Sunday, October 4, 2009

Uncanny--the return of the repressed

In an excellent article in September's The Believer by Sara Gran and Megan Abbott on the now somewhat eclipsed horror queen V.C. Andrews, an essay of Freud's on the uncanny comes up. Not being much of a student of Freud, I found this analysis quite interesting, especially from the point of view of this blog. According to the authors, Freud thought that our sense of the uncanny came not from the unfamiliar but the familiar--it's our sense of dread in facing what we've known, but no longer have direct access to."The uncanny draws a map to what has been repressed." Gran and Abbott think that horror stories that revolve around "dolls, imaginary friends or other relics of childhood" have an extra power to scare us, because they bring back fears, desires and other memories from our earliest years that have since become unacceptable to us.

I've long been interested in the phenomenon I've seen around Andrews, which is the fact that they seem always to have been read mainly by young teenage girls, who read them as a sort of rite of passage. I was at a barbecue right after reading this article and took an informal poll about who had read her. Several hands shot up, all female, including that of one person who read her older sister's copies on the sly, as she was too young for them. That seemed quite in keeping with the Andrews tradition, though.

I liked the article's hypothesis that Andrew's can be found in plentiful supply in thrift shops and yard sales because, once read, these aren't the kind of books that people feel comfortable hanging on to. I wonder--do they forget the experiences brought up by the reading, or does the repressed see the light of day again?

Although I like some horror, it's never been my first area of interest, so I haven't read Andrews. I suppose, too, that I always felt a little superior to them, but I'll now concede I may have missed something.

Here's another interesting blog I came across that where this Believer article inspired a post.


  1. I'm never going to read that book. Way too sinister looking.

    Incidentally I've always hated the idea that the estates of Asimov, Andrews etc. keep publishing books under their names even though they've been dead for quite some time.

  2. I'm not either. But I am quite interested in why she is on a lower rung of some kind than other horror writers when she has obviously tapped into something big.

    She can't help what they did with her after she was dead, anymore than Asimov could.