You're a sympathetic son of a bitch, you know that?
You want sympathy, go fuck James Taylor.
--Georgia (aka, Marybeth, Morphine), answered by Jude Coyne
And that's at the heart of this compelling read, because
our protagonist, Justin Cowzynski—aka Jude Coyne, 54-yr old retired
founder of the Death Metal band, Jude's Hammer—displays
all the clichéd,
rock star posturings of that over-hyped, angry and petulant Goth
God sensibility. At first there's just the repellant behavior and
selfish attitudes of an aging man-child pandered by too much celebrity
adoration, over-indulgence, “money
for nothin' and chicks for free” (Dire
Straits, Brothers in Arms, c. 1985). Jude owns the trephinated
skull of a 16th Century peasant. He has a cannibal cookbook. There's
even a genuine snuff film in his collection, for Chrissake.
And now he possesses the funeral suit housing a bona-fide ghost
that he bought on an internet
The question is: who's gonna end up possessing whom?
Of course, we know the answer, but that does not bury the
ride. Because author Hill has learned a valuable—if not timely—lesson
from his father's 1st novel's arrantly sympathetic character. By
transforming Carrie White's unbounded anger into Jude's active
umbrage proves his hero's no leather-an'-chains poser, but, more
importantly, that he is willing to tear into the denial-shrouded
and brutishly-defensive inner cankers as the only route to expunging
the external ones. In this, he gains capacity and regard, something
Carrie's final acts of mayhem can never achieve. She takes her
indignation, immaturity, and pain to the grave becoming a pitied
heroine, whereas Jude ends up restoring a vintage Dodge Charger
and recording a new album. But “he did not
tour. He had a triple bypass instead” (Harper, ISBN9780061147944,
PB edition, c.2007, p.340).
This is a traditional read in that it harks back to the
classic groundings of the genre as interpreted through the works
of Bradbury, Beaumont, Serling. Intelligent, well-seasoned Horror
has always had that lingering whiff of an apologue to it, and Heart-Shaped
Box's lesson is one of sympathy, and ultimately, empathy.
There's a lot of meat and mettle displayed for such an obvious page-turner.
And, there's certainly better analysis and presentation of it than
what I've advanced. Here's a start: