REVIEW: GRANTA 117: Horror by John Freeman

TITLE:  GRANTA 117: Horror
EDITOR: John Freeman
PUBLISHER:  Granta (12 Addison Ave.London, W11 4QR, U.K.) (21 November 2011)
ISBN: 9781905881369         256pages.

Reviewed by Ann Skea (ann@skea.com).

This is no collection of ghosts, ghouls and gruesome fantasies. Indeed, there is enough real horror in the world for imagination to be unnecessary. So, Granta’s ‘Horror’ covers Will Self’s thoughts on his own rare blood disease; Tom Bamforth’s field notes from a humanitarian mission in a lawless area of Sudan; Paul Auster’s reactions to the death of his mother; and Santiago Roncagliolo’s memories of returning to Peru as a worker for the Public Defenders Department and working with the Belgian human rights activist, Father Hubert Lanssiers, interviewing convicted, potentially violent, terrorists in an overcrowded, high-security prison. Mark Doty writes about eroticism, desire, insatiability, addiction and Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman; and Julia Otsuka examines the strange world of memory loss.

Fiction is not completely absent from this collection. Roberto Bolano’s ‘The Colonel’s Son’ (translated from the Spanish) traps you in the fertile mind of a man obsessed by a film story; Rajesh Parameswaran shape-shifts into a man-eating tiger; Dan DeLillo follows in the steps of a film-obsessed stalker; Sarah Hall creates a weird and frightening dog story; and Stephen King tells a ghost story with a sting in its tail.

Sometimes, however, fact is weirder than fiction, like the crypto-gothic fight club in Los Angles which is visited by Daniel Alarc Cave Woman fights The Hammer, Arctic fights The Mad Monk, and rivers of fake blood flow across the floor so that your shoes stick to it.

Poetry and art, too, explore death and disease. D.A.Powell’s poem ‘Quarantine’ suggests a black future in which the world becomes “one great gall'” and Kanitta Meechubot gathers life, love and death into her unusual images of ‘The Garden of Illuminated Existence’.

There are nightmares and terrors enough, here, to haunt the imagination and keep you awake at night. And, as usual, Granta has chosen the best people to tell you about them.

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Ann Skea

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