Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


An Inoculation Against the Darkness

A few posts back, I shared quotes from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, including this one about the protagonist finding another character attractive because her favorite short story is so dark:
It's Amy's favorite. (She seems so sweet on the surface, no?) Amy and I do not always have the exact same taste in things, but this I like.

When she told me it was her favorite, it suggested to me strange and wonderful things about her character that I had not guessed, dark places that I might like to visit.

People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?
I don't do much in the way of true horror, either movies or books, but I have always very much been drawn to stories that are dark. Though there can be crossover, it's not about gore or shocking, suspenseful fear or the details of dastardly deeds, but about atmosphere and anxiety. It's about exploring, without going too deeply, the darkness within each of us and the potential ways it might creep out if not dealt with in healthy ways. Insight--and growth--can be gained from facing this truth.

For instance, from my review of Kathleen Duey's Sacred Scars, the second book in a series that is not at all horror but one I consider very dark:
Hate is complicated. So are all of our feelings and motives. And evil is insidious, finding a way to taint even the best of intentions. No matter how infrequently he actually enters this story in the flesh, Somiss is the primary influence on every character in it, worming his way into everything they think and feel and manipulating them for his own purposes and pleasures. I want so badly for Sadima and Hahp to find happiness, for Franklin to realize his dreams of using magic to fight injustice and end suffering, for all of the people we encounter in Limori to overcome, but that will never happen with Somiss around and I hate him for it. But it’s complicated.
Still, even when I have articulated my attraction to dark stories in particular contexts like that, I've never quite been able to put my finger on what it is about the type I find appealing. Until now. Neil Gaiman, as he so frequently does, has said it beautifully. This comes from a post at Brain Pickings about his new telling of Hansel & Gretel. In talking about why he chose to retell that story, he got into why so many of our classic, lasting stories for children deal with darkness:
I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.

And for me, the thing that is so big and so important about the darkness is [that] it’s like in an inoculation… You are giving somebody darkness in a form that is not overwhelming — it’s understandable, they can envelop it, they can take it into themselves, they can cope with it.

And, it’s okay, it’s safe to tell you that story — as long as you tell them that you can be smart, and you can be brave, and you can be tricky, and you can be plucky, and you can keep going.
An inoculation against the darkness, giving you just enough to help you learn to deal with the real thing when it shows up. That's it. That's it exactly.


At 11/06/2014 9:57 AM, Blogger CDL said...

I like and read dark stories for the same reason some read sport stories or GLBT or whatever. I can see myself. I don't feel like I'm the only one or alone. It's not a part of me I often feel vulnerable enough to share, esp. when I was younger. We are all supposed to be happy happy!

Some of us aren't.


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