Let’s talk horror, shall we? I’ve just started reading/listening to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. With half of my current reading in the horror/suspense genre, it seems like a good topic for this week’s Friday Reads.
I had that early attraction to horror that many scaredy-cats do. It terrified me and I was fascinated by it. As a kid I didn’t venture far beyond those cheesy Christopher Pike novels, which I read alone during lunch in the library because I wouldn’t want to be seen checking one out or have someone spy it in my locker or my backpack. Even as a young reader I knew horror was lowbrow. Given that I spent my summers reading Victor Hugo even though I was only 13 it’s not surprising that I’d be ashamed of my trashy horror fixation.
Only as an adult have I embraced horror as a genre that is nothing to be ashamed of. There’s plenty of bad writing in it, but there’s plenty of good stuff, too. Basically it’s just the same as anything else.
You can’t talk about modern horror without talking about Stephen King. I think I might have been the last child of the 80’s to actually pick up a King novel. I was already in my mid-20’s before I actually read one. If you gave him up ages ago, I completely understand. But I beseech you to pick him up again. The man is having a crazy resurgence. Lisey’s Story is one of my favorite novels of the last decade.
I’ve been listening to Dreamcatcher in the car since December. (Haven’t been driving much, it’s taking a while.) I expected it to be lumped in with the pile of King’s fiction that isn’t much worth your attention, but it’s actually pretty good. It can be exceptionally gross on occasion, it’s only because he’s not content to do what’s normally done. King isn’t content with a simple gun to the head or knife to the chest and his creativity is admirable, even if it makes your stomach a bit queasy. I have a very big soft spot for the guy.
And I have a soft spot for his son, Joe Hill. If you didn’t read Horns, I suggest you find it. The basic plot follows Iggy who wakes up one morning with horns on his head. Everyone he talks to starts telling him their darkest secrets, even ones he doesn’t want to know. Lots of allusions and twists on devil mythology. It’s not “scary” but it’s smart. (Also worth your time, and actually plenty scary, is the Locke & Key comic series, also written by Hill.)
One of the great things about horror is how well it moves between and across genres. If you prefer so-called “literary” fiction, you Snooty McSnootersons, you can stick to The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, an update of the gothic novel about the deterioration of a family in their deteriorating manor house with plenty of supernatural creepiness. It’s literary entertainment of the highest form. Or The Seance by John Harwood, which follows the gothic formula impeccably well. (I went on a crazy gothic kick back in 2009.) Or you could do some genre-melding and add some fantasy and historical fiction for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.
If you like sprawling epic horror, you’ve probably heard about The Passage by Justin Cronin. I found it a passable entry. (I reacted similarly to The Stand, it had amazing potential but didn’t fulfill it.) If you’re looking apocalyptic then The Road by Cormac McCarthy is better, of course, but you’ve probably read that already. Right? Right??
The original I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (believe me, it’s not much like the movie) is a stellar offering. Writing this is reminding me that I want to read more Richard Matheson. The man had amazing ideas, do you know how many of them Hollywood has destroyed? Too many. They have destroyed I Am Legend on 4 separate occasions! Though I am very fond of their adaptation of Somewhere In Time. (Oh, Christopher Reeve. I swoon for you.) He also wrote for TV a lot, you have him to thank for constant ripoffs of a sweaty Shatner seeing aliens on the wing of a plane.
Well, even if I didn’t convince you to add any horror selections to your reading, I convinced myself to reserve some Matheson at the library.
What are you reading now? What are your favorite horror selections?