Reading Horror in the Trump Era

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This is a guest post from Stacey Loscalzo. Stacey is a writer, reader, mother and used-to-be reading specialist. Follow her on Twitter @staceyloscalzo.

I suffer from ‘Trump-Induced-Lack-Of-Reading-Syndrome’. Before November 8th, I read constantly. I began reading as a child and never stopped. I know many people say this but to give you some perspective, I brought Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with me to the hospital when I went into labor with our first daughter and I actually read some it. But after Donald Trump was elected, I stopped reading. I struggled with an overwhelming inability to focus on anything other than the news of the day.

As a reader, I favor realistic fiction and thrillers so I picked up and put down many books in those genres. I made it half way through Tim Murphy’s Christadora before I got distracted. Next, I turned to Home by Harlan Coben, the type of book that I could normally read in two days. It took me two weeks. I simply could not keep the pages turning so I thought I would give historical fiction a try. For a moment, I thought I had solved the problem. While reading Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, I was momentarily calmed. The story focuses on Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, and perfectly illustrates that rulers throughout time and across continents have done some pretty wild things to capture and maintain power.

Thinking that realistic fiction would be my new sweet spot, I moved on to Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. This book is gorgeously written, a testament to Whitehead’s power with words. That said, following Cora, an escaped slave, on the Underground Railroad, while following the actions of a white supremacist who sat at the right hand of our then president-elect was more than I could manage. So that book too sits on my nightstand, half read.

Enter, the scary stuff. I have dipped my toe in horror. I read Josh Malerman’s Bird Box over a year ago and still think about it. But before this month, literary fiction and thrillers have, more often than not, cut to the front of the line. A few weeks ago, I talked to a friend and discovered that she was a horror freak. Not a scary person herself, just someone whose favorite genre is horror. This gave me an idea. Perhaps if the real world was so horrific, reading books in which things were really and truly even scarier (yes, it is possible), would make me feel better. 

Having loved Bird Box, I decided to try another Josh Malerman title, The House at the Bottom of the Lake. Was it as amazing as Bird Box? No. Did I care? Nope. During the short time it took me to finish the story (I actually finished a book!), I was completely transported away from our new terrifying reality to a world in which two teenagers fall in love while exploring a house fully submerged at the bottom of a lake. Thinking about the impossibility of this world helped me to forget the madness of the world in which we are now living.

Since then, I have read John Langan’s The Fisherman, The Ruins by Scott Smith and finally after years of promising I would, I have begun a journey in to the world of Stephen King. Surely, It, The Shining and The Stand are going to be scarier than the Nightly News, right?