I do most of my course reading on the M-train commute to work. I live in Bushwick and pass through Williamsburg, heart of the Brooklyn hipster universe. Every morning I see the same familiar flannel shirt-tight jeans-ironic facial hair crowd reading Murakami and listening to Animal Collective or Das Racist or whatever. They're a pretty literate bunch, too. There are all sorts of tiny rituals involved in riding the subways and one of them involves sizing up what people are reading. When I first came to NYC, everyone was reading the Dragon Tattoo series. These days it's mostly the Game of Throne books.
Nobody's reading a novelization of a failed horror flick.
I'd see people give my book the once-over and I could almost hear that checkout counter this-does-not-compute WONK sound. For the first few rides I just wanted to plead with people: "No, you don't understand! Maberry is a really good writer! And I have to read this cuz the madman I'm taking the class from assigned this to us!"
Eventually I took to covering the cover with my bookmark while I read. It was just easier.
I really, really didn't get this assignment.
I saw the movie back in the day and I can't remember any of the plot. It was one of those 'meh' films, instantly forgotten immediately after consumption. I remember that Benicio Del Toro was miscast, Anthony Hopkins was in high camp mode, and the movie's attempt to recapture the feel of classic Universal Horror was crushed under the curdling weight of studio mediocrity.
I had zero interest in reading this book and, frankly, I thought you were nuts to assign it.
Turns out the novelization was a zillion times better.
I like werewolves okay. They make a strong metaphor for our unchained animalistic desires and they fit in extraordinarily well in straight-laced, repressive Victorian England. During the residency, I pushed forward the theory that monsters are ultimately about our polarizing desires between freedom and conformity. There's a part of us that wants to be free, even if it is completely damaging to the world around us, and there's a part of us that wants to be safe and cheers when the free thing is destroyed. I found the chapters of the wolf's rampages exhilarating. In the really-real world, I'd hate to be responsible for the violent death of dozens of people, but there's something primal in my psyche that had a lot of fun with the wolfman's gory exultation.
I like gothic stories. I like crumbing old manors full of mysteries, crazy children, mysterious deaths, and dark secrets slowly unfurling in the foggy moors.
I like stories where the werewolves are barely-disguised Oedipal complex figures battling it out to have sex with their in-law. It's so squicky!
I like the whole Goddess of the Hunt thing. It's a clever way for the characters to conceptualize the full moon.
I like decadent actors. They made living in Astoria fun. They break out into song in the middle of Two Boots, they're flirts because they're needy and they're pretty because it's part of the job. I like the world Lawrence inhabits, even if he is kind of a wet blanket.
I recently chewed apart Breeding Ground for its lack of ambition and I kind of feel like a hypocrite for not attacking The Wolfman in the same way. The difference is, I feel, style and missed opportunity. Every aspect of Breeding Ground lead me to believe it was going to say something deeper and more interesting about gender products. Even ignoring the shaky plotting, too many opportunities were missed.
The Wolfman set out to tell a gothic werewolf story and Maberry told it well. It ain't perfect, it didn't change my perspective of werewolves the way Alan Moore did with "The Curse" or the way the film Ginger Snaps did, but I liked the story. Werewolf stories are often ultimately terminal disease stories and I felt sad to see Talbot go.