My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Joe's first novel.

Postby Betsy_Boo on Sat May 17, 2008 10:18 pm

Honestly Ben, I don't think you sound like "an arrogant ass-bag"...you sound like a writer who understands alot more about the mechanics of writing than the average reader, like me. I really did enjoy your review and I hope you'll stick around and tell us what you think about 20th Century Ghosts. As much as I loved HSB, I have to say I loved 20thCG even more. We've done some discussions on each individual story so if you do read it you can write your thoughts about them on the threads.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience with college. One of my daughters wants to write and she had a similar experience. She dropped out last year, much to my dismay. Right now she is working at PetSmart and is too exhausted trying to make ends meet to write anything. I hope you don't give up on your dream...and that goes for everyone out there!
"We'll always have Paris."

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Screwed by The Postman

Postby Barry_Wood on Sat May 17, 2008 11:38 pm

I enjoyed your blog titled Screwed by The Postman, Ben.
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Postby BentheWriter on Tue May 20, 2008 6:00 am

Thank you, good sir!
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Postby sybil on Fri May 23, 2008 2:50 pm

oh ben....you'll find that we'll all chine in on just about anything! and i didn't think you were an arrogant ass-bag, either. we all learn from each other, and it would be creepy if everyone had the same opinions and ideas! UGH!
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Focus on punctuation.

Postby blueliner33 on Mon May 26, 2008 9:59 pm

I feel dumb. I didn't critique the grammar or even notice. I guess my being sucked into the story didn't allow for my mind to wonder outside of the thought of what was happening next.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby Jason_Davidson on Mon Jun 23, 2008 11:03 pm

BentheWriter wrote:This is reposted from my website: http://benthewriter.blogspot.com/

When I first tried to read Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box, I couldn't make it through the second chapter before I threw it down in disgust. Here was a book the base for which people were proclaiming the author to be the next Stephen King (an extremely unfair comparison,) and it was about a guy buying a ghost on the internet. It pissed me off. I felt betrayed. "Has the world gone mad?" I thought. This was juvenile, unemotional trash! How was there supposed to be any real motive, any emotional drive in such a tale? It offended me as both a reader and a writer.


I thought it was a clever and fairly creepy plot device-instant slippage you might say. For me it works on several levels. level one: what better way to buy the ghost of a psychotic madman than to purchase his death suit? most ghost stories focus on "place" as the stage on which restless spirits play out their psychoses. In other words, if you get away from the place (no mean trick in some of these stories), you get away from the ghost, you pass Go and collect your $200. I'm sure others have dealt with haunted voodoo dolls, or haunted porta jons, or even haunted g-strings, but I found Joe's inversion of the tried and true ghostlore assumption refreshing.

Level 2: there's the issue of slippage, which I could summarize as the process of imperceptibly shifting from the workaday world to that other place. In the case of HSB, You have a cynical, aging rockstar who acquires for the sake of acquisition (even if those acquisitions are perversions against humanity like the snuff film), and who sees the women in his life as consumer products to use and dispose of when he bores of them. Good old 21st century american life as usual right? In one fell swoop however, something is introduced into that humdrum life that warps and inverts reality like a magnifying glass flipping itself inside out. And guess what? It's served up and delivered by the very humdrum everyday world of ebay and walmart and costco it subsequently disrupts. Its a mobius strip of slippage!

Level 3(?): Making things even more interesting, one could argue that by binding the ghost to Jude via an ebay-like transaction, Joe is effectively tapping into the vague anxiety (or even outright fear) we feel every time we put our personal information out there in the course of known (buying online) or unknown (ad agencies swapping our "demographics", agencies snooping into our credit histories, ID thieves fishing for SS numbers) transactions. (yeah, i know the constant use of parentheses is annoying)

Level 4: there's just something unsettling about old suits, especially if they've most recently been inhabited by the corpse of a maniac.

I'd offer a few more levels, but I'm far past my bedtime.

Far from being juvenile--that single plot device is rich fodder for thought.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby Betsy_Boo on Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:54 am

I like what you said here, too, JD. Level 3 is the one I thought of...there are still alot of people who are afraid to buy stuff over the internet. I used to be one of them until I broke my ankle right before Christmas and had no choice.

At any rate, I do love book discussions. I love to hear what people think.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby BentheWriter on Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:13 am

Almost all of those things listed are extraneous to the core plot of buying a ghost on the internet. HSB is not about buying a ghost on the internet. It is about a woman tricking a man into accepting a ghost as a means of assassination.

Should the plot of HSB have been, as I had been lead to believe, simply a case of a random dude buying a random ghost on the internets and having that ghost terrorize him, it would have likely sucked balls. Thankfully, Joe was clever and intelligent enough not to do that.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby Jason_Davidson on Wed Jun 25, 2008 4:24 pm

BentheWriter wrote:Almost all of those things listed are extraneous to the core plot of buying a ghost on the internet. HSB is not about buying a ghost on the internet. It is about a woman tricking a man into accepting a ghost as a means of assassination.


Of course! How could I have been so dense? I took a plot device that I found intriguing (but is according to you "juvenile") and pumped it full of extraneous frippery that has nothing to do with the "core plot". Furthermore my failure to dig deeper than "what seems to be" and grasp the true theme of the novel is inexcusable. My sincerest apology to you for my stupidity and presumption.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby Betsy_Boo on Wed Jun 25, 2008 4:42 pm

BentheWriter wrote:Almost all of those things listed are extraneous to the core plot of buying a ghost on the internet. HSB is not about buying a ghost on the internet. It is about a woman tricking a man into accepting a ghost as a means of assassination.


I don't think JD's observations of HSB are "extraneous" at all. He has given a lot of thought about what makes the entire premise of the story really creepy...there are several levels as to why it's scary. I love to hear other peoples thoughts about the story behind the story, because I tend to read books on a purely emotionally level. I especially like JD's analysis of Jude's buy/sell attitude toward the people in his life. That was one aspect I didn't realize on an intellectual level, but I think it was the reason I did not like him as a human being in the beginning of the book. I think everyone here should have the courtesy to listen to other's ideas with an open mind...frankly, you do sound a bit "arrogant" and dismissive here.

BTW, it ultimately was Jude's choice to buy the suit.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby sybil on Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:52 pm

well said, booboo!

ben, we try to be a bit kinder with our opinions around here. no problem to disagree, but coming down on jason's thoughts like that was pretty harsh, IMO.

HSB is not about buying a ghost on the internet.

sure it is! as betsy said, jude had the choice to buy it or not. and he did...thus the premise for the book. IMO, joe is clever enough to make a story out of that even if he hadn't taken it the revenge route...he'd have found a way to make it work. personally, i do love what he did with it.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby BentheWriter on Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:45 pm

How was I harsh?

Sorry if you were offended there, buddy. I was just stating my opinion, as I have to everything else anyone else has said. If anyone was harsh here, I'd say Jason was, with his sarcastic response.

Not that I care. I welcome sarcasm.

Dismissive, I'll give you. But arrogant, no. Not there.

There's a thing called directness. When you don't have time to pad your response with inanities, or have already made it clear in the active thread that you welcome disagreement, there's no real need for them.

In the land of intellectual disagreement and adult intercourse, directness is a positivity. I apologize to those who didn't see it as such.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby Betsy_Boo on Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:06 pm

I think what bothered me about what you said Ben was that JD put alot of thought and effort into his response to what you said. I think directness is a wonderful quality...I just think that there are ways to be direct with people without putting them down. The "arrogant" comment I made was because you obviously think you know more about the truth behind Joe's book than anyone else and therefore you were very dismissive towards JD's ideas. If you don't have time to be polite while you're disagreeing, perhaps you should wait til you do have the time.
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby val04463 on Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:35 pm

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
:lol: :lol: Just a little bit!!
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Re: My Love Story/Review of Heart-Shaped Box

Postby BentheWriter on Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:31 pm

I don't believe there is objective "truth" behind any fiction, at least not in the practical sense, unless it's from the author or directly from the text itself. Since we can't know the mind of the writer, nor is any of us the Grand High Judge of All Things Literary, everything else is just interpretation.

Which we can argue.

Rationally. Calmly.

To bring emotion into the issue is nonsensical. I respect Jason's opinion just as I respect Betsy's.

To be clear.

If I call you a, "Poop head," then you can assume I'm putting you down. Otherwise, it's best to stick to substantive discussion.
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