Horror


Book cover of The Thirteenth TaleWas anyone else frustrated that the ghost was always really just the Janitor in Scooby-Doo? Diane Setterfield, author of gothic suspense books The Thirteenth Tale and Bellman & Black was. Today in her own writing she feels that she is doing injustice to real human experience if she explains all the spooky stuff away in the end.

Diane, Rosetta Allan, author of New Zealand Victorian ghost story Purgatory and Coral Atkinson, author of Lyttelton interwar spiritualism story Passing Through joined Liam McIlvanney to discuss all things historically ghostly as part of WORD Christchurch.

Real-life events inspired Rosetta and Coral to tackle historical subjects. Coral grew up surrounded by her father’s collection of historic swords and today feels that things from the past help her to write about it. She gathers photos, archival sources and objects from the era she is writing  to illuminate scenes and eras, sometimes basing scenes from her novels on old photographs. Coral is ever trying to avoid the ‘rock in the river’ when it comes to using all this historical detail though. All the authors agreed that historical accuracy shouldn’t take readers out of the story, but needs to be seamlessly worked in.

Book cover of PurgatoryRosetta’s novel, Purgatory, was based on a piece of family history she first heard from her father, notorious for his tall-tales. When she found out the story was true, Rosetta was inspired to start work on Purgatory. During a visit to the site of the murders, Rosetta felt he presence of John and so he became the ‘hero’ of the story.

Condensing significant historical events into personal stories was a challenge that faced all the authors. Diane finds it helpful to come at big events “slightly slant-ways” and Rosetta always wants to “find the personal story” in larger things. Coral is mindful that her characters “represent hundreds of thousands of other people” and wanted to show that things “go on and on” with disasters and tragedies, they are not just forgotten once the era has ended.Book cover of Passing Through

The authors finished by citing some influential writers:

Beyond the veil: Historical ghost stories

Coral Atkinson, Rosetta Allen, and Diane Setterfield.

cover for HalloweenI think I’m going to put on my crusty curmudgeon hat and say “I hate Halloween”. I’m the sort of person who when kids come trick or treating says “your costumes look neat but we don’t do Halloween here”.

Why? Well let’s start with:

  • When did we start celebrating Halloween? Only in the last 10 or 15 years when the chain stores realised there was a buck to be made. Then they started promoting it like it had always been a Kiwi thing.
  • Allegedly it’s a time for kids to have fun but really it seems more like a thing for adults. They are either having Halloween parties and dressing up, or they are dressing up their kids.
  • It represents the triumph of American culture – Halloween is very much an American tradition which we have seen in films and television.
  • In many parts of the world All Saints Day is a time to remember the dead – not scary ghouls but real people you loved and who have died. The commercial takeover seems crass.
  • Halloween rituals make sense in the northern hemisphere where bonfires and lanterns are light against the encroaching darkness of the long Northern winter. Not so much in springtime New Zealand where the days are lighter and longer.

How do you feel about Halloween?

cover for Celebrating the southern seasonsAn alternative to Halloween which is green and rooted in Aotearoa’s cycle of seasons and cultural influences is suggested: National Green Day. Perfect for high spring: planting rituals like getting your tomatoes in, planting and enjoying fragrant native plants, harvesting the ti (tea tree), the return of pipiwharauroa (the shining cuckoo), enjoying the song of the riroriro (grey warbler).

Anyway grumps over – if Halloween is your bag we have lots of stuff to help celebrate the day:

I learnt of a new genre this week and fell in love with a zombie for the second time. Zom-Rom-Com is a romantic comedy featuring a zombie as a leading romantic lead.

He’s cute, endearing and with a droll and funny sense of humour. He’s ‘R’ and he’s the zombie hero of Warm Bodies, a great Young Adult book by Isaac Marion that I really enjoyed last year, and is now a great new movie out in the theaters at present.

We have all got used to the lovable if troubled vampire, via the  True Blood television series, the books it was based on by Charlene Harris, and of course the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer that spurned a generation of movie vampire heart throbs.

But Zombies? They eat people, and they’re dead, so where’s the appeal? R doesn’t remember his past, just a shuffling existence around a deserted airport terminal in a post apocalyptic world. The remaining humans who have been spared the virus that has turned most of the world to zombies are holed up in a fortress and when R meets Julie, the daughter of leader of the human resistance, something sparks his humanity and he spares her, and becomes determined to save her and in the process saves himself.

The humour is great. In the movie there is a scene where ‘R’ tries to remember what life was like before, his voice over talks of a romanticised view of people connecting, loving, enjoying each other’s company, and we find ourselves looking at a busy airport terminal where everyone is connected alright, but to phones, computers, i-pods, all together but disconnected.

In both the book and the movie, the horror that is usually at the core of Zombie-hood is not at the core of the story, but love, acceptance and taking risks for others are.

Warm Bodies is a great story and has been made into a great movie, a faithful film recreation of a unique written story that is often hard to find.

Search catalogue for I remember youWhat sort of book makes a grown woman sleep with her light on? I have to admit I am only three-quarters through Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s book I Remember You and I am not sure I can complete it. When you get up half way through a sentence to make sure all the doors are locked and the windows closed then you know rather than enjoying the written word you are bordering on a panic attack.

Based partly in an isolated village (of course) in the Icelandic Westfjords we watch as three friends try to do up a derelict old house when they realise they are not alone. In the light of day you may accuse me of being a wimp but when you are snuggled up in bed at night all it took was a creak somewhere in my house for  me to question if my heart had stopped beating. I will finish this book – but only in daylight. If you are braver than me and love the feeling of all the prickly bits on the back of your neck standing up then check out this author.

Are there any other authors out there I should avoid reading at nighttime? I don’t have the nerve endings I once had!

Tired of searching for stuff to read? Fret not, for there is a whole new way: let the books find you.

It’s easy as – just take a deep breath, calm your racing heart and step into a library, secure in the belief that the right book will, if not exactly jump off the shelf at you, at least seep in your direction.

Cover: Knit Your Own ZombieHere’s three of the books that found their way to me this month:

First up was Knit your own Zombie by Fiona Goble. A lovely colleague pointed this book out to me when I confessed that I would soon be knitting for my first grandchild. He steered me firmly away from the cute little knitted bunnies that I’d been eyeing, to this book of  eight full zombie characters who come with escaping entrails and velcroed appendages.

Forget stress balls and meditation and discover the insane pleasure of tearing their 100 percent little wool heads off.

Completely unsuitable for bebe on so many levels, but you gotta love the new craft movements that take old skills and whack them, with attitude, into the twenty-first century!

Cover: How to Be GayThe next shelf-jumper was How to be Gay by David M. Halperin. This is the sort of book that you don’t especially want to be seen clutching at in public, irrespective of your sexual orientation. But it is a great (albeit quite academic) read. The author is the founder of the LGBTQ course at the University of Michigan. His main argument is that gayness (particularly male gayness) is much more than a sexual orientation and is, in fact, a learned cultural orientation:

Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to become one.

Halperin’s studies have incensed conservatives, fundamentalists and many gays as well. If you thought you were going to get décor hints and help to become a more stylish dresser, or that this read would be a fun romp that would help you blend in at the next Gay Parade, then this is not the book for you.

Instead, you might prefer the quintessentially British Hedge Britannia by Hugh Barker. Sub-titled A curious history of a British Obsession, this book lured me in at Fendalton Library – Christchurch’s Hedge Cover: Hedge BritanniaHeartland. It is a delightful read in which I learned all sorts of useless facts: that hedgerows have been around since Neolithic times and that Rockingham Castle has a stunning, rolling elephant hedge.  Wars over hedges haven’t been fought… yet, but hedge rage runs rife, and peeing on certain hedges can kill them.

I’d never have searched out these books because I didn’t even know they existed. So, a big thanks to all the wonderful displays put up by library staff around Christchurch, you help the books find me.

How about you, read any good shelf-jumpers lately?  Share, please do!

I seem to be on a visual kick at the moment – I have managed to gather a huge pile of graphic novels recently, and am finding some real gems. I don’t know whether it’s an attempt by my poor pre-Christmas brain to cope with the insanity of all the lists in my head, or the fact that there’s so much tinsel everywhere I’ve just given in and succumbed to the visual madness.

Luckily for me, other people seem to be thinking the same way – many of the books I’m reading have been returns from other customers, and I’ve just scooped them straight off the Recent Returns shelf.  Others have been ordered by our clever buying team, and appear on my holds shelf. A few are old favourites, some are titles I just didn’t manage to read when they were first published, and some are brand new.  Here’s a few of the titles I’m loving right now.

  • Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series – consistently great story-telling, lovely artwork, and a steady supply of titles make this one of my consistent favourite graphic novel series
  • Staying within the family, dad Stephen King’s current graphic adaptation of The Stand. I think I’ve had a wee moan before that some of the other adaptations of King’s work have not been so great, but this series is outstanding.
  • Kick Ass 2 – this is one I never got around to reading when it was first published.  Book 1 is fab, as is the movie (although as with most of the titles in this post, needs to be read/watched away from young and delicate minds).  Here’s hoping with book 2.
  • Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always. I’ve always loved Clive Barker, although sometimes he scares me – I’m hoping that this graphic novel will do the same! Also the cover reminded me of one of my favourite movies – Monster House – so that’s got to be a good thing …
  • The Underwater Welder arrived on my holds shelf as highly recommended by someone or something I can’t remember. The title confused me every time I looked at my reserve list – visions of some unholy mixture of Jacques Cousteau and that ’80s music video from Flashdance, but reviews are glowing and the artwork looks promising.
  • Memorial is another one that I must have seen and requested at some point. Again, I don’t know much about it, but it looks pretty, and sounds weird – just my cup of tea.
  • And finally, Tune.  I’m reading this already, and adoring it!  I may even try to squeeze it on to my Best Of list. It’s rude, and clever, and laugh-out-loud funny.  The art is perfect, it’s full of nerdy pop-culture references, and basically what I’m saying here is: find it, read it, and love it!

Halloween is great fun for adults and kids alike. It’s not far away so it’s time to make crafts and decorations and think about some spooky food and costumes for your celebration.

Other cool stuff:

See if your local library has their decorations up.

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