Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hot dog!

I learned a new piece of teen vocabulary yesterday during a school visit. The subject of gay parents arose (this was a censorship presentation, so you probably know what book we were talking about), that segued into gay people in general; when one of the teen girls said that gay men were "fire." I adopted my I-am-so-clueless demeanor and asked her to explain what she meant ... basically, gay men are hot.

This is my intro into the fact that I really don't understand the meaning of the word "weenie" either, as used by David Lubar in The Curse of the Campfire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales. Does it mean an easily frightened person, or someone who's fearful of camping (that would make me a campfire weenie)? That makes sense -- the book is a collection of scary stories, or ones with a macabre twist at the end that are good fodder for dark nights with only the fire for comfort. But then Lubar goes on to confuse me, because he's written several other "weenie" books: red-hot pepper, road and lawn. I know I'm overthinking this ...

There are over 30 stories in this collection and some are quite witty and clever. I particularly enjoyed "Predators" (online vampires), "Throwaways" (a kid whose father tosses him in the trash), "Inquire Within" (a witch hunt with a twist), "The Chipper" (think Fargo for kids), and "The Unforgiving Tree" (Shel Silverstein is a-rolling). They don't take very long to read/listen to, which -- after the first couple stories -- requires listening concentration so you don't miss the twist.

There is a lengthy author's afterword, where Lubar provides the inspiration behind each of his stories. He says he wrote "The Unforgiving Tree" partly because people either love or hate that book. I can admit this now; back in the late 1970s when the first of my high school friends got married, I gave it as a wedding gift. I knew so much about marriage when I was 19 ...

The audiobook is narrated by Paul Michael Garcia; like many of the Blackstone Audio narrators, he's an actor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so I may have seen him on stage. He reads the stories with plenty of atmosphere and his character voices are good. I particularly enjoyed his technique when a story featured a female protagonist. Instead of simply reading in a higher register, Garcia changed the inflection of his voice making it sound not necessarily "feminine," but different. He also had the chance to create some evil-spirit-type voices in a few of the stories, and he's very good at this.

But like the just-previous post on another collection of short stories, listening to them all in a bunch isn't the best way to appreciate them. I listened to Lubar's afterword twice to help me recollect which of the stories I most enjoyed; frankly, with 35 of them, they had really become fairly indistinguishable in my head. It would have been helpful to have each story's track number printed on the compact disc itself for easy retrieval if I had wanted to listen to one or two of them again. I was much less inclined to try to figure out which disc a story had appeared on, and then figure out which track of that disc was the story's beginning.

I think the eventual monotony of the tales may have also been helped by another narrator, perhaps a woman for the "girl" stories. And, finally, while I'm complaining; I'm begging for a bit more of a pause between stories. Most of these tales had a clever twist at the very end, a twist I was often still pondering as the next story began. Just give me one more moment to process; this way I don't have to hit pause or go back to the beginning once the next story is announced.

I really appreciated the exposure to these stories, as they are another arrow in the quiver when you are faced with a scary stories fan who's read through your Alvin Schwartz section. I suspect that they work better in print, though.

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