The Haunted, Bentley Little, 2012
(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
My favorite quote: “I was in the room where things grow old.”
Most interesting characters: Honestly, the only characters here that really captured my interest were the neighbors who snuck into the basement during a party for a frantic, satanic quickie — a tryst that even involved a naked Barbie doll, apropos of nothing
Opening scene: Julian, father of two, is rushing outside, hollering at three skateboarders to get off his driveway, and longing for the “good old days” of peace and quiet
The gist: An annoying and unrealistic couple move into a haunted house
Greatest strengths: Shock value. Bentley Little is like that guy who sneaks up on you and gooses you when you’re trying to concentrate — but with books. A part of me loves it and a part of me hates it
Standout achievements: The Haunted made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure that was Bentley Little’s desired effect, but it’s true. I laughed a lot
Fun Facts: The Haunted is one of the only books I’ve ever removed from my library. It wasn’t an act of aggression or anything, I just needed more room and something had to go. This was my first choice
Other media: N/A
Additional thoughts: I’ve been putting off this review because I have some issues with this book that may not come across as being very kind. I feel like I’m walking a fine line here between showing respect to the author (Bentley Little is inarguably one of the masters of his field) and pointing out the unfortunate obvious.
So here’s the thing … I’m not going to lie: I was totally distracted by all the people acting like grumpy old men in this book. There. I said it. The majority of the adult characters in The Haunted are about my age, and I’m here to tell you, my generation is not as technologically out of the loop as Bentley Little seems to think. It’s obvious to me that Bentley Little has fallen behind the times himself and unfortunately, it really shows in his writing — or at least it does in The Haunted. This book is riddled with passages that read like a disgruntled old man pontificating on the sad state of the world “nowadays” — and by the way, get off his lawn!
Here are a few (but far from the extent of) examples of what I mean:
“Claire shook her head as she read the e-mails. She had learned to read and write before the advent of the online age and still felt out of place in the e e cummings world of the Internet, where nothing was capitalized, periods were known as dots, and the normal rules of grammar and punctuation did not apply.”
And my personal favorite:
“She passed by the edge of the crowd, keeping a wide berth around a red-faced older woman who was shaking her fist in the air and shouting, “I want my country back!” When did people get so angry? Claire wondered.”
Okay … let’s talk about the first example. Claire is in her thirties, and even if you take into account that The Haunted was written ten years ago, that would put her in her forties now. Either way, she’s my age, and people my age simply aren’t this baffled by emails and modern styles of communication. I, too, was raised before the advent of the internet (which doesn’t need to be capitalized anymore, by the way) and yes, at first, it was a little confusing. But let’s be honest: It hasn’t been “new” since the mid-90s — almost thirty years ago now. Anyone as young as Claire (and her husband, who’s even more grumpy-old-manny than she is) moving through the world, going to work, and being part of modern society is going to naturally adapt. They just are. (I can already hear some of you out there arguing with that, but the point is, I didn’t believe these characters. Their views came across more like Grandpa eulogizing the good old days than the genuine beliefs of a married couple functioning in the modern world, both at the tops of their fields. Not very nice, I suppose, but I stand by it).
As for the second example … When did people get so angry about the state of the world? I can only assume Bentley Little somehow missed the 60s entirely. And why is it that when people reach a certain age, their recollection of the past becomes so soft? One look at the history of the world at any given time in any given place ought to alleviate one’s illusions of such a tame and tender past. Black Plague, anyone? The Salem Witch Trials of 1692? The French Revolution? The Spanish Inquisition? Vietnam? The 1980s AIDS outbreak of New York? Roe vs. Wade? You see my point
Hit or Miss: Sadly, it’s a big fat miss for me. I just couldn’t get past the characters
Haunt me: alistaircross.com