mr. mercedes: screennames

mr. mercedes by stephen king

I was talking with Michael recently about what our screennames were, back when everyone used AOL instant messenger. Mine was raendrop316 and I thought it was really clever because my name sounds like rain AND it incorporated my first name and last initial. The numbers were just because I liked the numbers 3 and 16. Nothing clever there.

In Stephen King’s new book, Mr. Mercedes (kindle here), they don’t exactly go back to AOL, but the killer does reach out to a detective using an anonymous messenger service and usernames. And they are just as clever as my 13-year-old self.

The killer uses the merckill. You know, for the Mercedes Killer. The detective’s is kermitfrog19. You know, because his first name is Kermit.

Although the screennames might be a callback to old technology, the rest of the tech in Mr. Mercedes keeps up with the times. Many books eschew technology completely, either by setting the story in a different world or time, or just ignoring its use altogether (much like how on TV shows, everyone shows up at each other’s homes instead of giving them a call). It’s fun to see it used realistically and efficiently in Mr. Mercedes. Someone leaving their phone in their car leads to miscommunication, funeral arrangements can be made on an iPad, and a killer can IM just as easily as leaving an old-school letter for someone to find.

One of my favorite things about King is how his books echo real life. Maybe not in their plots (I hope you aren’t communicating with an anonymous killer, at any rate), but in small events that mirror the small events in your own life. Like getting mad at someone for sleeping through phone calls when you need them, or being embarrassed your hacked emails got sent to your colleagues, or making a screenname based off a nickname and some numbers you like.

I’m about halfway through Mr. Mercedes, and it has been a fantastic summer read. That is, if you like your beach reading about murder mysteries instead of a summer romance (though there’s a little bit of that, too). The boring realities of iPads and work emails don’t seem boring when King tells their story, and the characters are more relatable and realistic because of it. And if the “boring” parts of Mr. Mercedes are this fun, what does that say about the exciting parts?

family book club: house of leaves

house of leaves by mark danielewski

A house with a dark secret. A creeping sense of foreboding. A story told through documents, footnotes, and scraps of paper.

House of Leaves is like nothing I’ve read before. How this story is told is as much a part of the experience as the story itself. In a committed storytelling device, we meet our narrator–of a sort–Johnny Truant. Johnny has come across a trunk full of documents and photos after a man he knew, Zampano, died mysteriously at home.

The book wades through these documents as a story unfolds about what Zampano was studying through all this information: a house with a deep, dark, twisty universe inside it and the family who lives there.

Think Poltergeist + Paranormal Activity + the Labyrinth.

The text itself tells a story. How it’s laid out on the page feels like wandering through a maze. The footnotes take you on a different path that can leave you confused, a bit lost. It’s a trip (figuratively of course) to read, but during family book club we felt talking about it was more fun than actually reading it. It was a lot of work to wade through this book, but the payoff is there, if you want to delve in (much the opposite of the house itself). There are secrets on secrets on secrets to learn, if it interests you. Unfortunately, it didn’t interest us too much.

But storytelling always interests me. How we do it, and why. So much of our lives are digital now, this book might look very different if it came out today instead of 2000. So what story does your life tell, only looking at scraps of paper, images collected, messages sent here and there? Here’s some from my life. Nothing unusual.


notes from iphonetextsnotes4notes3email

As I said, nothing unusual.

Our next family book club book is Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (Kindle here). We’ll be able to do this book club in person when we are all together for Christmas. Won’t you join in?

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon affiliate’s program, so if you buy through my links I’ll make a little bit of money off of it.)

the cuckoo’s calling part 1


It is a not so secret desire of mine to become a police detective. It is my back up plan, my alternate universe career, and the subject of quite a few daydreams. I can’t stop watching cop shows or reading murder mysteries. (And yeah, I know that’s not exactly how it works in real life.)

So I like a good detective story. I feel like I am reading about my imaginary colleagues. And though solving a mystery in a book isn’t at all like solving a mystery in real life, I’m pretty good at it. (Well, I’m not the worst at it.)

I have just finished part one of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith J.K. Rowling (Kindle here). I can’t say I never would have read this book if it didn’t come out that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for Rowling (that secret didn’t last long, did it?), but I can say I didn’t hear about the book until that story broke. So I picked it up, along with thousands of others.

Continue reading “the cuckoo’s calling part 1”