Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MAINE : Maine's "King of Horror" has a Secret ,..and it's name is Joe.

"Joe Hill and Stephen King's secret is out!!"

Photo By Shane Leonard

Joe Hill's real name isn't Joe Hill, it's Joseph Hillstrom King. As in Stephen King's son, and you won't find this on the cover jacket of Hill's first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, nor is it in any of the press materials.

This reflects a very principled stance that Hill and his publisher have taken, a conscious decision not to milk Hill's patrimony for publicity, and which I am now helping to ruin. They are right to do this, and I am wrong to use it for the sake of a good opening paragraph. There are only two things worth saying about Hill's distinguished ancestry. One is that whatever King has, he evidently passed along to his son, because Heart-Shaped Box is a top-notch piece of horror fiction.

A lot of horror writers wind up revealing a sentimental streak in the end, but if Hill has one he keeps it well in check. This is, ultimately, a book about fathers and sons. A son who must come to terms with his abusive father, and with the avenging ghost, who is the father of another key character.

It's an appropriate enough theme for Hill, because every artist has to work in the shadow of his or her father-in-art, and symbolically, Oedipally overcome him, and in Hill's case his father-in-art is also his literal, biological father. Heart-Shaped Box isn't about appeasing fathers, and learning to love them, and seeing that they, too, are human beings and not monsters. It's not about that at all. It's about knowing your father, and finding him, and then killing him.

"Isn't that what the best artists do?"

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