Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Read: "Dark Matter" by Peter Straub

Read: Dark Matter by Peter Straub, 2010, 9780385516389.

I read this for the committee. In a previous meeting another committee member judged it good but not great. I think it was better than that.

High school kids in 1967 Madison are a tight knit group. All but one of them are agog over a handsome guru who comes to town. They join guru in a nighttime ceremony in a field that leaves one college student torn to pieces and another student disappeared. The event effects them all in different ways. One girl goes blind, another girl becomes convinced in her self-interest (the proper word escapes me), another goes to a mental asylum, so on, so forth.

The one high school kid who does not fall under the guru marries the blind-to-be girl and becomes a famous novelist. One day in a coffee shop he sees a crazy guy who brings to mind is friend in the loony bin. Novelist starts wondering more about what happened during the night time ceremony. Novelist starts researching by reading and also reconnecting with the old friends.

Weird things happen. Ceremony is told from perspective of all the living participants except the guru. Straub shows the '60s characters versus the present day characters. Much mystery and unexplained magic. A neat book.

1. I could reference Rashomon when describing the plot but only because I read that on the flyleaf. I never saw the movie.
2. I could go into more detail on the plot and characters but the story moves along several paths and I don't want to rehash everything.
3. I'd classify this as literary horror. But not much horror.
4. I like the Madison and Milwaukee settings.
5. Novelist is famous for a big hit from 1980 (or so) not unlike Straub's Ghost Story. Straub also spent time in England like Novelist and wife.
6. I thought about looking up the Madison locations Straub references but did not.
7. A neat juxtaposition between the scary event in the field and the everyday life and normality of present day. That one time of collapsing and intersecting worlds with demons and anthropomorphic dogs versus aging guys drinking too much. Each character has a later instance in the '70s or '80s where the dogs return but otherwise the time came and went without return. 8. Everyone is in agreement that whatever happened did happen, there was not a mass hypnosis or hallucination.

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