“A coughing chuckle filled his throat.  He turned and leaned against the wall while he swallowed the pills.  Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs. Full circle.  A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.  I am legend.” - Matheson, 170

 

 I am Legend by Richard Matheson was, in my opinion, brilliantly written.  When I first saw the movie a few years ago, I’ll admit, I was horribly disappointed.  I couldn’t tell what the creatures were, the plot seemed to move to slow, and frankly, the movie (although fiction) didn’t see accurate or plausible for that matter.  So when I saw that we were reading the book, I was a little weary upon re-entering that world.  Clearly, I stand very much corrected as I was roped into the story right from the beginning and read it in one day’s time.

 

In the beginning of the novel, I noted Matheson’s style of repetition - especially with the character of Ben Cortman.  I also liked that the story began without any explanation of what was going on because it allowed the imagination to play with all of the sensual imagery that Matheson provided.  We didn’t know what was waiting for him, if Virginia was still with him or merely a figment of his imagination, and frankly we had no idea of the position that he was in (unless you had the movie to go off of).  I personally like this approach to writing because I like to work out plausible scenarios before I know what is exactly going on - that makes it all the more interesting to me when I come to a conclusion.

 

I thought that the novel was also one of obsession, whether Robert was dealing with a battle against his carnal pleasures, alcohol, or simply survival.  Once again, this was reiterated by repetition.  At night, and frequently during the days, Robert would pour himself some whiskey or what not to attempt to numb the pain of loneliness that came to him in stronger waves during the night. This was primarily due to the explicit and often vulgar poses of the women who were trying to entice him to come outside.  To me, this was one of the high points in the novel because it so often tempted his methods of survival for Robert often wondered to himself why he was even trying to survive and what was really keeping him from walking outside and taking his chances.  This back and forth motion of survival vs. suicide helped add great suspense throughout the novel because one was never sure of his intentions….especially when he met Ruth (which might I add, was an amazing addition to the book!).  I liked that he was so skeptical of her throughout the entire situation, but the need for companionship was simply too great.  I think that is one of the characteristics of the book that makes it so realistic is that it plays off of human nature—which we can all easily relate too.

 

Another aspect of Matheson’s writing that I enjoy, is his ability to add a morbid sense of humor to his pieces, as a type of comic relief that only horror readers can appreciate.  For instance, “There were five of them in the basement, hiding in various shadowed places.  One of them Neville found inside a display freezer.  When he saw the man lying there in this enamel coffin, he had to laugh; it seemed such a funny place to hide.”  I think adding humor to horror is a valuable tactic to writers because sometimes we get so caught up in the gore and the grotesque that we often forget to give our readers a break from the tension that we have built up.  In this case, I think Matheson added relief to a very morbid situation, which helped make it a little less concentrated.

 

Some other parts of the story that I particularly enjoyed were the legends and myths of the vampire that were explored throughout: crosses, garlic, beheading, burning, etc.    Also, the scientific exploration of the bacteria in their blood won me over immediately because I found it to be so believable, to be honest.  I have to admit though, when he grabbed Ruth’s leg, and the tanner that she used wiped off, my jaw probably hit the floor - I loved the vampires method of a structured society and how they incorporated the pills to survive into daylight through their own scientific advancements. 

 

***Also, in my version of the book, there were several additional short stories.  I would greatly recommend Buried Talents, The Near Departed, Prey, Witch War, and Madhouse. Great pieces, however The Near Departed was by far my favorite of the above thus far.

 

Now I will be the first to say that Mafia stories aren't my forte, and I don't enjoy them on a normal basis because they all just seem the same to me, so when I saw that I was required to do this reading, I'll be very frank (no pun intended)...I wasn't thrilled.  However, I'm happy to report that I was intrigued from the very first sentence, and I really enjoyed it.  The suspense and character building where very well done, and the twist was, for lack of a better word, AWESOME.  I didn't see it coming at all, and when the realization struck me, I was at a loss for words!  So if this is your kind of genre, or even if it isn't... I highly recommend this short story.


       What was the significance of the author’s use of excessive detail and concrete nouns in the beginning of the story?

        I believe that Picciarelli’s use of excessive details and concrete nouns in the beginning of the story was very effective in painting the picture of the man that Frank thought that he was.  Normally, when I read a short story, I take notes as I go along, and I was happy to see this question because I actually made a compare and contrast of Frank before I finished the story, and I must say, I loved that the man wasn’t exactly who I thought he was in the beginning of the story, partially because it made it more than just a typical mafia story.  Plus, I’m a sucker for the psychological.

        In the beginning, Frank is portrayed as a clean shaven, neat freak who is a sharply dressed traditionalist, with the typical silver pinky ring (that he thinks still gets kissed by his admirers).  He believes that people flock to him and demand his attention, and claims that he talks to people on a regular basis on his way to work.  BUT, in reality, he wears the same dirty suit every day, barely bathes, and harasses the people that he claims flocks to him.  This back and forth realization for the reader is very important in characterization, especially at the end when we see Frank become the strong man that he once was as the bullets shimmy their way inside his chest.  Also, it portrays a see-saw effect on his character as he is shown strong-weak-and finally strong again at the end….for even in death, he still has an impact on Sonny.

  • Where does the story begin? Explain why you chose that plot point as the beginning.

 The story begins right off with the first sentence and I’m a firm believer of this one  because of how it sets up Frank’s character (see above).  But in my opinion, the story, and the plot are two completely different things, as most of the beginning is strict character building.  Now regardless of how imperative that exploration of detail is, I do not believe that the story starts until Frank sits down with Sonny.  When they begin their  discussion is when the plot and conflict of the story is set up, as well as a few moments of  setting off the red flags for the reader…such as when Sonny questions Frank about  Augie.  I know for me personally, that is when I thought that perhaps something was wrong, or at least questionable.

W. W. Jacob's The Monkey's Paw: Forget the Genie Lamp!

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I read this story when I was younger, and was happy to be able to revisit it once again.  This time around, I must admit that I really appreciated the writing for its slow building of suspense, and its similarities to Stephen Kings, Pet Semetary.  Like Gabe, the White's son was killed...and like Gabe's parents, his family found a way in order to bring the deceased back despite the warnings of their friends.  So to me, when the knock came at the door, there was no way in my mind that this was a simply coincidence, because in my mind, a twist of fate like that just doesn't happen!

----

In my opinion, the narrator is definitely an insider based on the omniscient appeal that he/she seems to have over the plot.  Throughout the story, it appears that the narrator knows exactly what is going to happen, and cleverly demonstrates a timeline to build suspense, flow and dramatic tension.  The way the story is written divulges that someone is overlooking the entire storyline and is telling it as it goes along.  Unlike the reader, he/she can see everything for what it truly is and get a broader spectrum on the plot instead of getting caught up in the claw itself like the White’s do. 

 

An example of this would be how both the narrator and the reader can tell that there is something strangely wrong with the Monkey claw based on the atmosphere and the dialogue, yet the characters cannot.  Sergeant-Morris carefully explains that there is something wrong and evil with the claw and even tries to dispose of it to defeat the possibility of wickedness, yet the White’s are too wrapped up in the notion of the three wishes: “"Better let it burn," said the soldier solemnly. “If you don't want it Morris," said the other, "give it to me.""I won't." said his friend doggedly. "I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don't blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire like a sensible man."The other shook his head and examined his possession closely. "How do you do it?" he inquired."Hold it up in your right hand, and wish aloud," said the Sergeant-major, "But I warn you of the consequences."

·         In a way, it reminds me of growing up when everyone tells you what is going to happen if you do something, but you are too focused on yourself and refuse to listen to other people, and therefore have to learn from your mistakes.

 Overall, the mood and tone of the story are one in the same: eerie.   Jacobs sets off the mood of the story within the first paragraph as he describes a cold and wet night, with a quiet fire burning in the background.  He describes the characters waiting for a mysterious visitor, while the wind howls outside (insert exorcist music here, haha).  At this point, the reader knows that the visitor’s presence is going to bring something bad to the table, thus immediately creating suspense and curiosity.   However, what I really liked about Jacob’s style of writing is that he uses Sergeant-Morris’s silence to create mood; because he is quiet and doesn’t give a lot of details about the claw, it makes the reader question what exact power the relic has over its owner, and what magic it possesses.  Like Shirley Jackson, Jacob’s uses the slow and steady approach, carefully building suspense and giving little details, only when needed.  In fact, both author’s share the stylistic quality in that they withhold certain specifics in order to leave more to the imagination.  In my opinion, this makes the story scarier and creates a great amount of suspense.

 

As to the scene where the husband and wife are lying in bed, Jacob’s uses imagery to slow the story down by describing a slow steady sleep, and then jerks the reader away when he wife screams from the window.  He uses capital letters to evoke a high pitch and urgency and then continues to quicken the pace by having them argue back and forth about the decision.  This throws the suspense, and curiosity right into the readers face, but the end of the story was a little anti-climatic to me, because I kind of figured it out once the wife pretty much lost her mind.  It was all too obvious that she was going to wish for him to come back, and that the husband was going to go behind her back, use their third wish and wish his son away.  Part of me (the wicked horror part) wished that the son was going to just barge in, kill the mom, and destroy the claw so that he couldn’t be wished away… but hey, that’s the way things go in my brain!

Just Read: Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery"

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I have read some of Shirley Jackson before (The Haunting of Hill House being a particular favorite of mine) and what I respect about her as a writer is that while her writing seems to unfold rather slow and steady…it creates a great amount of suspense.   For instance, after reading the first maybe three paragraphs, I was already running scenarios in my mind as to what the lottery was for, what the stones symbolized, and then linking horror stories with small towns to this one.  Since I knew Jackson as a horror writer to begin with, I automatically assumed that this wasn’t going to be some friendly lottery where the winner won an all expense paid vacation—but what is ironic about that, is that is exactly what Jackson sets up the story to seem like.  She uses a very friendly tone throughout the piece,  and links the lottery to festive happenings, i.e. “The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers…”.  We are introduced to people gossiping and talking about their day, and it seems as if it is a very laid back, yet anticipated event that the townspeople look forward too. 

 

One detail that stood out to me while I was reading was that Jackson mentioned that the other surrounding towns had abandoned the tradition of the lottery several years ago.  This immediately put the red flag up for me because I became sold on the notion that whoever won this lottery was in a lot of danger.  Plus, I remembered the name Hutchinson from a history class a while back, and Anne Hutchinson was a woman who stood up about her religious beliefs, only to be out casted, etc. from her home - so I started going on along the lines of a religious cult.

 

When the head of the family drew the slip with the black dot, and then had to name the people in his family, it was as if the plot immediately picked up its pace.  I thought for sure they were all going to have to decide on a member of the family that they would sacrifice, and was pleasantly surprised when it was decided at random—Poor Tessie.


But where does the story actually begin??


As a writer, I naturally want to say the first line, because as I mentioned in my analysis above, I personally became enticed and curious after reading only the first one or two paragraphs.  However, I found myself really paying attention the moment right before the lottery began…the paragraph starting with: “There was a great deal of fussing to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open...” I’m going to ultimately choose this plot point as the beginning of the story because it showed the meticulous detail and effort that was put into this lottery and how traditional and important it was to the townspeople to abide by its rules.  As a reader, it made me curious as to what the tradition was, why it survived all this years, and most importantly left me with the question well what do you win if your chosen?  Ha.  I reiterate… poor Tessie.

"It's your mind, child, all of this is from you."

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“But if childhood memory is filled with pain and nightmares, it is only memory, after all.  It is not what lies ahead as we naviguess with sore muscles and tired hearts through white fog.” -Douglas Clegg, Neverland

 

Well Clegg, I’m happy to say that you have proven me wrong, and honestly, I will admit to morbidly really enjoying the novel.  I still stand by what I said though… the beginning was a little slow, but hey… I’m a writer too, and I know that you have to do a lot of groundwork in the beginning in order for it to pay off in the end - and the ending def. made up for whatever frustration I was having in the beginning.  To summarize quickly: I got to hear my Gullah ghost stories, I found out the mysterious story behind the shack, and read enough to give me nightmares for about a good week or so.  I never thought I would say it, but this is the first book in a long time that has really shaken me to the core at some points.  But then again, when one plays with dark magic, one has to expect to be burned in the end.

 

Yesterday at around 4:30, I wrote my opinion of the novel after reading the first five chapters of the Clegg’s novel and firmly stated that I wasn’t sure of it just yet.  I mean, it’s been a while since I have read a book with pictures in it (but that may just be my copy?) and the name Grandma Weenie still makes the character seem less threatening to me.  But I like how Clegg tied everything together, and I truly learned a lot about the craft of storytelling from reading him. Remember how I vented about Missy accidently killing her mouse in the beginning?  Well that foreshadowed Beau’s own struggle with a mouse sacrifice later on in the story. Then there was the fact that Weenie carried around that old silver bristled brush all the time…kind of an awkward heirloom to old close to you if you ask me?  But then again, if you bashed your first child’s skull in with it…I could see how it might have sentimental value. Then, my personal favorite, we have Sumter’s teddy bear Bernard; who would have thought that little sucker would have foamed at the mouth and ripped out Beau’s uncle’s throat and decapitated his head.  If that doesn’t make you look at a teddy bear differently from now own...then you’re a pretty tough cookie.

 

Even after finishing the book though, I’m still a little skeptical as to whether or not the was a story that dealt with worshiping Satan on some level or not.  At first, I totally jumped on the bandwagon that Lucy was short for Lucifer,  but it turned out to be that she was just the first born child of Grandma Weenie, and that she went crazy and died in the Shack by her mother’s hands after devouring her second child.  Well, Clegg writes that the child she was eating was half human half beast….male and female.  So I’m thinking that since Lucy was dabbling with dark magic herself…that maybe this is a case of Rosemary again, and she was mated with the devil - leaving the Feeder to be Satan himself.  Ah. Anyone having chills yet?  Because at this point, I’m thinking that Rosemary had it easy when she birthed the spawn of Satan…she didn’t have to go through any of this stuff!

 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is my weakness.  I really, really, don’t like reading stuff about Satan because it just creeps me the hell out - and I’m probably the only horror junkie out there that hasn’t seen/read the Exorcist…but whatever. To each his own.  But let me tell you that when I read the part where Sumter first talking about sacrificing Governor, and buried Beau… I reached for my crucifix.  Killing babies is just not my type of horror.  I’d take Freddy Kruger or a good vampire movie any day- just leave Satan fans out of the picture.

I'm currently reading Neverland by Douglas Clegg, and after reading about 100 pages or so, I have yet to make an opinion regarding whether or not I like it. When I originally started reading, I was getting so flustered with it that I actually considered just putting it down...but since it's for my graduate class, I decided to give it a second go.  The beginning just really bored me...I felt like the most exciting thing that happened was that Beau's sister Missy accidentally killed her hamster in the car. Big Whoop.  Not exactly what I define as horror though.

Then, I was starting to get enticed by the folklore of the island and the Gullah's but I still haven't heard a good enough ghost story to make me cringe yet.  I mean a babysitter who doesn't shave her leg isn't really that terrifying, unless you're a guy I guess, haha.  Oh, and I can't seem to take this family serious when one of the main characters is called Grandma Weenie.  Call me immature, but that just makes her less threatening in my book.

HOWEVER: spoiler alert
While I originally didn't think much about the Shack that Sumter was infatuated with, I'm starting to think that there may be something in it that could grasp my attention. When Sumter found that dead rabbit on Rabbit island and brought it back for Lucy... I was kind of skeptical about what exactly sacrifice meant for this child--but it seemed like the rabbit was granted life again just so the 'god' could kill it again.  In fact, when Beau kept talking about the rabbit screaming, I think I got my first chill while reading Neverland.

"What walked there behind the thin line of trees, lit by the colors of madness, was not man or woman or animal.  And I knew it was coming for me, with its hooves and claws and fingers and teeth-coming for me to d what only the savage god could do.  Feed. I tried to scream, but had no voice. I tried to scream because I did not want to be alive, because being alive hurt, because being alive mean god would feed on my flesh."-Clegg 87
^No this is what I'm talking about..

This is the kind of writing that I was expecting when I started reading, and I'm glad that it is starting to show up more in the book.  This makes the shack more mysterious and horrifying..especially because there is so much that we, as readers, don't know about it yet.  It's like every time Sumter goes to let Beau in on something, he brushes it off as a trick in the end. Like the first time we see the crab...or when Zinnia goes into the shack.  I'm still not convinced at this point as to whether or not she is dead...if Sumter was really the one who killed her or what?  And while this drives me crazy because I just want to know... it is the sole reason why I'm still reading...I'm curious.

But as we all know..Curiosity killed the cat.

Just Read: How Spoilers Bleed by Clive Barker

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"Now, for the first time since their appearance, one of the assemly moved.  He was ancient, fully thirty years older than most of the tribe.  He, like the rest, was all but naked.  The sagging flesh of his limbs and breasts resembled tanned hide; his step, though the pale eyes suggested blindness, was perfectly confident.  Once standing in front of the interlopers he opened his mouth-there were no teeth set in his rotted gums- and spoke.  What emerged from his scraggy throat was a language made not of words but only of sound, a potpourri of jungle noises." - Clive Barker, "How Spoilers Bleed".

Today, I wanted to start off my blog with a character analysis of the elder (one of the main characters) in Clive Barkers "How Spoilers Bleed."  At first when I started reading this, my immediate impression was, argghhh- an Indian story...really?  I’m not really a fan of these types of plot per say because they always seem to be telling the exact same story:  the white man comes in on the Indian land and try to take it over while they are still there only leading up to battle and bloodshed.  And unfortunately, this was pretty much the conflict within the story.  But, what I like about Clive Barker’s writing techniques is that just when you think you have him figured out, he sweeps the rug underneath your feet and sends you spiraling into the air.

The paragraph above is one of the central parts in the story when the Elder emerges from the crowd and bestows a curse upon Locke, Stumpf, and Cherrick.  In a dispute over the land, Cherrick goes to fire against the Elder, but ends up killing a small boy instead, thus sending the village into an uproar.  Unfortunately for the men, Cherrick ends up touching one of the members of the tribe, and therefore gets their blood on his hands - pair that up with the curse that the elder places on them, and frankly I would say that they were in trouble.

So thus far, it sounds like a pretty typical mythological/Indian legend type of story right?  Well that’s what I thought, and I actually ended up putting it down for a little bit, only to return to it several nights later.  What I found when I returned was an interesting rendition on psychological and body horror, and Barker won me over, yet again, with his treatment of the body and his outrageous ideas.

SPOILER ALERT:

Towards the middle of the story, after the encounter with the tribe, Cherrick becomes rapidly ill.  He screams at Locke and Dancy that the he has heard/seen the Elder and that he wants them off of their land—to which both men refuse to believe.  After all, they are in the jungle, in extreme heat so it must just be the ranting ravings of a man suffering from heat stroke right?  Very, very wrong.

When the men go over to help Cherrick, as soon as they touch his skin, it erupts and starts bleeding profusely. Barker writes, “Cherrick’s body had split now in a dozen or more places.  He tried to stand, half staggering to his feet only to collapse again, his flesh breaking open whenever he touched wall or chair or floor.”  To me, this was utterly fascinating as someone who loves body horror—and I honestly have never read anything quite like that before.  I have to ask you to simply imagine being in this type of situation:  you’re in excruciating pain, and no one can help you because if you are touched, or you happen to  apply any pressure what-so-ever against your body…your skin erupts and you start to bleed.  And if the physical sense of that isn’t enough, think of the psychological anguish it would cause if you tried to beat it.  You simply couldn’t move…you would be confined to one spot for the rest of your life, and eventually you would die of starvation or thirst, if you didn’t go mad and kill yourself before that; essentially… you’re trapped both mentally and physically.  Completely isolated and secluded from any interaction with the world at all. Now that won me over.

There are similar situations that also arise during the story, where Stumpf ends up in the same predicament, yet has a dangerous prelude to it. He goes through a mental breakdown and claims to being with the elder in his secluded room that he is locked in - and others feel it’s just a hallucination until Locke sees the bloody handprints on the inside of the glass.  I liked that subtle detail because instead of just the underlying message of magic and enchantment in the story… Barker actually uses his as he provides the Elder with the ability to enter the room without being seen. 

I also was pleasantly surprised with the ending, because Dancy, of all people ended up supplying the disease (pox) infected blankets to the Indians to kill them off—so at this point I’m wondering, how did that bastard Locke end up with all the land, when he is the foulest man of story?  Well, as he comes upon the village, and sees Dancy and his men throwing bodies into a hole—one of the gentlemen touch him, and it ends with blood seeping through Locke’s shirt.  So even in death, the curse survives and no one is left untouched.  

To me, this was a very different take on the Indian myths that I was used to reading, and I was pleasantly surprised to read this, and enjoy it as much as I did.  Good form Barker; you never disappoint.



Just Read: The Life of Death by Clive Barker

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"The sixth volume of Books of Blood (1985) was published in the United States as The Life of Death: Tales of Terror (1986) and includes the title story as well as “How Spoilers Breed,” “The Last Illusion,” “On Jerusalem Street,” and “Twilight at the Towers." - For more info, click here

I found this short story really powerful and quite descriptive, despite its limited context of pages for a surmount of detail.  In summary, the story is about a recently covered cancer patient named Elaine, who is having some difficulty in adjusting to her new chance at life, and leaving behind old habits, such as her partner, Mitch.  When you first start off reading the text, you will find that there is a heavy emphasis on her eating habits and her appetite, which ends up being a significant detail that Barker rightly plants early on.  Eventually, she stumbles upon a diner, where she learns of a demolition site through the agitated waitress who complains of the smoke.  Intrigued, or perhaps drawn, Elaine walks over to the site where she first meets Kavanagh.

There are several interesting concepts about their relationship as it begins to grow: their conversations normally only revolve around death or some type of morbidity, there is a constant force leading them back to the church (where they always meet, and always end up), and there appears to be a sexual entity about him that forcibly draws Elaine to him --although she admits that she isn't sure why. What remains curious about this, is the coincidence factor that seems to remain throughout their relationship- he is always with, near, or watching Elaine in the story, and after reading it... I find it hard to believe that I didn't pick up on what was happening... but that is what makes the story so brilliant; Barker leaves everything out in plain sight, but conceals it enough not to ruin the climax.

Spoiler ALERT!!

To speed up the process here, Elaine's curiousity eventually gets the best of her, and she feels the need to go into the church to explore.  Her adventures lead her down into a well perserved cript, where she finds bodies upon bodies, threw and thrust upon each other.. still in the early stages of decomposition.  What blew my mind as a reader, was that she was so taken back by one of the corpse's hair, that she moved the body on top of her to get a better look!  Ewe.  Talk about not a good idea.  Barker does a wonderfully grotesque job of describing the scene-- For example: "Everywhere she saw rot at work, making sores and suppurations, blisters and pustules.  She raised the flame to see better, though the stench of spoilage was beginning to crowd upon her and make her dizzy" (214). 

Ironically, it isn't until after leaving the crypt that she begins to feel much better: her appetite comes back full force, her skin and hair radiates in the sun, and the color returns to her face.  Yet everyone that she seems to be coming in contact with, seems to be contracting an illness, and eventually dying.  But what is particularly strange about Elaine's characters is that she never once, seems to really care.  In fact, at one point... she smiles. At this point, I realized that perhaps she had made piece with death so long ago, that it's presence didn't seem to bother her anymore.. in fact, at some points she seemed to welcome it with open arms.

Eventually, Kavanagh and Elaine end up in each others company as Elaine flees from her house, where the police remain to question her and go through her belongings.  I'm not sure if I believe that it was the crypt's curse at work here..and that while it made her stronger, it killed others that she came in contact with.  I do believe.. that it was Kavanagh the entire time-- for he, I believe, was Death itself. 

Their sex scene at the end, was mind blowing to me, and not in an erotic way, I'm sorry to say.  It starts out so tender, and in a way, lovingly... and it is obvious that both characters are enjoying it as much as the other... THEN when Kavanagh gets pissed off because he believes that the police have said that he spills blood when he kills, he begins to take out his anger, and strangles Elaine.  YET, Elaine still seems to be enjoying this in a masochistic way.  Even after her death, her spirit refuses to go beyond into the afterlife, and instead follows him out of the hotel. 

"She shrugged,  'Death's been waiting for me all this time, and I right?' " - (228)

Barker, Clive. Cabal. New York, Pocket Books, 2001.
 


The Flames Icy Light Throws Their Shadows

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"Decker pulled the mask on.  It smelled of his excitement.  As soon as he breathed in he got a hard.  Not the little sex-hard, but the death-hard, the murder-hard.  It sniffed the air for him, even through the thickness of his trousers and underwear.  It smelled the victim that ran ahead of him.  The Mask didn't care that his prey was female; he got the murder-hard for anyone. In his time he'd had a heat for old men, pissing their pants as they went down in front of him; for girls, sometimes; sometimes women; even children.  Ol' Button Face looked with the same cross-threaded eyes on the whole of humanity." - Clive Barker, Cabal 85

First of, I'm going to admit that I'm a HUGE Clive Barker fan, so my reading is going to be a little biased...sorry!  This was my first time reading Cabal and it really grasped my attention right from the beginning, and held me for the next couple of hours; I lost a night of sleep to this book because I simply couldn't put it down, haha.  I've actually decided to write my paper on this novella, so I'm going to pick one aspect to really talk about in this blog: the treatment of the body.

To me, the emphasis that Barker places on the body is so beautiful in a morbid, grotesque way that you have to admire his skill when he resurrects and pains it.  The opening quote that I used was something that probably will always stick out in my mind, because it casts Decker in such a horrid light in that he gets off from killing his victims.  Sure, I've read stuff and watched stuff that has been similar to this in other pieces of psychological horror, but nothing was quite as descriptive and visual as that.  In a way, it's as if you can see the grin, and feel the pleasure that he feels just by thinking of digging his hands into their blood, and slicing their throats.  Very creepy imagery, and to think, he does this throughout the hole piece -- making our stomachs churn, our innards twist, and our gag reflex initiate! I think what got me the most was when he was questioned as to how and why he did such terrible things, and he responded with... "I like it."  In this case, I think saying less is indeed more, because it allows us to ponder on the extreme cruelty he encompasses.

The story starts off with the focus point being on Boone's sanity, and but also on the murders that he supposedly committed.   There is a significant stress on the body positioning of the people, and the technique that was used to kill them...so much in fact, that you start to question the pattern and the relevancy of it.  Shortly after, it is only through Boone's attempted suicide that he even gets to the hospital to meet Narcisse due to his injuries; plus, when we are first introduced to Narcisse, it is by the description of of his wild eyes, and the later on his hooked fingernails, and the self removal of his face.

Another concept that I picked up on was the division on the body within the book.  Barker writes, "Boone the man and Boone the monster could not be divided.  They were one; they traveled the same road in the same mind and body.  And whatever lay at the end of that road, death or glory, would be the fate of both" (25).  What I liked about this was that Lori seemed to be able to understand that Boone had this different parts about him, and accepted that, yet Boone couldn't do so.  For him, there was only the beast... and that remained his outlook until the end, even after he claimed for have forgiven himself.  For example, the scene where he is at the hotel, and feeds on the bodies after he smells their blood...he hates himself after that.  In fact, he wishes he were dead, and even begs Lori to leave him in the prison cell so that the police would find way to kill him.

Then to switch topics a little, there is also the erotic interpretation of the body.  In this novel, the body initially struck me as a temple of pain, or a cavity for evilness, but as you go through the text, you find that the body is very sexualized at times, even though in cases like Boone's, the body remains dead.  So I wonder, if this was some take on necrophilia in a new light?  Perhaps, but nonetheless, we see it with Decker's erection in the above quote, in Lori while she masturbates in the hotel bedroom, and then later on in the sex scene in the prison between Lori and Boone.  Without going into a lot of details, I thought it was interesting how the body was shone in a different light... almost in a romantic entity that sometimes sneaks it's way into horror.  However, this isn't the romance that you read about love stories...but a dirty, almost pornographic, animalistic need to each other...a clawing, painful urge to be a part of someone else.

The last point that I wanted to make, was that there seemed to be a emphasis on the human skull throughout the entire novel, and I was really intrigued by that.  The head struck me as pivitol in almost every conflict in the book, because it was always a facial or psycholigal issue that was brought about within the characters.  For instance: Boone was struggling with sanity, Decker covered his face with the mask (shizophrenia), Narcisse clawed at his face, Decker killed Narcisse with the splitting of his skull via machete...to name a few.  I'm not sure of the correlation between that, or the hidden meaning just yet.. but something that struck my fancy nonetheless.

I am curious as to if anyone has seen the movie version of this though: Night Breed
If so..what are your thoughts on it?

Creativity: Your best friend, and greatest enemy

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"When I teach creative writing and ask my students what they believe their strengths and weaknesses to be, almmost allof them include creativity as a strength; virtually none list it as a weakness.  As a result, few developing writers spend a lot of time and energy making their work creative.  They feel,by the very act of typing words, they are already being "creative."  After all, they are creating something new.  But that's the rub: Just how new is it?" - Mort Castle, On Writing Horror

I was relieved when I read that, because I have always felt that my imagination and my levels of creativity were my greatest assets and my biggest downfalls.  Funny how that works isn’t it? On Writing Horror, edited by Mort Castle,  gave a lot of really good points and suggestions about how to deal with creating a piece of horror literature, with being mindful of other horror stories plots, characters, etc.  He stated something along the lines of how it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone who read Stephen King all the time started to write and emulate his style without even being aware of that.  Coming from personal experience, this happened to me once with one of my short stories.  I started writing about a writer who had severe writer’s block and started to cope with it with alcohol…blah, blah, blah…Sound like The Shining to anyone?  Funny this was, I thought that I was being completely original because I hadn’t read or seen the movie at that point.  So needless to say, I agree with Castle when he says that if you want to be a master of the genre, READ, READ, READ! Know the masters, know different time periods, study your monsters, etc.  This will help you blend ideas and issues into your own work, and create something of your own.  Plus, you’ll be able to recognize when your surprise ending suddenly sounds like mine did in The Shining.

After I got some advice from my professors, I actually enrolled in some graduate classes here at Seton Hill University, within the Writing Popular Fiction Program.  This opened avenues of a TON of different literature and authors in the horror genre, and I learned so much from my experiences in these courses… even as an undergraduate.  I plan on taking one class every semester until I graduate, and then enrolling in the program after I’m done with my graduate work in art history.  But for ow, it has certainly been helpful for an aspiring author, and someone who freelances on the side, to know a little bit more about the genre itself.


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