Monday, April 21, 2008

Adventures in Reading

I'm a voracious reader. One who will, most of the time, enjoy reading a wide variety of books from an equally eclectic mix of genres.

Well, except for horror.

Horror, frankly, scares me. While I appreciate that the aim of horror is in fact to frighten people, I've learned that I don't much care for intentional terror. It's true that some who know me well will express some surprise at that statement and suggest that since they know I'm a total sucker for vampires, particularly ones that look like this, it's a bit disingenuous to say that I don't like horror.

I must scoff at this view because, come on, even if you're not into Billy Idol lookalikes, does this look like something you'd run away from? Totally doesn't count.

Nor do most books that deal with zombies. Again, it's true that some will assert that zombies are pretty scary things. I would have agreed with this view 10 years ago, but being forever attached to Rebecca means that I learned long ago to squelch any creeping feelings of dread, terror and general ickiness when faced with any number of films, graphic novels or books dealing with the walking dead.

So they don't count either.

Anything else in the horror grab bag of tricks? Absolutely out of my comfort zone.

Lately however, I've revisited my self imposed ban on horror novels because of Stephen King. Quite some time ago Mental Multivitamin mentioned Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and I thought I'd take a look at it. Having read Dance Macabre years ago, I was fairly comfortable reading King's nonfiction and not too worried about any emotional repercussions from reading more. Besides I had been reading and enjoying him as the best part of Entertainment Weekly for a while, so what was there to be afraid of?

The book was, as are most of the books recommended by Mental Multivitamin, well worth reading. Having grown up near the area that Mr. King spent a portion of his childhood simply added to the appeal of this book for me. After finishing it, I decided to give his fiction another try. I say "another try", because the first time I read a Stephen King novel was Salem's Lot at age 14.

Let's just say that I struggled a bit with it.

As in I slept with a cross on my windowsill and begged anyone I thought might be Catholic for holy water for over a year. What can I say? This happened way before Spike made his prime time appearance and vampires still scared me.

Why potentially subject myself to this again, even so many years later? It's a good question. Honestly, after reading On Writing, I was really curious to take a look at his novels. So recently I read Christine. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it was difficult to put down. It also caused some uneasiness, actually to the point where I didn't want to read it while in bed. I truly thought I was beyond being scared by a novel, but apparently I can still be unsettled by the written word. It was interesting to see themes in Christine that were discussed in On Writing, particularly those dealing with teen alienation and cliques. On the other hand though, the ending was deeply dissatisfying to me, although I'm not sure it should be. While we all want characters in a book to act in a superhuman way, with clear insight into how to solve a problem, real life simply isn't that way. So maybe the ending makes sense given the characters involved. Ultimately it was definitely worth a read.

Will I try another King novel? I'm not sure. I'm truly surprised at the reluctance I feel when thinking of attempting another. It's certainly not because I feel Christine was poorly written or plotted, it really is just that I'm uneasy at the thought of being frightened.

Guess that 14 yr. old is still there.


Anonymous said...

the dead zone was my favorite.

jenn from poohza dot typepad dot com

Girl Detective said...

I'm with you on being "afraid" of King, both because of the horror, and because I think he's a better storyteller than a writer. I've had "On Writing" on my shelf forever, though and I do intend to read it, if only b/c of the Mmv recommendation!

As a kid, and a precocious reader of books not for kids, I read things like The Omen, Amityville Horror, and King's books. Scared the crap out of me. I thought for a while I'd be a nun.

After reading King's Tommyknockers, which I thought was terrible, I gave up on King for a while. Then a few years later, I tried Gerald's Game (seriously scary; one scene that I'll never forget) and the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which I thought was great EXCEPT for the horror elements. That told me that King wasn't for me, at least his novels. I still have fond memories of some of his shorts and novellas, and I also like his EW columns. But it took me till I was an adult to realize that, for the most part, horror novels, movies and comic books aren't for me.

Exceptions: Sandman and other by Neil Gaiman, that blend horror with humor and erudition. I also liked the movie The Others, and Pan's Labyrinth.

Influencebad said...

Spike is MINE.

I just wanted to make sure you remembered that. ^_^

And I would love to suggest you try The Shining next - assuming you're up for more King.

countrymouse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
countrymouse said...

[Oh dear--whatever is happening to my mind? I tried to leave this post but the first word came out as "horry" instead of "horror." I don't know where that even came from . . . ]

Horror is a genre I can't stomach well either. Yet . . . what is it that makes me pick up books like The Amityville Horror and not be able to put them down? (I think that sentence was gramatically lacking . . . but I can't seem to fix it : )

Mary said...

Jenn - Even though it shames me to admit this, I remember The Dead Zone as a film. I'd forgotten that King wrote this! I definitely will check this one out.

Girl Detective - I know exactly what you mean about scenes that stay with you forever. *shudder*
I've read some Gaiman (I'm totally drawing a blank on a mini series that sent me to read one of his books - Bec will remember I'm sure - Just checked Amazon. It's "Neverwhere") and enjoyed him. I think both of my older girls have read "Stardust". I think I'll tackle that one next. I'm okay with film 'thrillers' as long as they aren't total slashers or torture porn. I loved "The Others". Haven't yet seen "Pan's Labryinth".

Bec - I am so not up for "The Shining". I was thinking about his newest though or maybe "The Stand". I don't know though - I'll have to contemplate whether or not I'm up for it. :)

Kristin - I have no idea what drives us to scare ourselves when we know we don't like it. I think I'd prefer not to dwell too much on that inconsistancy. I think it might suggest something to me about myself that I'm not sure I want to know. :)