My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
January 19, 2022 11:35 AM - Subscribe

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade Daniels sees recent events for which only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her.

Jade is an angry outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. Jade's family belongs to the Blackfeet tribe, and Jones (also of the Blackfeet) authentically conveys feeling unwelcome in one's own home.

Jade lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies… especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Content warnings include sexual abuse and suicide, as the protagonist lives in poverty with an abusive father and attempts to take her own life.
posted by DirtyOldTown (7 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm reading this right now and the mid-point of the book hit me very hard. I did not see in Jade's essays what Letha did and I was left asking myself how I could have missed it. This was the moment the book has become serious literature to me, much more than a knowing (and fun, for some definition of "fun") commentary on genre.

I don't want to jump the gun and be certain that Jade has been sexually abused by her father — my personal experience with survivors is that anything that subverts their agency only reinforces their trauma, so I'm inclined to refrain from boxing Jade into a narrative that is satisfying to me.

That said, if the thesis is tying together the social conditions that make child sexual assault possible with the subtext of the slasher film — particularly with regard to the implicit moralizing and blaming of the victim and how children are not listened to or believed — I'm fully on-board and deeply persuaded. Well, and especially how Jade has internalized the slasher narrative so deeply herself and is so certain she could never be a final girl. That's heartbreaking.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:05 AM on January 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I haven't finished yet, either, But the thing that strikes me/seems ominous to me is how Jade narrates everything with the breezy smartass teen vibe she seems to have absorbed from slasher movies, even in instances where something much more real and awful is happening: attempted suicide, abuse, etc.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I read this one a few months ago and enjoyed it, it's funny & deeply subverts the genre, including subversion of the subversion. Some of it is ridiculous, all of it is gory, and a big part of all of it is the rich island vs. blue collar townies dynamic which lends some of the dramatic impulse. Jade is an excellent character.
posted by chavenet at 4:23 AM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Ok, so dumb question. Was Theo also killing people? I mean Jade saw him, right?
posted by Literaryhero at 5:53 PM on January 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Loved the story. Loved the characters. Loved the dense, multi-layered consideration of and usage of horror/slasher iconography.


Did anyone else find the action scenes kind of muddled and hard to follow? I spent a higher percentage of the time flipping back to try and figure out what the fuck was happening while reading this particular book than on any other I can recall.

I mean, don't get me wrong: I loved it. I pre-ordered his next book.

But I was frequently disoriented during action scenes. Maybe that was a stylistic thing or maybe it's just me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:34 PM on February 1, 2022

I listened to this a couple days ago and liked what it was doing overall, but felt like the writing was a bit rococo for my tastes (e.g. early on someone is listed as "tapping energy into the floor, if it wanted it", a line which proved really distracting to me: a) the floor's an inanimate object; it doesn't want anything, so let's remove that bit, then b) that leaves "someone tapping energy into the floor," but most energy there would be dissipated as sound, unless you're gouging the floor or chipping it, which isn't what's happening, so that leaves "tapping the floor," but c) that implies tapping the floor with a finger, so you have to say "tapping the floor with her foot," but then d) 99% of the time when you're tapping your foot you're tapping it against the floor, not a cabinet or table leg or whatever, so e) why not just "tapping her foot," but then f) now that seems like you're being coy about the mental state--is she feeling impatient or annoyed, or just trying to feel the 7/4 of "Solsbury Hill" or something? and g) wait, what? What is the narrator even talking about?).

After awhile I got used to the author's style and stopped having to back up the audiobook to listen again to what I missed while I was distracted.

Someone has spared me the task of trying to go through it again, hoping to list all the movie references. They're not all horror films, but clearly I'm not as much of a horror fan as I used to be--I've seen just under half of them.
posted by johnofjack at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

I finally got around to listening to this as an audiobook, mostly because The Only Good Indians was a harrowing experience (probably not for the reasons you think). Anyway:

1. The reader does a great job

2. I like the way that the "slasher analysis" is mostly slipped in via Jade's papers. It let's her "smart ass" persona really shine without feeling totally artificial, since it's easier to maintain as a literary quick than her outward actions, which are already pretty abrasive.

3. The action scenes are confusing, but in the way that action in a slasher film in confusing -- it's often not clear where the killer is/has gone, and it's doubly so for the climax, where there are a lot of people to keep track of in the melee.

4. Much like a slasher film, the book is full of relatively disposable characters, with a few standouts -- this history teacher and sheriff come to mind -- to give a more human edge to the story. (although at least some of the characters get more development in later books).

5. Which brings us to... this is the first of a planned trilogy. I am hoping some of the vexing issues like "was that Theo Mondragon killing the people at Terra Nova?" After all, he's in a mask the whole time, and we all know that a masked slasher might be someone else (the Friday the 13th franchise is especially fond of this tactic. If there was another person at Terra Nova, it's not at all clear who they were.

6. I was not completely sold on the identity of the final slasher, since, while that was a possibility, given all the classification talk, I felt it could have used a bit more foreshadowing, since up until that moment, we were firmly in the "this is a deranged guy" camp. Still, I hope for future revelations.

7. I did like the way became an exploration of "what makes a good parent?" Jade drew pretty badly from the parent deck, but we see some people, however weakly, trying to be parent-ish for her, to give her some stable adult support, and she even kind of realizes it. It was not a theme I expected in a slasher book....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:55 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]

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