Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011 Reading List Monthly Update: May

Books completed in May 2011:

"Star Maker" (Olaf Stapledon) 5/1/11
"Death in Venice" (Thomas Mann) 5/3/11
"The Celestine Prophecy" (James Redfield) 5/9/11
"Selfish, Little: the Annotated Lesley Ann Downey" (Peter Sotos) 5/11/11 *
"The Quantity Theory of Insanity" (Will Self) 5/15/11
"Principia Discordia" (Malaclypse the Younger) 5/18/11 *
"Topology of a Phantom City" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 5/21/11
"The Archaic Revival" (Terence McKenna) 5/23/11
"The Wasp Factory" (Iain Banks) 5/27/11
"Stories Toto Told Me" (Baron Corvo) 5/29/11

2011 Reading List total:

1. "Welcome to my World" (Johnny Weir) 1/12/11
2. "Cold Hand in Mine" (Robert Aickman) 1/14/11
3. "The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse" (Lonely Christopher) 1/20/11
4. "Illuminated Shadows" (James Champagne) 1/20/11 *
5. "Eat When You Feel Sad" (Zachary German) 1/23/11
6. "The Marble Index" (James Champagne)
7. "Brigit" (Andrew Champagne) 2/15/11
8. "Gravity's Rainbow" (Thomas Pynchon) 2/25/11
9. "Demons by Daylight" (Ramsey Campbell) 3/4/11
10. "Neuromancer" (William Gibson) 3/7/11 *
11. "Don Quixote" (Kathy Acker) 3/16/11
12. "Snow Crash" (Neal Stephenson) 3/31/11
13. "Shoplifting From American Apparel" (Tao Lin) 4/1/11
14. "Franny and Zooey" (J.D. Salinger) 4/7/11
15. "The Failure" (James Greer) 4/8/11
16. "The Gospel of Anarchy" (Justin Taylor) 4/16/11
17. "Dhalgren" (Samuel R. Delany) 4/21/11
18. "There Is No Year" (Blake Butler) 4/25/11
19. "Star Maker" (Olaf Stapledon) 5/1/11
20. "Death in Venice" (Thomas Mann) 5/3/11
21. "The Celestine Prophecy" (James Redfield) 5/9/11
22. "Selfish, Little: the Annotated Lesley Ann Downey" (Peter Sotos) 5/11/11 *
23. "The Quantity Theory of Insanity" (Will Self) 5/15/11
24. "Principia Discordia" (Malaclypse the Younger) 5/18/11 *
25. "Topology of a Phantom City" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 5/21/11
26. "The Archaic Revival" (Terence McKenna) 5/23/11
27. "The Wasp Factory" (Iain Banks) 5/27/11
28. "Stories Toto Told Me" (Baron Corvo) 5/29/11

*= book I've read at least once in the past

currently reading:

"Ecpyrosis: The Best of Starfire Volume One"
"The Oblate of St. Benedict" (J.K. Huysmans)

Monday, May 30, 2011

From the Vault: The Adventures of Spiky

What follows is a short story I wrote as a student in the sixth grade, during my first year at Woonsocket Junior High School. This story, which was written in January of 1992, consists of 8 pages of text (written out in cursive on lined paper) and 7 pages of illustrations (done in colored markers), along with a title page. Apparently the powers that be felt that my story was good enough to win me that year's "Young Author Award" for my grade. It was the second time I had received such an award, the first time being when I was in second grade, for a contemporary re-imagining of the Frosty the Snowman story. The story that won me an award in the sixth grade, and which I now reproduce here, is entitled The Adventures of Spiky. The setting is my parent's house (where I still live), and the hero is Spiky, who was my pet lizard at the time (see the notes following the story for more details on this). The supporting cast was also modeled after pets that shared our home at that time. So, without further ado, here then is the worldwide debut of The Adventures of Spiky... (click on the illustrations if you want to see them in greater detail)

The Adventures of Spiky
James Champagne

(January 1992: written in the sixth grade)

* * * *

It was a beautiful day in the Champagne house. The sun shone brightly on Spiky’s aquarium. Spiky was James Champagne’s lizard. He had gotten Spiky for his birthday. In Spiky’s aquarium, there was a heat rock, a water bowl, a false lizard toy, a glass dinosaur, and a big wooden stick.

Spiky had a tannish, brownish color. Around his neck was a black piece of skin. He also had a spiky tail.

James came in the room, holding a box of crickets. “Food time, Spiky!” he said. He gave Spiky two crickets. They were big.

“Hello!” said the crickets.

“Hello, lunch and dinner!” said Spiky, drooling.

“Wait! You can’t eat us! Not when there is a whole house to explore!” cried the crickets.

“What?” asked Spiky, climbing up his stick.

“Oh, you really should enjoy the house,” they agreed. “The next time James opens the aquarium door, hop out!” said the crickets.

“Well, okay, but just for this once!” said Spiky, uncertainly.

The next day, James walked up to Spiky’s aquarium with the box of crickets. He opened the little door. Jump! Spiky hopped out. “Hey, get back here, Spiky!” cried James, but Spiky was long gone.

“Wow, this place is huge!” said Spiky. He crawled to the kitchen. All the furniture loomed over him. He found a piece of yarn and climbed up to the counter. Then he hopped into a bowl of cold soup.

“Brrrr! It’s cold in here!” muttered Spiky. “Now, how will I get off the counter?”

Then he saw a spoon. He climbed on one end of the spoon, and threw a meatball on the other end. Spring! He got sprung into the cat’s food bowl. What bad timing! Two cats, Rusty and Panda appeared.

“I’m outta here!” cried Spiky. He ran away, but the cats were still chasing him. He ran into the den. The cats were still following him. He ran faster. Soon he was at Hamton’s (the family hamster) cage.

“Can I come in?” asked Spiky.

“Sure!” said Hampton. He opened his cage’s door, and Spiky ran in. The cats gave up and walked away.

“Who, may I ask, are you?” asked Hampton.

“I am Spiky, the lizard who lives in the parlor. I decided to have a vacation, and those cats started chasing me.”

“Well, you can stay here as long as you want,” said Hampton.

Spiky enjoyed it in Hampton’s cage. It reminded him of his own aquarium. Soon he was homesick. So he made a plan. “When everyone is asleep, I will sneak back into my aquarium,” he thought. Soon it was midnight. Everyone was asleep. “Here’s my chance!” said Spiky.

He sneaked out of Hampton’s cage and crawled away. He was back in the kitchen. Everything was dark and scary. “Gulp,” said Spiky. He edged into the hallway. Okay, now he was at the door to the bathroom. He was almost at the door to the parlor! Just a little more, a little more…

Boom! Peter, the big black dog, burst into the room! He ran at Spiky. “Grrrrr!” he said. Spiky scrambled down the hallway, but the dog was still following him. So he ran into the basement and shut the door. Phew! He was safe! He crawled down the stairs.

Then, Rusty and Panda appeared. Uh oh! Spiky had forgotten that Rusty and Panda slept down there at night. Spiky ran up onto the pool table. The cats followed, but they slipped on the balls.

Spiky ran into one of the pockets in the pool table. He turned and saw an 8 ball rolling at him! Spiky ran off the pool table and climbed on the boards on the roof.

“Phew!” said Spiky. He crawled along the roof. Suddenly, he stepped right into a spider web.

“Uh oh!” said Spiky as a big spider crawled at him. What could he do? He couldn’t move, and the spider was coming closer! There was just one thing he could do! So he hissed. “Hisssssssssss!” hissed Spiky. The spider was so startled he accidentally cut Spiky’s ropes. Spiky ran past the confused spider and hopped from the roof on to the stairs!

Poor Spiky was so tired when he got upstairs, he just wanted to get in his aquarium. Then, he felt dog breath on his neck again! It was Peter the dog!

Spiky quickly jumped on the dog. He grappled the dog’s collar with his claws. The dog got all riled up and ran toward the basement. Spiky let go of the collar and crawled on the dog’s face. The dog went into a frenzy. Spiky hung on for dear life. The dog ran up the stairs, into Mom and Dad’s room. “Who’s there!” asked Dad. “It’s the dog!” cried Mom. “And Spiky’s on top of him! James will be so happy!” So they put Spiky into his aquarium.

The next morning, James woke up and walked downstairs. There, to his amazement, he saw Spiky in his aquarium. “Spiky, I’m so glad to see you!” Then he called Mom, Dad, and his three brothers, Tommy, Billy, and Andrew. They all had a small party. That night, comfortable in his cage again, Spiky walked over to the crickets.

“Did you have a good vacation?” they asked.

“Gulp!” went Spiky. Now those troublesome crickets were in his stomach! He happily fell asleep.

* * * *


Re-reading this story after all these years was a somewhat bittersweet experience for me, seeing as how all of the animals depicted within, such as my beloved cat Rusty, died many years ago. I find it odd that I decided to use Peter the dog as the story's antagonist, as in real-life Peter was perhaps one of the gentlest and easy-going dogs I've ever encountered (to this day, my mother often refers to him as "St. Peter" in fact). I wish I had spent more time on the illustrations: I was taking advanced art classes at the time, though you wouldn't know it from looking at the drawings (the rendition of the spider web in particular is painfully crude). Having said that, I like the drawing that showcases Spiky launching himself into the air via spoon and meatball, quite MacGyver that.

Sadly, poor Spiky passed away a few months after this story was written. His decline and death were hard for me as, unlike the cats and dogs of the house, he was my own personal pet. My mother and I tried to get him back to health by force-feeding him crickets (a confession: I never did quite feel comfortable feeding him live crickets in general, but that's the only thing he would eat), and during his last days I would spend hours sitting by his aquarium just to be by his side. When he died, my family actually sent me a sympathy card in the mail (though really, I suppose they could have just given it to me), telling me what a good friend I had been to Spiky and how he would always be with me in spirit. I had totally forgotten about this card until I found it a few days ago in one of my old shoe boxes that I use to house personal belongings. In any events, Spiky's memory lives on. Below is a picture of him:

Spiky and me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

From the Vault: Halloween Time (poem)

The following poem was composed when I was a student at Bernon Heights Elementary School, probably when I was in the second or third grade. It won some kind of school-wide poetry contest that was being held then, and I and the rest of the winners had to go down to a local radio station and read our poem on-air, which was, needless to say, an interesting experience.

"Halloween Time"
by James Champagne

It's Halloween, and the Ghostly Queen,
is sending out monsters all slimy and green.
On the streets are headless goons,
and a wicked witch flies past the moon.
Jack-o-lantern's eyes are bright,
as people run in terror or fright.
A ghost goes and haunts a house,
scaring away a giant mouse.
The werewolves run and bite people they've never met,
causing many horrible deaths.
Vampires bite people on the necks,
a giant frog says "Blech!"
But out comes the sun, the monsters run,
and Halloween is all done.

* * * *

Some tortured rhyming aside, I kind of like the Edward Gorey-ish vibe of this piece, and it interests me that so many years later I'm still mining the same horrific/monster imagery that so obsessed me when I was a child. Everyday is Halloween indeed!

Friday, May 27, 2011

From the Vault: My 1992 Summer Reading List!

1. How to eat Fried Worms (Thomas Rockwell)
2. Batman Returns (movie novelization)
3. Chicken Trek (Stephen Manes)
4. The Fright Face Contest (Stephen Mooser)
5. Rats (Pat Hutchins)
6. Slim Down Camp (Stephen Manes)
7. Revenge of the Nerd (John McNamara)
8. Wally (Judre Walkoff)
9. Be an Interplanetary Spy (Seth McEvoy)
10. Make Four Million Dollars by Next Thursday (Stephen Manes)
11. The Curse of the Egyptian Mummy (Pat Hutchins)
12. Monster of the Year (Stephen Mooser)
13. The Pink Panther Adventures in Z Land (David L. Harrison)
14. Star Wars: the Glove of Darth Vader (Paul Davids)
15. Doors to Doom (Bill McCay)
16. Koopa Capers (Bill McCay)
17. Pipe Down! (Clyde Bosco)
18. Unjust Desserts (Matt Wayne)
19. The Crystal Trap (Matt Wayne)
20. Brain Drain (Matt Wayne)
21. Leaping Lizards (Clyde Bosco)
22. Flown the Koopa (Matt Wayne)
23. Star Wars: Zorba the Hutt's Revenge (Paul Davids)
24. Star Wars: the Lost City of the Jedi (Paul Davids)
25. Hollywood Dinosaur (Daniel Cohen)
26. Honey I Blew up the Kid (Todd Shasser)
27. The Escape of the Plant That ate Dirty Socks (Nancy McArthur)
28. Steve Urkel's Super-Cool Guide to Success (Billy Aronson)
29. Monster Mix-up (Bill McCay)
30. The Shadow Prince (Matt Wayne)
31. Monster Maker (Nicholas Fish)
32. Crazy Mixed-up Valentines (Stephen Mooser)

-The spellings of the last names of a few of these authors might be incorrect.

-Entries #15-22, along with #30, were from the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda "choose your own adventures" series.

-I seem to recall really loving "The Curse of the Egyptian Mummy," to the extent that I just ordered a used copy of it off Amazon a few minutes ago, though I forget most of the content. "Chicken Trek" was pretty good also as I recall.

-Six years after this list and I'd be reading "Naked Lunch." Proof that it's a thin line that separates "Steve Urkel's Super-Cool Guide to Success" with avant-garde counter-cultural fiction.