Jim invented, “Oism.” The walls are covered by large religious paintings and banners extolling the tenets of the religion, while the center of the room holds glass cases, filled with prints and books (some in foreign languages) that exhibit an Oist philosophy. Some of the books and prints and paintings were created by Jim, while others are items he found in his travels around the world selling his art. Unless you look very closely at the little cards describing the various pieces (and sometimes not even then) you cannot divide the real and the unreal. Standing in that room, it felt to me like I had stepped into an alternate reality, just slightly out of step with the “real world.” This, I thought, was the art world equivalent of the New Weird, a current movement in the world of horror fiction that concentrates more on the unsettling than the graphic. This part of Jim’s exhibit was just “not right” in the very best way.

Both of these exhibits continue for two more weeks. I think both of them are worth your while.

I close with the most popular image I previously shared about these exhibits. What would you call it?

Arisia! Boskone! Actually Getting Out of the House!

Just a quick note here to let folks know I will be at Arisia in Boston this coming Sunday, talking about one of those subjects I know all too much about, the history of Batman. No Kirk Polland at Arisia this year, alas. It may come back to Arisia next year, or maybe not. There is far too much about the mystery of Kirk that is beyond anyone’s control. Then in February, I will be doing a bunch of stuff at Boskone. Over multiple days! More on that as the con approaches.

One of the panels I will be on at Boskone was cancelled last year because of the snowstorm that would not end. Let us hope we have better luck this year. I hope to see some of you fine folks at one or both of the cons. I hope not to see a great deal of snow.

Back to the bookcase

A couple of weeks back, I decided to dig deep into my to-be-read pile and finally read some books that had been hiding there for years. As I mentioned in my last bookcase post, this blast from the past made me think about all those bookstores I have known, including a great many that no longer exist.

Back when I was a teenager, two things happened. First, I got a morning paper route, which netted me over $11 a week, which meant I had money to burn (in those days, comics cost 12 cents, paperbacks were 50 cents.) I also learned that if I walked twenty minutes into the center of town, I could take a bus all the way from the suburbs to the city. Rochester NY may not have been the biggest metropolis around, but it had a bustling downtown way back then, with huge old movie theaters that had cheap matinees, a central library with 10 times the books they had at the local place, and a bunch of places to buy books and magazines. My pals and I developed a circuit of the town center which included Scrantom’s (the classier bookstore in town, which always carried the new Pogo books), Neisner’s (sort of a cut-rate Woolworth’s, which always had the new monster magazines), World Wide News, which had rows and rows of magazines, including the XXX rated stuff behind the counter (which I could only sort of see and never actually bought), some mom and pop smoked shop whose name I no longer remember that somehow got all the new sf paperbacks in a few days before anybody else (where I first saw the Ace editions of LORD OF THE RINGS)> But all these places paled in comparison to the most wonderful p[arty of my bookish teen years — The Clinton Book Shop.

How can I describe the Clinton Book Shop? It was a huge warehouse of a store, with new paperbacks piled two deep in rows of bookcases that lined the front half of the store. Each row would have a separate theme — SF, mystery, romance — and would hold hundreds of different books. Farther back in the store were used books and magazines, with old pulps costing a dollar and old comics a nickle (the price eventually rose to a dime). Here, in front of me, was all the paperback science fiction there was at the time. In those days there were only half a dozen publishers each putting out a couple of books a month. You could actually read all of them if you really tried. Separate sections featured old pulp reprints (Doc Savage, Fu Manchu) and James Bond and all his fellow spies. In the very front of the store, they sold small press magazines. I bought four or five issues of Witzend there over the years. It was a wonderful place.

It was also doomed. In an attempt to carry just about everything, the book store also featured Grove Press books; books full of forbidden thoughts and new ideas written by beatnik poets and other free thinkers. Well the Rochester Town Fathers couldn’t have that. So they tore down the bookstore to build a much needed parking lot. The store tried to make a go of it in a much smaller space, but it could no longer carry Everything, and the magic was gone.

But the joy of bookstores and books remained. And so I continued to shop, buying more books than I could ever read, and thus created to to-be-read bookcase. Which brings me to the second “something I’ve been meaning to read for far too long,” the seasonally appropriate SANTA STEPS OUT by Robert Devereaux.

I had heard about this book when it first got published in a small press edition. When Leisure Books reprinted it as part of their monthly horror line, I snapped it up (as I did with about half the Leisure line.) The book was supposed to be “a little different.” I’ve always liked different. But sometimes those books don’t make it to the top of the pile.

SANTA is more a fable than a horror novel. It has some horrific elements, and lots and lots of sex, not in itself a bad thing. It concerns Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and just who these beings might have been before Christian tradition reshaped the world. Some people might find it offensive, but it’s written in such a lighthearted style that all the “dirty” parts just made me smile. Astonishingly, it is still in print. And it even has a Kindle edition.

And now, since I’ve been sticking these things at the end of all my reviews, here’s the new cover for the final Ebenezum novel, now available as an e-book from Crossroad Press!

Yes, this is the book in which Wuntvor must bowl as if his life depended on it!

Yes, this is the book in which Wuntvor must bowl as if his life depended on it!