Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Good Reading Means a Happy Mind

The past couple of weeks I've been checking things out from the library, hoping to catch up on reading some good fiction while I'm in-between semesters. Sadly, I haven't been having much luck. I usually give myself about 50 pages for a novel to start moving before I give up on it, and so far I've given up on four. But today I started something seems really promising.

Joe Hill, whose novel Heart Shaped Box I reviewed way back here, has a short story collection Twentieth Century Ghosts that opens with a story entitled "Best American Horror". It's a wonderful horror story for people who like to think of themselves as more literary-minded (ie, nerds like myself). The main character is the editor for a yearly anthology of the best American Horror published each year. He's sent a short story from the editor of a University-based lit mag, and it renews his wavering faith in the art of horror fiction. The rest of the story focuses on the editor's search for the author.

Hill sits in that unusual place of really seeming to know both the literary publishing world and the genre publishing world, and how their own ideas of snobberies dictate what they like to read and publish. Although a very short tale, HIll manages to include a number of barbs towards both sides of publishing.

When the editor finally tracks down the author of this terrifying tale, he finds himself face to face with a horror villain come to life. While definitely a twist ending, it was an ending that made sense and wasn't all about shock like so many horror stories are anymore. I was really impressed by how Hill shapes the story; it's paced in a slower, more character-driven fashion and he never resorts to gore for gore's sake. Nothing against gore. I love splatterpunk. But there are other ways to do horror, and Hill seems to be working a more subtle method pretty well here. I'm looking forward to digging into the rest of this over the next few days.


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