Spontaneous Human Combustion

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”

What was your favorite book as a child?

Anything macabre was good with me, I’m remembering. Yes, macabre. I like that word and I’m sticking with it. Macabre covers ‘scary’ but also the likes of Roald Dahl’s collection of otherworldly tales, such as the one about the poker player who goes to India to train with a reclusive yogi to see through cards and ultimately also levitate, which I loved. He fears his wayward use of the clairvoyant power will result in his death, which indeed it may have, you discover at the end. ‘The Book of the Unexplained’ was another- it was a big encyclopedia-sized hardcover thing, hundreds of pages thick, crammed with text and black and white photos. How it got to be in the house was a mystery to me. It was just there, downstairs in the little study room. There was no telling where it had come from as far as I was concerned. That made for a great experience reading it. One image in particular really spooked me- a small, grainy photo of a living room. You had to hold your face close to the book to make out the detail- but there on the carpet, in front of an electric fire, lay a pair of stocking-ed human lower legs- all that remained of an isolated pensioner who had spontaneously combusted.


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Big Sur

I love Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur. It’s his best IMHO. I caught the movie of it on Netflix this week. The actor playing Kerouac did a great job. Kerouac wasn’t really a poised cool kid. There’s a zaniness that comes across in all his books. But especially in his later years he appears, sadly, to have become a complete clown, something the vicious drinking which ended his life no doubt contributed to (see his writing, accounts of him and footage of him on youtube). In the recent movie adaptation of ‘On The Road’ Sam Riley played Kerouac as thoughtful and vulnerable, but fairly dour. Admittedly it’s Kerouac twenty years before Big Sur but I do think there was something missing. The actor playing Kerouac in Big Sur, Jean-Marc Barr, puts across the silliness. He’s also the same thick-set physical type as Kerouac (who went to Columbia University on a football scholarship), unlike Sam Riley who’s a lankier guy. The locations and sets in Big Sur were uncannily like I had pictured them to be while reading the book. Barr was fifty-three when it was made a couple of years ago, playing a forty-something Kerouac and the entire cast is at least a decade older than in the other film. That automatically makes the whole thing more likable. Maturity. Kirsten Stewart was the headline name in ‘On the Road’; it was her next move after the Twilight movies. I did groan inwardly when I heard that was happening. It’s that kind of thing that gives Kerouac a bad name. But awk, she’s alright actually, I don’t mind her. She’s been redeeming herself since. Plus she’s really sexy. Being sexy is her thing, it’s kind of great. Just that movie was humourless and played to the ‘cool’ thing that I think sells the author short.

Old:

kerouac old

 

Young:

kerouac young