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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Thrilling Thursday: Reading in the Dark

Creepy ghost stories, misery memoirs, grisly crime novels: what is it about the dark that makes us seek it out in fiction? It's the same with TV and film and on occasion, let's face it, the news (*ahem* riot coverage *ahem*).

Is it like the car crash rubbernecker thing?

Although I would want to reject that, I suspect there is something to it. Perhaps it's a cathartic impulse: experiencing scary/nasty/dark things vicariously allows us to explore what we would do in those circumstances or gives us some kind of psychological benefit.

Following the #YAsaves furore, I read a great post on The Edge blog reporting on a panel discussion about what is appropriate for teen readers.  The title of the post was Reading is Safe. Perhaps that's what it is - a safe place from which to observe scariness. It's possible that reading about it is better than viewing it either in real life (as in the car crash) or on screen, since we have (arguably) some measure of control over the images in our minds, whereas once something is seen, it can't be unseen. Maybe that's why films are rated and books, as yet, aren't, although of course there are those who think they should be.

Personally, I don't read misery memoirs, and don't expect I ever would - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy the experience. I'm not a horror fan (in books or on-screen), but I do enjoy 'edgy' teen fiction, and I'll happily read fairly violent crime novels, thrillers and fantasy. I think that I enjoy tiptoeing around the edges of the dark like this as simple entertainment from my position of safety, but it may also serve a deeper psychological purpose.

How far into the dark do you venture? And what do you think the attraction is?

4 comments:

  1. Edgy teen fiction was written for me. I'm positive of that :)

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  2. I'm not a fan of horror in books or movies either.

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  3. Like you, I'm not a fan of misery memoirs or horror, and I probably tiptoe around the edges of the dark. I like some edgy YA faction, but I'm not into gratuitous violence or anything too grisly (although I love Kathy Reichs's books).

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  4. Thanks for commenting. Seems like none of us are big horror fans.

    @brookerousseau: Kathy Reichs is one of my favourite crime writers too!

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