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  • TITLE: Heart-Shaped Box
  • AUTHOR: Joe Hill
  • AWARDS: Stoker's Best 1st Novel


    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 , p.24


    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 auction site.

    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:



    © copyright 12/01/2008 by Larry Crawford

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