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OT: what part does "reactive uncleanliness" play in weird horror?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2021 11:54AM
I had an interesting thought: in much of the weird fiction I've read, there is an element of instinctively repugnant content, and by this I mean that reading the passage(s) is very likely to inspire a sort of ingrained reaction to something that the reader has been conditioned to see as "unclean" or in some fashion repellent. I mean this as an almost subliminal response, and those of you who have seen Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" will understand what I mean when I relate what I'm talking about the the sequence with the supposed "stink spirit" in the bath house.

So for CAS we have a sort of direct description of rotting corpses, as in The Isle of the Torturers, in HPL, some of his descriptions conjure a sense of repugnance, as well, but really, both CAS and HPL are the veriest tyros when compared to Ligotti or Barker, some of whose work makes me want to vomit, then bathe immediately.

Fortunately, I'm able to master this impulse and plow steadfastly forward to complete the piece--but not without cost. ;^)

It seemed to me that the use of this sort of material can be orchestrated by a skillful author to achieve a desired effect--whether in weird fiction or otherwise--and I wonder if others have noticed this, or read something scholarly about this stylistic device.

Thoughts/opinions, fellow CASers?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 14 Feb 21 | 12:13PM by Sawfish.

Re: OT: what part does "reactive uncleanliness" play in weird horror?
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2021 12:24PM
I think it’s a fine balance, though - ie, between evoking a shiver of disgust and completely grossing out the reader. Stephen King has a fondness for this sort of thing (or he used to) which puts him squarely in the pulp camp for me. At the other end of the spectrum, maybe The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar?

As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of "dead! dead!" absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once -- within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk -- crumbled -- absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome -- of detestable putridity.

Re: OT: what part does "reactive uncleanliness" play in weird horror?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2021 01:22PM
YECHHH!

;^)

But it occurs to me that there is room for a bit of this--especially by implication rather than by direct description.

E.g., in reading James Ellroy's Black Dahlia, I felt this subliminal revulsion in places, although very little was directly described in the content.

Here's a good example, too: Buffalo Bill, both the persona and his actions, from The Silence of the Lambs, inspired this same feeling. Portrayal of lepers--without even actually *seeing* their diseased parts--too, gives this sense.

If this response exists reliably in others besides just me, I believe that this sort of evocative portrayal can be orchestrated for intended effect by a skillful writer/artist.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: OT: what part does "reactive uncleanliness" play in weird horror?
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2021 02:23PM
Yeah, I think it’s generally better when it's implied - e.g. that scene in Scarface where the guy’s head gets cut in two with a chainsaw? We never actually see any of the gory details, but there’s more than enough information for us to figure out what’s going on.

And in The Silence of Lambs - to the best of my memory - I don’t think we ever see Buffalo Bill kill anybody (let alone skin them).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 14 Feb 21 | 02:24PM by Cathbad.

Re: OT: what part does "reactive uncleanliness" play in weird horror?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2021 02:52PM
I think you're right.

We see him working cheerfully on a new outfit, using what we know to be human skin, but really don't see much else.

Add to this, we know Buffalo Bill to be a degenerate of the first water...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish



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