Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Stuff: Wondertales. Not pony tales or goblin tales . . .

In the time-honored debate regarding the relative value of supernatural versus naturalistic horror, one seldom hears somebody espouse a middle-way alternative to the viewpoints each end of the spectrum. Harold Schechter, one-man true crime book factory and the editor of the new True Crime: An American Anthology, laid out the intriguing ground work for just such a position in a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch.

From his interview:

Q: When a drug dealer shoots someone in a drive-by we barely notice. What sorts of true crimes most intrigue us?

A: From childhood on, there's a deep hunger in our lives for what folklorists call "wondertales": stories that shock, thrill and amaze. Every now and then, a crime comes along that seems like something out of one of the Grimms' more nightmarish fantasies: wicked parents who slaughter their own children, or ghoulish predators who haunt the night, or cannibal ogres who devour the innocent. These are the crimes that resonate most powerfully in the popular imagination - that become part of our cultural mythology.

I like how this suggests that sort of unified theory of what attracts us to horror and folds the supernatural and naturalistic elements into a larger argument. Sadly, Schechter and his interviewer don’t pursue this thread any further. Still, the interview is interesting for what it says about the traditions and future of what might truly be, along with mass-market romance, one of the last “disreputable” genres.


Sasquatchan said...

His interview tracks with some of your other diaries about true crime, torture porn/reality of it, and fictional horror..

The boogie man is one thing, but to read about actual psychotics is much more unsettling.. I can laugh at someone getting disembowled on Hostel, but reading about Albert Fish creeps me out..

(Curse the work filter that now lists you as "violence" :( )

OCKerouac said...

I'll go a step further. When we can find true life stories to match the ghosts and monsters of our imagination it lessens the fear of the real-life ogres that we all know exist. I know my personal fascination with the true crime genre came from being scared out of my wits as a youth by 'The Night Stalker' Richard Ramirez...

By seeing Ramirez as a 'ghoul', no different than Jason or Freddie, than my only fleetingly rational fear of being murdered by a real-life serial killer is deminished by my wholly irrational fear of being murdered by a fictional character. Suffice it to say Schecter, while scaring the beejeebus out of me, has helped greatly with my desire to 'fictionalize' the world's real monsters.

On another note, I agree with Sassy. It's a bummer I can't get your stuff at work any longer, but take pride in knowing I'll still seek out your posts even when I'm NOT captive at my office... :)

CRwM said...

So both Sassy and Doc OCK are getting locked out. Perhaps I need to do that long delayed "Cute Puppies versus Cuddly Kittens: Can't We Have Both?" series until I'm off the psycho list.