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Jun
24
2005
Today, as I drove down the road, I was struck with horror: in a yard, near a fence, was a triffid. If you remember the book, you'd know they are human-sized plants, stalky at the bottom, with a large blossom at the top...a bloom that hides a poison-filled center, capable of lashing out at nearby mammals and killing them with a single strike. Sightless, the plants rely on temperature sensing and a sense of hearing to detect the approach of delicious humans.

This one, it appeared, was not a 'tame' triffid, one whose poison glands had been cut out. It appeared very active, and was no doubt dangerous to approach.

Little did I know, they were available from Fisher Price a few years back: it's actually a Crazy Daisy (watch video!), and is far less dangerous than I might have thought. I'm still not going anywhere near that thing.

Who in their right mind would design a toy to resemble, even slightly, a friendly version of a human-eating creature from a science fiction novel? New, from Playskool: the Grendel playset, complete with Beowulf and his men! How about a Little Golden Books version of To Serve Man?

On the other hand, the much more likely option, is that I read too much. While it keeps my mind pleasantly full of dangerous ideas, it really doesn't give me a positive angle when viewing the world around me. I've read quite a few books lately: A Clockwork Orange, A Brave New World, Fifth Planet, and this book, The Garden Of Evil:

Being written by Bram Stoker caught my attention, and made it worth the quarter I paid for it. After I began reading the book I noticed the subtitle, barely readable in the scan above: Original Title: The Lair Of The White Worm. Aha! I knew that title...but why would they retitle such a book? The only male heir of an English manor returns to meet his only uncle, meets some creepy neighbors, and destroys an ancient monster bent on killing him. Oh, and he falls in love somewhere in there.

This version of the book is an example of a practice that occurred a lot in the mid-20th century: misleading covers. In order to attract buyers, old titles were often re-run with new covers (usually involving scantily-clad women), new titles (usually sexier), and misleading back-cover quotes (usually taking the sexiest lines & scenarios from the book and describing them out of context). All that sexiness hoped to force buyers to put up their money. Did it succeed? Well, it caused a push for censorship because it seemed every book published was lurid, and bookbuyers caught on quickly that they were being tricked. Here's the back cover blurb for this book:

All her life, Mimi had been frightened by the ancient legend that a serpent would one day rise from the bowels of the earth and devour anyone in its path. The serpent was supposed to lurk in the depths of Diana's Grove -- a shadowy place the villagers called The Garden Of Evil.
Mimi carefully avoided the Grove, until the mysterious and beautiful Lady Arabella March bought it. Suddenly Mimi found herself drawn there time and time again -- always in a state of trance, always against her will.
Who was influencing her mind? To what terrible end was her unseen enemy leading her? Would Mimi live long enough to learn if the Garden of Evil harbored only a legend -- or death?

Sounds like a gothic romance, right? Maybe even some scandalous lesbian undertones, since it seems to Mimi falling under the powers of Lady Arabella (kinky!). Readers who purchased this book, hoping for a female lead character, would be sorely disappointed: Mimi is a relatively minor character. She's the love interest of the lead, but she does very little on her own. Much of the quote above was embellished, and has little to do with the storyline itself. It's too bad: the book wasn't very good anyway, it might have been more fun to read if this really was the main storyline. Now, if only I can find a giant white snake stuffed animal...maybe one of the kids will appreciate it.

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