Thursday, March 31, 2016

Substantialreads: Goth Girls

Three potential terror tales by women, of all creatures! I'm seeing a pattern here. It wasn't intentional, but I can't abandon it now or I'll look pathetic. Hopefully there won't be much in the way of work come December.

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

1959 / Audiobook / 246 pages / USA


And I thought Librivox readers were dodgy. This is the strangest audiobook experience I've ever had, as I opted out of curiosity for an amateur whispered version on YouTube apparently intended to cause literal eargasms. I'm not sure how my wife would feel if she knew another woman was whispering into my ears in bed while she slept, but I can confirm that it didn't have the effect intended, mainly as I was too distracted by the unpleasant saliva-swilling that accompanied every soft syllable. I switched to the David Warner version by chapter three.

As for the actual book, it's American gothic perfected. Not that that stopped them from carrying on.

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

1976 / Audiobook / 342 pages / USA


I was expecting a reasonable level of schlock and lots of desperately perverse proto-slash titillation, but I wasn't prepared for it to be so ponderously dull too. Presumably massively influential in the genre, but I'm sure we still would have got Buffy without it. I can't speak for Twilight because even if I ever had been a teenage girl, I would have considered that beneath me.

It does have one saving grace in the form of its disturbing child vampire, especially when you learn that that was the author's way of dealing with the tragic loss of her own young daughter. With extratextual darkness like that, I couldn't really dislike it.

V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic

1979 / Audiobook / 400 pages / USA


While she would have sneered at wimpy vampires, my imaginary early '80s teenage girl self doubtless would have boarded this pervy bandwagon. Judging by online reviews, you're not getting the full effect unless you're reading a dog-eared paperback stealthily traded between backpacks, and I can't say it was particularly affecting as an adult. I've spent a lot of my life cooped up indoors, that's no big deal. And at least these brothers and sisters get along, even if they arguably take things too far.

V.C. Andrews is one of the most inherently supernatural authors out there, still managing to pump out sequels decades after her death. We can safely assume that she actually wrote this first one, at least. If the others aren't similarly interminable, that'd be a dead giveaway.

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