Thursday, March 4, 2010

The creepy novel-reading continues.

The Turn of the Screw
By Henry James


“Too many words, not enough creepiness”
“There’s a Freudian moral in there somewhere”

Summary: A young woman comes in as a governess into a country house, stocked with quite a few servants and two adorable young children. The conditions of her job are somewhat peculiar. And then there are ghosts.

Rating: Read only if you happen to have a good attention span for late 19th century writing.

Here’s a little admission: I’ve little patience for a lot of older ‘classical’ writings, and could barely get through half of James Joyce’s Ulysses; even Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, read for a book club, was a teary-eyed bore. It’s not about the language, I love the language with its twists and turns, its cascades of meaning . It’s that things are written for –no particular reason-, and you can almost feel these guys writing things down, just to see themselves write. Maybe if I was literature major or had additional knowledge of the writings of the period, my understanding of this book would’ve been different. Or if I had an attention span of something other than a chipmunk riding the wave of sugar rush.

Sadly, this is not the case. Turn of the Screw was somewhat of a disappointment, primarily because it was not creepy at all, for a ghost story that it was supposed to be. (Though it did have a ghost, or, rather, two, and it most certainly had a linear narrative of a story, so one can’t blame it for lack of everything.) Screw could’ve been creepy, and probably was, to a certain audience some 80 years ago. Yet the sheer amount of words dissolved any kind of suspense to the young people of today, and agonizings of a main character (female) present themselves as just.. oh, I don’t know. Bland?

Why do guys insist in writing up stories from the first person point of view, with female protagonists? WHY? Show me one book in which a guy actually does this convincingly. Hint: having the character refer to themselves as “members of inferior sex” in their head is not convincing.

I do realize that womens’ liberation was but a vague smear on the horizon at the time this was written. The rant above is there because I’ve got a license.

That’s right.

A recreational outrage license.

It is a complimentary supplement to the age of 20 and above.

To be fair, the novelette did have a rather adoringly creepy pair of small children, which makes one wonder why, exactly, children are so darn creepy. Mini-us, running around with malicious thoughts in their little blonde heads..

The Little Stranger

By Sarah Waters

“The haunting of Hundreds Hall”
“Ss s Sss ss su suu Sukey”

Summary: Shortly after the second world war, a doctor befriends a local genteel family, in their decaying house. There are no ghosts, but a fair amount of interesting events, and in some parts, this novel reads like a love story.

Rating: Read if bored, bordering on a must-read for horror novel lovers.

This book was refreshing, because it was actually scary in certain parts. It also made me get up, go to the next room to get a pillow, place the pillow on the desk, and subsequently bang my head on the said padded desk, because it took forever to get to those parts.

Like House of Leaves, the Little Stranger makes a good use of non-standard text to emphasize the creepiness. Unlike House of Leaves, it does not go overboard with text formatting. Also unlike House of Leaves, it is a book about class and passage of time as much as it is about poltergeists. In some places, the latter seems tucked-on.

Stranger’s got a lot in common with Haunting of Hill House as well, successfully describing the setting to emphasize the emotional impact of the strange things that go within it.

As mentioned above, I dislike people pulling main characters of opposite gender, and this book only goes to show that there is no double-standard, as the shoddiness goes both ways. Or maybe I’ve got a problem with male characters who come across as too empathetic. Who knows!

Still in progress:

The Pillars of the Earth
By Ken Follett
Read by: John Lee

Rating: Falling from a “must-read” to “must-read if you’ve got lots of time on your hands”.

Currently am on disk 26 out of 32. The story seriously needs more supporting characters, at this point. There’s been a few other graphic sexual scenes, but one finds that one gets used to them. Still, the author manages to pull new plot twists out of his pants and keep it interesting.