Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Frightens You?

What makes a horror movie scare one person but comes across as ‘ho hum’ to another?  How many times have you been recommended a 'must see' horror movie only to be disappointed?

I did that very thing the other day.  I recommended Insidious to my son.  This movie scared the hell out of me (well the first hour did anyway), but my son thought it was ‘okay’.  What was it about that movie that made me leap out of my chair and cuddle up to my partner for reassurance?

Thinking about the movies that have rattled me there does seem to be some common themes –

The Unnatural Child

ü     Don’t Look Now (my all time favourite movie) has the father of a deceased child chasing what seems to be her spirit around the canals and alleyways of Venice.  It is only at the end of the movie that we find out what this ‘child’ really is.  I don’t think I slept for weeks after that revelation.

Sinister Gage
ü    Pet Semetary.  We all know the premise of this one, the idea that Gage has been brought back from the dead is bad enough but we know that his soul did not come back, something else did. He makes me shudder every time I think of him.

ü   Insidious.  Dalton, a young boy, is in a coma and being nursed at home. One night his younger brother says he wants to change bedrooms because he doesn’t like it when Dalton walks around. That gave me goosebumps, but the thing that really got me was the sulking boy doll from the laundry that ran and giggled around the house!!

Unnatural Movement

 ü      The Ring.  I laugh now when I see this movie, but after I saw it for the first time I took the portable TV out of my bedroom and it’s never returned.  The way that Samara moves towards the screen really bothers me.  I can’t stand it!

 ü      The Gift.  Remember the fiddler?  I hate that part, he plays too fast, it’s completely unnatural.  In the words of the immortal Owen Meany – it gives me ‘the shivers’.

Jagged Teeth


ü      Pennywise The Clown from It……… enough said there.

ü   Have you ever seen The Two Faces of Evil?  It was a Hammer House of Horror episode that absolutely terrified me when I about 13 or 14.  The evil doppelganger with his jagged teeth and one long dirty fingernail really played on my mind at night.

The Music

ü    Salem’s Lot (the TV movie with David Soul).  I cannot stand the music that plays when the young boy taps on the window for his friend, it makes my heart race and I just want to cover my ears and bury my face in a cushion to block it all out!

ü      Psycho.  The shower scene music is so well known that it doesn’t have much effect now, but what a great piece it is.  We’re hard to scare these days, but I would have loved to have been in the audience on it’s first showing.

So, it's not blood and guts that I find scary, it's just the little, unnatural things with some good music thrown in.

So now you know what frightens me, what frightens you?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Is This Self Torture?

When I picked up my first Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities I thought it would be torture.  Going from reading nothing but horror to picking up a classic was a bit daunting.  Instead I read a wonderful piece of story telling from a master.  When I picked up Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment I thought 'this will definitely be torture', but I read a fantastic psychological thriller which I still think about today, and which has encouraged me to try other Russian works with equal delight.  Back in  my twenties I read The Bible. I decided that I would read a few verses a day, following the reading guide at the back of my edition, but all the who begat who in Genesis, and all the cubits of this and that when building the ark were mind numbing I wanted to speed read and get to the good stuff.  I did, however finish it, and I can honestly say that was TORTURE!

So, now I've picked up Homer's The Iliad and I'm wondering as I commence this slow read - like The Bible I shall be taking this 'verse' by 'verse' - will it be torture?  Somehow I'm thinking not, even after my partner had a flick through it and threw the book at me and told me to 'give it up' before I had even started.  Talk about narrow minded - or perhaps he's worried about my mood swings if I don't enjoy it!  I understand that this is not the type of book that you jump into feet first, on reading the first page I could not understand a thing.  So I took the sensible step of downloading the Shmoop Study Guide.  I've read the back story, the character summaries and the themes and with its help I am finding a rhythm to the poem.

So why torture myself?  Because Shmoop writes that "you'd be hard-pressed to find a work that comes close to the Iliad for depth of insight into human life, as well as sheer beauty" and when I read literature I love the subtle references to other classical work and the more I read the more I 'get' these references.  The Iliad and The Odyssey have had a huge impact on classical and modern literature and I want to understand this and relate to it.  

Happy Reading!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Overblown and Under-Edited?

Who are we to criticize a novel for being overblown and under-edited?  Granted, some of the classics are awfully long, some due to the fact that they were serialised, but I guarantee that unless a novel is of a substantial size you won’t be drawn in or get to know the characters so well.

I find that a lot of modern novels are generally not long enough. and some of these ‘indie’ authors on Amazon seem to be writing what I would term as ‘pamphlets’.  There’s no substance to them at all.  Some are okay for a VERY light read to pass the time but mainly they are forgettable.

I read this blog post recently and have been thinking about it a bit as I disagree with a couple of comments that were made.  Especially the remark about Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants for example (I found this novel to be very entertaining and I like to think myself a discerning reader), and then there’s the dig at J K Rowling’s Harry Potter being woefully under-edited!  I’d like to see what my (adult) daughter and die-hard Potter fan would like to say to that.  I think they are wonderfully written novels, and very clever.  Their success and the fact that they have probably got more children (and adults) reading than any other series speaks for itself.  My son would never have picked up a book if not for Harry Potter.  I don’t think any real Potter fan would accept a novel of just a few hundred pages with no exposition or reference to the previous works.

I also read a review yesterday (on Good Reads) that criticized Anna Karenina for being under-edited.  You’ve got to be kidding!

So, give me an overblown under-edited novel any day, because I know that I’ll be thinking about the story and the characters long after I’ve tossed aside an indie ‘pamphlet’.

Actually, I totally digressed. as I really wanted to talk about Philip K Dick's Ubik.  I'll have to save that for another night!

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Wish I Could Write Like Tolstoy


Stories are really only a string of words, most of which we all know, that are put together to describe and explain.  But, it is the way that you string them together that makes the difference between an okay writer and an incredible one.

W. Somerset Maugham has always rated very highly with me for the way that he is so comfortable to settle down with.  He draws you into the story, like you are a familiar friend; and he makes it look so easy.  Yet another writer strings his words together and it’s just a bunch of characters and a setting which feels like ‘just a story’.  There’s nothing familiar about it or believable.  You are not ‘drawn in’.

Now, after reading many chapters of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, he’s rating way up there with Maugham in the way that he is making me feel.  The settings and dialogue are so natural, it all flows magnificently.  He isn’t overly descriptive yet I can picture the scenes and the characters effortlessly.  So much so that I’m going to ditch the audio version (which by the way is excellent) because I want to curl up with the ‘real deal’ and immerse myself within actual pages.  That is the joy of reading, and I haven’t felt like this for some time.

I used to love curling up with Stephen King many moons ago, okay so it’s horror which is not believable in the least, but it was King’s characterisations that I used to love so much.  However, I have been reading his ‘kindle single’ Mile 81 and I’m getting the feeling that he’s committed a ‘Meat Loaf at the AFL’ offence by not calling it quits.  It’s quite badly written, and appears to be a re-hash of old themes, though I haven’t finished it yet so I could be wrong (but I don’t think I am).  I’ve pre-committed to his new novel 11.22.63 (a date which is horribly close to my ex-husband’s birthday of 11.22.61!) on Amazon but feel it’s just going to be an addition to my King collection rather than a ‘must read’ once I get it.

On my other reading front I’ve nearly finished the audio version of Mill on the Floss, narrated by Nadia May, and I have really enjoyed spending time with Maggie Tulliver, although it hasn’t been an uplifting novel.  But, it’s another classic to put under my belt as I slowly plough through them.

Scare me Please!
I’m still looking for that ultimate horror.  I have been asking for recommendations but nothing seems to be forthcoming from you guys out there.  Please let me know what book or even short story has frightened you by way of a comment.  I’ve just ordered some Robert Aickman collections – one of them is Cold Hand in Mine which I’m really looking forward to reading and I’ve just enjoyed Pollock and the Porroh Man by H G Wells which was a nice and creepy short story and would have really scared readers back in Victorian England I’m sure.

So, I’m about to curl up with Tolstoy now, with my nightly latte, and marvel at how he can string together these words so wonderfully, and I can’t!

Happy reading and don’t forget those recommendations.