Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Five Unsettling Stories by Kirsty Eagar


Five Unsettling Stories
by
Kirsty Eagar


1. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, first published in 1954

This is the novel that was used as inspiration for the Will Smith movie of the same name in 2007. I enjoyed the book more. It’s a vampire novel, but not as we know it, in that many of the vampires tend to attack in a mindless blood frenzy that’s more in keeping with the zombies of 28 Days Later.

What makes this book so unsettling isn’t the vampires. It’s the fact that the main character, Robert Neville, is facing them alone. He’s the last human left.

From the speaker, over the hallway door, the music of Schonberg was playing loudly.
Not loudly enough, though. He still heard them outside, their murmuring and their walkings about and their cries, their snarling and fighting among themselves. Once in a while a rock or brick thudded off the house. Sometimes a dog barked.
And they were all there for the same thing.



Terrifying. I’ve been enjoyably frightened by a lot of Stephen King’s work, and I love his writing, but Pet Sematary is different. It goes further. And in saying that, I’m not necessarily recommending it. Because it affected me so much I wished I’d never read it. I don’t think I could read it again now I’m a parent.


A big, sprawling story in which King takes you through the labyrinth of childhood fears. But what makes it unsettling are his depictions of ‘everyday’ evil: abuse, bullying and violence.

4. Any scary story told at night when you are sleeping in a strange place

I grew up on a cattle property and I was allowed to camp out with my friends from about the time I was ten (presumably because it was the country and the most trouble you could get into was smoking). We’d frighten ourselves stupid by telling scary stories at night when we were all in the tent. Mostly they were the same old stories recycled over and over, but that didn’t mean they lost any of their power.



I first read this when I was seven or eight and I still read it regularly – it’s one of my all-time favourite novels. Beautiful, surreal, subversive and, yes, unsettling. Hard to believe?

Moominpappa has a kind of mid-life crisis because he doesn’t feel needed by his family anymore. So he relocates everybody to an island where he will operate a lighthouse and they will be forced to need him again. They’re expecting the island to be idyllic. Instead they find a wild, eerie place that’s at the mercy of the sea. The previous lighthouse operator has abandoned his post and may or may not be the fisherman living at the other end of the island who won’t talk. Trees and shrubs are trying to uproot themselves because something is coming and they’re terrified. Little My murders a colony of ants. And Moomintroll falls in love a sea-horse.

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