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Master of horror is also a reader of bird books

Wes Craven

Nicole Rivelli/On set 25/8 portraits

Wes Craven, the master of horror, is now a Massachusetts resident. Last year the filmmaker and his wife moved from Los Angeles to their summer place on Martha’s Vineyard. Fans will be able to catch him on Oct. 17 at the Boston Book Festival where he will speak on a panel about terror and terrorism at 7:30 p.m. at the Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St. Tickets are $6 or $12.

BOOKS: Since your fundamentalist parents didn’t let you see films did they censor your reading?

CRAVEN: No. My mother subscribed to Readers Digest Condensed Books. I thought novels were kind of short until at 14 I went to work at the Cleveland Public Library. The first year I read everything involving World War II, scuba diving, and UFOs. Then a librarian told me I should read a classic. I said, ‘What is that?’ He said a classic is like Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” or Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” So I read them. They blew my mind, and I never turned back. From that point on I read all the 19th-century novelists.

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?


CRAVEN: My current book is “Old Man River” by Paul Schneider, who lives around the corner from me. It is a history of the Mississippi River. He goes into it in enormous depth. He’s a fantastic writer. I’m also reading “Explosives: History With A Bang” by G.I. Brown. It’s fascinating. I’m interested in the kind of uneasy part of our human history.

BOOKS: Do you have anything on your bookshelf that would surprise people?

CRAVEN: Most people think I read just horror. I did read Stephen King’s “The Shining” and found it frightening, but on my shelves there’s a lot about spirituality and science. My interests are wider than most people think. I’m a birder so I read a lot about birds. I recently read “Bird Sense” by Tim Birkhead, which is really interesting. It looks at how different birds perceive the universe.


BOOKS: Do you read a lot of nonfiction?

CRAVEN: I do. For many years I read only novels, but somewhere in my mid-adulthood I became fascinated with science, nature, and history, and weary of stories about family dysfunction. However one of the best books I’ve read in a while is “Townie” by Andre Dubus III about a guy who’s conflicted about his violent father. I was really struck by that because my father was violent. After the last pages I just laid on my bed and wept. It made me realize how a book can evoke all these things in you.

BOOKS: Have any books influenced your work?

CRAVEN: I think they all do somehow. There’s a story about the Sawney Bean family, this Scottish clan of feral killers, which is in “Bloody Britain: A History of Murder, Mayhem and Massacre” by Mike Ivory. The story of that family was the basis of “The Hills Have Eyes.”

BOOKS: How does working on a film affect your reading?

CRAVEN: I read things that speak to some aspect of the film or something that I need more expertise in. I think I read John Huston’s autobiography, “An Open Book,” while shooting a film. I just marveled at the richness of his life. He was a hero of mine. I had a chance to meet him once on the Queen Mary of all things. I’ve also read the biographies and autobiographies of other directors I admire: Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, and, of course, Luis Buñuel. But mostly making a film is all consuming. If you are lucky you get four hours of sleep a night.


BOOKS: How has living on Martha’s Vineyard changed your reading?

CRAVEN: Conversations about books and novels are easy to find here, and there’s a good bookstore, Bunch of Grapes, in Vineyard Haven. I also have more time. I’d been working nonstop for four years and took a year off to work on my house here. I also injured myself in the past year, so I’ve had plenty of time to read for the first time in a long time.


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