I didn’t grow up fat. I was a hefty baby—a 9-pounder, to be precise—and at different points in my childhood, a chubbier, sometimes stockier kid, but never fat, per se, and for the first half of my 20’s, I was 5’3” and 125 lbs, give or take – a frame that we offhandedly consider average in our society, but that is actually well below the average female frame. And while I’ve heard that it’s fairly “normal” to be a size 16-18, four years after gaining most of my weight, my emergence into a larger body is still a sometimes strange, uncomfortable, jarring experience, and I’ve only recently started to identify as “fat.” Once I realized that I officially qualified (it’s kind of like realizing you’re an alcoholic, which I discovered so many years ago—suddenly, you just know), I wasn’t too hesitant to call myself what I felt I was, on twitter, and now on my blog. It can be intimidating to try to appropriate, to try to re-claim a term that’s been used for years to oppress larger women and shame overweight people, but it’s also liberating to say “this is me—not the whole of who I am, but part of how I identify, nevertheless.”Continue reading “The Thrill of Shrill”
There are probably a lot of reasons why Wicked was my favorite book to read with my students during my Reading the Monster course. This assertion may be surprising, on the one hand, because Wicked doesn’t fall under the traditional “horror” umbrella like many other texts on the syllabus. And, as is obvious from reading this blog, I’m an avid fan and proponent of what might be called, more specifically, “art-horror”—the creation of fictional horrific events, morphed into cinematic and literary experiences. Conversely, there’s so much imagination, and so much problematization (a la fiction) packed into Wicked, that Gregory Maguire’s book provides plenty of fodder for speculation, discussion, and debate, even as it delights, challenges, and entertains—all on a fairly consistent basis. What’s more—and this may be a far from ancillary point—I taught Wicked after my dreaded comprehensive examination was (more or less) over, so I had more time to put toward lesson planning and making the text particularly engaging to students. The emerging result, for me, was a stronger interest in a text that I already enjoyed, but that I didn’t fully appreciate until reading a second time.Continue reading “Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny”
W. Scott Poole quotes Judith Halberstam, who calls the monster a “meaning machine.” This observation seems to suggest that the monster is always overdetermined – that the monstrous body in a particular work can mean a variety of things in any given time and place. Poole agrees with Halberstam when he argues: “The subject of monsters contains too much meaning” and goes on to observe that “the very messiness of the monster makes it a perfect entry into understanding the messiness of American history” (xv). In Monster Theory, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen lays out the seven theses of the monster, and his first theses is that “the monster body is a cultural body” (4). Cohen also believes that we can read the monster, but the monster’s meaning always has a basis in the culture that surrounds it. While Poole asserts that monsters are indisputably real—created by material circumstances and producing material consequences – Calafell, who bases her readings heavily on Poole and Cohen, find the monster a useful metaphor for describing problematic identity relations in the United States; she seems to embrace both a metaphorical reading of the monster and the contention that monsters can be very real, at times.Continue reading “Navigating Norman: The Serial Killer Monster as Meaning Machine”
Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates. Point blank. There are no two ways about it. Except, of course, when he isn’t Norman Bates. And what an unusual experience it is to envision someone else fulfilling the role, especially since it’s been years since I’ve seen the Gus Van Sant remake. The beauty of the comprehensive exam is that I can select the books I put on my lists (based on a unifying theme), and I was really excited to add Robert Bloch’s Psycho. Of course, I’ve seen the original movie many-a times, but I’ve never read the text, and like any horror fan, I was immediately interested in how the novel would compare with the film. I decided, then, to do what I did with The Shining. In “Let’s Not Overlook Anything” I blogged about the Shining in small increments and spent a considerable amount of blog space discussing one or two scenes. I decided I would do the same with the text Psycho – blog a little bit about each section as I read it. So this is my “insanely long series,” my observations about Bloch’s Psycho. And my first observation is that Bloch’s Norman Bates is fascinating.Continue reading “An Insanely Long Series: Reading Psycho Bit by Bit”
I read Stephen King’s Misery earlier this summer for my comprehensive exams. Then, I let the book rest for a while and didn’t do much with it. It juxtaposes fascinatingly with the film, which depicts an Annie Wilkes who’s incredibly true to King’s story, courtesy of the monumentally talented Kathy Bates. And, like the film, it explores concepts like female madness, and madness depicted as monstrosity, but in more depth than the film does. Wilkes is at least a somewhat complex character who King—and his protagonist, Paul Sheldon—come close to virtually humanizing at times, despite her atrocious actions. But the fact remains: Annie Wilkes is a madwoman, and she’s depicted as a monstrous madwoman. I thought I’d use this post to look at more of Annie’s personality, and what the madwoman—and the monster woman—is, if we take Annie as an example of both. So, let’s do this. Continue reading “Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery”
On the rare occasion that I write about a novel – especially a classic novel – on this horror site, I balk at the prospect. Reviewing a movie – even analyzing some of its salient components – is fairly easy, but how does one “review” a classic work of literature? To what extent am I just writing a paper? Who am I to say whether Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a great piece of literature? Haven’t preceding generations already decided that? And what in God’s name am I going to say about this novel that is original? Such hesitant speculation deterred me from writing for about a day after I finished the text, but since I haven’t written for my beloved website for over a month, and since I just read frickin’ Frankenstein, it was hard to justify my lassitude on a permanent basis.
When I read the first Chapter of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein today (which was a delightful experience filled with melody and profound thought) it occurred to me, yet again, that I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula earlier this summer and never wrote about it. Sigh. Such negligence seems remiss for a horror blogger, I told myself. This is especially true because I don’t write about many classic horror novels. As a self-professed lover of literature (or, a so-called lit nerd), many of the novels I commit myself to aren’t horror novels (because one must engage in some soul-warming optimism to counter the darkness), so I focus on scary short-stories (and of course, movies) for this blog. And to me, there is much merit in this approach; it is, after all, easier to critique – or analyze, or review – a short story than it is to do the same with a thick, 300-some page novel. (As such, I have immense respect for book bloggers who manage to eloquently sum up hefty volumes in elegant, relatively concise blog posts.) But because I don’t read many horror novels, when I finish a classic novel in the horror pantheon, I have to carpe diem and write about it. So I’ve decided to write about my experience reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and compare it to some cinematic adaptations spawned by the work. Continue reading “Taking a Bite Out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula”
So I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ll admit: I downloaded an old computer game I used to play in high school, and I’m hooked all over again. This is my plug for RollerCoaster Park Tycoon: Once you start building virtual amusement parks, you’ll never stop. But I did read Hell House, by Richard Matheson, while I was on my blogging hiatus. Perhaps I seek to get in touch with my youth; I also flew through Hell House in high school and was mesmerized. I’ll admit, this time around, the story was less captivating. Maybe I’m old and jaded. But, the book is still a pretty good scare. As I sat alone downstairs at night reading it, I looked around anxiously lest any insidious spirits eye me up and prepare to pounce. As far as haunted house stories are concerned, Hell House provides an intricate plot with intense action and characters who are relatable, although some are more likable than others. Continue reading “Will Hell House Scare the Hell Out of You?”
The local cinema was showing a Turner Classic Movie Dracula double feature: Tod Browning’s 1931, black and white version of Dracula, and the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula. Of course there was no question; I was going to attend the event. I’ll be honest: I brought my trusty notepad with me, and I tried to scribble some comments in the pitch black theater while I was watching Bella Lugosi prey on the necks of fair young maidens. Now I love a good black and white movie, if done well. The 1963 version of The Haunting is one of my favorite horror movies, and I’ve been dying to see The Innocents. But I’m hesitant to say that I’m a huge Dracula fan. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy seeing Bella Lugosi arch his eyebrows – but something about the film seemed incomplete. The script was catchy, with quotable lines, but Browning’s film lacked the character development I find central to a truly well-made film.
Mary Lambert is no Stanley Kubrick. At least, that’s the contrast that comes to mind when pitting the film against another classic: it seems natural to compare two of Stephen King’s terrifying film adaptations, Pet Sematary and The Shining. While Stephen King reportedly didn’t like Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, the movie received broad acclaim and has been frequently canonized as a horror film classic. Just as frequently, Pet Sematary is excoriated as a poorly pieced together film with sub-par acting. To an extent, I agree; The Shining is a better film than Pet Sematary. But I don’t mean this as a shot at Pet Sematary. Few directors can compete with Stanley Kubrick. And frankly, while I like the acting in The Shining better, I think Pet Sematary is the scarier movie. Which brings me to my goal in this post: I intend to defend Pet Sematary against its detractors, and obviously the defense will contain massive spoilers. While, true, the acting in the film could be better, the film contains enough darkness and terror to satiate the most jaded horror fan.