Pugnacious Verbiage as Mesmerizing as a Snakecharmer's Toodle
By Paula Guran
by David J Schow
One problem with offering your opinion is that later on down the line, you might change your mind. You might even discover that (gasp!) you were wrong. There's a real danger -- often to life, limb, and career -- in offering your views or even relating what you think are the facts and your take on them.
Folks who put their convictions publicly on the line tend to fall into three categories: 1) Expert - someone who really has the knowledge and experience to tell the rest of us something. 2) Well-Intentioned Know-It-All - People like me who work at trying to gain knowledge and experience and offer valid opinion and try not to say anything too stupid (but often fail). This category also includes schizophrenics who talk to lampposts. 3) Idiots - Drunks, your ex-, the guy who tells a methed-up biker he's ugly, lots of so-called genre reviewers-critics-mavens-who-shall-remain-nameless, producers, your Uncle Bob, etc. (There's also a subcategory of Malicious Idiots who intentionally do evil to which some Regular Idiots can belong.)
There's another very small group (I personally only know two who qualify, but am sure there are others): opinion-givers who transcend category. Over-the-top, contentious, and -- despite their socially unacceptable behavior -- their eloquent if pugnacious verbiage is as mesmerizing as a snake-charmer's toodle and often as hilarious as a sailor on shore leave. One of 'em is senior rabble-rouser and near-mythic opiner Harlan Ellison and you can find his sentiments expressed in a number of books.
The other is David J. Schow. You can now find much of two decades of revelatory rant in WILD HAIRS, his compilation of nonfiction essays and articles (along with annotations, memoirs, and thoughts on such) from Babbage Press. The bulk of the book -- 80,000 words -- comes from 40 "Raving and Drooling" columns published from May 1992 to April 1996 in Fangoria magazine. (And definitely the best stuff Fango ever printed.) A few more recent essays and profiles and some very early articles round it out. Topics range from the Ackermansion ("If all things horrific had a Louvre, it would be the Ackermansion...") to Lucha Libre ("The sole context in which Mexican wrestling is comprehensible to American sensibilities is as manufactured kitsch, the better to restoke our natural craving for ever-more-obscure pop trash culture. Fortunately, in Mexico, the roots run a little deeper.") to "zerk" hits (movie special effect gunshot hits from off-camera airguns.) In between you'll find a great deal about horror -- writers ("Personally I'm not much worried about the 'dark side' of people who wear tassel loafers and are afraid to park their cars in Hollywood -- let alone walk the Boulevard at night."), literature ("Horror at its best unsettles. It undermines the world of happily-ever-after. It stops you to consider what might be happening just outside the range of your everyday perceptions..."), film ("...when you hear a producer blithely state that 'the audience expects the truck to blow up in this shot,' you'll know that, as moviegoers, you have already been reduced to a wad whose thought processes barely classify as biologic activity."), the field ("Is there any other category of fiction that prompts so much pissing and moaning and fretting?"), publishing ("It's true that a cascade of opportunistic, formulaic and derivative writing helped horror to crater, but the invisible part of the flood was underwritten by industry savants who enjoyed horror, yet lacked any practical conception of how to edit, package or distribute it. Too many old-school and young-blood editors associated with the genre were ladder-climbing corporate gerbils hungry for the tenure of the soon-to-be-deposed bosses that cattle bear to drovers -- the overriding imperative was to get the meat to the slaughterhouse on time.")
Schow's "Stupid Horror Question Tricks," and "The Top Ten Horror Cliches from Hell" (which includes, as a bonus, the Top Ten Horror Dialogue Cliches) are classics that, despite the humor, probably have more to say about horror in a couple of thousand words than a couple of thousand pages of academic pabulum or altruistic "how-to" books.
But that's not all, folks! Schow writes on censorship, John Woo, show biz, pinball, blurbs, model kits, and dozens of other subjects. Add to that the original Ken Mitchroney cartoons, a whiz-bang index, and mucho revealing trivia (where the title "raving and drooling" came from...what Frank Darabont has in his garage...how Stephen King never DID say that Clive Barker was the future of horror...) all done up in a stunningly designed trade paper package by Lydia Marano for only $19.95.
Buy it. Read it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll scream for more. You'll might get pissed-off, throw the book across the room, and ring up that Santeria priest who owes you a favor to take care of this mouthy son-of-a-bitch Schow for once and for all. (I wouldn't advise unleashing any forces of darkness against Schow. He'd win.)
The copy on the back cover ALONE is worth the price of the book and will, most likely, expand your vocabulary. Although, since it uses every appropriate adjective in the English language to describe WILD HAIRS, it makes it damned hard to write a review without resorting to another language. Uh, so -- Esto es un infierno de un libro! (March 2001) -- Paula Guran -- From "Waves of Fear", Cemetery Dance #38