Last week one of my colleagues suggested that rather than do this blog I should have undertaken a project where I would read every unread comic book that I have on my shelves and blog about those instead. I did a quick count and realized that at the rate of one book per day, it would take three or four years for me to catch up with the books that I've acquired but haven’t read. That’s assuming that I don’t buy any new ones in the interim.
I’m told that “tsundoku” is the Japanese word for books that pile up unread. Mine aren’t a pile – they are arranged on four industrial book cases, the type that universities used to buy in the 1960s and which were left in my office. I recently ridded my campus office of thousands of books that I thought I would never re-read just to make room for the books that I haven’t read and may never re-read. Clearly, I have a problem.
One of the strange things about my collection of unread books is that I can tell you with a good degree of certainty where all those unread books come from. For instance, Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods was purchased at Gosh!, the great comic bookstore in London. Carroll was the rising young star of webcomics and her first book had received high praise. When I picked it up, on the recommendation of the shop and of several people I was with, I had no idea that she was Canadian nor that she hailed from that other, lesser London in Ontario (she now lives in Stratford). Actually, I'm pretty certain that I thought she was British.
I’m also reasonably certain that I had no idea what Through the Woods was about when I bought it, because I certainly didn’t know when I sat down to read it. I didn’t know, for instance, that it is a collection of short stories rather than a single novel. That is clearly my fault, as it says “Stories” right on the front cover. And I’m certain that I didn’t recognize that they were specifically horror stories, despite the cover image of the young girl walking through a dark, snowy forest under a blood-red moon. Apparently I’m not a very attentive book buyer.
Basically, all I knew was: good word of mouth, strong recommendations from traveling companions that I trusted, beautiful cover and interior art.
Horror really isn’t my genre. I generally don’t watch horror films, and I don’t read horror novels. So imagine my surprise to sit down with a book whose pull quotes praise its “terrifying tales” and call it a “special kind of horror”, part Stephen King, part Edgar Allan Poe. While I found myself admiring all of the stories, to me that strongest were the first (“Our Neighbor’s House”) and the last (“The Nesting Place”), which are probably the most and the least subtle pieces in the book, respectively. What is clear is that Carroll is a major talent. Her sense of page design is terrific, and she works a variety of visual styles seemingly effortlessly. Through the Woods didn’t make me want to read much more in the horror genre, but it made me certain to follow Carroll’s work.
You can read a great deal of her work on her website, including “His Face All Red” (which is in included in this book).
One final thing that I found amusing is that despite being a webcomics superstar, Carroll is a reluctant tweeter. Since joining Twitter in 2009 she has tweeted twenty times (once last week!) and she follows only two accounts. Despite that, she has a remarkable 25,000 followers. That is an absolutely incredible follower/followee ratio that, for some reason, I find hilarious..
One thing I learned about Canada from this book: The wolf only needs enough luck to find you once.