If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what about ugliness?
How do we define ugly? What repulses us? And why?
In his latest novel, INNOCENCE, Dean Koontz shows us ugly. Little by little, step by step, he immerses us in ugly; until we are in ugly’s head. And then he holds up a mirror.
Horror is not the final destination.
In October of 2012, after reading three novels in Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, I felt compelled to ask: “Is Dean Koontz a Visionary Fiction Writer?” Since visionary fiction brings forth universal wisdom in story form so readers can experience it from within, I concluded, yes. Koontz penetrates beneath the surface of things (the beautiful and the ugly, humorous and sad, inspiring and depressing), as if drilling deep for a fresh source of water. At first water gushes forth brown with silt (one reason, I suppose, his work is considered horror), but once the silt settles, we’re left with a nourishing, life-giving wellspring. After reading INNOCENCE, I again challenge those who label Koontz’s work as horror. Sure, angst and fear may be noisy passengers that fascinate—and repeal—us during our journey through Koontz’s novels, and apprehensiveness and uneasiness often morph into the vehicle in which we ride, but horror is not the final destination. Koontz’s intent is not to petrify, but to encourage us to think, see, feel, and ask questions—maybe even change our minds. In Innocence, Dean Koontz shows us ugliness that goes beyond definition, ugliness that may, in fact, be beautiful. Let me share a few words from Addison Goodheart, the protagonist of INNOCENCE:“I had remained hopeful that, among the millions on this Earth, there might be a few who would summon the courage to know me for what I am and have the self-confidence to still walk part of this life with me.”
And:“…the world’s many mysteries fascinate me and inspire in me a hope so profound that I suppose, if I were to express it sincerely and at length in a manuscript more bluntly philosophical than this one, any normal person, those who walk freely in daylight, would find it the work of a Pollyanna and worthy only of ridicule.”
The healer’s art
You have likely heard the quote by Robert Frost, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Dean Koontz describes the writing of INNOCENCE as the most exhilarating experience of his writing career. Need I say more? No sooner had I finished reading INNOCENCE, than I retrieved my 1963 edition of T.S. Eliot Collected Poems (from the old college days) to find “East Coker,” a poem Koontz refers to at the book’s end—a metaphor describing God as a wounded surgeon.
…Beneath the bleeding hands we feel /
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art…
Like beauty, ugliness depends upon the eye of the beholder. Sometimes we don’t go deep enough to find the beauty in something ugly or the ugly in something beautiful. Sometimes we are wrong.
Breaking genre barriers
“…the wind played an oboe note, and I went down into that sound and into a world that I could never have imagined, where I would make a better life for myself.”