A childhood horror movie that I only recall in the most wispy of fringe memories is Night of the Lepus. It’s one of those monster movies that involves mutated animals, in this case the unexpected rabbit. I’m not sure why it’s been on my mind lately, but a little research indicated that it was based on the Russell Braddon novel, The Year of the Angry Rabbit. This book is out of print and still under copyright, so finding a copy wasn’t easy. Apart from vague images of giant rabbits, I had no idea what to expect. The book turned out to be a comedy horror, in that order. Remembering that the movie wasn’t funny (although it is consistently considered one of the worst cinematic efforts of the time), I wasn’t prepared for this.
You see, I don’t like to read about books before I read them. I don’t read cover copy. (I tend not to watch movie trailers either, unless it can’t be helped, like when you’re in a theater.) I suppose knowing a genre of a book helps, but I just wanted the experience of reading the story behind a movie that won’t completely vacate my memory cells. The Year of the Angry Rabbit is a satire on government, war, and capitalism. If you’re not expecting a serious horror story it’s quite funny. Russell Braddon never became a household name—he was from Australia and a person’s cultural impact tends to be greatest on their own continent—but if you knew this was a satire from the start you’d probably enjoy it as such. Although written in the sixties, it’s climax takes place at the millennium, now two decades past. It’s always interesting to see what people thought we might be up to by now.
Although there are elements of humor to our politics, Orwell seems to have been more on the money than Braddon. Nevertheless it’s important to keep the old stories alive. There are still people like me who will seek out rather obscure novels from many decades ago. They might have to have sat on library shelves for years without having been checked out—this used to be the glory of the library, before “evidence-based usage” studies ruined them. I search for things I want to read in my local small town library and find that my tastes are too obscure. Besides, old stuff has to be cleared out to make room for the more recent books hoi polloi wish to consume. I’m glad they’re still reading. For me, however, I’ll need to stretch back to a time before I was old enough to read to satisfy an unrelenting memory. It was rabbit years ago.