Carnography

There’s a literary term from the 1970s that I’d like to see come back — and you don’t see me saying that often about the 1970s.  It was applied to the work of David Morrell, a novelist of some skill and intelligence whom I consider underrated these days.  The term was “carnography.”  The meat novel.  The intent was to contain “the pornographic nature of the detailed description of extreme violence” into a single term.  Morrell was an English professor fascinated by John Barth, and I remain greatly amused that it was that mind that gave John Rambo to the world (not that that Rambo resembles the Rambo of the second film and beyond).

Just as I remain fascinated by the term “carnography.”  A novel slapped with that label should be an irredeemable horror, shouldn’t it?  And yet, somehow, I think it should have been a publishing category.   It certainly should have survived as a literary term.  It’s older than “splatterpunk,” and has a different tone to the outsider-lit trashiness of bizarro lit.  There’s something oddly haughty about the word.  I can imagine someone saying “Please allow me to present my latest work of carnography” and philosophising about their carnographic intent.

 

Reading: A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace of Wildness by Martin Shaw (UK) (US)