Initiation to Horror

I have been drawn to horror films (and later on horror stories and novels) since my earliest memories. When I was a small child, I have trace recollections of spying a horror film advertisement on the television or sneaking a peak at a scary film playing on my parent’s television and experiencing the strange rush of adrenaline and repulsion that terror brought to bear on my tiny frame. The earliest memories of terrifying visions on film for me are the helicopter seen from Jaws 2 and the hospital nightmare sequences from An American Werewolf in London.

While I was allowed to watch Jaws 2 and likely Jaws at a very early age (Kindergarten) and for the first years of elementary school enjoyed watching Universal classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman. I had attempted to read classic horror literature like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at some point during first or second grade. In third grade, I eagerly purchased a copy of the novel Jaws and hoped to read it aloud to my classmates during story time. Oddly enough my teacher at the time agreed to this idea, and I was allowed to read a chapter or two to the class on a few occasions. I knew enough of the ways of the world that I censored myself while reading. When encountering curse words during these readings, I would substitue an alternative that was “safe” for my audience. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but another student in my class whose first name was also John also had a copy of the book and wanted to rotate the readings with me. He wasn’t as cautious as me. During his first reading session, he read aloud the word damn and the teacher allowed the reading session to continue noting that it was all in the context of reading a story, but coincidentally enough we never had time to allow another reading, and I was annoyed that my classmate had not shared my good sense.

Although I was well along my way into exploring horror, I was not allowed to watch an R-rated film until Aliens first aired on HBO in 1986 or 1987 when I was 10 or 11. Years before then, many of my friends had seen early eighties slashers such as Friday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm Street, and Psycho II, but I had never been allowed to watch these films although their eerie VHS cassette cases at the local video store had always called to me with their soft siren sound when I visited with my parents. The video cover for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre although seemed to the creepiest to me. But it was Aliens that first broke the R-rating barrier for me. I have no idea what particular appeal convinced my parents, but somehow I managed to get there permission one night to watch Aliens all by myself in my bedroom.

I still remember both loving my first experiences of the film, how my pulse raced, the mounting tension as the film relentlessly moved towards to its harrowing climax, how I pulled my limbs in close so as not to leave an inch of exposed flesh to dangle off my bed for fear of the slightest possibility that one of the terrifying xenomorphs may have been lurking under my bed. This last fear was similar to the one that I experienced every time I watched Jaws or Jaws 2 when they aired on TV as happened every so often in those days. I never missed an opportunity to catch one of these films, but I always feared during and afterwards when going to sleep that a giant great white shark may have been lurking beneath the bed waiting to pounce and pull me under the imaginary waves surrounding my lonely bed. It is strange as an adult thinking about these fears when I consider that surely I had to know that these fears simply weren’t possible. I suppose it must  be like an amplified version of the irrational fears that even now can grip me as an adult: when sitting up all by myself late at night with all the lights turned out in complete eerie silence, I have on more than one occasion found myself run up the stairs with an irrational jolt of fear that something might be lurking around the corner even though my reason tells me otherwise and some piece of me giggles inwardly at the silliness of the reaction while also savoring the taste of my own fear.

I love the visceral nature of fear. It is like a fine wine meant to be savored slowly and in careful phases. When you fear, you are alive. I love horror. I love the increasingly rare film that can truly terrify me and the almost non-existent book that can do the same.

There are only 289 more days until Halloween…

One Book a Month

A friend of mine recently congratulated himself on achieving his 2012 goal of reading at least one book a month. He in fact managed to read 1.5 books a month. It brought to mind an incident from the past month where a friend asked for a recommendation of the bests fiction books that people had read in 2012 and I found myself unable to come up with much because I had only managed to finish nine books in 2012 with seven of those being fiction and most of those fiction books were fairly lightweight incidental stuff that I wouldn’t likely recommend.

I’ve got a growing list on Goodreads and never feel like I’m making much progress. I have a bad habit of getting distracted from even the best of books and putting it down for too long and then having to start from the beginning months or even years later. I’m thinking of setting myself a goal for 2013 of reading at least one book a month and of not putting down any fiction book in favor of another.

This last point is vital because although I am really enjoying Anna Karenina at the moment, tomorrow my copy of the A Memory of Light will arrive and it will be very tempting to put down Tolstoy in favor of Jordan as I’ve been waiting for the end of The Wheel of Time for nearly two decades at this point, and I’m certain it will be amazing. But I’m committed to seeing Anna Karenina through this time and although I’m sure that I could rapidly devour A Memory of Light, it would still be very dangerous for my goal of not setting aside novels that I then have to start over.

I think the other goal of one book a month should be very doable provided that I have it as an explicit goal. Indeed, it may even prove easier than my other goal of writing these daily blog entries – which I must confess have already become somewhat of a burden. That said the only time I actually sat in front of the computer and truly threw my hands up in a loss for something to write was last Friday night when the evening was drawing to a close and the pressure of writing something before midnight was upon me.

Since I’m only half-way through with Anna Karenina, I’m going to cheat a little bit and let it count for this month’s book. That said, I think I’ll manage to finish both it and A Memory of Light this month. I can’t imagine myself dragging out that book! Indeed, I imagine that I will find myself challenged to put the it down and focus on other things. Let’s hope so!

Another thing that I will need to master if I’m going to achieve my reading goals is the problem of getting sleepy while reading. I used to be able to read late into the night. I still remember pleasant memories of finishing Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn in a frantic read through the night into the early hours of the morning and how it’s fantastic rousing conclusion energized me and led me to simply crack open the next book in the series instead of going to sleep. I think my chief problem is that when I get into bed, I put myself into a position where my body is laying flat and my head is propped up at an angle for reading. I seem to recall that my more successful late night reading endeavors happened when I could comfortably and easily sit in a position with my back in a vertical position.

This bedrest pillow might be just what I need!