Monday, May 8, 2017

More on my Horror Club

I spent the best part of my day at my horror club yesterday. Well, I call it "my" horror club, but I don't run it. In fact, I am a junior member in more than one sense-- I've only been a member a few years, and I'm the youngest member. The age profile is mostly middle-aged to elderly, which is part of the pleasure.

We read and discuss horror stories, and we watch and discuss horror films. Our screening room is the basement of one of the members. He has top-class viewing (and listening) facilities-- a projector and enormous speakers. He has old horror movie posters framed on the wall, as well as thousands of books on pretty much every subject imaginable, filling the whole house (or what I've seen of it). Just looking a the shelves fills me with wonder. I guess I should be blasé about being surrounded by books after sixteen years working in a university library. But I'm not. Besides, thousands of books in a private home, all reflecting the personality of one family, have a very different flavour to hundreds of thousands of books in a university library. Every collection of books has its own soul, even if it's five books on a shelf.

When I saw "horror", I don't mean "slasher". The horror writers which are most of interest to these chaps is nineteenth century and early twentieth century-- Bram Stroker, Sheridan Le Fanu, M.R. James, and so forth. When it comes to films, they tend to prefer spooky and atmospheric films to gory and stark films (as indeed, do I).

I love my horror club. It's like my own personal Inklings.

Small talk is one of the things I find most difficult to endure. And not only small talk, but banal conversation in general. (I'm sure many people find my conversation banal, but that's beside the point.) Contrariwise, serious and stimulating conversation is one of my favourite things in the whole world, and that flows in abundance at these meetings. In fact, I've never known anything quite like it. The air itself seems thicker.

And it's not just horror that comes up for discussion-- it's everything. Although the discussion of the books and films is quite structured, there's plenty of time (more time, in fact) for general conversation arising from the books and films, or completely independent of them.

I was writing about horizons recently. These meetings open up cultural and intellectual horizons for me in a way that nothing else really has-- at least, not in the same way.

What leaves the strongest impression on me, though, is the sense I always receive, at these get-togethers, that life is far richer and more variegated than I've generally experienced it. In one way, it's humbling and even frustrating, because it makes me feel rather cloddish-- blind, deaf, and obtuse, as though 95 per cent of life just sails past me. On the other hand, it's exciting, being made aware that the world is deeper than I generally conceive it.

Many of these gentlemen are audiophiles, and enthusiasts for high-fidelity audio equipment. They can talk for hours about this-- not only the equipment, but the shops that sell the equipment, the history of the shops that sell the equipment, the staff of the shops, the best songs to listen to on particular pieces of equipment, the makers of the equipment, the fortunes of the makers of the equipment, on so on. It's a whole world of its own. And, although I don't understand a word, I like listening to it-- I like soaking in the enthusiasm and sagacity.

But it's not just high-fidelity sound equipment they talk about in this way. It's also video and projection technology, of various kinds; whiskey; classical music; film scores; printing and publishing; book collection; visual art; cameras; towns and other places, in Ireland and abroad; and a whole host of other things. (But they're not snobby or affected about any of it.)

They usually listen to music (mostly on vinyl) after watching a film or reading a story. Given my tin ear, this is usually my least favourite part of the meetings. The music spans everything from Wagner to modern popular music, but most of it is over my head. All my life I've felt a powerful sense of loss that classical music (especially) is a closed book to me. Conceptually, I understand that it would be so much more subtle and complex than popular music, but I just can't enjoy it. I remember one member describing the pleasure of listening to one particular composer with a glass of brandy in your hand. It sounds wonderful.

On this blog, I often write about my love of difference and distinctions, of the spaces between one thing and another, my pleasure in each thing being what it is and not something else. After one of these meetings, I think that I'm the last person who can afford to wax lyrical on this theme; that I actually live, in many regards, in a complete blur. For instance, when I watch a movie, the picture quality is usually the last thing I think about. I don't even notice it. I don't notice the sound quality or the background music. But...I like realising these things matter to other people, and that they're there to be discovered. It makes the world seem more fine-grained, more intricate, more structured.

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