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Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

Party Like Bilbo

May 26, 2014 | by

Alan Hollinghurst is sixty today.

Alan_hollinghurst_2011

Photo: Larry D. Moore

HOLLINGHURST

I was rather a goody-goody as a child. I hated the idea of being in the wrong and dreaded being punished. Everyone at my prep school was being beaten by the headmaster with the back of a hairbrush round the clock, and I was keen to avoid that. It was only later on I discovered that you could be naughty and get away with it.

INTERVIEWER

What were you reading at that age?

HOLLINGHURST

There was a bizarre library at the school that had a lot of old-fashioned children’s adventure books by G. A. Henty and R. M. Ballantyne. I got very ­involved with Rider Haggard—I still have the tie-in paperback for the film of She with a picture of Ursula Andress on the front, “the most beautiful woman in the world.” I also became an avid collector of a series called The Pan Book of Horror Stories, edited by Herbert Van Thal. I still have these as well, and the gruesome covers take me back—the whole atmosphere of the school suddenly closes in on me when I look at them.

In my school reports, one of the masters was worried about this “­macabre reading,” but by the following year, I had discovered Tolkien, with whom I became totally obsessed. I read The Lord of the Rings over and over. I made charts of the kings of Rohan and so on. I used to write letters to my friends in dwarfish runes. The English master took a dim view of this and made me read Barchester Towers as an antidote, when all I wanted to do was to get back to Bilbo Baggins’s eleventy-first birthday party for the seventh time. I’ve never been able to read Trollope since.

—Alan Hollinghurst, the Art of Fiction No. 214

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Gatto Nero

May 22, 2014 | by

The Roehrs House, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, Corinne May Botz

Corinne May Botz, The Roehrs House, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

Back in the day when video stores existed and I used to patronize them regularly, I depended particularly upon the judgment of a cinephile clerk named Will. One day, I went into his Brooklyn store and found someone different behind the counter. 

I explained to him what I was looking for: A creepy psychological thriller/horror movie along the lines of Don’t Look Now, The Innocents, the original Wicker Man, Haunting of Hill House, Burnt Offerings, or Audrey Rose. (I added that, despite its mediocrity, there were things I liked about Skeleton Key.) In short, I tend to like a not-too-silly movie dealing with ghosts and the occult. I am especially drawn to those set in the 1970s, in which everyone is seemingly punished for the naivete of belonging to a happy family (just as a decade later one would be punished for being a teen girl). Catholic clergy is a plus. Hammer horror, serial killers, vampires, zombies, malevolent animals, and monsters of other kinds need not apply.

We discussed this earnestly for some time and he determined that I must rent the 1981 version of The Black Cat, loosely based on the eponymous Poe story. As he seemed to understand exactly what I was looking for, I was very excited and set aside a whole evening for viewing. Read More »

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Librarians’ Darkest Secrets, and Other News

October 9, 2013 | by

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  • Shame! Librarians tell all.
  • “I think that Napoleon was a terrific guy before he started crossing national borders. Over the course of time, his temperament changed, and his behavior was insensitive to the nations he occupied. Through greed—which it sees differently, as technological development and efficiency for the customer and low price, all that—[Amazon] has walked itself into the position of thinking that it can thrive without the assistance of anyone else. That is megalomania.” Andrew Wylie on Amazon
  • For those inured to leaf-peeping, an October guide to Northeastern horror-writer tourism.
  • Wamblecropt, groke, and other wonderful, forgotten words
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    Keep Me in the Loop, You Dead Mechanism

    December 21, 2012 | by

    What’s Christmas without some ancient demons embedded in the chimney? On the evening of December 25, 1972, BBC viewers celebrated the birth of Christ by being scared to death. They learned that their homes could be resonating with discarnate traumas absorbed over centuries, that the limestone walls have been listening, recording, and screaming—and that the ghost of Christmas past had been using their minds as its personal VCR. Scripted by Nigel Kneale, The Stone Tape is about a British electronics company who’s in a race to beat Japan to a super washing machine and a groundbreaking recording medium based on the “magnetic susceptibility” of certain minerals and their capacity to retain terrible memories. Holed up in a Victorian mansion, the team of bickering scientists working for Ryan Electronics would discover that haunting was a new form of playback. Merry Christmas.

    Kneale had grown up on the Isle of Man, home to a mongoose named Gef who could prove his own existence in six different languages, including Russian and Arabic. Kneale’s imagination flourished in television, a medium with a reputation for killing souls. His teleplays seemed intent on trying to out-weird each other: a taxidermist gets stuffed by a pond of vengeful toads; a man is choked to death by his own bike wreckage; a porn cinema is haunted by dolphins. He also gave us titles like “Vegetable Village,” “Clog-Dance for a Dead Farce,” and “The Big Big Giggle.” One of my favorite Kneale shows involves a frumpy supermarket cashier who enlists the store mascot—a woodchuck called Briteway Billy—to wage telekinetic war against her tyrant boss, pummeling him to death with nonperishable canned goods. How many soup cans can a supermarket woodchuck ghost hurl?

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    A Crime Writer Turns to Crime, and Other News

    November 9, 2012 | by

  • A Texas crime writer has been sentenced to thirty years for paying to have her husband murdered.
  • Ten things you may not have known about the Brothers Grimm.
  • Is horror a genre beyond redemption? Or, as The Guardian puts it, damned to literary hell?
  • “Don't worry about growing up,” and other advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter.
  • Behold: the bibliochaise.
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    Eyeballs Left Standing

    November 5, 2012 | by

    The Alligator People (1959).

    The Invisible Man, neat freak by design, was known to fuss over the grit beneath his fingernails. According to British horror historian Denis Gifford, dirt threatened transparency. In A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, Gifford sees “a pair of disembodied trousers skipping down the lane to ‘Here We Come Gathering Nuts in May.’” The hands are clean.

    For Gifford, the devil was in the details, if not in all of us: “We who came to stare only see ourselves.” Or through ourselves. He notes the shabbiness of Mr. Hyde’s tailcoat, and the yak-hair transplants on the Wolfman’s face. Also important: “a sinister sofa,” controlled by an underground switchboard operated by a man in a wig. And Frankenstein’s homunculus, taken out by a falling crossbeam no fewer than four times in his film career.

    These images were filtered through words I’d just discovered. Until last week, I had never actually read the most important book of my childhood. The text had gone unseen. My mother had given A Pictorial History of Horror Movies to my brothers as a Christmas gift in 1973. She still cheerily refers to it as “that book with the girl with the hatchet in her head.” I was forbidden to read it but was never told I couldn’t look at it. Read More »

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