Bible Camp Bloodbath Redux

Joey Comeau wrote a blog entry about fixing what he perceived as the mistakes in his book, Bible Camp Bloodbath, likening his relationship with the finished book to his experience with the movie, Martyrs. (WARNING: his blog entry contains spoilers about the book, as it seems written for people who have read the original.) As a fan of Martyrs, I wanted to disagree with his ultimate assessment of that film. However, his opinion of the film was based more upon how it left him feeling (“the point is that I didn’t enjoy it. I appreciated its skill, but I won’t ever sit down and watch it again, no matter how effective and focused it was), rather than how well it was made (“smart, and even admirable in its clarity of vision”). He had similar feelings about his book, and in the post linked above expressed his desire to rewrite it to dispel some of the hopelessness he saw it sharing with Martyrs (they’re both very different stories, by the way). Although I hadn’t read his original, I was skeptical. I didn’t think Martyrs was all that hopeless, and I doubted his reflection of a work that he saw potential in improving, but thought he could make better–a common affliction among creative people; right now, I could sit down and flesh out Mountain Home some more in a couple of places where I feel like I have something else to say. But this isn’t about me. Except it kind of is. It’s about my experience with THE SUMMER IS ENDED AND WE ARE NOT YET SAVED, the redux version of Bible Camp Bloodbath.

Having not read the original, but having read Comeau’s blog about wanting to “fix it” and give it hope, I went into this book skeptically, thinking that I was about to read the watered down or sentimental version of something that should have had more in common with Martyrs than some other summer boy’s tale like Stand By Me. My fears were unfounded however. My presuppositions and prejudices were proven horribly WRONG once again.

I wish I could think of a way to write about this book without spoiling things, but the story is what you expect. It’s a slasher story set in a bible camp. The two gems the lift it well above any average slasher are the end and the relationship between Martin and his mother throughout. Comeau finds a clever way to keep that relationship alive and vibrant after Martin’s mother has left the stage, even subverting expectation a little and reversing the direction of the summer camp epistolary narrative (i.e., Martin’s mom writes to him more than he writes her about his experience). Having grown up as the only son (until I was older than Martin) of a single mother the relationship between these two read note-perfect to me. I’m also not a fan of precocious child stories, but Comeau writes Martin with a clear voice that reflects his home life (a child with more adult friends than young ones, and who is devoted to a mother who encourages him to think like an adult) while still leaving him with the personal and social doubts and, most importantly, the coping skills of a child. Martin is perfectly drawn. And his relationship with his mother is (as is the reality for most eleven-year-old boys) the lynchpin of his emotional life. This is where Comeau really pulls his book out of what I imagine was what he perceived as the cold hopelessness of the original and propels it toward the denouement like a bullet.

Like I’ve come to expect from books from ChiZine Publications, THE SUMMER IS ENDED AND WE ARE NOT YET SAVED is brilliant from start to finish. This, along with Bill Braddock’s BREW (a perfect companion book that almost demands to be read immediately before or immediately after this one) are sitting very comfortably in my top five reads of 2013.

As an afterthought, how exactly did I decide to buy this book? Two factors: 1) it was published by my favorite small press, ChiZine Publications which has yet to release a book I didn’t love, and 2) my copy came with a BARF BAG! Oh hell yeah!

2013-09-29 10.21.09

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~ by poǝןɔɐɯ uǝʞɔɐɹq on 29/09/2013.

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