Book Report – The Death of WCW

Wrestling.

I started watching wrestling during the 80s. At some point, my sister and I discovered that on the UHF channel they’d show wrestling pretty much all day on Saturdays. There’d be WWF and NWA to bookend things, but in the middle, you got all sorts of regional wrestling shows with people that my dad recognized but neither of us had any clue. We watched the goofiness of GLOW (well before it became a Netflix tv show). We’d absorb it. We’d cheer for our favorites.

And we had no idea that it wasn’t real.

Then I didn’t watch it for many years, only to pick it back up in the mid-90s when I heard that Hulk Hogan had turned bad guy and the NWO (New World Order) was running roughshod over WCW (which I later understood to be basically the successor to those NWA shows I’d watched as a kid. Every week I tuned in.

And then I stopped again. I’m not sure if I grew tired of it or just faded out with it. Once in a while, I’d flip it on and see who was wrestling. I watched the last episode of WCW when WWE bought them. I watched handfuls of episodes of TNA Wrestling. And even watched WWE.

A couple of years ago I started back up (much to my wife’s chagrin). My nephew has tons of the figures and at the beach, we watched an episode of RAW (WWE’s flagship show). It was over.

Luckily, I knew it wasn’t “real” anymore, but I still like to watch.

***

The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez is a history lesson and a cautionary tale. It is about making all the correct decisions for a short amount of time and then having it all come crashing down around you.

You see, in the 80s, the WWF was king. Everyone knew Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania and Andre the Giant. They had a cartoon. Andre was in one of my favorite movies (The Princess Bride for those keeping score). But in the 90s WCW had a run where they took over and all people wanted to see was the NWO.

The book goes into the history leading up to this revolution. It talks about WCW’s roots within the regional wrestling business. How Ted Turner’s TBS Superstation made him want wrestling programming. And how with a few signings of talent from the WWF (Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall), WCW became number one.

It walks you through the weeks. And as it did, I began to remember many of the matches talked about. One of the great things about wrestling is this ability to connect to your childhood through the championships and through the wrestlers who span the decades. Each backstage glimpse revealed answers to questions I’d long-since forgotten about.

If I had one complaint about the book it would be that towards the end you could almost cut and paste the words on the pages. WCW did this stupid thing and made this stupid decision and then doubled down on that dumb thing… but that’s not really the book’s fault. Those were the decisions being made by whoever might have been in charge at that particular time. I mostly found myself thinking (even though I know the ending… it’s right there in the title) “Surely they are going to learn from this mistake, right?”

They didn’t.

And like a train wreck, you can’t look away and you want to keep reading if only to find out the next dumb decision.

Wrestling might be fake, but the decisions being made were very real indeed. If you are a fan of wrestling now or then, it is an eye-opening read to be sure.

 

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – House of Leaves

Years ago, I heard stories about a strange book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The person claimed it was a horror book, but that it was so much more. It used narrative within a narrative within the narrative to tell its story, bouncing between these moments via footnotes within the text itself. They said it used the book itself as a way to tell the story, with the edges of the paper acting as the walls of the haunted house, and the words were the characters trying to find their way through to the other side.

I’m sure they said the name of the book, but it was lost somewhere within my mind. And for years I thought nothing more of it.

And then, as these things do, it reappeared on my radar, randomly mentioned on a podcast. At my desk, I scrawled the name on a scrap piece of paper before looking it up on the internet. It didn’t take long for me to remember the previous conversation about the novel, so I went ahead and put it on my Christmas list in the hopes some family member might purchase it for me. Sure enough, that wish was granted.

But I waited.

I read most of the books I have on Kindle. Yet, this was a book – well, I’m not sure there would be a way to construct it for digital consumption. It almost demands you have the tactile sensation of holding it in your hands. Flipping the pages and then flipping the orientation of the book. So I saved this beast for the beach.

I have a habit of not always choosing the bright and cheerful books for the beach, having read The Road a couple of years ago. House of Leaves demanded a different level of focus from me than I’d been expecting – so much so that after a day of reading. I was only at about 50 pages into the book. I’m a fast reader, but this crawled along.

Note that’s not a slight on the book, instead it speaks more to how the book is laid out.

One of the things I have learned in writing comics (and am always learning) is the idea of the pace of reading a page. Typically, if I want to slow the reader down (maybe because there is something coming that needs to be built up) I add more words to the page. Narration boxes, dialogue, etc.

And on those pages that need fly by, to feel fast, I include fewer words, let the art breathe a bit more.

House of Leaves is the 1st book I’ve ever seen that attempts to do this as well. Pages will have only a couple of a couple of sentences, a word presented upside down, twisting and turning on the page.

It uses footnotes, editors ramblings, forward, and appendices to paint a picture of how this House affects these people throughout the world. Students write theses on it (within the world it has constructed).

It’s complex and confusing and maddening and at times you can’t put it down and at other times you are unsure whether to pick it back up.

It has highs and lows as to what held my interest more, but once things get “weird”. I was devouring pages.

It may make you obsess. I found myself looking for answers to some questions while still reading, chastising myself for doing it as I didn’t want to spoil anything.

***

What is House of Leaves about? It’s about multiple things – a weird, possibly haunted house and the people who live there. A documentary made by those people who live in the house. The world at large’s thoughts on the doc.

But it is also about a man who had written “House of Leaves”

Oh and about the man who found the “House of Leaves” manuscript.

And the subject of the manuscript. The one who made the documentary. The one who journeys into the darkness within the house itself. That’s where the book really shifts into forcing you to turn your book sideways or upside down. The text will shrink the gutters on one page before expanding to the next. You’ll have pages with only a dozen words on it.

It pulls you in. All the techniques, which on the surface appear to be a pain in the ass, all serve the same goal. Through this, it makes you a part of the story. As much as any of the people you’re reading about.

It’s horror, but not always scary, but quite often disturbing. It’s the type of book that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can actually look like. Fiction upon fiction upon fiction. If you want to read something odd and strange and something that will have you searching the internet at 2 in the morning to try to figure out… this might be the book for you.

***

Most of the time book reviews/reflections/whatever want to be a little vague so they don’t spoil anything, but I honestly think that I couldn’t give anything away without giving everything away. A strange and amazing read. I’ve seen book reviews online for this where the person says they hated the book in one sentence and yet they recommend everyone read it. Such a strange thing to be said about anything.

So I’ll say, if you want to read something pretty unique… this is the one.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com