Saturday, October 30, 2010

"And in my best behavior/I am really just like him/Look beneath the floorboards/For the secrets I have hid."

The Song: "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.," Sufjan Stevens. Words & music by Sufjan Stevens. Track 4 of (Come on Feel the) Illinois(e), 2005. Track 13 of Into the Dark, a soundtrack to the novels of John Connolly, 2007.
How/when acquired: Gift CDs, 2007.
Listen/watch here.

If you're looking for an extra scare this weekend, that video is one of the most chilling things I've ever seen.

"Humani nihil a me alienum puto," wrote the Roman playwright Terence: "nothing human is alien to me." This is why I read crime fiction, and probably why I hang out with crime writers. I can imagine myself capable of almost anything, given the circumstances; what would would those circumstances be?

In his very entertaining talk on Wednesday night, my friend John Connolly read from his new novel-in-progress, the next book in a series about a private detective who is literally as well as metaphorically haunted. The scene he read made a passing reference to what I think is the most important truth of stories about any human atrocity: the speed at which the horrifying becomes normal, once you're living it.

I'm sure that John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and others knew that other people wouldn't think that what they were doing was "normal." I'm equally sure that fairly early on in their stories, what they were doing became normal to them.

This morning I got up, checked my e-mail, threw a load of laundry in the washer, took the dog for a walk. I'm making coffee right now, and have the TV on for white noise ("Being John Malkovich" is on, which I haven't seen in ages). All of this is normal to me. I won't kill anyone today if I can help it. But I can imagine a world in which I did things I would not want the neighbors to know about, and I think — in fact, I hope — most of us can.

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