Sunday, January 9, 2011

Metaphysically Waxing

There's a stretch of road off the beaten path that I drive, and on it I've unfolded and written on my mental sheaves entire scenes. Yet once back within the confines of mortar and brick the words vaporize leaving behind a few shreds to pick at. If I don't attack quickly, the crumbs turn to dust and I'm lost again.

This strange occurrence happened yesterday. The sun blazed its light and I couldn't escape, my car having windows to draw in the specter. My Ipod as company, a certain song played helping to evolve this scene that I'm sure sat between the gray folds of my brain for quite some time. It was then that I realized the connection - that there is a distinct possibility that creative being follows the sunlight. Brightness. Could it affect my personal creative space?

In my former residence I wrote in four different rooms. Each had many windows and I could comfortably sit with laptop, desktop or paper and pen and let it flow. It was there that every single new story began, many to fruition. Since moving to a new location the muse has gone into hibernation. I haven't spilled new words, have only reworked those I created at the former residence, the place with all the light and windows.

At my new residence I have an office. It has one window facing west. The walls are green, formerly pink. The furniture has been rearranged so many times that I dare not move my desk again for fear it will collapse. Out of certain desperation I've taken my work to another room and tried creating something new.

I once boasted that I could write anywhere - I didn't need no stinkin' babblin' brook and green, lush meadows to steer my muse. Her grace could work anywhere. And now I find that perhaps I was full of shit. Now I find that after living at the new residence for sixteen months I haven't felt the rush of words. It's as if I'm in permanent eclipse.

This week I'll put my theory to the test, albeit unintentionally. I've reached the place of an unfinished manuscript that is an open road ahead, just waiting for the rest of the story that has simmered between my brain's gray folds.

Here's to a new week of uncertainty. May the gods be kind and open the channels for creative light to blaze in. After all, I cannot drive and write (without getting a ticket).


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Family Honor, Cannibalism and Other Heartwarming Delights: A Review of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Is Delicious

Taboos and other social mores receive such a bad rap in today's culture. Thanks to Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter series, the distasteful and twisted becomes palatable and entertaining. Word of warning: The Dexter series isn't recommended for the faint of stomach or readers possessing high morals. If serial killers with a heart seem offensive, better to take a pass on these books. Additional word of warning: If your liver is a lily then you're missing a truly stupendous opportunity to broaden the mind as well as enjoy very well written works. Intelligent writing is hard to find in today's shaky publishing environment. That said, if there exists literary I.Q., Lindsay's hovers in the high triple digits.

If unfamiliar with the Dexter literary series and the popular Showtime one, by day Dexter Morgan, the story's title character, is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Dade Police Department. By night "he kills only people who deserve it." Dexter can't help that he's a serial killer. "Born in blood" is the catch-phrase describing Dexter, for when a youngster (age three I believe) he witnessed the brutal murder of his mother. The event clicked a switch in the boy's inner psyche turning him into a not-so-average serial killer. Dexter was fortunate in that Harry Morgan, a cop at his mother's crime scene, took him in and raised him as a foster child and later adopting him. Harry recognized the evil in Dexter and through his guidance, taught Dexter to rein in his darkness by turning him into a dark super hero. Harry instilled "The Harry Code," translated as only killing heinous criminals who fall through the judicial cracks. People who "deserve it."

It's fair to say that in order to truly enjoy Dexter is Delicious is to read the previous four books in the series. However, each can be enjoyed individually, but in skipping the first four the reader loses the chain of events that turned deeply dark Dexter into somewhat human Dexter. And in Delicious, Dexter's heart begins beating with the birth of his child, Lily. Dexter's dark passenger slips into hiatus, until two evil events unfold making Dexter rethink his urges. First, a never before seen crime hits the South Miami scene. A missing teenager leads police to a brutal murder scene wherein the victim's body has not only been dismembered, but bones picked clean as if part of a Thanksgiving feast. Stranger than that, Dexter's long lost brother, Brian, also born in blood, shows up unexpectedly, ready to hamper Dexter's happy married life in the role of Uncle Brian. Brian's darkness was never reined in, so it's safe to assume that he treats his dark passenger as any average psycho serial killer would - killing for fun.

Lindsay does a superb job in making the heinous palatable. Humor abounds in his writing, as well as beautiful prose. I appreciate that he doesn't dumb-down his work by trying to make it all horror and disgusting situations of blood and gore. His writing is a work of art, as all great writing should be, in my humble opinion. If I could produce with half his wit I'd be sitting pretty with several publishing contracts and not sitting here writefully mumbling. Still, I cling to great writing and Jeff Lindsay is one of my several mentors. Passages such as, "Can this really be the Miami I have always lived in? Or has some strange physics experiment in an underground supercollider sent us all to live in Bizarro World, where everyone is kind and tolerant and happy all the time?" keep me returning for more Lindsay. The passage is in the book's first chapter expressing Dexter's awe over the gathering of new fathers at the maternity ward's viewing area of newborns. And if not such an unusual and unexpected opening I might have passed on this book. But it is outstanding in comparison to the other books in the series, completely blindsiding this ardent fan of Lindsay's twisted storylines. Can't help but love this man!

Surprises abound in Delicious; Lindsay has a knack for creating entertainment out of the macabre, time spent with his page turners a chronic pleasure. An additional unexpected element was his subtle nod to the Big East Conference by creating a Syracuse University graduate as a police detective. It felt a bit out of place and I wondered if Lindsay has ties to the Orange. Syracuse isn't notorious for their political science program. The character, Deke, comes across as an inept neophyte suited more for modeling than investigating. I'm still not certain it added to the story, as well as a scene where a victim's family offers a bribe to several police detectives. Both seemed a bit useless, the proverbial "sore-thumb," yet didn't detract from the story. Sort of a coffee-break in the midst of chaos.

If I were writing this review as an English Lit assignment (been there, done that, got the A to prove it), I'd comment on theme and motif. Suffice it to say, Lindsay mastered both very well. My professor would be gushing. Lindsay interweaves every other literary vehicle at his disposal and streamlines the story to its heartwarming conclusion. Yes, heartwarming, reminding the reader that blood is thicker than water, especially between born-in-blood siblings.

Unlike the Showtime series, Lindsay kept Delicious undiluted and fresh, as is all his Dexter books. There's something to be said for the creative writing beast and how it's interpreted from book to film. The Dexter Showtime series has a large writing staff; it's apples and oranges, but over the seasons it has lost its resilience. Jeff Lindsay continues to give us a strong Dexter storyline book after book. He hasn't lost a bit of steam or tired in the least.

Here's hoping he'll continue to grace us with his beautiful, albeit wrapped, sense of humor and prose.

Out of five stars, Dexter is Delicious earns a shiny four and three-quarters. Bravo!