I’ve long been interested in fear. How and why artists construct it. How and why we consume it. The challenges of mastery (and, of course, the pleasures of escape) in the face of fear draw many of us into a complicated psychological and cultural dance.
It’s not like we have a choice, really. We dance regardless. Fear is one of the most fundamental of experiences, something that everyone must confront and process. (Be wary of types who strut around with “No Fear” emblazoned on their bumpers or shirtfronts. They are either pathetic liars or deluded fools.) If we choose to read Greg F. Gifune’s novels or watch John Carpernter's movies, these are just ways of channeling feelings we already know.
The decision to engage with the dark arts may seem curious given our historical moment. We might well ask why we need dark mirrors for the realities of an era characterized by pandemic fear-mongering ushered in by a commander-in-chief who seems to lack command of even his own most basic—and brutish—impulses. To me, the answer to this is that the perspective provided by such mirrors may help us better see and deal with the often-monstrous facts of the contemporary world: Perseus was able, after all, to defeat Medusa because he could see her reflection.
With that in mind, this notebook will present my of encounters with the fearful in books. These notes will undoubtedly be rather disjointed ones, coming as they do as reflections on specific texts read in no particular order. The goal is that despite this that they will take on a reasonable semblance of focus in that they all deal, more or less, with the ways and means of fear, the hows and whys of its production and consumption.
Readers should be forewarned that these reflections are written for readers who are already familiar with the texts in question: in other words, here there be spoilers.