Book Reviews





Mab on Horror

I recently discussed my love for ghost stories, and on my quest for new ghostly novels it is almost  inevitable that I will now and again stumble into horror genre territory.

Horror books are not high on the list of books I go looking for, but they're usually books I find "related to" books I've already enjoyed in website recommendations, or are crossovers of the psychological ghost story into horror themes. Sometimes ghosts and horror go hand in hand, and although I prefer the psycho-thiller types more than the graphic ones, I have read my fair share. And, yes... In more than a few instances, I have simply wanted to read a horror novel.

Unrelated to ghosts, but firmly sat on my shelf of favourite books is Hannibal by Thomas Harris. When discussing my favourite books with people the conversation will sometimes go something like this:

"So, what are your favourite books?"
"Oh, well, I like The Subtle Knife, Shadow of the Wind, Hannibal -."
"What, you actually read that?!"

There is a strange thing that happens to people when they hear an adult woman openly admiting to reading certain things. In my case, I seriously think there is a judgement going on inside said co-conversationalist's head that is deciding whether or not I want to eat them. I'm not kidding. There's just this little hesitation before the next response (usually, "oh, right... so err, have you seen the film?") and their eyes widen slightly. Sometimes, they laugh.

I have recently discussed this with a couple of friends and some interesting things came up. For instance - Why are people held in high esteem for having been able to sit through the goriest/most visually controversial films (recently, The Human Centipede and Antichrist come to mind) yet those who choose to read things in the horror genre are considered of questionable taste?

I do NOT read Hannibal to satisfy an interest in human consumption, I read it because I actually consider it a great book, written beautifully considering the subject matter, and full of well developed (if dark) characters. The fact is, I hate girly novels full of fake representations of insta-love, dilemmas over a size 16-that's-really-a-12 ass and men described as "chiseled". I hate books where the sole plot revolves around a female's need to fill a void that is conveniently replaced by a man, no matter what the need is. I LIKE books that explore places my life will never travel, mentally and physically. I like escapism. I like character study and lyricism. I like dark themes because I'm a cynical b**** who spent 5 teenage years as a goth and never quite lost the love for deep red lace, Jack the Ripper conspiracies, ghosts and Victoriana. So yes, I choose to read horror now and then, and you know what, because I choose, I have (and stick to) a limit I'm comfortable with. Which is more than I can say for more "acceptable" films where the premise seems to be "the more shocking, the better".

So why do people judge differently when it comes to books? I have a couple of theories but if anyone else has any ideas, leave them in the comments below ;)

1. They know that writing gets into your psyche more than a quick Hollywood shock scene, and your ability to deal with that worries them.

2. They think you are exploring the possibility of doing whatever it is you're reading about.

3. They don't understand why you would put in the effort of reading a book when there's a film readily available, and they think the film tells them all they need to know about the book.

4. They've already read the book in question and hated it.

So this post has ended up a little rant-y, and I'm sorry about that. I just came up against a subject I don't quite understand ;) Next post: positive. I promise!

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