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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

31 Days of Horror Day 13: Why I Love Horror, A Librarian Speaks

I am not the only public librarian out there who loves horror. In fact, I’m not even the only librarian in my town who loves the genre. Back in library school I met Jennie and became friends. I was her local librarian immediately after graduation and now 15 years later,  Jennie is MY local Adult Services Librarian.

Knowing she was a huge consumer of horror in book and film, I asked Jennie to contribute to this year’s blog-a-thon to share her thoughts. Since I am usually the only librarian talking about horror on this blog, I thought everyone would appreciate another opinion.

Thanks Jennie.

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If I’m going to talk about horror, then I need to talk about my mother. This, coincidentally, would be a good opening line. But, I never called Mommy “Mother,” and she is why I love horror, as unintentional as that might have been. It was my mommy that gave me my first Stephen King book. And it was my mommy that led me to realize that horror is far more than just a good scare. I remember sitting on my parents’ bed listening to her read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Later, she would take me to The Art Institute of Chicago to see the Ivan Albright painting, which led to watching the film, culminating in an ocean of time spent learning about life through horror. 

My childhood fear of Dracula (which necessitated the invention of vampire repellant (water, oregano)) became a gleeful obsession with decay.  A summer filled with It by Stephen King (my first long book!) and a winter chilled by The Stand

It is in horror that I find the most honesty. Horror embraces you, lets you know that it understands that life can be terrifying and it offers no way to fix this. But, there is some serious consolation in knowing that you are not alone. Scared of the unknown? So was Lovecraft. There are no answers in his work, just maddening otherness. You do not have to overcome or defeat it (in fact, you cannot). You just need to see it. Maybe you can’t defeat the monster. Maybe the darkness destroys you. But, see it. Because maybe our worst thoughts and fears can overcome our destruction. Maybe that zombie will fall, along with choices that only serve to hide our humanity. The losses you will endure will hurt like hell, but you do not have to succumb to the insanity of your grief. Any misstep you make to resurrect life will destroy you anyway. It could be a loud noise, or is it your fear of death that leaves you begging for it to be a ghost? 

Listen boys and girls, the Devil’s no liar. He already knows we are quite skilled at finding our own roads to hell. Besides, so very few of us fail to make it back. He’s got some things to show you though, if you want to take a look. And I know I do. Scare me with a story. Show me something awful. Show me a picture of that abandoned asylum, that blocked off tunnel, that sewer, that unspeakable place. Tell me that just hearing your story will endanger me. Play that inexplicable noise that twists my spine and nips at the nerves in my teeth. For me, horror is more than just words in a book. It is sights and sounds. It can be found in books, movies, audio clips, television, and links deep on the web.  It pushes boundaries and challenges your very definition of horror. 

And when I look, the devil inside me appreciates the classics as well as the stories that can only exist right here and right now. I love the ambiguity of HP Lovecraft and the masterful, slow creation of dread in the works of Poe. I trust Stephen King to show me something horrible, helpless as I turn each page, powerless to stop imagining the full revelation.  What is more brilliant than Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden?” Not only do I get to immerse myself in the despair of an English slum, I also am pulled along by the haunting voice of Tony Todd, bringing sweets to the sweet in the wasteland of Cabrini Green in the film adaptation “Candyman.” The boogeyman springs to life and shows us the ignored institutionalized deprivations of the poor. Woe unto those who would make him just a modern myth, for he will gain entry through any mirror, obliged to prove his power. Sometimes, it’s preferable to have a laugh at the ridiculous fears we have. For that, I need Joe Lansdale. Or maybe I need Ash to defeat the Evil Dead. Or someone can wuss out at a plot and splash the screen with buckets of blood. Gross me out and I just might snicker. I don’t need to take my horror straight, it can incorporate mystery, crime and psychological thrills. I love Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim and I will not miss a book in John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. I love the unraveling of forced and frightful normalcy found in Patricia Highsmith or Ruth Rendell. Show me and tell me in a graphic novel. The angry, tormented figure of Delano’s John Constantine remains compelling long after the end of his original incarnation in Hellblazer. Gaiman’s Endless are wonderful, but I am especially delighted that Mike Carey allowed me to revisit what happened when Lucifer quit his job.

And try as I might, I have to keep picking at real horrors. I need those true crime paperbacks. I want to know why you think your dad was a serial killer.  Compulsion is the scary part. Rattle the bones, take a nibble, mess up our parts all you like. If hell is all about repetition, then true crime illustrates this fact time and time again. They can’t all be Hannibal Lector—a triumph of artisanal evil, hand crafted by a skilled writer. Real serial killers are among the few that never make it back from hell.  What’s left to do after that? Cue up Goblin and that epic Suspiria soundtrack. Watch a horror movie. 

Dig deep into the world of horror films with Tim Paxton’s Monster! Magazine. Discover the depths of your envy by viewing Kirk Hammett’s horror memorabilia. Explore past and present with Rue Morgue. What’s new at Bloody Disgusting? There’s a treasure trove of films that never make it to a theater. You don’t have to insist upon the most obscure. You don’t need to know about it before it is cool. Just find what you like. It’s so easy to get scared. It’s right at your finger tips…just a click away. 

All the hyperbole surrounding the scary, scary Internet has been good for something. Lead me through the links of your Creepypasta and I will not doubt you. I’m bleary eyed over at r/No Sleep. I intend to play along. And then there’s the deep web, that nightmare wonderland of red rooms, Necrosleep and Sad Satan. Uncover all the urban legends, all the mythology from every part of the globe. The more isolated the area, the better the scare. Head over to YouTube, keywords: unsolved, mysterious, creepy etc. Keep those videos grainy, black and white. Shake that camera. Someone found this footage in an abandoned home. They were never seen or heard from again…

Horror is filled with the constant torment of loss and trauma. It is a warning. It’s telling you to keep going. Don’t get stuck in a spell. It shows you how ugly the loss of control can be, even as you secretly wish you could just go a little bit mad sometimes. It sees your anticipation and dread and it always has a definite answer of “I don’t know.” It gives voice to our lesser angels, our darkness, and exorcises it all, if for a brief moment. It is only a story, repeat after me, it is only a story. Horror allows us to break taboos and uncover hidden knowledge in dangerous places. A few nights with the lights on, maybe a shower or two, and you remain, firmly, in the world. The shock of the abnormal fades away and we all find ourselves in good company. It’s not just you that is the “other.” We all are. We all feel alone and we are all scared, together. Horror accepts one and all, every bit of purity and every aberration. Horror knows that all of us are terrible, but even so, we can save others, the world, and even ourselves. 


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