What Exactly Is Horror?
*Warning, this post may contain some spoilers for IT by Stephen King
Last year, my husband finally read The Stand at my relentless urging. Of course he loved it, because it’s an incredibly literary work, and now he can’t get his hands on enough King novels.
Earlier this year he read IT and pretty much hasn’t stopped raving. While I’ve read many of King’s novels and consider his one of the greatest novelists of my lifetime, there are a few I’ve avoided because they feel a bit too far over the line in terms of horror.
Along with The Stand, my favorite of King’s novels are The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome. I also love Carrie and Dolores Claiborne. So don’t get me wrong, these books contain all contain the King requisites of horrible human beings committing terrible atrocities and plenty of plain old creepy shit, but none of them fall into what I consider horror.
There’s a difference for me, between scary and horror. I think that comes down to human suffering maybe? Gratuitous violence and torture are where I draw the line, I think…
IT has been a novel I’ve avoided for decades because I get the feeling it would be horror for me. Same with Pet Sematary
I would go so far as to say that my husband knows me better than I know myself. He seems to understand and tolerate my inner workings in ways that even I don’t want to, and I’m stuck with me!
He has asserted that he thinks I’d like IT, that it’s not horror, and or course over and over he’s kept saying It’s such a good book. Plus he wants me to watch the movie with him, which I’ve refused to do so far, and he think I’ll relent once I’ve read the book!
On a recent trip to the library, I spotted a new addition to the Playaway titles and decided to give it a go. My husband was thrilled.
I started the audio book last week on a morning walk with my dog. By the time I got home I was only about 20 pages in and IT had already scared the crap out of me. I figured that wasn’t enough to make a fair assessment so I took it with me when I ran errands that afternoon and decided to make it my “car book.”
After a few more listening “sittings,” I’m now about 60 pages in and I don’t think I can handle it. I told my husband this over dinner on Monday night and he was surprised.
“Really? I didn’t find it scary at all…” He seemed genuinely perplexed.
“A clown kills a little boy in a storm drain. That’s terrifying.”
“Is it?” He shrugged “Well, you should keep going anyway, it’s so freaking good.”
I’ve decided to stop IT for now, and maybe return to it at a different time, perhaps reading it on my own instead of listening to the audio book. The narrator certainly adds a chilling giggle to Pennywise that I would not have created on my own!
I feel it’s important to add here that I’m not afraid of clowns – never have been. All my life I’ve been fascinated by mascots and related costumed figures, I still love them, but never have been scared. But I mean seriously, look at that creature, it’s meant to induce nightmares. I suppose if I didn’t have the images of Pennywise in my head maybe it wouldn’t be as scary to me, but I doubt it. I think it’s the fact that something might be lurking in every gosh darn storm drain that gives me the heebie jeebies.
On the other hand, my husband is NOT a fan of clowns. He blames this light fixture which stared down at him from his bedroom ceiling for the entirety of his childhood.
As I mention regularly, part of the reason I enjoy writing about books is for the opportunity to explore how we all relate differently to the same content. Often, this can be explained by life experience. For example my friends who are mothers often feel differently about certain books than i do because I am not a mom.
In this case, I’m not sure why my husband and I have a lot of overlap when it comes to King, yet not here. It’s interesting to us both, for sure. What’s your take on it?
What are your thoughts on IT and other works by King? Or other in the horror genre?