Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blood on the Bookcase

So, I finished "The Girl Next Door" by Jack Ketchum, and still don't know what to think or feel. It's not something I enjoyed reading at all, but still I couldn't stop. If you don't know anything about the book, it's a fictionalized account of the abuse two girls were subjected to at the hands of their aunt and a group of neighborhood kids. There was an actual occurrence of this in the 1950's in Indiana, and the documentation of the crimes and subsequent trial served as the basis for the "action" of the book. The subject matter alone would be enough to keep me from sleeping even if it were handled with care, but Ketchum was far from careful.

There were times that I found myself reading a paragraph and skipping to the end because the details were just too much for me to read. It was too real and the victims were children. I just couldn't get through it all line by line, and I am FAR from squeamish.

I'm a guy who loves horror. I enjoy my movies drenched in blood and I love to feel uncomfortable when I'm reading a book, but there is something about torture for torture's sake that just leaves me wanting more. "The Girl Next Door" straddled that line. I realize that the book makes a comment about what normal people are capable of, and how madness can be contagious, but the bulk of the book read like a play by play of childhood torture. It wasn't scary per se, just really disturbing and gross.

When Hostel came out, Jen and I were there the opening weekend and left a bit disturbed because we hadn't really seen a lot like it before, but now Torture Horror is all over the place. When I went back and watched it again, it didn't hold up for me, even with all the nude college women. Most horror out there tends to be a great scary premise (people paying money to torture and kill others, children locked in the basement, serial killer setting bizarre traps, etc.) but then doesn't hold up because there isn't enough story to string together the cool visuals and splatters.

After reading reviews of Jack Ketchum's work, I was super excited to read him. I've been waiting to find someone who is able to twist the whole horror genre into a new form of literature. I want to read a book that is dense with story and character that happens to be filled with mind numbing gore. It would be so great to have the reading population confused by a piece of writing that is so strong and beautiful on one hand but also happens to have a page long descriptions of graphic murder in it. I was hoping "The Girl Next Door" would be it, but it wasn't. Not by a damn sight.

Still, I did like some of his writing style. He sticks to blunt short prose, which appeals to me because writing like that is something I'm not able to do at all. It was good enough for me to start reading his first book last night, and I might find that more to my liking. I think it will read more like a story and less like a historical account. Plus, it seems to be about children who hunt and kill people for food, so it won't feel quite so rooted in reality. It will be a nice switch to read something where kids aren't the victims. Dinner is served.

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