Those who have trundled alongside of this blog for any length of time no doubt know of my interest in weird fiction. Somewhere in the mists of my youth this led me to one of the few venues in which a person can get a hook on the eerie, namely, horror films. I am, however, no fan of violence, and quite sensitive to the human condition. What I have always sought is hauntingly summarized in Robert Macfarlane’s Guardian article sent to me by a friend, entitled “The eeriness of the English countryside.” Horror has become, in keeping with the dullness imbued by a society of constant diversion, aggressive and shocking. New levels of nauseating cruelty are required for generations raised with graphic computer games and an internet that is like the subconscious completely unleashed into the waking world. You need more items jammed under the fingernails to elicit any reaction. That’s not what I’m here for. Whatever happened to the uncanny?
As Macfarlane notes, there is a natural eeriness to the landscape left by human activity. Not just in England, but wherever we set foot. The innocent-looking countryside is seething with undisclosed atrocities. It is no coincidence that in America the “Indian burial ground” motif took off for explaining the haunting of the landscape. The eerie is often our retrospective on what we know we really shouldn’t have done. Macfarlane is writing for those who’ve experienced the English countryside and its secrets, but no matter where we look we can find the uncanny cast into the scenery by our selfish actions. There is horror here, but it is subtle. You have to sit quietly and listen to hear it, but it can, like a good eerie novel, induce shivers without a drop of blood being shed. (Well, maybe a drop, but seldom more.)
Many doubt the soul exists. Others of us take a broader view of the question. Our view of the world is colored by what has brought us to where we are. As someone who has been repeatedly passed over for jobs because of the excesses of the white male society in which my ancestors happened to have tacitly participated, I rest on the horns of this dilemma. All of my conscious life I’ve supported equal rights for all races and genders. The landscape I inhabit, however, is haunted. There have been dark deeds undertaken on this soil, and the soul is that which remembers. Macfarlane is no doubt correct that even the eerie can be politicized. Those of us who daily experience it, however, know that England hosts only one of many, many tainted shores.