Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues edited by Loren Rhoads

You might recognize the name Morbid Curiosity, as it was a nonfiction magazine from 1997 to 2006 that has quite a cult following. Though the magazine has been defunct for some years now, its popularity has never really waned…and because of that editor Loren Rhoads compiled some of the best true stories featured in the magazine’s pages and put them in this delightfully dark book!

True Stories of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual…with that description on the front cover titillating me, I couldn’t wait to explore Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues as soon as I received it. In fact, it wasn’t relegated to my tottering stack of books needing review, but immediately was set by my favorite reading spot. My fingers were itching all day to pick up the book, and when I was finally able I flipped through the pages with gusto!

Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:

For ten years, Morbid Curiosity was a one-of-a-kind underground magazine that gained a devoted following for its celebration of absurd, grotesque, and unusual tales – all true – submitted from contributors around the country and across the world. Loren Rhoads, creator and editor of the magazine, has compiled some of her favorite stories from all ten issues in this sometimes shocking, occasionally gruesome, always fascinating anthology.

This quirky book is filled with tales from ordinary people – who just happen to have eccentric, peculiar interests. Ranging from the outrageous (attending a Black Mass, fishing bodies out of San Francisco Bay, making fake snuff films) to the more “mundane” (visiting a torture museum, tracking real vampires through San Francisco), this curiously enjoyable collection of stories, complete with illustrations and informative asides, will entertain and haunt readers long after the final page is turned.

I don’t know what draws me to the morbid, the unusual, the weird or the downright offensive. I like to think it is mere curiosity, but I’m sure there’s also a darker nature at work here. The same dark nature that we all share, in varying degrees, that causes us to slow down when passing a horrible car accident.

The experience of reading Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues is also like rubbernecking; you know you shouldn’t be so interested, but you can’t help staring (or in this case, reading). You get sucked into the whole peculiar experience, whether it’s reading about loss of innocence, weird customs, grave-robbing, surviving a bomb explosion, hanging out with sanguinarians, necrophilia, assisted suicide, etc. It’s a very voyeuristic experience as you are given a glimpse into ordinary people’s lives that take an extraordinary turn.

The novel is nicely balanced in tone – the stories range from scary (“Lock it Behind You,” “This Is a Very Old Scar”), heartbreaking (“Killing Max”, “A Night in the House of Dr. Moreau), depressing (“Souvenir of Hell”), gross (“DIY Urology”) and shocking (“Holiday in Genoa”), but all are fascinating. My personal favorite stories included “The Keeper of the Shop” by Jill Tracy, a bittersweet tale about the mysteries of life; “Going into Tombs” by Hugues Leblanc about exploring and photographing the interiors of old mausoleums; “Feed” by Katrina James, about vampires in San Francisco; “Halloween Hell” by Mary Ann Stein, about managing a Halloween super-store; and “Blood Gags” by Frank Burch, about making fake snuff films.

Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues is a collection of the strange, the shocking and the sinister, but at the same time the stories are all so personal that they are also heartfelt and heartwrenching. These stories go beyond mere voyeurism, as through them you take a journey with the authors themselves to some very dark places. Like the authors, you won’t emerge unscathed, but perhaps you’ll have a deeper understanding of the dark side of the human psyche, including your own.

Buy it on Amazon!

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