Lee Markham: Horror Beyond Boundaries

I suspect I might be breaking the rules here, but I’m also fairly confident I’ve got a technicality with which I can get off my own hook, and breaking the rules is in my nature — my book The Truants breaks several rules of its own. I’ve been asked for a list of my favorite works of horror. The key word there (which provides the aforementioned technicality) is works, because my list is not a list of books alone. Apologies . . . but tough. It is doubly fitting to bend this unspoken “books only” rule because The Truants is actually a bastard child of all these works (and of course plenty others, but you don’t have all day. Nor, in fact, do I), I’d argue, as much in form as it is in function. I’d even go so far as to say that The Truants is, to my mind at least, as close to being a concept album as it is a novel — a collection of tracks that come together to form a narrative whole . . . but that’s probably just me.

Anyway, let’s do this thing . . .

Desperation

By Stephen King

There are probably more obvious choices in the King canon: Misery, The Stand, and The Shining are fairly stock (and, fair’s fair, solid) responses. IT is probably my favorite of his — it’s certainly the one I love the most. But Desperation is, for my money, his most balls-to-the-wall horrifying book. It’s mean. It’s cruel and utterly punishing. Much like the God King has oft stated the book is about. In Desperation, King himself takes on the mantle of the cruel god of his fictional creations with absolute mercilessness and, certainly as an author, it’s awesome to behold. Awful. But awesome nonetheless. And horrifying unlike anything else he’s done.

The Holy Bible

By Manic Street Preachers

The first of my rule-breaking choices is an album. It’s also a towering work of existential horror. You could probably just pore over the lyric sheet and meticulous art design and photography of the thing and be left in a state of profound existential torpor. This might in fact be the version of the Holy Bible that Colonel Kurtz found out there at the end of his river. The fact that its primary creative force, lyricist Richey Edwards, disappeared (presumed dead) shortly after its creation does sadly add to its creative veracity, but incredibly it doesn’t define it. Calling an album The Holy Bible might be considered a monumental act of chutzpah were it not for the fact that it was so nakedly truthful to its author’s anguished and horrified reality, his gospel.

 

House of Leaves

By Mark Z. Danielewski

Voice of the Fire

By Alan Moore

There are a hundred reasons for each of these to be on the list. But, for this list, and the reason they share a spot, it’s because they’re the only two books that have ever made me quite literally drop them in shock. And, so as not to spoil them, I will only give you the barest details here . . .

In House of Leaves, there’s a long and fairly dry section about the science of acoustics and, specifically, echoes. It’s a rather soporific passage. Interesting if you want to know about acoustics. And echoes. (Yep, me neither.) It’s very thorough. But it lulls you . . . and then it does something. And when it did it to me I dropped the book.

In Voice of the Fire, that moment comes at the end of a book of tales across time. You’ve met characters who’ve endured experiences in Northampton, England, over the span of 5,000 years, each experience becoming a myth that informs the truth of each subsequent character. The true protagonist of the book you learn by the end is in fact time itself, and the horror of the tale lies in the casual way time obliterates all the subjective truths and experiences we believe make us what we are. Time cares nothing for our version of events. And time will write our history, however much we might imagine we’ve defined our own lives and selves. When we go, and we become first a memory and then, perhaps, a story, we don’t get to write that story. Time does that. So, all of these things bring us to the final chapter. To here. And now. And that’s when the author turns and looks out from the pages of the book and he sees you. Looks. Right. At. You. Yep. That happens in this book. Dropped the damn thing when it happened to me. I was in the bath at the time too, which was annoying.

Jacob’s Ladder

Here’s the next rule breaker, this time a film. Jacob’s Ladder is an anomaly. It’s written by the guy who wrote Ghost — you know, that cheesy after-lifer with Priscilla Presley and Frank Drebin and the pottery . . . no, wait, sorry . . . Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. That. And it’s directed by the guy that directed 9½ Weeks and Fatal Attraction. It should be rubbish. But it’s not. It’s actually perfect. It’s the story of a Vietnam vet struggling with PTSD in late ’70s New York. He sees demons. He’s haunted by guilt and loss and grief. But then maybe it’s not about just that. Maybe something else is going on. But here’s the thing about Jacob’s Ladder that makes it perfect: it has rigorously stress-tested the motivations of its every moment. The first time through you might think, why did that character do that? Why did Jacob feel this, or think that? On subsequent watches, when you’ve been clued in to the truth of it, you can swim in the existentially internalized construct of its narrative: you’re inside Jacob’s head for every single second. Every character and motivation is defined by Jacob’s own understanding of his own life and the people and experiences that populate it. His insecurities. His guilt. His pride. His desires. The whole thing is a portrait of a very human psyche trying to make sense of everything, and ultimately having to accept that he can’t, that he just has to let it go. By contrast however, the film itself actually adds up more and more the more you watch it. It is absolutely watertight. It is also beautiful and profound — which, I’d argue, all the best horror is. Nothing can confront and explore our fears like horror does when it’s done right, and Jacob’s Ladder does it righter than pretty much anything.

As If

By Blake Morrison

This one is tough. It’s the factual account of the murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger by two ten-year-olds. Morrison went to the trial, met the families, walked the streets they walked. And it broke his heart. It’ll break yours, too. I’m disinclined to say too much about it because it’s not make-believe, not like The Truants. It’s not imagined. A baby died. And two children lost their lives to the judgment and demonization of a society that longed to believe it wasn’t implicit in the horrific tragedy of what happened. What Morrison manages to do here is paint a portrait of what horror truly is. It’s randomness and purposelessness. It’s grim inevitability. And it teaches us what it feels like to be responsible for it. It is a book so full of love, sadness, humility and empathy that it’s almost beyond description. I held it in my mind when I wrote The Truants. Which isn’t to say that I think The Truants is in any way as courageous or important . . . but I do like to think that The Truants at least honors the value of documentary horror in the way As If does. The Truants is a serious book. A heartbroken one, too. Because horror can every now and then be those things. If we’re not too scared to go there.

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My Absolute Darling

A novelist who summons a monster runs a terrible risk. Bringing one to convincing life can threaten to eclipse the story’s other characters, particularly the people who are his victims. In his grab-you-by-the-throat debut novel, My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent has created such a monster in Martin Alveston, who physically and sexually abuses his fourteen-year-old daughter. Martin is so fully realized that the daughter Tallent conjures would have to be remarkable to serve as his counterweight. The half-wild, vulnerable Turtle Alveston, whose conscience is the beacon of this dark book, proves up to the challenge. She has a center of gravity all her own.

Martin and his daughter live in isolation in a slowly disintegrating house on the Northern California coast, where “rose runners have prized off clapboards that now hang snarled in the canes.” Tallent grew up in the area, and a deep knowledge of the natural world suffuses his book, which is full of stunning descriptions. When Turtle dives into a spring-fed pool, for instance, “she opens her eyes to the water and looks up and sees writ huge across the rain-dappled surface the basking shapes of newts with their fingers splayed and their golden-red bellies exposed to her, their tails churning lazily.”

Martin believes that the end times are near, courtesy of global warming and environmental degradation. In his eyes, survival skills and an intimate familiarity with guns and knives are at least as important as schoolwork. The walls of Martin’s bedroom are lined with philosophy books by the likes of David Hume and George Berkeley. He is a charming conversationalist and liable to spin a monologue on, say, the nature of human consciousness. Yet his erudite mind is cratered by tar pits. Martin leeches a casual, bone-deep misogyny that his daughter has soaked up and often salts into her self-talk (“You bitch, you can do this, you bitch”), and his temper flares unpredictably.

What makes Martin terrifying isn’t so much the violence he metes out — though when it comes it’s breathtaking. It’s the tension that haunts even the quietest scenes. Living with violence means that each moment is inflected with the potential to be rent open. Though he limns a vicious relationship between Martin and his own father, and the ghost of the early death of Turtle’s mother, Tallent , to his credit, doesn’t spell out how Martin has come to be as depraved as he is. As John Steinbeck understood when he created Cathy in East of Eden, a “malformed soul” can never be explained satisfactorily.

Tallent acquaints us with Martin through Turtle’s observant, loving eyes. She desperately wants to please him — whether by hitting the bull’s eye on a shooting target or acing a vocabulary test — and silently wills him to placate school officials when they threaten to intercede on her behalf. Yet there is a whisper of self-knowledge in Turtle that blossoms, during the course of the novel, into a full awareness of what her life with Martin is depriving her of, and the damage it has done.

That journey is nurtured by her friendship with two boys whom she meets during one of her feral roams in the woods after they’ve become lost on a camping trip. Jacob and Brett — cerebral, nerdy, exuberant — admire and accept her. They call her a “ninja.” She is welcomed into Jacob’s resplendent home, where adults sit at the table with their children, drinking wine and making conversation. She develops an innocent crush on Jacob. She starts to envision her life — and her inner self — differently. She begins to want things that life with Martin can never provide.

Turtle’s awakening, as she continues to hold her father’s love in her heart even as she comes to recognize his ugliness, is the arc of Tallent’s story. My Absolute Darling is full of dramatic events, including a harrowing account of her and Jacob’s self-rescue after being washed out to sea by a giant wave. What makes the novel riveting, though, is Tallent’s gift for describing the psychological terrain Turtle traverses. The dynamics between abusive parents and their children are written about much more often than they are understood by their authors. Tallent captures the nuances.

Scene by scene, he builds the scaffolding for Turtle’s self-realization through gleams of insight. When her father cavalierly chips the blade of a knife she’s been gifted, she thinks, “I need you to be hard on me, because I am no good for myself, and you make me do what I want to do but cannot do for myself; but still, but still — you are sometimes not careful; there is something in you, something less than careful, something almost — I don’t know, I am not sure, but I know it’s there.”

Turtle’s determination to take care of her few possessions amid chaos, her warring impulses to protect her father and exploit his weaknesses, and the cruelties she deals to well-intentioned people who threaten to breach the levies she’s built between herself and the world ring true. The violent climax of the book, spectacular as it is, is less heart-stopping than the moment when Turtle makes the irrevocable decision to break away, determined to protect someone who is even more vulnerable than she is.

Comparisons between My Absolute Darling and another novel published earlier this year, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, by Hannah Tinti, are inevitable. In Tinti’s tale, a retired gun for hire is raising an adolescent daughter, Loo, in a small New England town. Strikingly, both books open with a father coaching his daughter to shoot a gun, and in both the death of a mother haunts the characters. Yet Samuel Hawley is no Martin Alveston. He’s a father with good intentions, trying to escape his past, and his attempts at parenting Loo are loving, if crude.

Tinti’s novel, fine as it is, illustrates the perils of writing a story about larger-than-life parents and their children, for it is Samuel who dominates Twelve Lives. Loo’s coming-of-age struggles are overwhelmed by her father’s turmoil and exploits. In My Absolute Darling, Tallent has created — to use a shopworn but apt description — an unforgettable heroine, whose greatest challenge is to recognize the good and the bad within her and to choose the good.

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Jennifer Finney Boylan

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

The author of fifteen works of fiction and nonfiction, Jennifer Finney Boylan may be known to most readers via her bestselling memoir She’s Not There. As she tells Barnes & Noble’s Miwa Messer in this episode, her new book Long Black Veil also draws on events from her life — but here Boylan weaves them into a droll, offbeat thriller in which the unexpected consequences of one night kick off a tale about secrets and lies, silence and truth, and the triumph of love and friendship.

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On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. With a pianist, a painter and a teacher among them, the friends are full of potential. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence.

But Judith is protecting long-held secrets of her own – secrets that, if brought to light, could destroy her career as a travel writer and tear her away from her fireman husband and teenage son. If she chooses to help Casey, she risks losing the life she has fought to build and the woman she has struggled to become. In any life that contains a “before” and an “after,” how is it possible to live one life, not two?

See more from Jennifer Finney Boylan here.

Like this podcast? Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher to discover intriguing new conversations every week.

 

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Fantastic Bungalow Designed by KNS Architects in India

This fantastic 1500 square meter Bungalow with clean lines and angled geometry is located in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and was designed by the architectural firm KNS Architects, being carried out by its architects Kanhai Gandhi, Neemesh Shah, and Shresht Kashyap in 2015. Its spectacular structure cannot but marvel us, with high glass walls forming its exterior facade combined with a structure of modern design, resulting in a fantastic architectural structure…

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The spectacular meeting of land and sea is the dominant feature…

The spectacular meeting of land and sea is the dominant feature of King Range National Conservation Area in California. Mountains seem to thrust straight out of the surf and recreation opportunities here are as diverse as the landscape. The 68,000 acres of Douglas fir covered peaks extend along 35 miles of coastline and attract hikers, hunters, campers and mushroom collectors, while the coast beckons to surfers, anglers, beachcombers and divers. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management (@mypubliclands).

Are There Benefits to Implementing Business Intelligence for Small Business?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a process for analyzing data and presenting relevant information to business executives. It’s meant to help them make better business decisions and improve their overall performance. There are many benefits to using Business Intelligence for every business. Despite that, it’s still important to know what it can and cannot do for your venture.

While BI used to be exclusively for the ‘big boys’ (since they had the money for IT specialists and data centers), it’s now possible for small businesses to utilize BI to fulfill their different needs. This guide will cover some of the benefits your small business would get from using BI tools.

Large corps are no longer the sole users of BI

Times have changed since only large corporations could utilize BI to make more informed business decisions. It’s quite simple – if it can help large corporations make better decisions, why wouldn’t it be able to help small businesses do the same?

Technological boom in the past ten years has made this possible. Now, small businesses can successfully utilize BI to help their growth and financial decisions.

BI’s impact on business growth

small business growth

Every small business owner should be interested to know which products/services are successful and where. This is particularly important if expansion is in the plan. Business Intelligence allows you to this and more, by pinpointing popular trends in certain areas or within a certain population.

By relying on raw data instead on your instincts, you’ll be sure to lower the risks of decision making. It’ll be quite easier for your small business to reach that next stage of expansion.

Future planning

The best thing about utilizing Business Intelligence platforms is that it allows you to prepare yourself for the future. Adjusting your small business in line with the data you get from BI can help you reach your business’ full potential.

It’s also important to note that some businesses are already shifting from traditional BI towards predictive analytics. Being very cost effective, it’s no wonder that firms like Picnet software development company started using predictive analytics instead of the classical BI. It also saves a lot of time since it only uses extracts of internal data to get the same results.

BI helps you organize

You can easily deduct what’s working and what’s not regarding your management and staffing structure through BI analytics. You can also use it to better control your inventory since it will point out which products/services are most popular in a certain time frame. It will allow you to stock up on certain items and avoid any chaotic situations. This will ensure that your business stays cost efficient.

And if you ever reach that point where you no longer consider your venture to be a ‘small business’, then you can consider creating an analytics team to help you process the data.

business analytics

The security aspect

The security of most SMBs today is highly dependent on the exploitation of Big Data, though not directly. The thing is, many cyber security companies today employ big data analytics to battle the ever-growing stream of cyber-attacks.

What started out as a military technology aimed at battling terrorism has lately been commercialized and available to a broad spectrum of public companies. The system is based on a machine-learning model that analyze vast amounts of data, looking for suspicious patterns in “behavior”. Though it comes with a price, it is nothing compared to the price of losing one’s business in the aftermath of a major cyber-attack.

The importance of such systems is emphasized by the fact that 60% of all cyber-attacks are aimed at small businesses. The reason being the lack of defensive possibilities. Malware, DDoS and plain hacks can lead to customer distrust, loss of important data and hefty legal fines.

See Also: 9 Stats About Small Business Digital Marketing in 2017

Conclusion

Investing in Business Intelligence will make it much easier for you to understand how your business is progressing, why it’s progressing at that rate and where you’ll be if you don’t make any changes. This will make decision making so much easier and you’ll never have to rely on your business intuition. As you already know, low risk and high reward is the winning recipe for most startups and that’s exactly what BI brings to the table.

See Also: How to Ensure Growth in Small Business

 

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Studio Loop Remodeled this Wonderful Home in Japan

This remodeling in which the entry, the closets, the laundry room, the bathroom, and the pantry were arranged on the west and east side to create living and dining-kitchen spaces which are protected from the hustle and bustle of outside, was realized with the needs and preferences of a couple with three children in mind. The project, located in the Gunma Prefecture, Japan, covers an area of 125 square meters..

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