You know what scares the hell out of me?

Well, folks, it ain’t vampires.

Especially teenage vampires with perfect fangs and abs.

(This riff has certainly been done before, but I don’t care.  I don’t have time to read everything, and that goes double for the internet.  I don’t like reading monitors and screens unless it’s absolutely necessary, and, to keep this parenthetical aside going for as long as possible, I don’t need to hear how e-books etc. are saving the environment.  Enough trees die of natural causes every day to keep me in serious fiction and New Yorkers.  Let’s get rid of the other 99.9 percent of paper products first.  That includes the Charmin and Kleenex … And no sooner do I write this than I open the current issue of The New Yorker and find the magazine is now “available on the Apple iPad,” along with this ominous caveat: “We intend to keep providing the magazine in whatever form seems to work.”  Kill me now.)

I’m a poor dirt farmer.  Well, for a few hours a day – the rest of the time I’m joyriding in my gold-plated Porsche Spyder, which has a diamond gearshift knob and a horn that plays “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” by Van Halen.

But even for pretend-farmers like me, the weather is a big deal.

The weather, in case you haven’t noticed, has gone bonkers.

Four straight summers of sweltering drought in the southeastern U.S.?  That scares the hell out of me.

Hurricanes the size of Texas?  Yep.

Melting polar ice caps?  Berserker thunderstorms?  The extinction of species and desertification?  Uh-huh.  Scared.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are just like people and have the same First Amendment rights.  Nothing scary about that.

We all know our corporate masters have our best interests at heart.  Thank you, corporations, for your responsible stewardship of the economy.  Thank you for creating all those new jobs and, gosh, protecting our precious natural resources.  If only there was SOME WAY to give corporations more control of the political process in this country …

“With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century,” whined some anonymous ingrate on the editorial page of The New York Times.  “Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.”

That’s just crazy talk!

I find the works of certain writers terrifying.  Two novelists immediately come to mind: Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy.

When McCarthy’s The Road was published, I sent a copy to my brother.  A few days later, I received via email his four-word review: “Thanks for the nightmares.”

McCarthy is also the author of Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men, two books I guarantee will scare you more than anything by Stephen King.  (No offense to Mr. King.  He’s a fine writer and seems like a good guy.  Bonus points for playing guitar in the Rock Bottom Remainders.)

Right now I’m reading Ellroy’s latest novel, Blood’s a Rover.  McCarthy and Ellroy’s prose styles could not be more dissimilar.  The former is frequently bashed for aping William Faulkner’s iconoclastic word-flood, while the latter is prone to such descriptive outbursts as “Clouds absorbed moonlight” (my favorite sentence of the week).

What the two share, in my opinion, is an almost relentlessly bleak view of human nature.  The books I mentioned are monuments to pessimism, anxiety, paranoia and fear.

I usually experience enough pessimism, anxiety, paranoia and fear before breakfast to last me the whole day.  I’m not looking for more of the stuff, believe me, but the hellish landscapes in McCarthy and Ellroy’s novels keep me coming back for more.  Why?  Because I think they’re both on to something.

Aye, there be monsters.  But they don’t have supernatural powers.  They’re just a-holes with money, power, bad ideas and murderous super-egos.

Everything else?  Kiddie rides.

About the Author

John Hicks

Havin' a wild weekend.

John Hicks lives outside the city limits, where eagles dare.

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