“It seems to me the the quality that separates the popular from the unpopular—the one and only quality that Eddie Prior and Cameron Hodges had in common—is a strong sense of self. Eddie knew who he was. He accepted himself. His failings had ceased to trouble him. Every word he spoke was a thoughtless, pure expression of his true personality. Whereas I had no clear picture of myself, and was always looking to others, watching them intently, both hoping and fearing that I would catch some clear sign of who they saw when they looked at me,” (Joe Hill from 20th Century Ghosts.)
I’ve just finished this book today. It has left me pensive and reeling in all the right ways. When I read Joe Hill‘s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, I did not know that he was Stephen King‘s son. I’m glad I didn’t. I like Stephen King and believe that he is a good writer, a talented man whom I’ve spend hours with via his fiction. That said, he’s not Salinger.
I’m about to make an over-the-top statement. I’m warning you before hand because it’s a doozey. It’s something that you may roll your eyes at or huff as you read. I would like for you to prepare yourself, bearing in mind that I know the extreme nature of the claim I am making.
Joe Hill may well be the Salinger of horror fiction. His characters feel as real and fleshy as John Irving‘s. His dialogue is well crafted but believable. He weaves themes and images and phrases in and out of his stories with seemingly effortless grace. It is a thing to behold. Consider me a fan.
The above quote is a wonderful example of the kind of stuff a reader will run into if in the company of the talented Mr. Hill. Read that paragraph again. Now think about it for a moment. Does it make your head spin? Does it force you to take a closer look at yourself than you might be comfortable? Are you likely to find yourself haunted, at least for a bit, by the implications of what you just learned about yourself?
And that’s a line from a fucking ghost story. Brilliant. I highly recommend it.