New York City, USA: Akashic Books, 2004
200 pp., 5 x 8", softcover
Edition size unknown
The only Halloween programming I've participated in this year was watching Derek McCormack's excellent presentation for the BATA Museum about the use of dolls in horror films, a couple of nights ago. I checked to see if it has been posted to their site, but they're apparently timid about copyright issues arising from the film stills, so it looks like it won't materialize.
But McCormack's Grab Bag is still available for purchase. The title was his first book published in the US, and the first in a series of titles edited and presented by the acclaimed author Dennis Cooper. Grab Bag is comprised of two interrelated novels, Dark Rides and Wish Book, both are set in the same small rural Ontario city, in different eras. The cover features an illustration by Ian Phillips (of Pas de Chance), representing their shared interest in vintage Halloween trinkets, and maybe McCormack's love of holiday themed Scholastic books.
The Village Voice placed Grab Bag on their Best Books of the Year list in 2004, and the title has received considerable praise elsewhere, including filmmaker John Waters ("Boy, can Dennis Cooper find ’em! Grab Bag will grab you, all right; plain, simple, and hard"), and novelist Edmund White ("Grab Bag culls the best of the perverse and innocent world of Derek McCormack. The mystery of objects, the lyricism of neglected lives, the menace and nostalgia of the past – these are all ingredients in this weird and beautiful parallel universe").
It's available both as a Kindle edition and paperback, from Amazon, here.
"I want to say: There are no natural couplings in my books. But I won’t. It’s not true. Dark Rides and Wish Book couple nicely, I think. Dark Rides is set in Peterborough in the 1950s. Peterborough, Ontario. My hometown. And Wish Book is set in Peterborough in the 1930s. So there’s the city. Both books feature country music stars. In Wish Book, a kid’s obsessed with Jimmie Rodgers. In Dark Rides, a kid’s obsessed with Hank Williams. There’s a story in the book about Hank Williams coming through town in 1952. That happened. Hank came. He played a skating rink. Between shows he got drunk at the Pig’s Ear Tavern. According to Chet Flippo, Hank passed out onstage and had to be escorted from town by police. It was, Flippo says, the beginning of the end for Hank. His last hurrah. I like to tell people that Peterborough killed him."
- Derek McCormack, interviewed by Raul Deznermio