I thought I would follow up my recent post about contemporary American horror movies by sharing this new list from Lit Hub called “10 Works of Literary Horror You Should Read.” The author, Emily Temple, doesn’t really try to define the term “literary horror” and admits it may not be possible. She mentions the importance of elevated prose, but even that term can be hard to define.
A number of books that made the list I’ve read, and I ordered a few that I haven’t, including A Head Full of Ghosts, which is on my list to read next. Of this list, Let the Right One In and House of Leaves (which I just finished) are my favorite. Let the Right One In Takes every single vampire trope and turns it upside down. The book, like a lot of great horror, deals with otherness even more so than the film adaptation, which I also recommend. I’m teaching the book and film when I teach Horror Film and Lit next academic year.
House of Leaves reminds me of Infinite Jest in so many ways. Like David Foster Wallace’s work, it has so many fractured narratives and tells even more of the story through exhaustive, extensive footnotes. However, unlike Infinite Jest, House of Leaves really plays with the physical structure of a book, what it looks like, how we read it, how text and white space are used. The book is challenging, but well worth the read. It’s a post-modern ghost story that plays with all of the conventions, but it’s also a love story.
I would add one more book to this list,, Ring by Koji Suzuki, which spawned the very famous movie and the J-horror trend. The book differs in many ways from the American film adaptation. It deals a lot more with how we share information and what effect that has, beyond the distribution of a disturbing video tape that is one of the main narrative arcs. The novel offers a broader critique of 24-7 news cycles, tabloids, and consumer culture. Though the book was published in 2004, it feels increasingly relevant for the social media age that we live in.