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The Unexpected Thrill of Reading My Friend’s Horror Book
My friend Diane asked me to tell her what I thought about her new book of stories, Trips to the Edge.
“Sure,” I said, always up for a good read. But then she told me it was a book of “horror” stories. Ugh, I thought. Not my genre. I told her so.
“But they’re not slasher or anything,” she argued.
“I’ll do my best,” I said. The closest thing I’d read to horror in a long time was Lovely Bones. And I’d only read that because the writing was so good.
I imagined that I’d get through it, give my friend a thumbs up for the writing. And then, as I did with Lovely Bones, try to forget the content.
The stories sat on my computer for a month. Diane sent me a little note, “Do you like my stories?”
I was reminded of the days when I wrote poetry, and my best friend at the time said she didn’t like poetry. At all. That hurt. I already told Diane that I didn’t like her genre. I didn’t want to tell her now that I didn’t like her stories. I’ve been a writer for my entire life, and I know such feedback is never personal. But how come it FEELS personal?
Then one Sunday afternoon which was ripe with boredom, I opened the file of horror. Story one started with the narrator taking a walk in the woods and getting sucked into a parallel universe. Okay, I’m a sucker for parallel universes. I LOVED the Lion Witch and Wardrobe as a child, and one of my all-time favorite stories is the Wizard of Oz. I don’t know why this is true. Maybe because as a writer, you often LIVE in the parallel universe of your imagination.
In any case, reading further, the story reminded me of tales that I read of Edgar Allen Poe years ago. Sinister. But oh, so engaging. You get invited into this world that is truly “out of this world,” and you follow your curiosity from there. And you almost don’t want to, because you know it’s going to be bad. And yet, you keep going.
And these stories are sinister, yes, very Poe-like in that regard. But in a way that is more thrilling than morose. More good than evil, or at least with balanced scales and highly adept writing to “cut” the dark.
One of the stories, with a very twisted menu for us fantasy readers, made me think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, but with Diane’s other-worldly, dare I say magickal touch. The last story is an evil revenge fantasy that somehow is also funny. In fact, after reading Trips to the Edge, I want to go read The Cask of Amontillado all over again. Or no, wait, that’s not what I want. I want to read Diane’s next collection!