Some horror stories are written simply to set off a human being’s “fight or flight” response thereby providing a temporary kick, while others use the genre as a vehicle to deliver a message; to provide meaning to a story.
Victor LaValle’s stories fall firmly in the latter category. By dropping his characters into extreme, terrifying situations, he leads the reader to a deeper, emotional truth. In LaValle’s world, it’s never just about the monster, it’s what the monster means.
Speaking of monsters, one of the most enduring in literature can be found in Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein.” It took quite an imagination to conjure up the now 200-year-old study of medical/technological hubris, and it took an equally imaginative mind – LaValle’s — to extend this legend into contemporary culture to make a statement about race in America in the form of a fascinating comic book called “Victor LaValle’s Destroyer.”
Fittingly, his program, “Making Monsters: A Conversation and Reading with Victor LaValle” will be held at 7 PM on Halloween (Wed., Oct. 31) in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. Candy will be provided!
And like many of LaValle’s other stories, in “Destroyer” he serves up plenty of brutality and inhumanity and gross unfairness, just like in the real world. But in the final analysis he offers the potential for optimism. In “Destroyer” that optimism comes in the form of the African-American heroine’s son, shot to death by police and re-animated by his scientist mother.
In addition to the 2018 comic book, LaValle has published four novels: “The Ecstatic;” “Big Machine;” “The Devil in Silver;” and “The Changeling;” two novellas: “Lucretia and the Kroons” and “The Ballad of Black Tom;” and the short story collection, “Slapboxing with Jesus.” His numerous awards include the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, a United States Artists Ford Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
LaValle is an associate professor in the Writing Program at Columbia University.