Reading Nora Thompson’s collection Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain was quite the adventure for me because I constantly felt like I was trapped in her version of a nightmare. Plus, there were spiders. Lots of spiders. And anyone who knows me, will tell you that I could watch The Exorcist at 3 a.m. and not be scared, but if there was a Daddy Long Leg on the screen while it was playing… I would be so out of there.
Now when Nora first contacted me, she described the collection as a dark children’s piece that adults seemed to be taking a liking too—and after reading it, I couldn’t agree with her more. Thematically, it wasn’t overtly graphic but at the same time, it touched on concepts that were going to affect everyone differently based on the maturity level of the reader. For instance, take the piece “Visitation Day.” For a kid reading the story, they’re most likely going to laugh at the crazy person in a straight jacket who seems to have it all together. But for anyone that knows anything about psychological or mental illness, or perhaps has worked/lived/cared for someone with one, the piece hits a little deeper and might drudge up some emotional issues.
Stylistically, I have to admit that I admire Thompson’s style. I like writing that breaks barriers, and doesn’t follow the rules, and I especially appreciate it in poetry. A great piece to reference would be her poem “Mouth Breather” because she organizes her words, phrases, and syntax strictly around the characterization of her narrator. Thompson throws out the rules of capitalization, proper grammar, and every day language as she invents her own: “they told me i a mouth breather. i dunno. i guess it true. they say that a problem” (22). Here we not only get the interior conflict of our character, but we also get to see into him/her a bit more, and get a greater feel for what he/she is like based on the way he/she talks.
However, my favorite piece in the collection was without a doubt “Headache.” I loved the way that she portrayed the character’s inner turmoil and pain, by saying that something else was in his head, and that it had to come out. Then, to follow that up with images of bloody fingers, and a light shining through a hole in his scalp… Ah. Music to my creepy little ears, because nothing spells out a good story like having your main character tunnel a hole into the side of his head to get rid of the pounding.
Overall, I really enjoyed the collection, and I wish that I would have had stuff like this to read when I was younger because it fuses the worlds of literature and art together in such a macabre fashion where it’s suitable for kids, but still really creepy and entertaining for adults. Nora’s a fantastic artist, and her drawings and sketches remind me of something Tim Burton would come up with in a whacked out horror version of Wonderland. But if her artwork doesn’t grab you, then just start reading, and I promise you…you’ll be hooked.
Nora Thompson is an illustrator, fine artist and graphic designer. Sometimes what she has to say needs words, so in those times she becomes a writer. She likes to write stories about characters who don’t normally get to be the protagonist. Or stories with a twist in the end. She writes in incomplete sentences and never used to. And sometimes those sentences start with conjunctions and end in prepositions. She ditched the rules when she started drawing The Rots and discovered flash fiction cured a short attention span. She had a normal childhood, really.