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Horrors in the Age of Disbelief

Horrors in the Age of Disbelief

Stephen King: Pet Sematary; Doubleday; New York.

 If it is true that popular literature, in however unexamined a fashion, em­bodies many of the presuppositions of an age, then the last decade and a half's spate of supernatural shockers raises some intriguing questions. According to the higher wisdom of the academy, for instance, the creature known as Modern Man has outgrown the supernatural. (Hence, in the 60's some prominent theologians proclaimed the logical conclusion of a century of rationalizing theology: God is dead and the Secular City of liberal good deeds isat hand.) Yet nobody who has spent 10 minutes during the last 10 years looking at a rack of popular paperbacks in this country would reach the same conclusion. In mass fiction and movies, unearthly horrors abound, suggesting at the least that the Age of Secular Man is on hold. 

How are we to account for the popu­larity of works which, according to most of the official definitions of modernity, should scarcely be finding readers at all? Literary critics are not of much help here. Most treat the Gothic novel and its successor, the ghost or horror story, as a covert exploration of the darker, usually sexual, aspects...

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