Now that FLESH HOUSE has finally hit the shelves in American bookstores, I've started to get emails about what a horrible book it is. America has turned squeamish all of a sudden. Which is ironic, given the actual content of the book. America is the world's largest consumer of meat*. Burgers, ribs, steaks, chickens, pork chops... Meat, meat, meat, meat meat. In Iowa, a veggie burger is a regular meat burger with vegetables on top, not a burger made of vegetables. A burger, made of vegetables? NO! Dang it, that's just wrong!
But then the emails started:
"I was so looking forward to reading the next one that I actually bought the hardback version. However, I feel utterly disappointed - all the bloodshed, detailed descriptions of cutting humans apart and eating them. I was looking for a good whodunnit and not a horror story."
Or this one:
"... this book is grotesque. to read about a killer who skins and fillets people is one thing - that is what made hannibal lecter such a great read. but to actually READ it happening ia another. i just do not find it necessary. i swear to you stuart, i am not a prude. i can make it through deaver's the bone collector fine with no problems. this just churned my stomach and i could not finish it."
Believe it or not, the on-screen nature of what happens in FLESH HOUSE is completely intentional. I did it on purpose. In all the other books, the violence is kept off screen, but with this one I wanted it to take centre stage. Right there, where you can see it.
Much though I hate 'themes', there's one that runs all the way through the book about people no longer really taking responsibility for the meat that they eat. It all comes pre-packaged from the supermarket, no one knows where it's originated from**.
And if you eat meat at all: beef, pork, or lamb, what the Flesher does to his victims is EXACTLY what happens to it. So in a way it becomes a moral question - why is it OK for someone else to do it to a cow on your behalf so you can eat it, but not OK to read about it happening to a fictional person? That just doesn't make any sense to me. The fictional people in the books are fictional. They feel no pain. They were never alive in the first place***.
Oh, and I should point out that I'm not a vegetarian - I eat a lot of meat, I just like to know where it comes from. I support my local butchers, I've been to an abattoir and seen cows go from "MOO", to "Mmm, that looks tasty..." I am at peace with my omnivorous nature - if cows, sheep, and pigs didn't want to be eaten, they shouldn't have evolved so tasty. Common sense, isn't it? What could be better than a juicy steak, caramelised on the outside and purple in the middle; a chicken thigh, roasted in the oven till the skin's all golden and crackly; a rack of ribs, the meat just falling off the bones; or a rack of lamb, all pink and gorgeous; a shoulder of mutton, slow roasted and meltingly tender...
PETA doesn't agree. According to a recent poster campaign, "Feeding kids meat is child abuse." Which has to be one of the most stupid, half-arsed things I've heard in a long time. Because you know what? Child abuse is a lot more serious than giving your kid a chicken fucking drumstick.
Anyway, yes... Emails. I finally got tired of typing the same reply, over and over again, about why the book is the way it is, and thought I'd just point people back here to this post instead.
Because deep down, I'm not just a meat eater, I'm lazy too.
* And no, that's not an euphemism.
** I'm pretty sure I read a report not that long ago that said something like 40% of ten-year-olds couldn't tell you what animal chicken drumsticks came from. Hello? Clue's in the name!
*** Which for me is quite an important difference. I don't like reading true crime stories, because I know the people involved are real, they suffered and left behind families that grieve for them. I don't find that entertaining.
Labels: Flesh House