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June Books

Okay, taking a break from the protest series, here are the (very few) books I was able to complete in June.

1. The Eclogues and The Georgics by Virgil.

Well, I’m currently writing a chapter that lays out the details of imperial Roman ideo-theology (I wish people used that word, I find it really convenient).  Therefore, I thought I would go back and reread some of the relevant primary source stuff to look for things I might have missed the first time around.  It is proving to be a worthwhile exercise although, damn, 9 out of 10 of these pastoral poems are hella boring.

2. Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist.

After reading, and being disappointed by, the Iain Banks book I mentioned last month, I thought I would dig around a little more in the “horror” genre to see if I could find some things there that are also representative of really good literature.   Not that long ago, I had watched the movie called Let The Right One In and had enjoyed it.  It left me thinking that there was probably a richer story behind what was portrayed in the film, so I decided to go with Lindqvist as the next step in my horror quest.

The book really is quite good.  Having seen the film, I was stuck knowing what was going to happen, but story lines were much more fully developed (and darker) than in the film and the characters were much richer (the only thing I didn’t like was the vampire’s ability to communicate, um, her story to her companion).  I would recommend both the book and the movie (the movie has a couple of really awesome scenes, one of a kiss and one of something that occurs in a swimming pool).  When the vampire is a 12 year old girl, her caretaker an old male pedophile, and the boy she meets a picked-on kid with sociopathic tendencies, well, you know you’re not reading Twilight.

3. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

This was my next horror effort.  The google searches I did on the subject seemed to pretty consistently refer back to this haunted house novel as one of the classics in the genre.  I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much.  I thought the best element of the plot was the question of whether the haunted house was tormenting the protagonist or whether it was the presence of the protagonist that brought the haunting to the house.  That bit was done well.  The rest of it was pretty ho-hum.

I’ll probably dabble around with a few more suggested titles in this genre but don’t have very high expectations.  Suggestions are welcome.  John Updike’s “Rabbit” series is actually the scariest thing I’ve ever read (by a long shot).  Those books terrify me because they make me think: “Fuck!  Maybe that’s really all that we’ll ever amount to!”

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  1. Looking forward to starting the Rabbit books pretty soon! Really excited.
    I’m actually not sure I’ve ever been able to finish anything related to genre-horror, but some Kafka comes pretty close. Also in that vein we have Kobo Abe, and the excellent novel “The Unconsoled” by Kazuo Ishiguro (it’s really different from the stuff he’s known for, that being “Remains of the Day”, but actually not that strange in his oeuvre as a whole).
    H.P. Lovecraft is decent.

  2. I can’t agree with the other commenter that H.P. Lovecraft is decent. He’s of great importance to the genre, but was not a good writer. Someone who’s not interested in the genre as a set of conventions but is sincerely trying to find books that will scare him will not, I wager, get a lot out of Lovecraft.
    A Good and Happy Child, by Justin Evans, might be worth a try. It has certain theological strains that are disconcerting, to say the least. (I won’t be spoiling anything, I think, to say that it hinges on a possible case of demonic possession.) Come Closer by Sara Gran was also disturbing.
    The Vanishing by Tim Krabbe.
    Although I first read it when I was an adolescent, I still find Robert Cormier’s I Am the Cheese shivery.
    The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, while not belonging to the horror genre (not belonging comfortably to any genre, really), is terribly gripping and a perfect book for you if you’re in the mood for something from off your beaten track.

  3. I nosed around a bit in Lovecraft but wasn’t gripped by what I read. I recently read a review of the Evans book you mention and was thinking of trying it out. I’m currently reading “John Dies At the End” by David Wong but will probably try the Evans book next (which, then, will probably be the last book I look at in this genre for now).
    Kafka’s also a good suggestion, as I’ve never really given him a serious go.
    I’ve also been thinking that some would probably consider McCarthy’s novels to be on the line of the horror genre. Might be those books that got me into this kick in the first place…

  4. McCarthy? Absolutely. Blood Meridian was horrifying, in varied and cruel ways. I try not to think about the ending. The Road was a, likely inadvertent, riff off of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which maybe is better described as sf but is also (like any good apocalypse story) distressing.
    I’ll push The Doomsday Book one more time, then, if you’re thinking of moving on from the horror genre after Evans. Cheating, of course, but the novel is so good, I’ll cheerfully bucket it in whatever genre is up for grabs…