Thursday, December 12, 2013

A little Brautigan

A wee bit of poetry for your enjoyment this cold Thursday afternoon:

Have you ever had a witch bloom like a highway
on your mouth? and turn your breathing to her
fancy? like a little car with blue headlights
passing forever in a dream?

This is from Richard Brautigan's Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt, wherein he waxes poetic in his own inimitable way.

(side note: we had some Brautigan arrive this week! Delicious.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Chain Saw Confidential

Signed copies available at the Green Hand Bookshop!
As a longtime horror movie fan, this is one of those books that I never thought to ask for, but when they announced its publication, I could hardly wait for it to come out. After devouring it in three sittings, I can say I was not disappointed. Quite the opposite. This book is a horror fan's delight.

There are certain horror films whose position in the pantheon of the genre are as solid as the stone pedestals we horror fans place them on. These are the films whose effect and mastery of that effect are undeniable. Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of them.

This book wholly does the film justice. Gunnar Hansen is not just a pretty face who starred as the original Leatherface in the 1974 film Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He is also a published author who has written page after page of non-fiction and poetry over the intervening years. In other words, when you read this book, you are reading Gunnar's writing, not that of a ghostwriter -- which is not to say he did this all alone.

One of the tremendously interesting features of this book is the input from the other cast and crew members that worked on the movie. Not content to simply rely on his own recollections, Gunnar smartly contacted everyone he could, and interviewed them in-depth about their recollections, in effect generating a panoramic view of their group's experiences that hot summer in Texas. Because of his hard work putting all of this together, all these little details metamorphose into a real story that is surprisingly pleasant to read (in spite of all the incoherent and horrific details). Without his labor of love, such an account might never exist. For that we thank him.

The book is filled chronologically with page after page of Gunnar's individual recollections, which parry back and forth with those of the rest of the cast and crew. Everyone has their own take on strange and favorite details from the experience. Everyone also has their own blanks spots where they rely on the others to fill in the gaps, because the filming was excruciating and exhausting, and very little of it made sense at the time. But after all the chaos and agony, the important thing about the movie (which thankfully came out through the editing in the final version), was this: not only was all that suffering palpable in the film, but also, more importantly, it was transmuted into something that shines its dark and brilliant light from the screen even today.

The book as a whole continues this tradition of craftsmanship. Gunnar is an excellent writer, adeptly weaving his own memories in with the others', working from a solid foundation based on thorough research into the historic facts and figures. This volume, published by the folks at Chronicle Books, is beautifully designed and bound (yes, it has an honest-for-real sewn binding). For the uber-geek, it has a bibliography and a serious index. Even its chapter titles are entertaining and hearken to the dark heart of the film.

Gunnar adds his autograph to its future permanent
home -- she was headed to a tattoo artist next!
The one last fascinating element of the book is Gunnar's attempt to assimilate what Chain Saw means now. Leatherface pops up everywhere in memes and tropes. The chainsaw has come to embody a singular type of horror in movies and at haunt attractions all over the world. But most fascinating of all is the fact that despite the film's deeply traumatic effect on people, the fans still respond in the end with an outpouring of love for the people who were involved in it to an extent that boggles the mind.

I highly recommend this book to anyone fascinated by movie-making, to anyone who wonders what the heck all the fuss over the Texas Chain Saw Massacre was about, and to those who shake their head at that question, because they just know.

Copies of the book are available at the Green Hand Bookshop -- SIGNED copies! :D A perfect gift for the horror film fan in your life... or yourself!!!

I am lucky enough to have signed copies at the shop because I had the pleasure of being Gunnar's local retail representative during the weekend of November 9th and 10th at the Coast City Comicon. For two days, I got to hang out with Gunnar and his wife Betty, selling his book and chatting with them about all sorts of things. They came down to Portland from their home up the coast near Bar Harbor, Maine, where they live full-time, and have for some years now. Gunnar was selling signed photos from his movie appearances, and on Saturday he participated in the Chainsaw Chili Cookoff at the Comicon with a number of other contestants. His chili was the only chili that was traditional Texas style, without any real bean quotient. I heard it was DELICIOUS!!!
A weekend with Gunnar!