Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hell House

It might be a completely ridiculous way to look at life, but everytime I ride some miles, lift a little more weight than before, write, or finish a book -- I feel that I am stronger, even if in a completely miniscule way. It might be all a little much in terms of a worldview, but if it keeps me motivated, then good enough. Its certainly not hurting anybody.

I just finished a reall terrific novel entitled Hell House by Richard Matheson. I came to know of him through the original Twilight Zone episodes and the writing community that generated them (of which he obviously was a member). Its not quite Paris in the 20's with Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but its an exceptional example of what happens when writers get together under the right circumstances and conditions. This all lead me to want to read his major works, which lead me to easily one of the greatest haunted house stories of all time -- Hell House. I don't want to spoil the plot at all, but its about a haunted house and you can pretty much guess the rest. Its straightforward and very much a genre piece, but that is selling it far too short. Aside from being one of the better horror stories I've ever read, it ended up striking me as a fairly direct commentary on the 60's generation. It was published in 1971 and contains a great deal of promiscuity and rampant sexual deviance -- a pretty clear reference to the decade that had to be in Matheson's mind. Considering that the sexual content in the novel is treated in the most negative terms and is framed as the core of the problems/hauntings in the house, one could guess that Matheson was not too fond of the social changes the previous decade brought forth. Maybe, and maybe not. It could just be part of the adult, gore factor that Clive Barker later would put on steroids, or maybe like all truly great horror stories (zombie stories in particular), it tells us something specific about the wages of a given sin or a specific behavior via a spooky tale. John Carpenter asserts that Halloween was not supposed to be a conservative film, but its hard to buy that denial when the only person that survives Michael Myers is the virgin. I googled around and I can't find a person out there that has written on this aspect of the novel, so maybe I'm completely off base. In the end I don't care too much because I wanted to read a scary book and thats exactly what I got. The most important thing to take away: Its a great read and people should check it out.

The novel did get me thinking about another favorite book that crystalized so many of my thoughts on the society of the 50's and 60's -- The Lost City. I can't explain how much the book taght me and showed me. It easily is one of the most informative books I've ever read. I checked it out initially because it has a focus on the sociological history of the neighborhood I grew up in, but soon learned so much more from it. I cannot recommend this book enough. It changed the entire lens in which I view this century.

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