Friday, 11 April 2008

I've been reading.....a little bit of very good horror!!!

I realized last night that I hadn't posted for most of this week! I made the decision to start reading more in the evenings, so I've been happily reading every night. This seems to mean less I am still finding a balance between writing here - I would like to write every other day, at least - and reading. It has been blissful to sit every night and lose myself in a book. I read "Lean, Mean Thirteen" by Janet Evanovich, two wonderful short stories by Neil Gaiman in "Fragile Things", realized I couldn't keep reading "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell since I've got it on my non-fiction challenge list that begins only in May! and I've begun "The Shaman's Crossing" by Robin Hobb, which I was supposed to read for the birthday challenge last month and missed getting to. All these I will review, but I am too tired tonight,too wired after our Ottawa Senators lost their hockey game tonight in a wild game. I was shouting at the tv so much my daughter came over to see if I was okay!

So I know what I want to talk about: Stephanie over at Stephanie's Confessions of a Bookaholic, has a post about the 2007 Bram Stoker Awards. For those who don't know, these are given out every year for the best horror writing of the previous year. This year's winner was for first novel: Joe Hill for A Heart-Shaped Box, and Sarah Langan for The Missing. Go see Stephanie's blog for the complete list and her comments, and the comments of her readers. They're interesting. What I wanted to talk about was, how many of us read horror now? So, I thought I'd do a little meme and see if anyone wants to answer. Feel free to pick it up for your blog, and let me know, or come whisper your comments :-) to me.....

Horror Reading Meme
Do you read horror novels?
Yes. But I am picky. I love spooky, atmospheric, creepy, ghosts and haunted houses and shadows. I dislike slasher books and movies intensely, though Hallowe'en counts as one of my all-time scary movies and I own it.
If we do,who do we read?
Stephen King! Dan Simmons, James Blaylock, anything with ghosts or vampires with it. I read the first 4 of the Lestat Vampire novels by Anne Rice. Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub. Ray Bradbury
What kind of horror?
See above. Ghost stories, particularly.
And if we stopped reading it, why?
Because it got silly in the last decade, with slasher cyberpunk gore books without much plot or characters. I really like atmospheric settings - Ray Bradbury was very good at evoking a mood, as is James Blaylock, and Stephen King.
I have started reading it again, because I have found scary ghost stories again. I read, last year, James Blaylock's Night Relics, which has a haunted house and ghosts, and though the ending wasn't what I expected, it still had plenty of chills. I've picked up Stewart O'Nan's The Night Country, which I have heard alot about and when Carl does his RIP challenge for this year (he has assured me he will!), this book is top of the pile. I'm getting Stephen King's new book for my birthday next month, Duma Key, which many reviewers has said is his best in a long time.
What are your favourite horror books?
It, - Stephen King
The Shining - " - this is the most frightening book I have ever read. I am still unable to read the novel when alone in the house, even though I have read it several times and I'm 44 years old!! the hedge moving at the corner of Jack's eyes, and little Danny and the terrifying things he sees that no one else does, completely terrify me.
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (and a very scary movie too,) one of the best ghost stories EVER!
Dracula - Bram Stoker still the best vampire novel, dark and gothic and frightening and creepy. The sense of moral dread as well, of not knowing how to protect from evil.
*Some Canadian Ghosts - SHeila Harvey - a collection of Canadian ghost stories. This is the first book I read about ghosts as a child, and the first four stories scared me so much that I got chills and had to put the book down. The 'story' (since these are supposed to be true stories) about Pamela and her haunted house, and the doll no one liked, even now writing this makes the hair on my arms move just writing about! Truly frightening hauntings.

There are short stories I could add, but I won't right now. I'll save it for October..... and it's late, and I have to go find them! but this brings me to Neil Gaiman's "October in the Chair" in "Fragile Things" , which is one of the two stories I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. This is what got me thinking about ghost and horror stories, since his story ends on a truly frightening note. As I read it, I thought, "aha! this is what horror is supposed to be like!" The thing in the closet, the thing upstairs/downstairs/at your front door, what we are all afraid is in a haunted house - this basic, primitive fear is what I want in my horror. Stories that are about the dark. But not serial killers etc, which are another whole kind of monster genre. I want the unseen, that which we know is true when the lights are out.

"October in the Chair" is the prelude to "The Graveyard Book", which as you all know is Neil's latest book, due out next fall. After reading this short story, I am going to be first in line...counting the days and hours...and I am awed in a way I wasn't before, by Neil's writing.
And, since I write ghost stories and horror stories, I have a new lease on this part of my writing life, which had laid dormant for years until recently. I have the answer to "why write horror?". Because we are all afraid of the dark. And we know there is good reason to be. So, we have ghost stories, horror stories, and fairy tales, and sometimes we make it out safely, and sometimes we remain lost in the woods forever.

Goodnight! Happy reading!!


Patricia said...

Yuck to Steven King. I used to read his stuff but Pet Cemetary ended it; it was just too gory and gross to be worth it anymore. Did you ever read Peter Straub? His books were pretty spooky! I read a bit of everything these days; Kristen is into the horror books. She's reading the John Saul and Dean R. Koontz stuff. She asked that I purchase "Suffer the Children" for her but I can't find it in our miserable little bookstores around here. I'll be perusing the second hand stores where it will probably be found. I don't like the normal slasher and bloodfest books either. I like a good chill novel that gets to your psyche. I've never read "The Shining" and I'm not sure I've ever watched the movie in its entirety. When I go to a bookstore I find it very difficult to know what is a decent ghost/horror book and what is crap so I tend to walk right by that section.

Susan said...

lady p - you haven't read Anne Rice yet? Or Dan Simmons - it has to be his horror though, not his SF which although good is a different category. His "a Winter Haunting" and "song of Kali" are very scary, and "A Winter Haunting" almost made it onto my scariest list; Andrew Kavan "The Uncanny" is also very frightening. they can be found at your library, as well as "Lost girl, Lost boy" by Peter Straub - run to read that one!!! So begin with those titles, and see my new post for more titles.

Unknown said...

It's funny I read a lot of books that are often found in the Horror section in bookshops, but I don't think they are really horror novels. Things like Anne Rice and any urban fantasy books are always there, but they aren't scary or intended to be horror. I think it's just because they have vampires and werewolves in as well as other supernatural beings so they get stuck in there. I don't really read what I class as horror much. I read Dracula by Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe's complete short stories last year but that was about it.

chrisa511 said...

I'm a big horror novel fan too :) I like Stephen King, but he's more of a guilty pleasure author for me...I read him when I just want something to relax with...ok, relax isn't the word :p But when I just need to get away. I love Anne Rice's Mayfair Witch's series, completely agree with you that Neil Gaiman's short stories are amazing, and I've really enjoyed some of Clive Barker's horror novels. Last year for RIP CHallenge I read Dracula for the first time and loved it. Also read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and that one just blew me away. If you haven't read that, you really should. It's amazing. I can't even think right now...I'm sure there are tons more!Great post!!!

Susan said...

Rhinoa: I know, I was having the same problem when thinking of horror books - do today's vampire series with vampires as heroes/detectives etc, count as horror? Maybe they do, but I haven't read any - except the Dresden Files, which I did enjoy very much, but that falls more under "magic" for me, than horror. you're right, maybe we have to look at what is intended to be horror, good point you make :-)

Chris: I read the Historian too, just before I found out about the RIP challenge, that I "joined" but didn't understand how the linking worked nor how to find the host challenge....I enjoyed it too, parts of it were creepy, very, but overall I was disappointed by the ending. I wanted it creepier!! Still, a very good first book. I read Clive Barker years ago, stopped about the time Weaveworld came out. I think he has a couple of recent new ones that sound good, so I might find my way back to reading him. It's great that you like reading horror too, more books/reading that we can share!