Scary things

I’m not very into scary things. This is going to be a lame Halloween post. I realize I’ve got a strange relationship to Halloween, now that I think about why the holiday doesn’t interest me much — I celebrated Halloween in the normal way for a while when I was a kid, maybe until I was 5 or 6, but at that point because of the evangelical Christianity I’ve written about recently, my parents decided Halloween wasn’t an appropriate holiday for us to celebrate and I never dressed up to go trick-or-treating afterward. Instead, we had Halloween-replacement parties of one sort or another — usually just regular old parties at our church with food and games, and we’d pretend they were as cool as real Halloween parties.

So I have a very short history of dressing up and getting into the pagan spirit of the holiday, and I haven’t gotten back into it as an adult. The Hobgoblin, good pagan that he is, makes up for my lack of spirit a little bit; as I type, he’s downstairs carving pumpkins. We’ll pass out candy to the neighborhood kids, and that’s about it.

I can be such a spoil-sport sometimes. Actually, intellectually, I’m interested in the holiday and think it has a fascinating history, but when it comes to celebrating — I just have never really felt comfortable with it.

And, continuing with the theme of me not being comfortable with things, I’m not particularly interested in scary books — or movies too, for that matter. Scary movies really scare me, to the extent that I stop having fun. I don’t really understand the enjoyment people feel in being scared by them. For me, it’s not a pleasurable fright; it’s a “please, please, please make it stop!!!” kind of fright. So I don’t watch scary movies much. I can’t remember the last one I saw.

I’m a tiny bit better about scary books, but I can only say that because I just read Dracula, which I didn’t find all that scary. If I were to pick up a Stephen King horror novel, I have no idea how I’d take it. Except for Dracula, I can’t remember the last scary novel I read.

I’m willing to work on this, though — unlike scary movies, I might be able to handle scary books. I think I did okay this season, adding one scary novel to my usual list of staid realist fiction. Perhaps next year I’ll read two of them. And maybe I’ll choose something likelier to scare me than Dracula. The farther away things are in time, they less likely they are to scare us, perhaps? Older horror and gothic novels from the 18C and 19C are more likely to be funny than scary, I think.

Any recommendations for this reader who’s afraid of being afraid?

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