Monday, October 29, 2007

Reader's Diary #306- Robert McCammon: Eat Me

Short Story Monday
When I was a kid, monsters were where it was at. Our local library had a series of books that I must have checked out a dozen times or more, with orange covers and black and white photos from old monster movies. I've searched everywhere and can't find out what the series was called, does anyone know? They featured Godzilla, King Kong, the Blob, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and Dracula among others. Anyway, my favourites were the vampires and werewolves, but I pretty much liked them all- except zombies.

Don't ask me why, but the risen dead did nothing for me. Too silly probably. Not like a gigantic space amoeba that devours everything in its path. Anyway, it's only recently that I've come around on those brain-hungry goons. Perhaps it was 28 Days Later with its pseudo-zombies, or more recently Shaun of the Dead (recommended by the Bad Tempered Zombie herself), but I was ready to dig into McCammon's deliciously titled "Eat Me," which, by the way, won the 1989 Bram Stoker Award for Best Short Story.

For me, I think the secret to enjoying these peculiar people is to not take them too serious. Don't get me wrong, I thought 28 Days Later was scary as hell, but then, they were infected with rage, so they're different. Otherwise, zombies need only be thought of a good dancers with bad skin.

This is why "Eat Me" works. With a title like that anyone walking into it without a sense of humour is doomed from the get go. Beginning with "A question gnawed, day and night, at Jim Crisp," "Eat Me" obviously wouldn't appeal to any sense of humour, but it did for mine.

At the beginning the humour comes from the rather dry, ironic telling. While Jim thinks back to the way the world used to be and walks past half-decayed corpses being devoured by rats, he doesn't ponder his survival or question what brought on this sorry state of affairs; he is instead preoccupied with love, or more morosely, the absence of it.

McCammon also does a superb job of dishing out the details piecemeal. The story simmers along nicely...

Wait a second. This won an award for horror. Should a horror-comedy win such a prize? I mean the combined genre is not without its merits (ex. Shaun of the Dead) but shouldn't the Bram Stoker Award actually go towards something scary-scary?

...until it comes to a boil. When you get to the real meat of the story, it's pretty rancid- but in one of those can't put it down sort of ways that leaves you with wicked indigestion. Now I see why it won.

Not for the weak stomached.

(Join the other Short Story Monday participants today at Stephanie's. Also note that I will be in Ottawa this week and my posting may be sporadic, but we'll see...)


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I was ready to be cut to the quick when you first mentioned you did not like zombies. It's hard not to take something like that personally, you know.

But oh, you have redeemed yourself brilliantly and now I must dash off to read "Eat Me", which sounds positively tantalizing!

See ya!

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Yes, I figured I was playing with fire when I began.

Stephanie said... this does sound really good!! I read MaCammon's Boy's Life a long time ago. I really should dust it off. It was a good book!

Besides, I love Zombie comedy. I though Shaun of the Dead was terrific!!