When I got to spin class last night, the theme from The Exorcist was playing. After class, I said, "That's the spookiest movie ever."
My spin instructor said, "And the scariest movie. And the scariest book!" She said she used to keep her copy in the freezer because her friend told her that the devil couldn't get her if she kept the book in the freezer.
Ah, the 1970's, when we worried about demon possession and the devil impregnating innocent girls.
When I wasn't reading romances in the bodice ripper genre, I devoured books about the supernatural. I devoured all books, to be honest, but I loved books about the supernatural. I remember being most scared by Stephen King's Salem's Lot. I remember reading that vampires can't get in your house unless you invite them in, and the vampires in that book were skilled at manipulating people to invite them in, often against their will.
So I stayed awake, worried that I'd offer an invitation to a vampire in my sleep. Later, I'd spend sleepless nights worrying about nuclear war. And the standard worries, like not getting my papers written. And always in the back of my mind, the worries about rape and other kinds of violence.
When I think of our fears that affect mass populations, I wonder why we're not more worried about the damage we're doing to the planet. We've already changed the planet in ways we're just beginning to comprehend. Last year's Hurricane Irene was called the storm of the century. This year, we've had Hurricane Sandy, also a storm we should see only once a century.
These days, there are few things that keep me awake at night, but that's not for lack of things that make me fretful. Last week my husband finally broke down and got an MRI. He's spent much of this year hoping his back pain would go away. It hasn't.
These days, when you get an MRI, they send you home with a CD. My spouse put it in the computer and the computer read the data! There on the screen: my husband's insides. What amazing technology.
And there, clear to our non-professional eyes, the herniation that's been causing so much pain for such a little bulge.
What will he do? Consult professionals and see what his options are. I'm trying to stave off panic by taking this process step by step.
And there's the issue of the cell phone charger left on the plane and the other instances of forgetfulness suffered by us both.
If you want a really scary movie for your Halloween, watch the movie Iris, about Iris Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's. Judi Dench should have won the Oscar that year. What a frightening transformation.
What makes that movie scary is the very real possibility that it could happen to any of us. I don't much worry about demon possession these days. I do worry about losing my faculties, especially if it happens early. Likewise, I worry about my spouse's health.
Iris Murdoch had one of the most brilliant minds of her generation, and the movie was terrifying in its depiction of the complete loss of that brilliant mind. As an English major, I can't think of anything more sad, whether that loss is delivered as death or Alzheimer's.
And as a writer, there aren't many things that frighten me more than the idea of that steep decline. I'm not happy about the small losses I'm seeing now. I used to remember more. Now like the rest of the world, I look things up on the Internet.
I've outsourced my brain. Now there's a scary thought.
Maybe we haven't outsourced our brains. Maybe we've just freed them to do other things! My Halloween brain runs to apocalypse. My sensible girl brain won't let me linger there long. I have a memoir manuscript to pull together after all. Will it be a scary story? A comforting story?
More than anything else right now, my hope is that my memoir will be a wise friend on a journey undertaken by many people.
The Summer of Reading
4 weeks ago