The Two Mikes

The Two Mikes
Ever wanted to talk with someone about a book you just read? You could just join a book group and talk about it, drink a little, veer off on tangents, work back around to the book again, and finally wrap it up by picking the next book.

But what happens when the book you just read is about about hungry zombies or a haunted house, and your Eat, Pray, Love–reading friends aren’t really into reading it, much less discussing its finer points? That’s what we’re here for. We Two Mikes will be your virtual book group for discussing new and interesting and old and half-forgotten horror books.

If you want to follow along with us, look at the next forbidden book on the table and start reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Episode 49, Peter Straub's Lost, Boy Lost Girl

If you are into screwing ghosts, you'll dig Peter Straub's Lost Boy, Lost Girl. One Mike loves its labyrinthine gestalt and Milwaukee sensibility. The other Mike says it only made him crave Leon's Frozen Custard and Balistrieri's Pizza. They both end with an Ode to Milwaukee.

It's Cocktail Time.
The Schiltz Your Wrist and Pabst Your Bottom.

Take one tall glass of ice and fill with
1 /4 Milwaukee beer like Schlitz, Miller, Pabst, or even Blatz
1/4 of Amaretto
and 1/2 of Pick-n-Save brand OJ.

Stir, enjoy and then head over to Ma Fischer's for breakfast all day.


Emphyrio said...

I was disappointed.

Biggest reason: Tim Underhill.

Why is he telling this story? He has no great emotional stake in these events, though he likes his missing nephew well enough.

He doesn't solve the mystery.

He drops out of the story for all the important developments, which are conveyed in a third-person omniscient voice privy to Mark's experiences, thoughts and perceptions that Tim could never know.

It's Mark's story. It should simply have been told that way. Promoting Tim as a viewpoint character was an unfortunate distraction; he added next to nothing -- not even, if you ask me, writerly eloquence (I thought that was Straub's strength. Where was it this time?).

And since my browser's crashing tonight, I'll leave the rest of my gripes for later.

Emphyrio said...

I had some raised expectations because an interesting early scene. Tim Underhill sees a man run down by an antique car on the street below his hotel room window. Later, he realizes they're shooting a movie and nobody was hurt.

This seemed like foreshadowing of a story which revisited events, shatteringly correcting misapprehensions.

That can be pretty fun.

However, while he revisited a couple of events from different viewpoints -- Nancy's funeral comes to mind -- it wasn't exactly Rashomon. No exploded assumptions, just a little more info about what the boys were thinking.

That reminds me -- much was made of the sexual charisma of Jimbo's mother, and how she is nevertheless shunned at the funeral. Did I miss a payoff for this? All I recall of this subplot is Mark's embarrssing stiffie when he speaks with her in another scene.

You tease, Mr. Straub.

Emphyrio said...

The other thing that bugged me about Tim Underhill was his affable, grounded, rationalist persona -- which in no way prepared us for his swift acceptance of the mystical denouement.

Some expressed belief in ghosts and the afterlife early in the story, or (even better) a whiff of mental illness about Tim Underhill, would have made this go down more smoothly.

By the way, the website with the elegiac movie of the ghostly couple is here:

Emphyrio said...

Some nice things, since I'm being so cruel:

-the chapter where Tim and Philip tag along with their dad to his sketchy deals in bars, and hear his philosophy of women.

-the description of Mark and Jimbo's perfect day before everything goes bad, particularly their joke about Eminem, which perfectly captured the joy of spontaneity.

-Joseph Kalendar's habit (imitated by Ronnie) of turning his back to cameras, and to people. That's a tasty tidbit of creepiness.

-you're right, there was plenty of local color. That's a big plus.

-I liked the fact that Straub thanked his Visconti pens and Boorum & Peasse journals in Acknowledgements. It's a pleasure to think about a craftsman developing a fussy emotional attachment to his tools (and that he writes longhand, the old relic).

Emphyrio said...

This sent me back to Straub's "The Ghost Village," which is actually an exerpt from his novel The Throat, about Tim Underhills' hitch in 'Nam. It was in the anthology The Mists from Beyond (Roc books, 1995).

In it, Underhill encounters the ghosts of dead comrades and Vietnamese children, an underground torture pit/altar to evil, madness and near-death.

The guy ought to be so PTSD'd he sees agonized spirits in his cornflakes every morning.

That's why I find his matter-of-fact authorly voice irksome. said...

Thanks for your insightful comments, Emphyrio. Sorry to take so long to respond.

Regarding your first comment: Tim Underhill is, to me, like Philip Roth's Zuckerman character, that is, just a way to insert a lightly fictionalized version of the author into the text. That narrator, like the author, is mostly there to tell the story and to have deep feelings about the events related. I pretty much buy the conceit, but I can see how you cannot.

I agree about all the lovely parts of the book, and I did indeed find the lostboylostgirl Web site (a nice touch).

I haven't read much of Straub's work, just _Shadowland_ (which I didn't much enjoy) and his books cowritten with Stephen King (didn't much care for the first but liked the second quite a bit). I hear that _Koko_ is the one to read, so I will. Later.

Thanks again for your engagement, Emphyrio. said...

Peter Straub is interviewed at length, complete with a discussion of Lost Boy, Lost Girl, on the Pod of Horror podcast, episode 60. Check it.