Sunday, December 16, 2012

Untouchable, by Scott O'Connor

  • Title:  Untouchable
  • Author:  Scott O'Connor
  • Borrowed from DC Public Library
  • Started:  11/25/2012
  • Finish:  12/10/2012
In my last post I mentioned wanting to read more scary novels.  This was not something I found based on that search, nor is this a horror novel.  But it is a tough read; scary & disturbing in its own way, and you could almost call it a ghost story.

Not at all what I expected, thinking the novel would focus on the job of those who clean up sites after horrific events (murders, suicides, etc.).  The novel very quickly pushes that to the side, however, and it turns out the protagonist is a young boy (middle school) who is one of the class pariahs (one of the meanings of "untouchable" in the novel, these are the kids who get teased mercilessly in school "don't touch them you don't know what you'll catch").

The bullying and teasing is almost too much for the reader to handle.  Was O'Connor the subject of such taunting as a child?  I hope not, but if so he's put those feeling to good use.  I don't know how anyone could read those passages of bullying and not empathize with "the kid" as he's called throughout the novel.  Getting to know the kid, listening to his thoughts, blaming himself for being the outcast (at one point we find out that the other kids accuse him of having horrible breath, and the kid has been brushing and rinsing multiple times a session to combat that thinking it's true; he also wonders if that is why his mom left, because he smells).

I'm not doing the book or it's protagonist justice.  The grief, fear, and depression in this novel is sometimes too much to bear.  But it is just so compelling you keep going, you have to know that the kid will be alright.  Will he?  I don't know, even after finishing it, but I want to believe he will be.  The biggest issues might be resolved at the end, but not all of it. 

I didn't love the ending, but I don't know what else the author could have done here.  My problem with it is mostly that the two main characters both come to terms with their situation at the exact same time, independent of each other.  But it's a small point on an otherwise incredible book.  

The Missing, by Sarah Langan

  • Title:  The Missing
  • Author: Sarah Langan
  • Borrowed From DC Public (Kindle Edition)
  • Started: 10/30/2012
  • Finished:  11/20/2012
I've always been a big wimp when it comes to scary movies.  The anxiety I feel when the scene, music, and tension combine is usually too much for me.  While these movies scare the crap out of me and often make it hard for me to move around the house alone in the dark, I'm also drawn to them.  The effect of Blair Witch, when I saw it in a tiny theater in Dupont Circle back when it came out, is something I'll never forget.  I was captivated and terrified, thinking about it all night (while I wasn't sleeping) and trying to piece together what I thought was the meaning.

But Blair Witch might be the last really scary movie I saw in the theater.  My wife (girlfriend at the time) want to see The Ring when it was in the theaters, so we did.  I was scared (very scared) during the movie.  But once it was over the idiotic nature of the plot (and plot holes) took away any  residual fear immediately.  I think The Ring was the last scary movie I saw in a theater, even for the crap movies I need more control over the setting and length of tension.  Maybe it's not how the filmmakers intended us to watch movies, but if I need to pause it and take a 15 minute (or 36 hour) break from the film, so be it.

Around Halloween this year I decided I'd had enough of an embargo on horror movies (not gore-porn, no interest in those) and filled my netflix queue with various film of the found-footage, haunted house, zombie & post-apocalyptic, general scary genres.  And I started plowing through them (mostly in the daylight, I admit).  Some good (a couple great, I can't speak highly enough of Lake Mungo), most ok, a few horrible films.  I'm tempted to list them all off but I guess I can always go back to netflix and see all the films I've watched, so not worthwhile.

Good (great), bad, or so-so, I still get scared during the movies, and often think about them for days (while reading message boards on IMDB to see if others agree with me). 

Since I was pushing myself to finally watch scary movies, I figured I should do the same with books.  Not that I was as big a chicken about books, I've read the classics and as a teen most of what King and the like had published up through the early 1990s.  But I feel away from that as I went through my literature degree, and then feel in with hard-boiled detectives, and eventually to where I am now (where am I now?).  

Figuring I should change my reading habits to include more scary books, I went to the web to find recommendations for good scary books, and this was one of  the options.  Kind of a zombie book, not very scary, but enjoyable.  I was only reading short bits just before bed so it took me a really long time to get through it, but not b/c it was scary.  It was interesting and I'm glad I read it, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for and certainly not one I was thinking about weeks after or looking for message boards to see what others were saying.

So there you have it, 5 paragraphs about my fear of horror movies, and one about the book I'm "reviewing."  Good thing no one reads this (or pays to, if they stumble upon it).