Reading Gothic novels for my English class, I’ve entrusted myself to a few disreputable figures, two or three purveyors of romanticized terror whose obsessions have become my homework. These writers have duly rewarded my confidences by dragging me through their wonderful and horrifying passages, touring me through their nightmares and fantasies like curators of a fantastic museum. They take a lot of pride in their monstrosities.  Fresh from one of these literary misadventures – through one of Anne Radcliffe’s blighted monasteries – I could only nod at some of Michael Chabon’s descriptions of horror (both occur in his essay on McCarthy’s The Road):

Horror fictions proceeds, generally, by extending metaphors, by figuring human fears of morality, corruption, and the loss of self. The haunted house (or planet) the case of demonic possession, the nightmare journey to or through a charnel house, the transmutation of human flesh into something awful and foul, the exposed woflishness of men, the ineradicable ancestral curse of homicidal depravity… trade on these deep-seated fears, these fundamental sources of panic, and seek, to flay them, to lay them open, to drag them into the light.

And better still:

Horror grows impatient, rhetorically, with the Stoic fatalism of Ecclesiastes. That we are all going to die, that death mocks and cancels every one of our acts and attainments and every moment of our life histories, this knowledge is to storytelling what rust is to oxidation; the writer of horror holds with those who favor fire. The horror writer is not content to report on death as the universal system of human weather; he or she chases tornadoes. Horror is Stocism with a taste for spectacle.


~ by staticandme on April 19, 2009.

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