Friday, 25 May 2012

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading - William Styron

When I was young, I read horror stories.  A fact that surprises me still.  It's so very alien to me now.  Indeed, I even watched horror films.  I don't know why, exactly.  Although I don't ever remember taking them seriously.  They felt like caricatures of some cartoon world.  So obviously unreal. 

Today, I admit to finding the whole idea a tad more sinister.  There's enough horror in reality without searching for it in entertainment.

It was The Omen series that finally spooked me.  Scared the living daylights out of me, actually.  And set me on the road away from the genre.  Indeed, I would read it from behind the protection of a cushion.  Or two.  Totally spooked. 

I think it was because it cited the bible.  That somehow felt too real.  And then I attended Surrey University, and my room looked out onto the cathedral used in the film.  And then it was too real.  A tangible reminder of that inexplicable fear.  For another four whole years.

Then there was Jaws.  I only read the book years after seeing the film.  By then, it was an attempt at catharsis, not a search for thrills. 

When the film came out, I was affronted to be deemed by my mother "far too young" to watch it.  It was a horror story too far.  Hence, I was obliged to await the release of Jaws II.  I caught up with Jaws only after that.

But it was not a disappointment.  We came out of the cinema exhausted.  And I carried the experience with me for weeks afterwards.  Maybe it was because we lived on an island.  We walked the cliff heads overlooking the sea during our play.  We walked the breakwater, dangled feet into the crashing waves off the coast.  Waded in during summer sunshine.  After Jaws, we became wary.  Would we ever think it safe to go back in the water?

My attempt at catharsis was not successful.  The written word seemed only to reinforce the images, rather than rationalise them.  When I'm in the sea today, I still hear the music.  I still expect a fin to appear behind a nearby lilo.  Or from amongst a group of screaming children.  I look for it.  Wait for it.  

What an incredible creation.  Still uniting a generation of readers and cinema goers by the more or less powerful apprehension of what lies in the deep.  By the flurry of uncontrollable emotions enveloped in that one word: Jaws.  You're going to need a bigger boat...

1 comment:

  1. I blame Jaws for my fear of swimming in the sea, which was a real issue when I went travelling. Everyone else was having a wonderful time snorkelling in exotic locations when I could barely put my face under the water in the shallows to see the one star fish that was there.