The Store - Bentley Little Bentley Little established himself as the premier expert of institutional deconstruction with The Store. This is a smart and fast-paced novel, and its attack on consumer culture is so obvious yet so smoothly encapsulated within the traditional horror genre, that the genuinely sharp critique - the entire reason for this novel's existence - may pass almost unnoticed by the frequent and possibly jaded horror reader.

If the western is the most conservative of genres, then horror is surely the most reactionary. Both genres leave themselves open for regular deconstruction, but for some reason the western has gained acceptance as a serious genre, while horror still struggles. On the one hand, it is hard to see why: both genres have their critically respected authors who sell a lot of books (Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King) and both genres have thousands of paperback examples of dross that is easily available in all chain outlets – so why is the western seen as classic, while horror is seen as disreputable, an embarrassment? But on the other hand, it is very easy to see why. Horror is not a respected genre when viewing it as the embodiment of reactionary tendencies within human nature. These are tendencies that are in some ways shameful – a fear of sex, so sexuality is made horrific; a fear of violence and the unknown, so violence becomes both a threat and an object of fetishization. It is somehow less embarrassing to discuss the embodiment of conservative values in the traditional western or the deconstruction of those values in the atypical western, than it is to discuss the straight-up enjoyment of things that no supposedly healthy person should be considering for too long. Themes such as "Sex As A Threatening Disease" or "Violence As A Passion Akin To Sex"... are perhaps rather awkward to discuss for the person who has a vested interest in not appearing to be rather creepy.

Bentley Little is that rare example of the horror writer who doesn’t exist within the typical fear-of-sex, fear-of-violence continuum of most within the genre (King & Straub being his far more famous brothers with similar perspectives). I don’t know if the man is a liberal or a progressive or a libertarian, and I don’t really care. What I find to be completely refreshing is that his fears appear to be primarily based not around the potential of violence visited upon the traditional family unit (although it is there, to a point) or around fear of sex/fear of the body (although that is there as well, but understated and certainly not fetishized)... Bentley's horror explores the discomfort of comforting institutions like the chain store, the university, the post office.

In The Store, his multi-pronged attack on consumer culture is clear and straightforward. The protagonist hates it and so does the author. I don’t usually expect that kind of lucid renunciation of capitalism from this most reactionary of genres.

As usual, his writing is straightforward, almost transparent. The plot moves quickly but inexorably, the characters are simply depicted and all the more real for it. And the attack on the potential of dehumanization within consumerism, within capitalism, is both vivid and furious.