An extract from my real-time review of THE SCREAMING BOOK OF HORROR here.
Dementia – Charlie Higson.
“She said there wasn’t any problem in the world that couldn’t be fixed by having a nice hot bath. A nice long soak.”
Not a bonus track at all, not even just a perfect coda (which it is), this in many ways, for me, is this screaming book’s raison d’être, both in itself as a free-standing story and in the context of the book’s found gestalt. Something you NEED to read, combining the pervasive HORROR and the earlier recognised HOPE of the Littlewood ‘Swarm’ and the phrase ‘Horror without Victims’ — the onset of the ‘Deads’: that plague of dementia as we all grow older. Reminds me too of Reggie Oliver’s great story: ‘Flowers of the Sea’: there a wife (and people of my age have ‘wives’ (or as the Higson story tellingly has it: ‘partners’)), and here in this story: a mother. Her dementia makes Higson’s narrator seem to her to be forever her baby, left behind. And she becomes his ‘giant baby’. And, thus, the book’s main ‘infanticide’ leitmotif takes on a new light here, from Probert’s fatal christening onward. Hot bath or washing-machine to washing-line. The narrator, too, is imbued with the Taborska and Hughes film director and celebrity slant, and the hint in the Fowler of today’s concerns regarding this slant, as explicitly recorded by the narrator in ‘Dementia’: “Starlets, make up girls, continuity girls. I was never short. Had plenty of affairs, relationships, long and short, one-night stands. I was never lacking on the sex front.” This seems to add a pathos to an already deep pathos of the Deads, such HORROR stigmata, paradoxically, not without HOPE. His mother ever moulding clay like pottery – or poetry. A major story in a major book. “Screaming and screaming.”