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A Disturbing Read

I hate horror movies. Hate, hate, hate them. I tend to get way too involved in the cinematic experience and don’t particularly care for elevated blood pressure behind interlaced fingers for two hours. Well, I hate horror-thrillers and straight out thrillers. Silence of the Lambs and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have left permanent scars. Funny blood and guts stuff like Dead Alive, Re-Animator and Shawn of the Dead I actually do enjoy. All others… I will cry.

This also translates to the written page. I nearly had a heart attack while reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula alone in a haunted house in the deep, dark woods. Scared out of my gourd, I set down the book and yanked on the chain of a rickety standing lamp next to my bed. A long pause. And then, a sinewy creature jumped on top of me. I screamed bloody murder. Vampire assault! I briefly blacked out. Well, as noted, I was in the deep dark woods so I don’t know if I truly blacked out. But eventually I came to and forced logical thoughts into my brain. I reached a timid hand on top of the covers and discovered that the vampire was indeed just the rickety standing lamp which had chosen at that moment to fall on my bed. I stayed wide awake the rest of the night and got the heck out of that house the next morning. I never did finish Dracula.

But I do likes me a good book. And I adore Jon Krakauer. An exciting storyteller, Krakauer masters the art of informing while entertaining. Into Thin Air (doomed expedition to Mt. Everest) and Into the Wild (dead body in abandoned school bus in Alaska) both compellingly explore themes of hubris and death – and especially nature’s force over man. On a side note, I find it kind of odd that many extreme adventurers also love these books as they don’t seem to quite absorb the books’ message.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Anyway, I’m now reading Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith which was published to much recognition a few years ago. The explorations of fundamental Mormonism and tragedies of fundamental religion are a bit of departure for Krakauer yet he writes in his signature direct and powerful way. And I am straight-up hooked. Perhaps, though, I should have paid more attention to the Newsweek-quoted blurb on the back cover: “It is… the creepiest book anyone has written in a long time – and that’s meant as the highest possible praise.”

Um, yeah. This book is by far the scariest, most disturbing thing I’ve probably ever read. I have serious nightmares about this book every night and yet I can’t stop reading it. Fraud, brain-washing, polygamy, incest, delusions, child brides, deformed babies, miscarried blobs of protoplasm, kidnapping, slavery, hoaxes, murder. That’s just the beginning.

Peggers talks about a forced pit stop in Kingman (on a trip to the Grand Canyon, I believe) where the most promising place in town was a bar with a filthy highchair and 8X10 photographs of town lynchings on the walls. Kingman, as it happens, is also a first point of refuge for the souls trying to escape the explosive fundamentalist mormon colony in insolated Colorado City, Arizona. I can’t deal with any of it… but I have to get to the end of the book. I JUST HAVE TO. It’s a a verifiable pulp novel come to life.


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