The Horror Reader
Routledge $47.30pb, 413pp
Horror. It’s a word you are forced to utter emphatically, almost to expel. On the page, it seems to contain a form of typographical echo – it looks as if it is repeating itself. The term has tactile, physical associations; it once meant roughness or ruggedness, and it also describes a shuddering or a shivering movement. (There’s a wonderful word, horripilation, a synonym for the phenomenon also known as gooseflesh.)
Corporeal sensations, outward and internal – the frisson of creeping flesh, the visceral clutch or contraction of the bowels. Horror is the response and that which causes it, the emotion of disgust or repugnance which provokes a shudder or a shiver. Instinctive, immediate, something that can’t be moderated or regulated. But there is also a dynamic of attraction and repulsion in and around horror: it is both what you cannot bear to contemplate and cannot bear to look away from.