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Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.
Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.
Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.
|Product dimensions:||5.26(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Ben H. Winters was nominated for an Edgar Award for his novel The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. He is also the author of the New York Times best seller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. He lives with his wife and children in Boston.
One thing I have learned, since writing a book called Bedbugs, is that when you write a book called Bedbugs, people are very curious whether you've ever had bedbugs.
It's funny, because I once wrote a book called Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and nobody asked whether I'd had sea monsters.
Well, the answer is no, I've never had either, thank the Lord.
The other main difference between this current book and that old one (and my other so-called "mash-up" novel, Android Karenina) is that this one takes its genre responsibilities more seriously. Whereas Sea Monsters and Android were basically parodies, attempts to humorously and interestingly blend "classic" works of literature with new genre elements, Bedbugs is an honest attempt to scare and chill the reader. No one was supposed to be seriously afraid of the giant mutant lobsters that rampage through my version of Jane Austen, but you are definitely meant to be afraid of the creepy crawlers I've unleashed this time around.
Horror novelists (and filmmakers) have a lot of different ways they try to keep you up all night. Here were three of my strategies, in Bedbugs:
1. Pick the right subject matter.
Half my work was done before I started, because so many people are already so freaked out by bedbugs.
In my humble opinion, truly spooky books and films take as their subjects things that have a pre-existing inherent scariness. Sharks, giant dogs, child-like dolls stuffed in the backs of closets, a row of birds on a telephone wire. People already suspect that the soft-spoken dude checking them into their motel at three a.m. is a knife-wielding lunatic, so Hitchcock just has to press the right buttons.
I am honored that Bedbugs has been compared here and there to Rosemary's Baby, and I just like to point out that that books takes a process that is often the locus of considerable anxiety (i.e. pregnancy) and amplifies those anxieties until they enter the realm of true fear.
2. Live in the mundane and day-to-day.
Especially in the early pages, I tried to firmly ground the story in the realistic, everyday lives of the characters, stuff like grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, taking the kid to the playground, marital squabbles and make-up sex. With just occasional notes of what's to come: a smear of blood here, an unexpected noise there, an unnamed sense of melancholy and dread. This is a technique you will find abundantly in books like The Shining, the aforementioned Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, even The Amityville Horror. There's this careful creation of a realistic, familiar world before the darkness begins to seep in.
3. The Great disintegrating narrator.
Bedbugs begins from the perspective of Susan Wendt, an anxiety-prone insomniac, and it does not leave her point of view for the entire novel. This gives the reader no opportunity to evaluate the truthfulness of her experiences and opinions, and we are unsure, as her paranoia and fear escalate, what is real and what is false. In this effort to bond the reader with the narrator, and keep you in the grips of what are either delusions or genuine monsters, I am working in a grand tradition, beginning with marvelous old-school ghost stories like The Turn of the Screw and The Yellow Wallpaper, both of which tread similarly uneven psychological ground.
So there are a view of the ways that Bedbugs attempts to work its particular form of dark magic...even before we get to the blood-soaked nightmares, the bugs skittering out of wall sconces, and the intimations of demonic possession.
Whether it all works, you'll have to tell me...
Ben H. Winters