Posts Tagged ‘hardy boys’

Heart-Shaped Box

June 7, 2011

Yeah that was pretty cool. Have I told you this story on this blog before? When I was a little kid and I hadn’t figured out anything about being queer or about gender or anything but I knew stuff was kind of messed up and I learned really early on not to talk about it, or else the world would end or whatever, I learned that books were safe. Soon afterward, I figured out that since books were safe, they were a safe way to play with things that weren’t safe- like death and fear and monsters (specifically: identifying with monsters). Way later I figured out that it’s the same structure that gives kinky sex power; it’s an old story and it’s not that interesting EXCEPT that when I was really little I bought like forty Hardy Boys books for a dollar at a garage sale, read all of them, moved on to taking the same two Lois Duncan books out of the library over and over (Stranger With My Face and Locked in Time, let the record show), and immediately afterward, sometime during sixth grade, decided that I was grown enough to read the complete works of Dean Koontz and then Stephen King. Horror novels still feel like home, but as I’ve gotten older and classism, racism, sexism, sexual assault as plot device, one-dimensional female characters, and that kind of thing have become more and more frustrating, it’s been harder and harder to just enjoy a stupid ghost book.

And like, this one wasn’t perfect. There’s borderline unnecessary sexual assault, but unlike say in A Visit From the Goon Squad, it’s more than just a plot point; the fact that it’s the crux of the monster’s back story ultimately ends up reinforcing the otherness/alienness/that-doesn’t-happen-hereness of it in real life in a similar but opposite way rape-as-plot-point does, by being like ‘this is an unthinkable and therefore effectively unreal thing that leads to monsters and ghosts.’ Fuck that. But still, I think I’d rather see it integrated into a story as something real that affects the characters affected by it in a way that’s integral to the story. So while that treatment wasn’t perfect, y’know, I thought it was passable. You might think differently.

Otherwise this was pretty sweet. When I get worried about ghosts, I remind myself about the old Japanese folk belief that dogs can fight ghosts, because I have a dog- and this book did a great job of reinforcing that belief. The monster fights were gory as hell and everybody got totally fucked up and wrecked and it was super intense and there is a ghost monster who has a ghost truck and then also the sweet muscle car the main character- kind of a boring rocknroll white dude, when you get down to it, although in more of a sweet/boring Danzig way than a boring/boring Alice Cooper way- fixes up during a halcyon perfect summer ends up with his cool ex in fucking heaven. Yeah, spoiler: an awesome ghost car goes to heaven.

Hill also flirts with kind of gross, like, ‘this is a story about a dude and the women in his life are interchangeable/overlapping/not all the way real people’ stuff, but again manages not to go so far into that that it makes me hate him. So like. It’s not perfect but it’s not totally stupid, either.

Oh and yeah! Ghosts! The monster is pretty awesome. I don’t want to tell you too much about him but y’know just trust me he’s pretty creepy and scary although some of his pre-ghosty times back story sucks.

I guess I’m just rambling. I don’t have a thesis about Heart-Shaped Box. It was pretty fun and by the end I didn’t hate it, which is more than I can say for most books. I’m stoked to read more of Joe Hill. I missed you, horror novels.