Stacked July/August 2021
This month’s stacked was last month’s YouTube video if you’d prefer to listen rather than read!
Be Scared of Everything by Peter Counter is a tremendously thoughtful, smart, funny, book combining essay and memoir celebrating all things horror, from cinema and video games to heavy metal and haunted houses. His writing examines popular horror media from such a wonderfully lively place of vulnerability and curiosity and reads like many conversations I’ve had with myself about horror. Except, he’s a million times more articulate about the meaning-making to be experienced, where in this cauldron of horrifying influences and inspirations, and I’m quoting from somewhere else here, he finds “…poetry in madness, and beauty in annihilation–” I’ve been reading this book a little spooky snippet at a time every morning to get my day started with this very excellent spooky energy
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa was an interesting read for me, because the narrator of the book has four children and there’s a lot of baby making and nurturing and maternal feelings. Which is very uncomfortable for me, So it has been interesting to sit with that. I guess you could say the book is about a poet who becomes obsessed with another poet across time. But there’s also a lot of visceral baby stuff and daily ritual involving homemaking. The latter thing definitely more relatable than the former, but I think to experience this book, you gotta be all-in with all of it. So I’m trying!
The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada An odd little story of mundane strangeness, this story follows the story of Asa, who after her husband’s work transfer, gives up her own job and moves along with him to be close to his employer. This entails living in a house in his hometown, next door to his parents. Both the town and the parents are strange in unsettling, dream-like ways, and Asa spends a sticky, aimless summer bored and adrift, and trying to figure out this weird place and its equally weird inhabitants.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric Larocca. OOOOOF. I saw this book mentioned all over YouTube for the better part of a week and so I thought, ok sure why not. I had some reservations as the title reminded me a bit of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid, a book which I wanted to throw into the ocean after I read it. My review, such as it is, can be found here. Thankfully, these books are nothing alike. Not so thankfully, I did not really enjoy Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. A story of two lost and/or lonely souls meeting through the internet and their developing relationship, which escalates pretty swiftly and in really distressing ways. I personally found it hard to read–and maybe a little bit distasteful– because it felt awfully familiar. I am not trying to kink-shame anyone but the master/slave or sub/dom dynamic is hugely problematic for me because I experienced that to a large degree for a time in a former relationship, the really awful, toxic, and abusive one that I have written about previously on this blog. So…it turned out I was the wrong audience for this book. But while I found that aspect of the story intensely disturbing, I wasn’t disturbed by the details? Maybe I’m jaded or really hard to gross out. I don’t know. It just wasn’t that freaky.
In That Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files. Funny thing. I wrote this review before I wrote the one above it, so I think this is book to follow it with, and a good one to end on until next time. I have been reading horror for a very long time and there just isn’t that much that freaks me out anymore. In the past few years if I want to get freaked out, I’ll go to the /nosleep subreddit for an unsettling dose of writing deeply weird and disturbing yet which still contains a soupçon of those “this happened to a friend of a friend” vibes. Stuff that reads like anecdote or tall tales or urban legend…strange, but not so fantastical you don’t believe it at midnight when the house is settling and the world is silent and the darkness is absolute.
There is always a moment in my dreams where space shudders and what was fine and well is suddenly not. Gemma Files’ stories contained In That Endlessness Our End begin in that shiver just before the nightmare. It’s unnerving how preordained the descent feels, yet how abrupt. The horror is always uncharted and inevitable. Her writing feels like some of the best /nosleep narratives in their eerie inventiveness, their proximity to real life (but really there’s no comparison here, it’s just the best I can offer, is all) but with a precision of language and astonishing detail that comes from someone whose imagination has been guiding her hand for an impressive amount of time, and knows exactly how to take those things that frighten her and unleash them on us.
Honestly, there is no one who scares me like Gemma Files and HOLY SHIT do I love her for it.