(originally posted 11/6/09)

I have a fascination with villains, it’s true. Film noir is my newest mild obsession, and lately, the movies I watch, the books I read, and many of my creative writing projects center on taking antangonists and peeling them down to something, if not sympathetic, then at least less straightforwardly awful.

So for Madison’s own Naked Ghouls Reading, I wanted to read about some damn worthwhile villains.

1. Carrie, Stephen King

I read the scene where Carrie takes revenge on Chris and Billy, the two people arguably most responsible for her downfall. The revenge takes so little space in the book (about two pages), and yet by the end, Carrie is close to death from the effort. It’s one of her last acts as “the monster,” and through it, the reader is drawn away from Carrie’s destruction of the town and back to those buckets of pigs’ blood, without which, maybe, Carrie would have succeeded in easing into a happy, whole life. For me, Carrie is much more sad than frightening, because it’s so easy to imagine things turning out a whole lot better for everyone involved. “If only she could turn over and see the stars.”

2. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle (the harpy escapes)

Peter S. Beagle is such a fabulous prose poet. He never lets you sympathize with the harpy, a wholeheartedly malignant killing machine, but some of his description is just achingly wonderful – “…out of the wreckage the harpy bloomed, terrible and free, screaming, her hair swinging like a sword,” “(Mommy Fortuna) broke like a dead stick and fell,” “The harpy made a thick, happy sound that melted the magician’s knees…” – and I, anyway, still thoroughly enjoy the revenge she takes on her captors. “Never run from anything immortal,” the unicorn warns, pitiless, at the end of it all. “It attracts their attention.”

3. Wisconsin Death Trip, by Michael Lesy

This was my good friend Babe Lincoln‘s idea. The villain is the poverty and hunger of rural Wisconsin in the late 19th century. Many of our selections were about creepy or weird things people can do when desperation rules their lives. Killing their own horses to collect insurance money, ghostly apparitions, wandering the streets with dead babies in their arms. But what if we still lived in desperate times, what if people were still doing crazy shit?

4. Ode to the Maggot, by Yusef Komunyakaa

“No decree or creed can outlaw you /As you take every living thing apart. Little / Master of earth, no one gets to heaven / Without going through you first.”

5. Cheeky poem about werewolves

I snuck in something I’d written. Oh, the vanity of it all. So what if a werewolf man and a human woman tried to live together? In the suburbs? In the 1950s? Would they adhere to restrictive definitions of gender roles? Would the sex be good? Could actual love exist between two such different creatures, one of whom kills the neighbors’ cats without remorse?


~ by ngrblogadmin on January 11, 2010.

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