Monday, August 6, 2007

Scary Books

Tonight, I dropped by my sister’s house. It is over a hundred years old and, from the outside at least, rather scary looking. Someone flippantly commented that it looks like a haunted house. If only.

I’m a sucker for scary movies. There is something so delicious about a rush of fear. Unfortunately, most scary movies are just plain stupid—they are either unbelievable, confusing (who writes these things?), or gratuitous rather than frightening.

Perhaps my all-time favorite horror film is The Changling. I’ve watched it multiple times, and it still gives me the chills. Recently, I was delighted by Disturbia—the movie was intelligent and made me jump. And I’ll confess to gasping at the end of Friday the 13th, which I watched for the first time this past Friday, the 13th.

Yet, for some reason, I’ve never gotten into reading “scary” books. My lack of interest is rather surprising since mysteries have always been a major part of my life. My mother is a huge mystery book buff, and I’ve watched Mystery! with her for years.

I think my distrust for scary books stems from a teenage summer long ago. My sister and I were having a “reading blowout” (the offensive term was coined by my non-reading brother). She was reading Mary Higgins Clark’s Where are the Children? Several times, she gasped and grabbed my arm as she read. Clearly, the book was terrifying.

And though I’ve read cottage mysteries like Hamish Macbeth and the odd Agatha Christie, I’ve never read a really scary book. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t exist or because I’m a wimp at heart. After all, there is a huge difference between watching a two-hour movie and spending hours reading a scary book.

The scariest reading experience I’ve had was several years ago with Iris Johansen’s The Face of Deception. I probably shouldn’t admit to reading “romantic thrillers,” but the book really frightened me. Unfortunately, I’ve read all of Johansen’s books since then, and the fear has never been duplicated.

A year ago, though, I finally took the dive. I was taking a class on genre fiction and decided it was my opportunity to break the horror barrier. If I were going to read a scary book, I reasoned, I had to go to the top: Stephen King. I perused his books at my public library. I wanted something relatively short (I know, totally lazy), and the blurb on the back used the word horror, so I picked The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Talk about disappointing. Trisha, a young girl, is lost in the woods. She is scared because she is . . . lost in the woods. Granted, being lost can be scary—especially for a child—but it doesn’t make for a fascinating (or horrific) read. Trisha also sounds just like an adult, and I couldn’t help but imagine her as a middle-aged man, a man just like . . . Stephen King.

I haven’t returned to the genre since.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

I haven't read a really scary book since the Mary Higgins Clark books because I didn't like the feeling I got reading them. I'm a wimp.

Blogger said...

Well, I figure that there are enough books out there to be picky about our pleasure reading.