Shelf Life: Rereading Childhood Favourites in the Autumn

Point Horror books
Category: Reading

Autumn is my favourite time of year, by far. The peaty smell in the air, whirlwinds of crimson and gold on footpaths, scattered fireworks in the sky, long walks in long coats with friends, cups of tea, and all the wonderful Halloween tat in shops.

I feel like I should sit in coffee shops and listen to Jazz. I don’t like Jazz but Autumn makes feel like I should. Perhaps because the season is smooth, sentimental and somewhat erratic. It’s not summer, it’s not yet winter, you’re off note. I find this displacement comforting but then again, I have always found it boring when my heart meets my mind.

Autumn - especially in poetry - has been associated with melancholia and the nostalgic. The maturing season is symbolic of a maturing self (see Yeats’: ‘Wild Swans at Coole’). The approaching winter is figurative death and autumn is the time for reflection and remembering our youth.

In October, I take great delight in enjoying the things that I feel are distinctly mine. I reserve the Cocteau Twins for this time of year and I always revisit the literature of my childhood.

That’s why in my adult years, in October, I rebel. I’ll read whatever I want, whenever I want dammit and if that’s an entire collection of R.L. Stine and Point Horror, then, so be it.

Not to get too Freudian about it, but maybe it’s because this time of year still has the connotation of the dreaded “return to school”.  September had some novelty - new pencil cases and reuniting with friends - but October brought the stark reality that summer was definitely finito and with it your reading freedom; replaced with a rigid timetable and a prescriptive reading list.

That’s why in my adult years, in October,  I rebel. I’ll read whatever I want, whenever I want dammit and if that’s an entire collection of R.L. Stine and Point Horror, then, so be it.

I have recently sought out my collection of Point Horror. The second I pick up one, I am instantly transported to my childhood bedroom, adorned with my sister’s posters of M People and strewn copies of Smash Hits.  Or reminded of a cold Thursday evening in Belfast Central Library, the windows smoggy with condensation and the wind rattling around the rotating doors. 

My childhood lies there, in front of me. Those fabulously glossy jackets. Kitsch. Covers depicting blood-splattered prom queen crowns, derelict houses, unanswered telephones, lurking boyfriends and gasping girlfriends. The bold neon font types of the ominous titles, jaggy and oh so wonderfully nineties. Followed by the portentous taglines that I just can't resist: The Lifeguard: Don’t call for help, he may just kill you.  

I imbibed them and regurgitated them as veritable urban legends at countless friend’s sleepovers: The Babysitter, Trick or Treat, The Hitchhiker, The Snowman, Perfume.

Perfume. Possibly my favourite and possibly the first one I read. Dove Daniels (10 points for alliteration), a 15-year-old goody-two-shoes that buys a potent and alluring perfume called 'Venom' and unleashes an ancient evil. Oh, and Dove had an evil twin called Wing. Dove and Wing, how gloriously naff.

When I read my Point Horrors I regress to my 10-year-old self and remember how I relished their hyper-American world and how it was so far from my own. I remember how I’d endeavour to create my own Point Horror novels, such as Stage Fright - my tale about a teen actress that was stalked by a faceless fan. 

I remember my teen anguish of not having enough time to read them. Torn between my homework, Trick or Treat or Quantum Leap. I remember how much I wished I was called something like Brenda or Dove Daniels and had a boyfriend called Brock or Chad.

Reading Point Horror now, I release how repetitive the series is. Heavily relying on tested teen horror tropes, they are nearly indistinguishable from one another; one big blur of alpha bitches, jilted girlfriends, pranks, jocks and homages to Hitchcock.

Nowadays, I sometimes skim read to the twist and exposé. I sometimes cringe at the dialogues and teen terminology. I read passages out loud to my fiancé (who is not called Brock or Chad, thankfully) in a heightened American accent but above all, I now realise how much joy and happiness they brought my younger self.

Nowadays, I sometimes skim read to the twist and exposé... I read passages out loud to my fiancé in a heightened American accent

I also realise how much Point Horror has shaped me. As I grew older, the taste Point Horror gave me led to a collection which now includes Shirley Jackson, Susan Hill, Daphne du Maurier, Andrew Michael Hurley and M.R. James.

Do you know that in Indian mythology, autumn is considered to be the preferred season for the goddess Saraswati? She’s the goddess of knowledge, arts and learning. That's pretty apt for autumn, I think and revisiting books from our childhood is still a sort of learning after all!

 

Which books do you always revisit come the autumn? Post your autumnal titles in the comments below. 

 

 

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