Recommend a piece of fiction that gives a specific feeling, regardless of genre or medium
I've been looking lately for something new to read/watch/listen to/play and I've been chasing a particular feeling that some of my favorite works have given me in the past.
It's something that's hard to describe succinctly, so it's not exactly easy to just google search for something, and usually just telling people I like x thing gets me y recommendation which is maybe a similar style or genre but doesn't really elicit the particular feeling that I'm after.
I figure other folks might have a similar problem, so I thought it might be fun to have a thread for requests for works that make you feel a certain way, regardless of genre or medium.
I'll start mine in the comments and other folks feel free to ask for requests as top-level comments as well!
100 Years of Solitude captures the feeling of nostalgia and fading memory better than almost any other piece of fiction I've encountered. A lot of people are put off by the super similar names and find it hard to keep track of, but I think that's largely the point. Garcia Marquez wants you to be a bit lost in the haze of memory when older characters are mentioned. The way he starts the book, and a reoccurring mechanic that he uses, is to combine multiple tenses into a single passage as a way of distorting your sense of time and narrative. The first sentence (in translation, which Garcia Marquez had said was as good as the original - high praise) is:
Just look at the structure there. We in the present are looking forward to the future in which the Colonel is up against the firing squad, where he is remembering the distant past - which is none other than the "present" the reader has been placed in. The next few chapters, if I recall, are describing this "past" so that by the time you get to the "present" of the firing squad you had forgotten the framing in the first place. From the get go we are entering and navigating a memory, and by the end of the book its hard not to have an odd sense of nostalgia for the beginning.
I know a lot of people have a tough time liking this book, but I can't help but recommend it if you love themes of memory and nostalgia. Beyond the beautiful writing, it truly does capture the feeling of remembering more than most other things. If you are having trouble with the confusing names, my only advice is to not worry so much about those - that's the point.
I have attempted to read 100 Years of Solitude before and bounced off it, but it was years ago so I should probably give it another go. It was one of those books that was so obviously well written but for some reason just wasn't connecting at the time. I should definitely give it another shot, though.
My request is for a particular feeling that I don't have a word for.
It's the feeling of wonder (or horror) that you get when things seem normal and then something out of place or impossible happens. It's the feeling of the strange or magical or horrible breaking into the mundane. There's a wide variety of media that have given me this feeling, either of wonder or horror. Some good examples are the early seasons of Welcome to Night Vale, WandaVision, the SCP Wiki (early on before the lore was really developed), the TV miniseries The Lost Room, the third book in C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy That Hideous Strength, the web serial Pale by Wildbow, the videogame Control, the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and some others that I'm sure I'm not thinking of.
I think the key thing about this for me is the sense of the mundane, with something strange or otherworldly breaking through. It can either be something that provokes wonder or joy, or something terrible that provokes horror (although I'm a wimp when it comes to horror). Works where there's already a mix of the supernatural and mundane usually don't give me this feeling, because in the fiction the otherworldly has already become mundane itself.
So, hit me with your best shot! I'd love book or podcast recommendations especially just because that's what I have the most time and money for, but I'll also try to check out shows, movies, or games, or whatever else that people want to recommend.
David Lynch is really good for that, imo. Blue Velvet (1986) in particular really touched that nerve for me. It's set in this quant picturesque 1960's small town, but as it goes on you start to see the seedy underbelly that was just below the surface the whole time. I found it deeply unsettling, and I ended up wishing I didn't smoke a joint before watching it.
You know, I'm not sure if I've ever watched a David Lynch film. I definitely need to add this to my list, thanks for the recommendation!
Not a huge fan of Lynch, but Mulholland Drive is also a really good recommendation if you end up liking this.
You might also like Requiem for a Dream if you haven't already seen it. While the pervading evil is technically a mundane one, the filmmaking almost goes overboard in showing how insidious it can be.
Watch the first season of The Promised Neverland. Or read the manga. But don't watch the second season of the anime because it's possibly the most disappointing ending I've seen in decades.
It's particularly good because it starts off with a really mundane fictional setting, and more and more is revealed about what's wrong with the world as time goes on. And it basically keeps growing the scale of wrongness to crazy heights at the end.
I really enjoyed the tv show Utopia, and to a lesser extent Fargo, but I also cannot really describe the feeling they have in common. They're excessively normal worlds turning upsidedown slowly, not too much action, but it gets brutal. The pacing is like they have nothing to prove, not afraid of being slow and letting you stew in the world with the characters for a little bit. In Utopia's case there was also the psychological aspect of siding with the emotional or logical side of the arguments. I wish I knew of more stories where you really don't know who you agree with, not being able to tell who the good or bad guys actually are is a confusing feeling.
While writing that, I also had this youtube channel ringing around in my head so I figured I should mention "The Minute Hour". It's been a while since I've actually watched their stuff but me and some friends got big into it a while ago. This nice grill was the first one I instinctively went back to watch (even though most are just audio tw: mental health+), so maybe it would be a good introduction. Mostly they are absurd skits centering around mental health usually, but the way they go off the rails never gets needlessly "edgy" while gets more than unsettling at times.
Whew! I had to bail about halfway through that first link. Definitely hit the nail on the head, maybe just a little too hard, lol. It was really well done and was definitely delivering that frisson of horror, just too much. (I did mention I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror).
Still, nice work.
I’m actually subscribed to the animator for that video, would definitely recommend checking out his channel - gives off serious old adult swim vibes.
Damn, I had to login and comment because I'm always on the look for media like that.
You already mentioned SCP, I'm not sure if I understood what you're looking for exactly, but I highly recommend /r/nosleep stories Penpal and Borrasca (specially this last one); I believe both were edited into books later on and apparently Borrasca has a podcast as well.
Stephen King books kinda bring that feeling sometimes as well, but they might be a bit more "traditional" that what you can find in SCP or /r/nosleep, my favourites are IT, Under the Dome and 11/22/63 although these last two aren't really horror, Under The Dome certainly fits into something breaking up the mundane.
Also another thing I love is catastrophe/pandemic films, Contagion, Outbreak, Perfect Sense and Shin Godzilla (yeah it's a godzilla movie but it plays out as a catastrophe one, it's great go watch it) they kinda fit into something disrupting the mundane albeit not really superatural.
It's late atm but I'll try and edit this post if I come up with anything else.
I might check these out, but I am seriously a wimp when stuff gets too scary XD.
Stephen King is also a good recommendation. I read a bunch of his stuff when I was younger and was a little better able to deal with how depressing they were, lol.
I do really want to check out Shin Godzilla, the clips that I've seen look absolutely kickass.
Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin
I say this with some reservation, as it's not a precise fit for your criteria, as there's nothing supernatural/otherworldly about it. Nevertheless, it absolutely captures the creeping in of an unnatural horror to the otherwise mundane. The book works so well that even if you know what it's about, it's still effective. In fact, I think knowing what it's about is almost essential, because I think most people would put it down otherwise. It is such a slow burn that many would stop well before seeing it through, not even realizing that a payoff is coming.
I'm being intentionally vague in case going in cold is important to your enjoyment, but if you (or anyone else) wanting more specifics I'll hide them below. It's not a true spoiler since it's the widely known premise of the book, but I figure I'll err on the side of caution:
Spoilers (sort of)
The Kevin mentioned in the title is the son of the main character, and he commits a school shooting. The book is a series of letters from Kevin's mother, to her husband, written after the shooting and talking about life and the events leading up to it. When I say that the book is a slow burn, I really do mean it. Kevin's mother talks about a lot of things that aren't directly related to the shooting, and it is a good while into the book before you even start to see the main arc. This, though, is exactly what lets some of the later moments of the book have such powerful impact and give it that "oh shit" quality. Shriver carefully inches up the heat, bringing the book to a compelling and altogether deeply unsettling climax -- one that wouldn't have been nearly as effective if she hadn't laid a familiar and mundane groundwork first.
I absolutely LOVE this topic idea, by the way.
Oh that sounds really good and probably very intense. I'm adding it to the reading list with a big note to remind me to be emotionally prepared.
Some stuff that I liked that I think qualifies:
Sorry, I mixed the list a bit. This includes short films, animes, movies, shows. Tried not to include things that others already suggested.
Thanks for the recommendations! I'll probably give Saw a hard pass, I'm too much of a wimp for that, but I'll try and check these others out at some point.
John Dies at the End book series by David Wong
Captain Estar Goes To Heaven online graphic novel by Winston Rowntree
The film Stranger than Fiction
The TV series Legion and Mr Robot
Some of Nine Inch Nail's music deals with those themes.
I loved stranger than fiction! I hadn't thought about it but it definitely fits what I'm talking about.
I haven't really checked out any of the rest of these, though. So thank you for the recommendations!
Mr. Robot is really good!
Two suggestions, both books, one obvious and one that might not fit - House of Leaves, and John Dies at the End. House of Leaves has plenty written about it on its Wikipedia page, so I will leave any explanation out. John Dies at the End is a strange fusion of cosmic horror and comedy, and really is one of my favorite books because of it - I can’t recommend the movie though, it’s not very good.
Also, I think the genre you’re looking for might be cosmic horror?
House of Leaves is one that I have been meaning to check out for a while now. I'll have to bump it up the reading list. I also definitely need to check out John Dies at the End. Whether it fits this particular feel or not, I've heard lots of good things.
Cosmic Horror is definitely a genre that fits into what I'm talking about, although I don't know of that many examples aside from Lovecraft himself. I did really enjoy the first few books of Charles Stross' Laundry Files series, but it got so damn bleak and depressing that I had to bail for my own sake.
However, I think what I'm looking for is a little broader than just Cosmic Horror. In fact, I'd love some recommendations that skewed away from the horror side of things and more toward the wonderful/magical side of it. I do realize that my list of things that fit what I'm describing is a little weighted toward the horror side, but I think that's probably because this technique or feeling is a more core part of certain styles of horror, and so it was a little harder to come up with examples.
Still, great recommendations, thank you!
While John Dies at the End has a lot of horror and is extremely bleak at times, it is almost entirely offset by the comedy - I think you’d heavily enjoy it based on what you described, and have to double down on my recommendation. Hope you find more of what you’re looking for!
I really liked the book House of Suns by Alistair Reynolds. For me it evoked a sense of grandeur and wonder that many other books try to evoke and miss horribly.
I've read some of his other books and thought they were pretty OK, but not spectacular. But House of Suns is epic. It spans millions of years, and the ending is like something out of a dream. There's a mystery in there, but it's more than that. The main character ends up discovering some long lost history of the galaxy, and in some pretty bizarre ways.
This sounds really interesting! I'm adding it to the (growing) reading list.
The movie Stalker, by Tarkovski, is very much about the boundaries of language and what is truly alien for the human experience.
Solaris, by the same director, conveys largely the same mood.
This might be a good reoccurring thread, if anyone else is interested in that?
This is really interesting. Every piece of media I'm consuming I am always aware of how it makes me feel. Both emotionally and physically. Music in particular is a big one for me and while there are many genres I like Synthwave seems to evoke a very special feeling in me which can only be described with the made up word Anemoia. The longing and nostalgia for a time or feeling I've never experienced. I feel like I'm in a never ending end credit roll from a 80s movie.
Example: Crockett - Cruise
That's interesting. I love writing songs that sound like they're the end of an 80s movie. Somewhere on my phone I even have a playlist called "The end of the movie". Thanks for pointing this out! I'm liking it.
No probs. If that's a Spotify list I would love to see it...or even better your own songs
It is always remarkable when a book or movie can make me feel an emotion that I haven't quite felt before or even have a name for. The one that come to mind right away is "The Island of the Day Before" by Emberto Eco. It left me with a mixture of the sadness of isolation, a resigned/detached wonder at humans advancement and a subtle hopefulness for the people still to experience what is to come in the future. I was feeling the emotions of the character but those emotion had me as a subject. Very odd and beautiful and slightly distressing.
The anime "Sound of the Sky" would be my recommendation. I have a hard time describing the exact emotion (similar to what you said), but it is a weirdly hopeful melancholy. It really imbues the entire series with that emotion as well.
2666 by Roberto Bolaño left me with a feeling of uneasiness throughout. Hmm... Sicario engenders similar feelings, I think.
I would recommend two books by Khaled Hosseini; The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Preferably back to back. They profoundly deal with human emotions in very complex cultural and familial back drops in ways that will linger with you for years. I wept multiple times during both books due to the tragedies and personal overcoming through the most wicked worlds you can imagine.
As a runner up, my favorite author is Hermann Hesse. I recently finished Demian, which certainly lives up to and exceeds the hundred years of acclaim it's received.