Five Books to Avoid Reading Outdoors
A week or so ago, on a family trip to West Virginia, I lay awake listening to wild animals (or, I feared, monsters or depraved killers) munch away on our food. And as I was lying there, the smacking of their slavering lips paralyzing me with terror, my thoughts turned to the very many horrible things that could happen to us in the woods: Bears could attack, snakes could bite, crazed hermits could murderously resent our city-slicker intrusion. And then I thought of all the scary or just downright eerie books I had read about strange doings in the woods. And then I frightened myself to sleep. (The wild animals turned out to be field mice, who had made themselves comfortable in our rustic cabin.) Here are a few books that I try not to think about when I'm communing with nature. Are there any books, or scenes from books, that give you the heebie-jeebies out in the wild?
What if the mice had eaten all our food? And it was winter? And we were snowbound? Would we eat each other like some members of the Donner Party may have done way back in 1846? Ordeal by Hunger is the definitive history of the wagon train that got lost on its way to California and ended up crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains just as the winter storms came raging in. And it's a reminder that nature can be very unforgiving of human mistakes.
The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue.
The fairies who populate Donohue's first novel aren't sparkly little Tinkerbells, but feral children who skulk in the woods and dream of switching places with human children. After reading this book, the crack of a twig will make you clutch your kids close.
In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O'Brien.
What if you woke up in your cabin in northern Minnesota and discovered that your spouse had vanished into the wilderness? Was she attacked by wild animals, drowned in her canoe, murdered by you? Those are the questions raised in Tim O'Brien's novel about a Vietnam vet and U.S. Senate candidate whose wife disappears just after his participation in a My Lai-type massacre becomes public knowledge.
Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry.
Two lessons stick out from this Western saga about moving cattle from Texas to Montana: One, don't be the last guy to cross a river. The cottonmouths are likely to be stirred up by then and will bite you every place you've got skin. It'll take awhile to die. Two, don't go to sleep if there's a Comanchero named Blue Duck lurking within 100 miles. He'll cut your throat before you wake.
Being Dead, by Jim Crace.
Even picnics are perilous. They can lead to murder, and in this novel, readers discover what nature -- in the form of bugs, crabs and gulls -- does to the bodies afterwards. Creepy, but strangely beautiful.
What books spring to your mind?
-- Rachel Hartigan Shea
By Christian Pelusi |
June 26, 2008; 7:59 AM ET
Rachel Hartigan Shea
Previous: Five Literary Fiascos by Great American Writers | Next: Fightin' Words: Five Memorable Revolutionary Books
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Alexa | June 26, 2008 8:59 AM
Posted by: KLeewrite | June 26, 2008 10:30 AM
Posted by: Dave | June 26, 2008 10:32 AM
Posted by: Rosslyn | June 26, 2008 11:06 AM
Posted by: C | June 26, 2008 11:18 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 11:39 AM
Posted by: Rachel Shea | June 26, 2008 12:13 PM
Posted by: Me | June 26, 2008 2:23 PM
Posted by: litmajor | June 26, 2008 3:12 PM
Posted by: mark tarallo | June 27, 2008 4:19 PM
Posted by: Jon Lauderbaugh | June 29, 2008 1:57 PM
Posted by: Sappho | June 30, 2008 5:46 PM
Posted by: sally | July 2, 2008 10:49 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.