Glutton for Literary Punishment

I am currently reading Skin by Mo Hayder, one in the Det. Jack Caffery series. It’s a spooky, Silence of the Lambs-ish kind of book and while I’m enjoying it immensely (I’ve barreled through it in a week and a half) it has occasionally scared the bejesus out of me. Ominous lines like, “And then the knocking started” end chapters. People are found in unnatural states. There is an unnerving undercurrent of dread that runs through the book that starts with the front cover, continues through the chapters and I suspect will stay with me after I’ve read the final sentences.

So, why am I reading this book? Why do I read books that creep me out? I have an overactive imagination and images stay with me. In fact, I have been known to put books under my bed when they freak me out, only to dig them out the next day and get scared all over again. Did that stop me from reading every Christopher Pike & R.L. Stine book I could get my hands on when I was a kid? Hell, no.  Does that stop me from reading books that either scare or unnerve me now? (See: Sharp Objects, Fall on Your Knees, We Need to Talk About Kevin) Apparently not.

My first genuinely terrifying book was Stephen King’s Carrie. I was 14 when I borrowed it from my older brother’s book shelf  and was not at all prepared for what awaited me in those pages. I figured that since I knew the story via pop culture, I wouldn’t be *that* scared. Oh-kay. I distinctly remember reading it on a family vacation in the States. My parents and I were on the train from DC to Virginia and I was coming to the realization that the mother in Carrie was FAR more frightening than I’d anticipated. The high school stuff was bad enough; but this religiously psychotic nut was quite a bit beyond anything I’d ever read. I kept reading, forcing myself to get through this book so that I wouldn’t be labeled (by myself) a coward.  I finished it with palpable relief, put it back on the shelf and avoided looking at it for weeks.

Then, a month or so later, I went back to that same bookshelf and grabbed Misery.

I’m almost done Skin and I will be relieved when it’s over. I can remind myself that it’s only a book, that people don’t behave that way in real life and that there is an enormous range of choice in the wide world of literature. But now that I’ve had a taste of Hayder’s work, can I really just turn my back on it and not find out what other adventures her detective goes through? I have to know. Besides, if it’s too freaky, I can just stick it back under my bed.


~ by foodNURD on July 6, 2010.

6 Responses to “Glutton for Literary Punishment”

  1. Stephen King is the MAN!

  2. I used to have to hide The Exorcist on the bookshelf in my room, so that I couldn’t see it. When I eventually saw the movie, I ended up falling asleep. I always totally related to Joey in Friends, having to put the book in the freezer. Also, I never read another book by John Saul after I read Comes the Blind Fury. I barely finished that, and although I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about, and why it terrified me so, I totally remember the title and the skeery girl on the cover. Eeek!

  3. I found out at an early age that scary movies rarely scared me. Books on the other hand, could most definitly give me chills. I remember reading a book called Exquisite Corpse when I was 16. Some of the images from that book still pop up every once and awhile in a nightmare. However, the only book I ever had to literally stop reading was American Psycho. While it never scared me, it definitly made me more than a little uncomfortable in spots.

    Oh and Melly? You forgot The Wicker Man. *g*

    • Yes, I have been told repeatedly to stay away from American Psycho, advice I take seriously. I would never be able to get those images out of my head. As it was, Phil Collins was the only thing that kept me sane during the movie.

    • Man, I TOTALLY forgot The Wicker Man! I also forgot American Psycho, although that one was less terrifying and more “literally made me vomit:. Oy.

  4. […] creeptastically-good read. Just finished up Mo Hayder’s book, Skin. I wrote previously that there were parts of this book that really, really freaked me out and that I would probably be […]

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