Melanie Tem Interview

CD: Steve has written quite eloquently in his essays about the therapeutic function of horror fiction. He says that horror fiction allows receptive readers to ponder the darkness inside all of us, and learn how to deal with it; not necessarily to be better persons but to be fuller persons, because it necessitates confronting a part of ourselves we are usually instructed to repress or not think about. Do you agree with this, or do you have a different sort of philosophy about the function your fiction serves for readers?

Tem: Again, I tend not to think that broadly. What comes to mind, though, when I think about that question, is a recent experience in which something I read touched me. I've just just finished reading Robert McCammon's Gone South and Boy's Life. I thought the first half of Boy's Life was alright, but I was not overwhelmingly impressed. Then I read the scene where Cory's dog is dying and the boy prays death away. That experience has now become particularly important to me because yesterday our dog of 14 years died, and our children have been telling us "I didn't want her to die," and asking "Can't we keep her alive?" So we've had to discuss death, why it's important, and why it happens to all of us. That story within the story of Boy's Life helped me to get a handle on death again, or have some kind of better understanding about death and about the responsibility of the survivor, even before our dog died. I can't say directly what it has done, and if I could, that wouldn't be the function of literature, it would be the function of therapy. But I hope my work can have that kind of effect on people--not in the sense that you read it and say, "Oh, now I understand 'X' about this." But in the sense that it resonates the same way that story in McCammon's book resonates for me, and keeps coming back to me, and makes me learn something new every time it does. Because I think that's what literature is all about.

copyright 1993 Stefan Dziemianowicz

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