I bet I’m not alone in occasionally looking for monsters under the bed, in the basement and behind the closet door. But most of my favorite monsters lurk on my bookshelves and in electronic files on my e-reader. I like fictional monsters.
Yes, there are plenty of real monsters out there. There are, in no particular order, killers, sexual predators, identity thieves, corrupt politicians, malicious bullies, power mad bosses, drunks behind the wheels of speeding cars and really, really bad writers. Yes, I put the awful storytellers in the mix because sometimes I feel oppressed by a bad book.
That brings me back to my bookshelves. Between the historic monsters (the dictators and terrorists of history), the fabled monsters (the creatures of myths, legends and fairy tales), and the criminals in my all time favorite murder mysteries, my shelves are monster-centric. What does that say about me? Do I only read about death, destruction and doom? No, of course not.
I read other kind of books too. I have my share of Jane Austen and there’s nothing remotely monstrous about any of the characters in ‘Pride & Prejudice.’ Even the horrible cousin destined to inherit the family’s house is a mere social monster — inept and boring, but not lethal.
So what’s behind this Monster/Non-Monster mix? I think that the killers in the romantic suspense novels, murder mysteries, horror and urban fantasy/paranormals need to be balanced with the little social monsters, petty boobs and bores in less dramatic fare. A steady diet of vampires, serial killers and master criminals would need to be fed by ever more violent, dramatic and deadly stories — by spicing up the reading list with a Regency Romance, a comedy of manners or a biography of a historical figure, I am still easily scared by ALL my different monsters. I’m not calloused and even that first drop of blood sends a chill down my spine.
The variety lessens the chances of me becoming desensitized and that’s important to me. I want to feel that sudden chill — even if it’s expected —and I never want to be too jaded to enjoy it. So that’s how the biography of Mary Shelley winds up between a novel by Vladimir Nabokov and short stories by Margaret Atwood. Mix it up and have fun. You’ll find all sorts of monster stories, everywhere you look.