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January 2020 Books Read Standouts: Little House On The Prairie/Gideon Falls, Vol. 1

Little House On The Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Little House is one of my very favorite shows, and has become a large part of my personal mythology. I came to it reluctantly, buying the boxed set for my wife one Christmas because she loved it when she was a kid, prepared to sit through what I had a vague but powerful sense would be a dry, boring 10-season slog that honestly I had hoped to leverage into getting her to watch Breaking Bad. To my surprise and lasting delight it was incredible, and in retrospect it’s kind of weird that I hadn’t already read the books because I am and have always been enamored with what I can only think to call Prairie Diaries, such as Where the Red Fern Grows, The Wolfling, My Side of the Mountain and perhaps most especially Rascal; anything about a kid growing up in the wild, preferably with an animal companion, trapping and hunting and going into town to sell furs and having to hurry because winter’s coming had my immediate and undivided attention. They’re usually profoundly problematic in a modern light, chockablock with overt racism, orientalism, sexism, all the bad isms, really, and embedded in a revisionist version of American history owned and operated by a Wheat-Belt Tom Nook offering plots for the picking and Natives who arrive with welcome-quiche and coupon-books. Little House is no exception; the Natives are treated like visiting aliens, and bafflingly a song about “where the good d*rkies go” when they die is left in the text. (Note: shortly after I read Little House there was an almighty ruckus regarding the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder focusing on precisely these issues, so future editions may be revised for content.) There is quite a lot of that good, good shit about making maple-candy and Mr. Edwards falling in a frozen river trying to bring the girls Christmas presents as a favor to Santa and how Pa made his own bullets in the fireplace before he went hunting, and if that kinda thing is your jam you are gonna spread it all over your toast.
    Overall, Little House is the paterfamilias of the Prairie Diary genre and its ur-text; it features everything to love and everything to hate about the genre, with all that those entail, and it’s up to the reader to decide if they can handle the horrifically damaging content and language along with all of the genuine good it does offer. I also understand that as a historical narrative there is a point to be made about not sanitizing the past and not glossing over the fact that people were hella prejudiced without an ounce of self-awareness, and that to pretend they weren’t would be to deny the damage and violence that comprise the bones of this country’s history. I enjoyed it for what it was, but have no choice but to dock points for, y’know, the constant racisms and similar.

Score: 6.5/10 Peppermint Sticks From Oleson’s Mercantile 

Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn

    There are a lot of comics that I would describe as horrifying or disturbing or terrifying in different ways; Immortal Hulk is essentially an ongoing disaster-monster movie from the monster’s perspective, Alien: The Original Screenplay really hits the haunted-house notes that made the movie one of the most perfect suspense films ever made, Hellboy is a Mystery in the religious sense and frequently evokes a spiritual terror not of damnation but of the incomprehensibility of the divine (when it isn’t evoking the horrors of Eldritch/Nazi Dark Science), and BPRD runs the gamut through its series of titles from pre-human supernatural conspiracy to rural religious horror to abject helplessness in the face of the literal apocalypse and the quiet, desperate fear of personal revelation and origins. All of that to say that ‘horror comics’ are as broad and gradated a category as any other genre, and as complex and diverse, so know that I mean exactly what I say when I tell you that Gideon Falls is a fucking nightmare. But it’s someone else‘s nightmare, which only adds further layers of disorientation, anxiety and paranoia to the experience of reading it. Two narrators, each unreliable in their own ways and questioning their sanity for their own reasons, deal with increasingly sinister and ever-less-possible events in the town of Gideon Falls, their trajectories arcing inevitably toward each other, to the Black Barn, and the face in the dark that waits there. To go much farther would be to spoil too much, so I will say only that this book is not at all what it seems and is a bleak, haunting mystery that absolutely deserves your attention, a must-read.

Score: 9/10 Rusty Nails In Jars

and I screamed when I realized what was happening, that I had good news

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