We were inside his neighborhood shrine, and staring at what looked like a miniature Japanese palace, intricately gilded and lacquered red and black. It was the vessel for the community’s god, a portable shrine known as the mikoshi. “More than my house,” Hirota said. Outside, men from the neighborhood were prepping for the summer matsuri (festival): shrugging into ceremonial white robes, and loading a tiny pickup to the brim with ice chests full of beer, sake and shochu.
I looked back at the mikoshi and winced. It looked about as heavy as a brick oven and just as likely to move. But for the next nine hours, our task would be to move it. As Hirota put it, carrying the shrine would “show off our manpower” and prove to the unseen spirit inside, known as an ujigami, that the people in the small town of Miyoshi in Chiba prefecture were strong enough to take care of their community for yet another year.
In the movies, when you gather together a ragtag group of eager but untrained dreamers to win a little league game, or put on a show to save the orphanage, odds are good that in the end, they’ll heroically surpass the expectations of even their most vocal detractors.
But in real life, when you get a bunch of amateurs together to perform a skilled task, like, say, playing an instrument, you usually end up with something like the Portsmouth Sinfonia, an experimental orchestra from the 1970s that invited anyone with a passing interest to join, and which became a momentary phenomenon by performing what could fairly be called unsuccessful music.
Claudia’s insight—while not blind to the ravages of a very real and enduring evil—is not a trivial one. Claudia and her sister have spent the entire novel surrounded by an internecine racism of assured ugliness that is rehearsed by their community, and reinforced by the broader culture. By the end of the novel, Pecola’s swollen belly ensures her separateness: she operates as a locus for the community’s own self-loathing and learned forms of self-disgust. But despite these social pressures, Claudia comes to understand that it is not the failure of the marigolds—and thus not the failure of Pecola—but instead, it is the soil that is bad. It is much too late for Pecola, of course. But not for Claudia.
Joe Hill's books are critically lauded, commercially successful. People love them. And in the not-too-distant future, Hollywood is going to bring Hill's work to the screen (one's made, the rest of his work has been optioned). But despite all of Hill's obvious success, one question remains: How do you make a name for yourself when your dad is the Master of Horror?