The Shiver Down The Spine
Unsettling, weird adventures is what I would describe the sort of mysteries I like to read–not really mysteries in an Agatha Christie sense but “mysterious” in a thematic way. I’ve been thinking back to the mysteries I read as a kid, and I admit I started out with Nancy Drew just like everyone else. But it was only after a few books that I began to wander off to other literary locations.
It’s been a long time since I read The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder but I recall it was one of the few books I really enjoyed because I reread it a couple of times. It was weird and unsettling and, well, I just loved that. I wasn’t sure what the other kids were reading, but it definitely wasn’t this. It might be a Newbery Honor book, but no one was recommending it. In fact, I had originally stumbled upon it in the back of the library stacks where no one bothered to go. And with my fond memories of it, I’ll probably track down a copy some time soon and read it again despite the fact that these days, I rarely do rereads.
That positive experience with that genre was probably why I also got sucked into Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It had a similar unsettling weirdness that really hit the spot with my fiction cravings. And then later it was H.P. Lovecraft–I wasn’t introduced to him until I was already in college. It’s probably also why I tried writing in the genre the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo. After all, why not write in a genre that you love?
Yes, I’m aware that there are similar, more famous books out there. But they simply don’t have that unsettling/weird style. Some of them are clever, of course, like The Eight and The Fire by Katherine Neville, but I like them because they are clever–the style isn’t really unsettling or weird. And as for Dan Brown, I don’t find him unsettling, weird, or clever. It’s less about the fantastic in fiction and more about crackpot ideas pulverized for mass consumption.
Anyways, in the same vein, I’ve been trying out some gothic fiction in the hopes that I can find more books in that same unsettling/weird style. Recently, I’m inching along The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Unfortunately, I keep getting distracted by other things.