So whatcha readin', kids?
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I just finished House of the Seven Gables and started The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde last night.
I have also been slowly working on I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft .
I've been meaning to get to the Hawthorne for sometime now. I gave Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a reread earlier this year. April. If one can manage to dismantle everything he thinks he knows about what it is or was or will be...well, let's just say after approaching it without a preconception, I'd consider it one of the most well-plotted things I've ever read. Brilliant, actually. I'm trying to tackle Frankenstein with the same mind, but that's an even more potent cultural touchstone than poor Dr. Jekyll...
I've just finished Kate Morton's The Distant Hours. It's a fine attempt at a modern gothic novel with its own Miss Haversham mourning hre lost love in a creepy castle. Yummy!
Last night I read the title story from Lady Ferry and Other Uncanny People. Quick read.
I finished The Mysteries of Udolpho recently. A few moments were a bit of a slog but the read was well worth it. Although some would be considered cliched by now, I liked how Radcliffe's descriptions of setting really set the emotional tone for the upcoming scene.
I recently finished a non-Gothic work, Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. Funny as hell, and very engaging characters.
I'm about to begin Peyton Place for a local meetup book club that decided to have a trashy book month. Not sure whether it is will be a guilty pleasure or a torturous endurance.
The very last book I finished was Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman. One of the best journalistic works I've read in a long time, which I highly recommend.
On the Gothic front, I'm hoping to re-read Frankenstein in the next few months for an intensive note-taking read through.
In addition, I'm hoping to keep up on all the short story selections for the group. If I'm late to the conversation, please be patient. Work is hell these days and won't get better till late fall.
Leaving fiction behind for a second, I'm reading an absolutely fascinating book right now called Contemporary Gothic by Catherine Spooner, which examines the whole of the Gothic movement in art, architecture, fashion and literature. It's a really accessible look at the genre
#8 Contemporary Gothic looks interesting.
I've just finished Last Call by Tim Powers. Gambling, the tarot cards, Las Vegas and magic; oh! and adventure.
In terms of gothic I, like Bro Salvatore, am hoping to catch up on the short story selections in the reading group. Today I hope to read the three stories we've selected to read in honour of M. R. James's 149th birthday (1st August); namely:-
"The Mezzotint" &
"Casting the Runes"
I've just become aquainted with F. Marion Crawford this evening. FABULOUS writer. 'The Upper Berth' is my first foray: what a screamer! Marvelous!
The edition I have includes his eight or nine 'uncanny' stories alongside an occult-themed novel called The Witch of Prague. I'm sure some of us are familiar with Crawford's short fiction, as it's often anthologized, but has anybody read The Witch of Prague?
Oh, I've also been rereading the first four interconnected short stories that make up the better part of The King in Yellow. I'm reminded more and more of why I consider this book one of the better things I've ever read. Gothic in sensibility, sure, but something more... Powerful stuff.
>10 veilofisis:, 11
Fun choices. I think you hit the best of the Crawford with 'Upper Berth'. I'm curious to see what you think of 'The Dead Smile' and 'The Screaming Skulls' if you keep going. They both have some pretty big flaws but I confess to being fond of both. I too have a copy of the The Witch of Prague unread. I've never heard anything good about it.
I totally agree on The King in Yellow stuff. I find a number of pieces completely gripping. He's another where I've enjoyed his short work but been hesitant to try his supernatural / weird novels.
I'm actually going to give 'The Screaming Skull' a go tonight. From the first paragraph or so, it certainly seems interesting...
I wasn't aware that Chambers had written any supernatural novels. For some reason I thought he was more or less a writer of 'romances' (and not in the Gothic sense, ha!). The King in Yellow 'quartet' share some space with that kind of stuff in the book itself, and it doesn't really tick my boxes. You've got my interest piqued now, though! :)
Hmn...this looks really interesting. I knew that this was the title of another Chambers' collection, but I had totally spaced on it until you mentioned it. Another one for the to-read list, I suppose...
Thanks for the link!
Nearly through with Uncle Silas (though I don't know why it's taken me so damn long, as it's spellbindingly good) and onto rereads of The Monk and The Castle of Otranto for my 'project;' otherwise, I'll be tackling The Episodes of Vathek for the first time (and we all know how much I love Vathek!) along with either Trilby or The Jewel of Seven Stars. Lots of short stories just recently, too. Hopefully all this gets off the shelf before October. Otherwise, in Goth land, not reading but acting in a local production of The Rocky Horror Show which is, er, 'Gothic,' right? Fifth year with this theatre company: only an ensemble role this time around, but I get to sing 'Science Fiction,' which is always fun...
I'm dipping in and out of The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales - a great collection that ranges from the 18th to the 21st century, including writers like le Fanu, Poe, Angela Carter, Faulkner, Joyce Carol Oates, etc, etc. A real 'must-have' for anyone who calls themselves a Gothic fan. I'm also flipping through and reading a couple of poems a day from Poems Bewitched and Haunted on the recommendation of another LT-er.
I LOVE The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales and shamelessly recommend it whenever an opportunity arises. That's where I discovered 'The Gospel According to Mark:' which led to its being set as one of our past reading group selections. I especially like how this collection balances the obscure with the famous (and infamous) as much as it more typically juxtaposes new with old. I have the hardcover copy: well worth it. The dustjacket is hideous, but the volume itself is rather beautiful...
>16 veilofisis: Have fun in the Rocky Horror Picture Show! That's awesome, and for some reason I wouldn't expect you to be in anything but that. So, will we be able to see your performance on youtube eventually?
Hahahaha. I made a mean Lady Macbeth once upon a time! But yeah, I guess Rocky Horror just sort of...leaps to mind right off the bat...oy...
As for youtube: mayhaps. We shall see! Whatcha been readin, Friar??
Just finished The Turn of the Screw last night. Loved the ending. (Spoiler) In my opinion, the narrator was a complete pyscho with daddy issues who probably scared the kid to death. :D (End Spoiler)
Also finished some Lovecraft stories for the reading group and really like them all, but 'The Rats in the Walls' was my favorite. Jourdain (veilofisis) and I are going to be reading The Monk together in the near future. And that's pretty much it on the Gothic front.
#18 I think the p/b is rather lovely. Haven't yet got to 'The Gospel According to Mark' (I've just been dipping in and out wherever I get the urge) but I'll make in the next one. I'm in a bit of a short story mood right now (a few things happening in my personal life that make it hard to concentrate on a full-length novel) so I've also been reading The Trials of Rumpole
>20 veilofisis:. Just started a book that recently came out. The Romantic Revolution. Kinda a short overview of the period, but quite eloquent and insightful. Author doesn't cover much gothic material that I can see at this point, but overall a nice little book for those interested in the subject.
Other than that, I really want to sink my teeth into a big ass epic novel, but I'm having a hard time deciding.
If it's big ass and epic you want, allow me to recommend Melmoth the Wanderer! And it's Gothic, even!
I reviewed it here:
It's complex stuff (literally as much as figuratively) but it easily makes my top five novels ever.
(And I swear I don't live on here! Though the fact that I'm posting this like, six minutes after you might lead you to think so, hahaha...)
24 I have Melmoth in paperback, so I'll definitely take a look at it tonight. you haven't led me astray yet. And living on LT can't be a bad thing, I can think of much worse things!
24. Just skimming your review. I absolutely love nested narratives, so I'm already sold!
Oh, I'm glad! It's probably my second favorite after The Golem and right before The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Vathek, and Heart of Darkness. Which is a top six, not five, but whatever. Anyway, Melmoth can be tough going the first hundred pages or so, but once the stories get spinnin' things get really, really interesting really, really quickly. It just takes some paper to set all that up; and for something written in 1820, I actually think this is a fairly fast-paced book, when it doesn't descend into Maturin's philosophy (which isn't bad or anything, in fact quite the opposite, it just takes up some serious space).
Hope you like it!
Finished Uncle Silas and gave it a review. I changed my mind on my next few reads and decided to wade through The Mysteries of Udolpho again (for my rereading project) and to take on Frankenstein for the first time, which is beyond amazing thus far...
Also gave an old Poe classic, 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,' a reread after a few years of breathing room, and I have to say that it's still one of the most amazing short stories I've ever read. I think I'm going to make it our next reading group selection. Unfortunately 'The Repairer of Reputations' hasn't seemed to have evinced as much interest as our more traditionally Gothic fare...
Hello, I've just joined this group.
I'm currently reading The Haunted Woman by David Lindsay, which is shaping up to be a weird romance rather than gothic or horror - not really my thing. However it is the Tartarus Press edition, and I bought in in the Atlantis Bookshop, the occult bookshop near the British Museum, so a suitably eerie location to find it in.
I'm also reading Glen Cavaliero, The Supernatural and English Fiction, which turned up in my local Oxfam (charity) bookshop recently.
The last book I finished was The Castle of Otranto - the 1976 Folio Society edition with Charles Keeping 's lithographs.
Hey! I JUST bought a copy of that 1976 Folio! I love the lithographs and the binding too too much (and, of course, The Castle of Otranto), but I'm a HUGE fan of Devendra Varma's introductions (the one for Melmoth the Wanderer made me tingly allover, actually!).
Welcome to the group!
Thank you; I agree about Devendra Varma's introductions. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of The Monk as well - this was a 2nd-hand copy, before the recent reprint.
Actually it may not be wholly down to luck. I gather Oxfam centralise their stock now, and allocate it according to where it's most likely to sell. So as long as I can keep buying them, they may keep funnelling Folio Society editions, and old horror, science fiction and fantasy paperbacks my way!
Welcome to the group, housefulofpaper.
I'm with you on Oxfam shops - I've only recently 'discovered' my local one. I'd been passing by for years, noticing the row of used paperbacks in the window and carrying on walking. The time before last I passed by, I noticed there were hardbacks in the window so I went in to take a look, and had the Folio Society Devil's Dictionary and a hardback, third edition Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for just a few coins I had in my pocket - about a fiver, I think, if that much. The same happened last time I passed - neither remotely Gothic that time, though.
ETA - I forgot this is the 'wotcha reading' thread: The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction arrived this morning and I made a start on it before dinner. I haven't finished the introduction yet, but on a quick thumb-through it looked nice and meaty.
I have the older version of The Monk, too. I like the spine on it better than what they're currently offering (which I suppose wins me the nitpicker of the month award, ha).
I've been curious about that Cambridge volume for a while now. Let me know how it stacks up to the Blackwell guide. I have a PDF of that one on my computer and it's been my go-to for a while now.
#33 - Let me know how it stacks up to the Blackwell guide.
I'm actually re-reading the Blackwell guide beside it for comparison and reference and so on.
I've just started reading The Castle of Otranto (I'm pursuing a project of reading all the 'key works' discussed in the Blackwell guide mentioned above - in a rather tardy and dilatory fashion).
I already knew, from the existence of Strawberry Hill, that Walpole must have been a bit of a character, but you really have to warm to a chap who first tries to trick the reading public into thinking he's translated some ancient tome, and then, in his second edition, not only appears quite unapologetic about that, but devotes the greater part of his introduction to chastising Voltaire for talking through his arse about Shakespeare (I regard anyone who goes off on wild tangents as a fellow-spirit), and rounds off - referring to his own work - by, in effect, telling the literary critics they can shove it as the reading public likes 'Otranto' and that's good enough for him.
Secondly, I haven't got far into the book yet, but I'm delightfully surprised at what an easy-reading style Walpole has. Beforehand, I was expecting a work from the mid-eighteenth century to be quite heavy going; I started it this morning, got through about twenty pages quite gripped (and I'd only intended reading his introductions), and never gave a thought to the writing style till long after I'd put the book down. The style is quite transparent to this twenty-first century reader (well - 'twentieth-century', anyway).
And he starts it with a pretty little sonnet to a lady friend.
If I ever start putting busts on top of my bookcases I want one of this chap.
I've just got started on a lovely little book of short stories entitled The Darker Sex, which is a collection of short gothic tales by Victorian women and edited by Mike Ashley. Authors include George Eliot (The Lifted Veil, obviously), Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Ridell and E Nesbit and each story is preceded by a short passage of biographical information. I think it's going to become a real favourite.
I'm reading the other stories in The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre - surprisingly strong stuff, some of them. And the new edition of Nightmare Movies by Kim Newman. This one has a new subtitle, so "Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s", not as Touchstones has it.
In another medium, and not gothic but arguably at the end of one type of Byronic tradition, I've begun working through the Jason King DVD box set.
Can I belatedly second your thoughts on and opinions of Walpole because I agree entirely, but you've put it far better than I could. 25 years of business letters have rotted my brain and my prose style both.
As to his easy reading style, this is something I noticed too, when I first decided the massive gaps in my knowledge of English literature had to be filled, and starting reading the "classics" I'd hitherto avoided. (I soon got distracted into all sorts of literary by-ways, of course).
The prose style reflects the Enlightenment mentality, I think. Perhaps it can be compared to Anglican church architecture: Neoclassical temples in the 18th Century, Gothic piles in the 19th?
Any suggestions for stories in The Vampyre collection (I suppose it's the Oxford World's Classics, yeah?)? I'm finding it hard to pick a place to start with that one... What are your favorites so far?
I don't know whether what appealed to me most would necessarily do the same for you, so here are a few notes about al he stories after Polidori's:
Horace Smith - Sir Guy Eveling’s Dream:
Coincidentally or not, this seems to be a retelling, in a Medieval setting and cod-Medieval prose, of Washington Irving’s “The Adventure of the German Student”.
William Carleton - Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman:
As the introduction explains, this is an account of an actual massacre in Ireland. One of the more powerful stories in the book, but I don’t know whether “true crime” would appeal to you.
Edward Bulwer - Monos and Daimonos:
It’s difficult to describe this one without giving away too much of the plot. It’s a story of a haunting, with a moral point about our need for human company.
Allan Cunningham - The Master of Logan:
Scottish story of infernal temptation opposed by a Calvinist preacher. Has the air of a folk tale or border ballad - it actually includes a ballad. I suppose Sir Walter Scott would be the best comparison, but I have to confess to not having read him (apart from “The Tapestried Chamber”). This is another substantial and enjoyable story.
Anonymous - The Victim:
Narrator is a medical student and becomes involved with bodysnatchers - doesn’t end well.
James Hogg - Some Terrible Letters from Scotland:
Three fictional letters relating to a genuine cholera epidemic. I’m sure there would be an outcry if this sort of thing were done today, in response to a similar public health issue.
Anonymous - The Curse:
This is the sort of story that immediately comes to mind when I think “gothic”: madness, violence, an instance of Poe’s “most poetic thing in the world”, all told in the first person in a mood of sorrow and repentance. You have to wonder if contemporary readers would have regarded this as hackwork.
Anonymous - Life in Death:
A short, supernatural story about trying to cheat age and death. The moral seems secondary to the shock value, like an E.C. comics story.
P. Willis - My Hobby, - Rather"
A gruesome little anecdote, vaguely reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce, I thought.
Catherine Gore - The Red Man:
Male narrator, rather like the Dickens of “Sketches by Boz” is in in Paris. He meets a scrap iron merchant (the red is rust) and is told a gothic tale (in the sense of an innocent girl in peril|) with a horrible end, about the bones of a human hand encased in a sort of manacle.
Charles Lever - Post-Mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer:
In essence a detailed and gripping account of being near death due to illness (as opposed to a near-death experience - no tunnel of white light but pain and fear). The fictional element is the threat of the narrator being buried alive.
Letitia E. Landon - The Bride of Lindorf:
Like the anonymous “The Curse”, this story closely fits my mental photofit of “gothic”. However it is a subtler and more substantial story.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess:
I’m still reading this one, but the fact that it’s by Le Fanu, and is the basis of Uncle Silas recommends it both as one of the best pieces in this collection and one of the most gothic.
Lord Byron: Augustus Darvell:
I agree that this is more polished and assured than Polidori's story, but of course it ends too soon. I suppose the title character is "A. Devil"(!)
#32 - I've just realised that I've been slowly ploughing my way through The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction for three months! And I'm probably not half-way through yet.
It's fascinating, but very comprehensive and quite densely packed - I find I need go through every chapter two or three times. And I'm always haring off following up references online. It's like working through an university course and I'm pretty sure that when I've finished I won't need any other general treatments and I'll be thoroughly equipped to tackle any more specialist works I might fancy. So many thanks to Brother Salvatore (if I'm remembering right) for the recommendation.
Actually, when I finish I might have to buy a new one - the pages I've read are so densely-covered with pencil scribblings and underlinings and so forth.
These are the books I've finished this year (my "currently reading" count is at 49, for pity's sake!).
Stefan Grabinski- The Dark Domain
Algernon Blackwood - Pan's Garden(Tartarus Press edition)
Michael Cox & R. A. Gilbert (eds) - The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories
China Miéville - Kraken
Vincent O'Sullivan - A Book of Bargains (a POD paperback, via Amazon, of the digitised version of the British Library copy. Which copy (a pencilled note informs you) has been missing the Aubrey Beardsley frontispiece since 1974.)
David Stuart Davies - A Tangled Skein (Sherlock Holmes pastiche - Holmes v. Dracula)
Jessie Douglas Kerruish - The Undying Monster (the secret of the monster is supposed to be just that - a secret - until around page 170. A pity, then, about the image on the front cover.)
Philip Hoare - Wilde's Last Stand (history)
I really enjoyed The Dark Domain. Grabinski has a style all his own. There is a new Polish website launching on February 26th to mark his birth.
Just about to get to Grabinski! Thanks for the impetus, guys...
I'll just mention that The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, includes a short (as in brief) Grabinski story. Entitled "The White Wyrak", it is not included in The Dark Domain.
Update on >43 housefulofpaper: (leaving out some books that have not even a tangential connection to Gothic):
Sabine Baring-Gould - The Book of Werewolves
Algernon Blackwood - Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Tales (I skipped the stories I'd just read in "Pan's Garden")
Arthur Machen - A Fragment of Life
Reggie Oliver - Shadow Plays
R B Russell & Rosalie Parker (ed's) - Tales From Tartarus
Gustav Meyrink - The White Dominican
Denis Gifford - A Pictorial History of Horror Movies
Stephen Calloway - Charles Ricketts: Subtle and fantastic decorator
Rachel Storm - Myths and Legends of the ancient Near East
Peter Bell - Strange Epiphanies
Fritz Leiber - Our Lady of Darkness
Mário de Sá-Carneiro - Lucio's Confession
Guy Adams - Sherlock Holmes: the Breath of God (another pastiche that brings in the supernatural)
Eino Railo - The Haunted Castle
Peter Bell - A Certain Slant of Light
Brian J Showers - The Bleeding Horse
M R James - Curious Warnings: The Great Ghost Stories of M R James
Leslie Wilson - Malefice
Rob Young - Electric Eden (very tangential)
Chris Baldick (ed) - The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales
Seabury Quinn - The Devil's Bride
I've been reading Coleridge's 'Christabel' - famously unfinished, of course.
I actually read it last night; but it gave me the vaguest hint of a memory of having read a completed version at some time; so, this evening, I've been hunting online for a completed version.
I've read two, so far: one by William Turk, from 1899; one by Edna Wahlert, from 1909. The trouble is, I'm pretty sure I've never previously read either of these.
I'll just have to keep hunting, I suppose.
How'd you feel about The White Dominican? Meyrink is my favorite author, and that's a favorite work... :)
And we never did have that conversation about Lucio's Confession! My mind has certainly been in a bad place as regards this group these past few months... :P I need to rededicate myself to the Gothic flame!
Speaking of these titles: God Bless Dedalus. Seriously: God bless 'em...
#47 - Sabine Baring-Gould - The Book of Werewolves
Baring-Gould is another of those writers I've been 'meaning to' read for decades, but never got round to. I'm embarrassed to say that, until reading the Wikipedia page a couple of minutes ago, I thought he was a 'she'! Confused by the 'Sabine women' story, I suppose.
50 > Of the ten people with Sabine as their given name listed on the WP disambiguation page, Baring-Gould is the only male. So your mistake might have a simpler explanation.
Sabina too is a female given name of course - the Latin original of German/French Sabine.
It means, logically enough, "Sabine woman".
In short: it was a really weird name for a guy - but he got stuck with it.
P.s.: The Book of Werewolves by Sabine Baring-Gould was ground-breaking in its time, I think, but it's really, in the best tradition of Victorian scholarship, just a load of factoids poured down on you. Handle with care.
> 55 That's a big part of its charm. plus, it's only the cheap Dover "thrift edition" paperback.
And hello, most obscure reference I've ever made on LibraryThing... :P
As if it wasn't enough to castrate and then marry the kid, Nero had to call him by his dead wife's name (Sabina)... Now THAT'S Gothic...
See! I'm still somewhat on topic! :D
What did I think of The White Dominican? I enjoyed it, but I think I would have been totally at sea without John Clute's introduction. The problem is that I don't seem to have a spiritual or mystical side to my nature, and there was no sense of recognition as the esoteric side of the story unfolded.
edited to add:
Or maybe I'm actually more of a visual person than all my reading would suggest (it was, after all, wanting to be able to read my Spider-Man comics to myself that prodded me into learning to read in the first place, not "proper" books), and I can imagine myself being spellbound by an "Arthouse" cinema version of The White Dominican, if I had come across it on late night TV, as a rather ernest teenager or twentysomething (back when British TV would show such things...)
Following on from that thought, it occurs to me that, because whenever I went to Church (not willingly, not often, and not since childhood (funeral services apart)), it was a Methodist Church, I didn't really get exposed to much in the way of religious imagery.
I haven't quite managed to synthesis these notions into a coherent thought, but there they are, anyway...
I'm reading The Jewel of Seven Stars at the moment - prompted by our current group read; with which I was quite taken. I've read it once before, probably 35-45 years' ago; but I have only the vaguest memories, and those probably confused with at least one film version, and so it's quite fresh for me.
I've got it into my head - whether correctly or not - that Stoker's stuff other than Dracula is not, generally, well-regarded. I have to say that I'm finding this absolutely gripping - a real 'page-turner' (I'm up to Chapter X, so far), a really good 'Gothic mystery story'. I think I've read plenty of well-regarded stuff that is no better or not as good.
As time passes, I find myself increasingly unable and unwilling to comparatively rank books - thinking of what I might class as 'popular entertainment' and of 'good literature' - both being seriously loaded terms, of course. How does one rank someone who writes really first-rate popular entertainment against someone who does second-rate attempts at 'high art'? You wouldn't look for hidden meanings in Stoker - not any that he intended, anyway - but, if he's not a great writer, he's certainly, in my opinion, a great story-teller.
I tend to agree with you about the difficulty and debatable usefulness of ranking books. Despite what I wrote above, which is an example of the fact that the same book can strike different people (or, indeed, the same person at different stages of their life) in different ways, due to different life experiences or just through having different temperaments, I'd be loath to be a complete relativist and say there's no difference between, for example, the novels of Guy N Smith and Charles Dickens; or the work of Walter Benjamin and a blog about the repeats of Top of the Pops currently on BBC4 ("Yes It's Number One"), just because people can be found who enjoy one over the other (assuming of course that their enjoyment could be measured against an absolute scale, which it couldn't).
Neither would I want to leave the judgement to the market.
And yes, there have been several screen versions of The Jewel of Seven Stars. Hammer's "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb" (1971) is one of them.
I don't participate much since I don't think I quite understand the finer points of gothic literature, but lately I've been reading Mary Elizabeth Braddon and I think her work qualifies. First it was Lady Audley's Secret then Henry Dunbar which is far less read, but it is equally fun. I have a few others of hers lined up to read as well. This thread is good for ideas, so thanks for that. I may try the other Stoker mentioned above since I'm addicted to Project Gutenberg and my Nook. : )
I think that, at the time, Mary Elizabeth Braddon would have been bracketed with Wilkie Collins as a writer of "Sensation Novels".
But that's no reason not to class her work as Gothic now ... unless it sits better with Crime and Mystery ... which genre has itself been merging with Horror (or "re-merging" after separating out some time after Poe) since The Silence of the Lambs.
I think what I'm trying to say is genre borders are pretty vague and porous.
Oh, and ... I wouldn't consider that I understand the finer points of Gothic literature. I'm surprised my half-baked theories don't get shouted down more often!
I've been putting some effort into getting to grips with 'the finer points of Gothic literature' since I joined this group, must be well over a year ago, now. They're proving quite elusive, thus far. Just go for it, anyway. Enjoyment is the object of it all.
Would you believe that I've finished The Jewel of Seven Stars already? I won't say that I literally couldn't put it down - but, once put down, it wouldn't stay put down! I've been trying to do various things round the house and it was any excuse to take a break and read a few more pages.
If that isn't a good recommendation for a book I don't know what is. There were a few bits of philosophical or theological exposition that dragged a bit, and could usefully have been distilled down a bit; but, on the whole, I thought it a cracking read.
I've been reading the original, 1903 version, by the way.
Yeah, I heard it was revised in later editions. Not sure which Project Gutenberg has, but that's the one I'll probably get. Google Books may be a viable source as well.
Gutenberg's is the revised, 1912 edition. I downloaded the original version from here. A warning, though - it's liberally sprinkled with typos and you might want to look for a better one.
ETA - The Google Books one is the 1912, also. To distinguish between editions: the original version has twenty chapters, including XVI - 'Powers - Old and New'; the revised edition has only nineteen, with this one missing.
I've just read the - revised - closing chapters of the 1912 version of The Jewel of Seven Stars. Not to put too fine a point on it, this ending is crap! So feeble. If this was the only ending available (according to Wikipedia) to most readers for the best part of a century, it's no wonder that Stoker's standing as an author suffered. And it's even worse as the original ending was - in my opinion - such a strong one.
Stoker's heart clearly wasn't in it (if he actually wrote it - I've seen contrary suggestions) and one can only hope that the publishers who pushed him into it eventually got their just reward between the teeth of Ammut the Devourer.
Sorry for the outburst, but it's made me really angry.
Both editions here - http://www.bramstoker.org/novels/08stars.html
Oh, you poor, poor thing... That novel is DREADFUL... :|
(ETA: Not just as a matter of taste, but technically...)
#73 - That novel is DREADFUL... :|
I'm a bit mystified. Since my last post, I've got the first seven chapters under my belt. So far, I've found it quite surprisingly amateurish. It's lacking in internal reality - the characters' assumptions and conclusions are just too much of a stretch - just not credible. I've recently finished a second reading of 'Udolpho', so I had no trouble taking on the long passages of scene-setting; but they're quite cumbersome and, again, amateurish. It seems by a much less able writer than the author of The Jewel of Seven Stars
Last night I decided it must have been a youthful effort; but, checking online this morning, I find it was published in the last year of his life. Could it be a youthful effort he dug out of the attic? Could it simply be that his mental faculties were failing (he was only sixty-five or so when he died)? According to Wikipedia, he had a series of strokes towards the end of his life - could it be a first, rough draft that he became too ill to work on?
I find it quite perplexing. I really must get a good biography of Stoker.
Could it simply be that his mental faculties were failing...?
From what I've read, not only were his mental faculties failing, but he had also gotten seriously involved with laudanum or some sort of opiate (I hope I'm not mis-remembering here and smearing him). There is a sort of poppy-revery about Lair of the White Worm, really...and yes, 'amateurish' is certainly the word. It really is godawful...
Has anybody checked out Taschen's High Gothic? I picked up a used copy recently and am absolutely blown away. The photography is excellent, but the text is surprisingly readable and relevant (I haven't found this to be the case with other works on Gothic architecture).
Maybe it was a first draft and he was just trying to get some ideas down?
#77 - Maybe; but, even then, it's seriously awry.
In the first quarter or so of the novel, the 'good guys' are building this whole edifice of supernatural horror and menace basically because one woman walks a bit funny and reacts violently to an unprovoked attack by a mongoose belonging to one of the good guys and one chap has an overbearing manner and funny eyes and has a black associate with an unpleasant reputation (even for a 1909 publication, the racism is a bit startling). It really doesn't hold water and makes it extremely difficult for the reader to suspend disbelief.
In fact, last night I only managed one chapter before I put it down and read something else. The hero mentioned in conversation that, an hour or two previously, he'd found a young girl unconscious in the woods with marks on her neck. He ran after, but lost, a white figure who might have been the woman with the funny walk and might have been responsible. He 'chafed' the girl's hands till she came round and she told him she'd been grabbed from behind and didn't see by whom. So, what happened to the little girl - what did he do with her - who was she? No idea. For all we know, he left her there to find her own way home. Never mentions her again. And the chap to whom he was speaking didn't ask, either. She was apparently there just for the purpose of being attacked. As I said above, 'amateurish'.
#76 - Intriguing post, J. Can you expand a bit on why this book in particular is relevant to Gothic literature?
It's a relationship (if there really is one, of course) that I find a little problematic. The two things don't really match in my mind. I always associate Gothic architecture with light and lightness, and I instinctively associate Gothic literature with something darker and heavier - I'm not sure if I'm thinking Romanesque or Norman, but, generally, something gloomier.
Writing that immediately had me thinking of Walpole and Strawberry Hill and the The Castle of Otranto preface. Of course, in the literature sense, Walpole's 'Gothic' meant more fanciful and imaginative and less 'Enlightenment-rational', rather than specifically dark and gloomy; so, in that sense, the two things are a better match. The first Gothic architecture must have looked pretty irrational and fanciful to lay-people - "What the hell's holding it up?"
I really must make the effort and visit Strawberry Hill, sometime.
Yeah, "gothic" as we use it for gothic lit really grew out of an interpretation of gothic art and architecture we now usually call gothic revival or neo-gothic. The gothic revival: An essay in the history of taste is a nice introduction.
You have to understand that, especially in England where this version of the usage was coined, people had previously been trained to accept Palladian style as standard good taste. To those people Gothic architecture was associated with gloom, superstition, and bad taste. And architectural history was only first being developed. Many people wouldn't have distinguished between romanesque, gothic, and any other "barbarous old rubbish".
#80 BarkingMatt, can you recommend any good introductions or overviews to any other "barbarous old rubbish"? It sounds quite appealing.
I remember an 18th century French text (that stuff was the material for my thesis, back when) explaining how to destroy gothic architecture with minimal effort. The guy intended it for use on such "monstrosities" as Notre Dame de Paris.
Tastes seem to have changed a bit since.
#76 & #82
barkingmatt & veilofisis, perhaps you are the right people to ask for a view on this.
Speaking of Notre Dame de Paris, I have found that the Notre Dame website and guide books make a clear definition of a grogoyle as being a spout that takes rainwater away from the walls of the building, and that these gargoyles are often carved with the images of people or grotesque beasts. The other creatures found around the building, and other buildings of its ilk, are not gargoyles (because they are not serving the purpose of taking rainwater away from the walls) but chimera.
In my experience most people would use the term gargoyle to mean a grotesque creature rather than a spout. Is this an example of a word that has changed meaning over the years through misuse?
Do you have any comment to make on this?
Strictly they're correct. Even an undecorated water spout is a gargoyle, while if it doesn't spout water it's not a gargoyle. It used to be a merely technical term.
The other usage is indeed, as you say, a new meaning because of years of misuse*. The other creatures needn't be chimeras though - you could fill an entire bestiary of fable creatures. In fact, I'm pretty sure such bestiaries exist.
* I know some fellow art historians who get upset over the "abuse". Personally I think they should face up to the fact that languages change and that words can get new meanings.
#84 Thank you for that clarification.
I had been wondering about their use of the word chimera, as it seems, from other sources, to have a fairly specific meaning that would not apply strictly to some of the creatures found on Nortre Dame.
Just in passing, have you ever read Umberto Eco's Baudolino? The story includes tales from a returning campaign to the farthest reaches of the East where the entrepid members of the party encountered weird and wonderful beasts, or did they?
#84 I tend to agree with your point on the changing, or additional meanings of words.
What annoys me is abuse of grammatical elements of a language that could hinder translation. An example would be the ever increasing tendency for people to use the wrong form of a verb, i.e. breaking the rule that a verb should match its subject in number and person. I find comments such as, "There's five of them; There's delays; etc...) most annoying.
I often use Master Yoda's manner of speaking to highlight the error.
"Five of them there IS, is there?"
> 85 : Baudolino is one of the many on my "should try that sometime" list - a list not as such on LT.
> 86: I fully get it, but even there we will have to accept change. Doesn't mean that as "an old fart" I have to like it. In my native Dutch: younger generations are now doing away with all of the last vestiges of gender. "Die meisje" instead of "dat meisje" - ultimately both meaning that girl - but because of the diminuative "-je" the word should be neutral ("dat"), not gendered ("die"). To me it's just plain wrong - somebody showing (s)he doesn't really understand the language. But they simply don't seem to get the difference, and I'm sure that a couple of generations from now it will simply be the official form.
P.s: possibly - as examples go - getting too technical for people who don't speak Dutch. But I'm pretty sure you'll get my drift.
#88 I get the drift and it is the type of thing that would drive me mad. But then, I'm probably an older fart than you are. :-)
I think BarkingMatt covered it: the relationship is twofold: on the one hand, describing this literature as Gothic was a reference to the word's connotations of decay and barbarity and the like, and on the other hand, many of the early Gothic works (The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Castle of Otranto, The Romance of the Forest, etc) included scenes in which Gothic architecture took a paramount role as a 'spooky, otherworldly, vaguely intimidating' place (Udolpho, for example). Although I think I'd rush to say that what exactly qualifies as 'Gothic architecture' in the world of Gothic literature seems to be a bit broader a catergory than it is when discussing Gothic architecture in the historical or artistic senses (that was a bit longwinded, sorry!).
You've still got the Punter and Byron volume, yes? There's an excellent article on Gothic lit's relationship with Gothic art and architecture included there (and I've probably unconciously been parroting it up above^^).
Sometimes I wish languages evolved a bit more often, actually. Not with English, because I think English evolves at a much faster rate than other languages. But there are so many complications in other languages that are just unnecessary: in Arabic, for example, why do we not write down short vowels? We used to! It can become so tricky to keep the meaning of a sentence straight, or to not mistake three words that are written the exact same way (even in context)! It's not a direct parallel to English issues like 'peer/peer/pier' or 'they're/their/there,' because each of these is either spelled differently or the use in context would be so dramatically different (peer and peer, for example: one a noun and one a verb, to boot) that the difficulties ease up. In Arabic this is not the case: and so the confusion, needlessly, continues. I'm only 23, but I think, after that rant, maybe I should join the 'old fart' club. Will you have me? :D
Less of an issue (while I'm ranting) why must we combine letters to make new letters?! Is باب really so much easier and faster to write than ب ا ب ?! (Don't take me too seriously on this one, though, hahaha :P I've actually recently discovered just how important this can be: but only with longer words!)
My, my...I seem to have gotten quite off-topic. Sorry about that!
Nobody is too young to be an "old fart" if they choose to be one. Later on we might obviously get discussion about first or third generation "old farts" though. ;-)
According to my brother, I was born an old fart.
(Not that he'd know, being my younger brother!)
Grabbing onto veilofisis's tangent, I recently read a bit raving about how clever Arabic's leaving out short vowels is, which went on to assert that any language is easily read without short vowels by native speakers. (One wonders what, if anything, he thought about languages that don't make a length distinction.)
I remember a guy at work being said to have been born so old that the midwife held him up by his heals and exclaimed, "God, look at the age of him!"
This is a question from someone who demonstrated no aptitude for languages at school and is utterly monolingual.
It regards languages written without vowels (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew): is it harder to learn to read and write such languages than it is to learn, for example, English (I have to take English as my yardstick, obviously).
Once one is literate in (say) Arabic, is a brand new piece of prose comprehended as quickly as a new piece of English would be? (If not, if it's inherently less easy to understand, is there less flexibility in the language used, or more reliance on stock phrases and the like in order to avoid confusion/non-comprehension?)
I ask because, thinking about the readability or otherwise of vowel-less English, I initially thought that the legibility actually depended on the reader accurately guessing the intended words, because a lifetime of reading will have given so much experience of seeing how English words and phrases are commonly used and combined.
I wondered how well a new reader - a clever six or seven year old, perhaps - would do. Not very well, I assumed.
But then I had to think a bit more deeply - how easy (or hard) would it have been for such a child to learn to read and write English written with no vowels? Because if it managed to do it, then of course a new passage of vowel-less English would present no special challenge.
On a totally different topic, surely another connotation of "Gothic" to the average 18th-19th* Century British reader would have been "Catholic" - i.e. a little bit exotic, foreign (still plenty of people here for whom Britain** is not European and certainly not "the Continent"), backward, and benighted?
* Before the Oxford Movement, anyway.
** Or, more likely, just "England".
I did read once that some of the "Gothic" literature written by Anglo-Irish writers at the end of the 19th/start of the 20th century were thought to have set their stories in church settings that would have been obviously Catholic to imply that Catholicism was steeped in evil. I must dig up this reference. It was described as an early form of subliminal messaging.
And I was assuming that those attitudes antedated the 'new' Houses of Parliament, all those Gothic Victorian Town Halls and Railway Stations...
#72 "Enjoyed The Jewel of Seven Stars so much that I made a start on The Lair of the White Worm last night."
Well, enjoy it then. But don't expect Dracula. It was Stoker's last novel, and perhaps he did die of tertiary syphilis. I was interested in Stoker's lack of scientific knowledge of the time along with his use of archeological and other scientific ideas mixed with some then current beliefs that would nowadays go down as psuedoscience. He was interested in Mesmer and mesmerism and Mesmer himself was a dogged proponent of vitalism. Vitalism is the belief that there is some principle of life beyond the physical by means of which all living organisms differ in some essential way from the non-living. A "soul" if you wish. The notion of vitalism is implicit in the proposed existence of the "undead."
As to racism, Stoker seems no more racist than other writers of his time. In building his character Oolango, he simply uses what was commonly accepted as racial characteristics to build a treacherous character. For a true racist novel, if you want to know what means, try Thomas Dixon, Jr.'s, Reconstruction Trilogy. I think it's worth the effort just to gain an understanding of what "racism" and meant in 1905.
For an interesting very brief discussion of sex in Dracula, consider reading Mario Perniola's Sex Appeal of the Inorganic, Chapter 17, "Vampirism and Sex Appeal of the Inorganic". If you disagree about sex and sexism in Stoker, or about his racism, I don't expect to change anyone's mind, but it is interesting to read this stuff to see how others think.
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> 94-96: It certainly had such connotations in 19th century Netherlands. The Catholic emancipation going on then favoured gothic style for its new churches, mostly on the principle of "gothic" = middle ages = pre-reformation "unified" christianity = good.
Our King William II was suspected of Catholic leanings, not in the last place because he had a neo-gothic palace built for himself. And as late as the 1880s there was some serious debate whether the style was appropriate for a national institution like the Rijksmuseum (it really isn't even all that "gothic").
#97 - ... some then current beliefs that would nowadays go down as pseudoscience.
One thing I've noticed, reading between the lines of these two novels, is Stoker's apparent clear belief in phrenology. According to the Wikipedia article on it, it would have already been discredited and regarded as a pseudoscience by Stoker's childhood.
#96 Did you not realise that the The Palace of Westminster, Gothic Victorian Town Halls and Railway Stations are all the result of the evil influence of the Vatican?
I finished The Lair of the White Worm last night.
I have to say that I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it - it's quite fascinating; though a large part of the fascination is like that you'd get from watching a Sampras or a Federer playing a really, really lousy game of tennis.
There's more, though - I think - I'm really struggling to get my thoughts in order about it. I can sort of see why it attracted Ken Russell's attention and it's left me in the same slightly bemused state you have after watching one of his wilder efforts.
#97 - Interesting post, patito-de-hule. The question of Stoker's scientific knowledge, or lack of it, is one thing (among others) that's been intriguing me about this book - especially regarding evolution. As I've said already, I must read some good biographies of him. Are you not joining our group, by the way?
I've just finished the fourth book of The Lady of the Shroud.
Somewhat to my surprise, I've got really into this and I'm enjoying it immensely. I say 'Somewhat to my surprise' because I'm pretty sure that I'd never even heard of this one till we started on the The Judge's House reading group; so I assumed it was little known - and probably so because it wasn't much good.
I have to admit that you have to get a long way in before mystery and a proper plot-line turn up (to the start of Book III if I remember correctly), but I didn't find the earlier portion hard going - it was a bit like Stoker's 'if I won a massive, rollover, National Lottery jackpot' fantasy, and strangely engaging.
It's a bit early to get into comparisons, so I'll just say that it's a much weightier work than 'Worm' or 'Stars'
I'm still slogging through the Oxford edition of Wilkie Collins: The Complete Shorter Fiction. My sense of melodrama apparently doesn't rise to 19th century proportions.
I'm slowly working through The Weird and coming across stories that are in other books that I own but haven't read yet. I've decided to read those books as I get to the relevant stories. So I've just read the Tartarus Press collection of Hugh Walpole's supernatural stories, Tarnhelm and I'm about a quarter of the way through The Fictions of Bruno Schulz.
I'm also working through Dramas from the Depths by Reggie Oliver.
The Swan River Press published some chapbooks or pamphlets in association with the Bram Stoker Society. They include a volume entitled 'Bram Stoker's Other Gothics: Contemporary Reviews'. The review of The Lady of the Shroud in The Dundee Advertiser begins "Our mutual friend Bram Stoker never fails to write a capital story, but in The Lady of the Shroud he is long getting into the swing of his plot."
The TLS of 16 November 1911 ends its review of The Lair of the White Worm "the book is disjointed and, in fact, very silly". The reviews in The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman were (surprisingly?) much more favourable.
Finished Stoker's The Lady of the Shroud, last night. There's a good book there. Unfortunately, it's buried inside a much bigger one.
Finished his Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Tales over lunch. On the evidence so far, he's a rather better short story writer than he is a novelist. Some of these are really rather good and the worst are quite reasonable.
Making a start on his The Mystery of the Sea this evening. Another Stoker of which I'd never heard until recent weeks.
I'm through the first sixteen chapters of The Mystery of the Sea - about a quarter of the way, I think - and though it's a bit leisurely-paced it's shaping up as the best Bram Stoker I've read so far (I'm not including Dracula, which I haven't read for a few years, in that statement). I'm quite enjoying it.
I'm keeping fingers crossed that it doesn't wander off somewhere completely different; which is what The Lady of the Shroud did - several times.
My old PC packed-in and I've been off-line for a week, so I've been catching up on some reading.
I've almost finished The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales (one to go): all good stories, pretty much; but I think one or two stretch the definition of Gothic a bit.
Prompted by mentions up above, I downloaded some Sabine Baring-Gould and I've been reading his Book of Ghosts. I got through the first half-dozen. Judging by these, I think I'd classify him as a satirist rather than a writer of Gothic.
Baring-Gould manages to be a sort of guilty pleasure: the stories are entertaining even though you're aware that the attitudes the satire is coming from wouldn't sit well with you if you were talking to the man in person. For example, one of the best is about the horrid fate that comes on a woman who preferred to be out and about and enjoying life rather doing the housework and banging out six or seven children.
And I finished The Mystery of the Sea - one of Stoker's best, I think, and I'm quite surprised I'd never previously heard of it. Being Stoker, it's not perfect, of course, but enjoyable and gripping.
The odd thing is, it has an ancient castle, secret passages, caves, a woman in peril, an ancient secret, 'second sight', the spirits of dead people, a possible witch - and still manages to feel quite 'unGothic'. I'd probably best describe it as a blend of 'Boys Own' adventure ('Boy's Own'? 'Boys' Own'?) and grown-up love story, and with the Gothic touches there when you think about it.
According to this front page image is was the singular:
I had not heard of The Mystery of the Sea until you mentioned it earlier in this thread. I must read more Stoker. It's a bit remiss of me not to have read more as I have been on a committee with Dacre Stoker and other family members campaigning for a Bram Stoker statue to be erected in Dublin.
#113 - Great link! I remember many similar illustrations, possibly the same artist, in old books that were around the house when I was a kid.
Oddly enough, I never remember ever seeing 'The Boy's Own Paper', even though it was published well into my teens. We had 'The Hotspur' and 'The Wizard', which I imagine were quite similar - text-heavy stories rather than picture-strips.
On the subject of Stoker's 'other works', I'm really floundering - finding it difficult to put together a coherent set of opinions on them. I found reading them fascinating, but ... on the one hand, he was a naturally gifted writer and I didn't find any of his stuff particularly difficult to get through - it at least held my attention and was often quite gripping; on the other hand, he wasn't the world's best author - to a greater or lesser extent, depending on which work, you always notice flaws (it sort of makes him an even more fascinating study).
Talking of study, it's really annoying that reputable literary studies of his works that go beyond Dracula all seem to be out of print, scarce, and really expensive. I've really got to renew my library card.
One of my recent purchases is The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siécle. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it's interesting that the index has one entry for 'Stoker, Bram', eleven entries beneath that for Dracula, and no entries for any of his other works.
It's been argued, I understand, that there were two contradictory currents in British society at the end of the 19th century. Against the decadent 'naughty Nineties' element there was also a backward-looking, pro-Empire, 'healthy' aspect to society, which got an enormous boost with the trial and conviction of Oscar Wilde. Stoker, it seems to me, has a foot in (to mix metaphors) both camps. Dracula can be mined for all kinds of conscious or unconscious kinkiness, Stoker worked in the theatre world, there's his strange mental enthralment to strong-willed men (one of whom, Hall Caine - dedicatee of Dracula - has been linked to Ripper suspect Francis Tumbelty). But then, on the other hand a lot of his work appears to be rather moralistic melodramas that would sit very comfortably with the anti-decandent side of Victorian society.
Perhaps literary studies are thin on the ground because neither side can completely claim Stoker as their own.
(As an aside, I think the Boy's Own illustration is a steel engraving. Perhaps the materials and technology give its particular look, rather than indicating the work of a particular artist.)
Finally finished The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales last night, with Angela Carter's 'The Lady of the House of Love' (I didn't read them in order) - an excellent and intriguing tale.
I don't think I've previously read any fiction by Carter (I've a vague idea I might have read some of her non-fiction, somewhere) and it was a bit of a firework in my reading life for two reasons. First of all, she's an interesting, new-to-me writer whom I'll definitely explore. Then there's the second reason - oh dear ...
One of my favourite authors is Tanith Lee - I have her as such on my profile page. This story is so strikingly similar to Lee, both in style and narrative viewpoint, that there has to be a connection: either one is heavily influenced by the other or they were riding a literary tandem, as it were. But Carter was in print five years before Lee - Carter's first book, Shadow Dance aka Honeybuzzard, sounds, in a review I've just read here, just like a Lee novel and it was published when Lee was only nineteen.
Can a favourite author be a mere imitator? As I said above ... oh dear!
I haven't read enough of either author to have an informed opinion on the matter, but I see from my trusty old Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that the age difference between them was only seven years. As they were both women writers growing up in Postwar Britain, the 'literary tandem' idea is at least possible.
#116 Don't worry, an influence isn't at all the same thing as an imitation. Very few, if any, writers are entirely original; we are all affected by the culture we live in. I've read quite a bit of Angela Carter, none of Tanith Lee so, like you, I can't comment on this particular pair with any authority but it's what the author does with the story that makes it her own.
#118 - What slightly startled me (can you be 'slightly' startled?) was that, had I been told that 'The Lady of the House of Love' was by Tanith Lee, it would certainly have never occurred to me to doubt it. It's a bit beyond passing similarities.
In truth though, I cannot imagine enjoying Lee the less because of this. You take every book on its own terms, don't you?
Oddly enough, I only read new stuff by her at infrequent intervals because - I've realised this lately - her output is so massive (see here!) that I've had a subconscious fear that it must, perforce, be of very uneven quality and that I must have been lucky in the ones I've read so far (not themselves all of equal standard - but whose books are?). Also, I don't remember ever seeing a newspaper review of Lee - if I hadn't come across her books while browsing bookshop shelves I'd probably never have heard of her. Incidentally, compare this to the literarily 'kosher' Carter whose name, at least, will be familiar to anyone who actually reads at all widely - I remember Nights at the Circus being on radio, telly, Sunday supplements - everywhere. So, there are probably all sorts of little whiffs of literary snobbery churning round in the back of my mind so that I've subconsciously made Lee into a 'guilty' rather than an 'innocent' pleasure.
Anyway, I'm quite looking forward to exploring and comparing.
I'm in another Dedalus coma at the moment: Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch is my current read; recently finished Andrew Killeen's brilliant sequel to The Father of Locks: The Khalifa's Mirror. Next up, post eunuch-frenzy: an Octave Mirbeau crash-course (I've only ever read Torture Garden all the way through). In more Gothic terms, I'm rereading Hogg's PM&COA Justifed Sinner for the group thread and making my way through some of Bowles' gloomier short fiction ('The Delicate Prey' et al).
Shades of Sabine Baring-Gould! I've just realised that F Marion Crawford is another male. Can't I have just one Margaret Rutherford-esque lady penning horror stories - with pen and ink - by the light of one of those antique oil-lamps?
Can't I have just one Margaret Rutherford-esque lady penning horror stories - with pen and ink - by the light of one of those antique oil-lamps?
How about this: actress Dulcie Gray was a regular contributor (one of 'the hidden backbone of the series') to the long-running Pan Book of Horror Stories.
I'm currently reading Susan Hill's latest ghost story, Dolly; I've got a fifth of the way through The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror volume 23; and a collection of prequels and sequels to M R James stories (entries to a contest by Ghosts and Scholars M R James newsletter) is in my desk at work - for when I manage to take a lunch break.
While things have been quiet here, instead of reducing my 'currently reading' pile I found some interesting blogs, particularly around 'hauntology', which seems to consist largely of middle-aged nostalgia for 1970s British children's television with a fantasy/'Age of Aquarius' tinge, radiophonic and library music, stone circles and 'sacred landscape' generally. The book Electric Eden fits at least as well into this category as it does as a straight forward history of the British folk revival.
I'm planning to read Jean Ray's Malpertuis soon (after obtaining the Belgian - but region 0 - DVD of Harry Kumel's film version); and I've ordered a second-hand copy of the Folio Society edition of Justified Sinner.
I don't recall ever having come across a Dulcie Gray story. I'm quite intrigued - another one to go on the 'to read' list.
I said over on the Gothic Films thread that I finally received my BBC 'Ghost Stories for Christmas' box set. So I've just been having what you might call a 'spooky supper': Chinese takeaway and a half-bottle of white wine, with 'The Signalman' on the telly and then reading it from my neat little 'Collector's Library' Charles Dickens Ghost Stories (there's no way I was going to get the touchstones to work for that one - you'd think they'd have more sense than to just title it 'Ghost Stories' - dozens of different books with the same title!)
I'm not really a Charles Dickens fan, but I have to say that this is a really excellent story (really faithful screen adaptation, too - no liberties taken at all). I could write a small essay on it just off the top of my head, there being that much going on in there - so much detail and observation, not to mention quite a lot of subtle, oblique social comment.
Following on #116 to #119, I've made a start on Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. I haven't actually read any of the stories, but I read part way through Helen Simpson's (I have the Vintage, 2006 edition) introduction and then gave up on it.
The trouble is that it tells you rather too much about allusion and reference in the stories - stuff you'd enjoy picking up on for yourself.
So if anyone hasn't read this and is thinking of doing so, I strongly recommend reading the stories first and leaving Simpson's introduction for afterwards.
ETA - I probably wouldn't have made a start on it if Caleb Williams was a better book - I'm making hard work of that one.
Taking a proper stab at Charlotte Dacre, currently: and thus far, Zofloya; or, The Moor is turning out to be wildly entertaining. I honestly don't understand why it (and Dacre) gets such a bad rap...the feminist in me wants to consider the phenomenon as incredulity that a woman could write Gothic in Lewis' mode instead of the more pastoral, suggestive shadow of Radcliffe. That said, I'm probably over-thinking it. Lovecraft found the book insipid, which intrigues me; Percy Shelley, though, was an absolute acolyte. And I know which one of them I'd rather have coffee with. But then, what the hell am I talking about? Haha.
I've meant to get around to Caleb Williams, but I keep getting distracted. I've been dabbling in a lot of EC reprints (as demonstrated in my nascent return to reviewing) and that Oxford collection The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre. So far, Edward Bulwer-Lytton's piece 'Monos and Daimonos' stands as one of the better pieces of short fiction I've encountered in the last two or three years. It was EXQUISITE, actually. I'm going to use it to resurrect our reading group...
Other than that, just the usual rereads of Lovecraft, Poe, Bierce, and the like. Lots of Byron.
This has become rather stream-of-consciousness. I'll stop now. :P
Reflections in a Glass Darkly is in my desk drawer at work. I'm currently working through it in my lunch breaks.
A slew of literary journals all appeared within a month of each other: Wormwood No.20 from Tartarus Press; Sacrum Regnum No. 2 from Hieroglyphic Press; and The Green Book (writings on Irish gothic, supernatural and fantastic literature) No. 1, from Swan River Press. All warmly recommended.
I'm also reading the Arion Press edition of The Moonstone. I couldn't really afford it. The PayPal button is evil!
As autumn kicks in I find myself drawn back to gothic things. The only relatively gothic book read this summer was Therese Raquin, Emile Zola mixing corpse visions, a tormented paralytic, a murdered cat and general grime and ghoulishness into a tabloid murder plot.
So am now reading Gothic Histories: The Taste for Terror, 1764 to the Present, a rather slight overview which I'm using to help assemble a vast reading list. I'm planning to tackle it in chronological order, traversing the gothic realms from Otranto all the way to the modern era.
I've been reading creepy stuff, much of it driven by my participation in The Weird Tradition group's reading schedule. So that's short stories with a connection, however tenuous in some cases, to H. P. Lovecraft: authors who influenced him, his contemporaries, those who came after him (whether they're intentionally writing "Cthulhu Mythos" stories or simply writing in a post-Lovecraft environment).
Apart from that, I finished reading a collection of criticism on J. Sheridan Le Fanu entitled Reflections in a Glass Darkly, and a collection of short stories by the French author Anne-Slyvie Salzman (no Touchstone) published by Tartarus Press, entitled Darkscapes. This was the closest I've read to Modern literary Gothic in recent months, I think.
There's a degree of ambiguity in her work that's close to surrealism at times (the surrealists took inspiration from the Gothic, of course), female sexuality is an element in the stories in a way that reminded me of Angela Carter's work (or maybe there's no direct influence and I just need to read more women writers), and a sometimes brutal edge to the stories that mirrors recent French genre cinema (I still haven't nerved myself up to watch Martyrs).
#128 - As autumn kicks in I find myself drawn back to gothic things.
Yes, I get that - something to do with the darkness coming earlier in the evenings, I think,
Any Dorothy L. Sayers fans here?
I'm reading the latest issue of The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies (home page here) and there's a fascinating article - 'A “Beastly Blood-Sucking Woman”: Invocations of a Gothic Monster in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Unnatural Death (1927)'.
The authors argue that in this novel Sayers is deliberately playing with her knowledge of the Gothic and Sensationalist genres and, in particular, is harking back to Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla. I've been delighted to find one of my favourite authors and my favourite genre bumping into each other there, so I'm enjoying carefully re-reading Carmilla and Unnatural Death and the article side by side by side, as it were.
ETA - I'm not sure I'm absolutely convinced, yet, but they are persuasive.
#130 Any Dorothy L. Sayers fans here?
I have dabbled and my wife is an avid reader of Dorothy L. Sayers. I had never thought of her in terms of horror but my reading of a few paragraphs in the article are urging me to read more.
By coincidence, a colleague at work spoke to me about Sayers last week. He had never heard of her or Lord Peter Wimsey and had picked up one of the books by chance and is really loving it. I was amazed he had never heard of either Sayers or Wimsey, but then I discovered he had never heard of George Simenon and Maigret.
What is the world coming to?
Because of this thread, I started Uncle Silas a couple weeks ago. Having only read Carmilla before, I was curious about a Le Fanu novel. It's good and I'll be getting back to it today after a bit of a hiatus to get some ER books read.
Thanks for that!
I started reading the Wimsey books in the early 90s, but stopped reading detective fiction before I got to that one. If Sayers is playing with a possible supernatural entity in Unnatural Death it's a bit cheeky isn't it, since she was one of the members of The Detection Club whose "code of ethics" ruled out such things.
No, no supernatural entity. The connections the article authors are positing - if they exist - are the subtlest of allusions.
I've been keying back into the Decadence: Flaubert's Salammbo and the dreadfully poisonous, utterly beautiful Prague of Paul Leppin (started the shorts in Others' Paradise recently; reviewed Severin's Journey into the Dark a few months ago). A little lax on reading just lately, but trying to get back into my shelves...
Not much in the way of decadent literature for me recently - The Decadent Sportsman in February (too late for the Olympics; I think someone suffered a failure of nerve there); volume one of The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, The End of the Story; about half of Nachtmahr by Hanns Heinz Ewers.
I read The Moonstone recently, which is related to Gothic fiction, I think, by way of being a sensation novel as well as being the first detective novel in English (according to T. S. Eliot).
The last thing I read was Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, which is an alternate history, with the twist that the reality it diverges from is the fictional one of Stoker's novel; in other words, in this one Dracula wins. Actually, this was a re-read; I first read it 20 years ago. Now I'm going to work through the three sequels, which take the story up to the 1990s.
Actually, I've also been reading quite a few blogs - including yours of course - and feeling pretty abashed at the quality of thought and prose, the breadth of knowledge, and the sheer productivity of some bloggers.
Yes, I read your blog post on Severin's Journey into the Dark a while ago. Your blogs have a way of adding to my 'To read' pile. I've still got The Golem and Bruges-La-Morte languishing there - and others I think. And not ten minutes ago the postie delivered an Oxford Macbeth that was prompted by your post on the same. You're a bad influence!
Last night I discovered, with rather unexpected delight, Bram Stoker's The Crystal Cup. I was so entranced that it prompted my first blog post in months. It struck me as rather 'un-Stokerian' and added even more to my ideas and questions on the man.
I think I've mentioned in a couple of other places that I don't think the long, light, summer evenings (at my latitude, of course) are conducive to reading the Gothic. My appetite seems to be re-awakening with the earlier sunsets of autumn.
Hi, Veil. Good to see a post from you.
I read your review of Severin's Journey into the Dark and found myself thinking the book is dismal and wanting to read it. Your words painted a detailed picture of a life spiraling downwards. Why does this make me want to read it?
Just started Reggie Oliver's The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini and other Strange Stories.
Prompted by houseful's review, I've had his Shadow Plays on an Amazon wish list for some time, but that costs an arm and a leg. This was Oliver's first published collection and was the cheapest on Amazon, so, seemed the natural choice for an ebook taster.
Read the first two stories ... I'm hooked ...
That review's a rambling embarrassment! I'm glad you're enjoying the book.
#142 - Well, I found it informative and easy to read, and it got me reading Oliver, so you can't get much better than that.
On the subject of reading him (#141), I read the third story last night. Three stories, all noticeably different, all really good - I've already decided this author is a real discovery, so thanks for that.
And he's a really talented illustrator ... the gods just like some people, I suppose.
I've just had another look at what I wrote. It's not as bad as I remembered it. What's wrong with it, from my perspective, is that it's not what I intended to write. It's all background and scene-setting, and then when I arrived at the point where I say something about the actual book, I only had a couple of sentences left in me.
Anyway, you may be interested in this interview with Reggie Oliver:
#144 - I did find it interesting - thanks for that.
Last night I read all bar the last story in The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini and Other Strange Stories and finished off the last this morning. I don't usually go through short story collections one straight after another like that, but I just couldn't resist. The best new writer of short stories I've come across in a long time (I mean 'new' to me, of course).
Would you believe I'm half-way through a second reading of The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini and Other Strange Stories? I really found it that good, first time through.
That's really quite gratifying!
Despite all the unread books I still have to work through, I like to support my local public library. to that end, I've borrowed an anthology with the explanatory subtitle "classic vampire fiction 1816-1914, In the Shadow of Dracula. Although it's edited by Leslie S. Klinger, and the cover credits mention his introduction and notes, these are nowhere near as extensive as for his annotated edition of Dracula published by Norton.
With regard to the selection of stories, as I've come to expect, there is a lot of overlap with other anthologies on the same subject.
I made yet another start on The Monk last night. I'm definitely sticking to it this time - it's not as though I wasn't enjoying what I'd read. This time I've got a sketch pad for noting names and relationships.
I've also, at odd moments, been working my way through the short story section in my Delphi Complete Works of Mary Shelley.
She's a really engaging short story writer. I've got the impression - perhaps wrongly - that she's not a particularly noted writer in the form. If so, I don't agree with it - I think she's rather special. The stories vary through the Gothic - Romantic range. I've been thinking that this is a case where there really should be a good, 'collected' edition - Folio Society or something like that - I'd buy it, definitely.
I made a visit to Cambridge (my first visit) a couple of weeks ago. The Cambridge University Bookshop has the largest selection of "Cambridge Companions" I'd ever seen (CUP publications in general seem to have trouble getting into high street bookshops - at least compared to Oxford). Anyway, the point is that I noticed the volume for Mary Shelley is thicker than the volume for Percy Shelley.
Over Christmas I read Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol for my first ever time (though, like most people, I imagine, I was quite familiar with the story).
I'm a little nonplussed.
First of all, I don't know what to call it: I'm not sure it counts as Gothic Literature, but I don't know what else it might count as, either - it's not quite humour, not quite a tale of the supernatural, not quite satire ... I'm not even sure that it counts as a moral homily - I got the strong impression that Dickens was more interested in entertaining the customers and the 'message' of it didn't quite ring true for me - it struck me as a bit secondary.
Secondly, for something that's so captured the public imagination for all these years, I found it rather unconvincing. I didn't think it conveyed any very strong reality to the human characters and I was surprised at how much vaguer the spirits were than I'd imagined from watching all those films and telly progs over the years.
It passed the odd moment but, all in all, I found it a bit of a disappointment.
I think it is a moral homily, at heart (so are Dickens' other Christmas Books - they are also (even) more didactic and heavier going than A Christmas Carol, as I remember them).
Despite his American accent, it was George C. Scott's portrayal of Scrooge that I thought illuminated something in the book. His Scrooge is moved to self-pity very early on, but it takes him a lot longer to learn to care about anybody else. He lacks Charity.
#150, #151 - Any ideas on a Gothic short story appropriate to the turn of the year? Can't think of one offhand.
#153 - I think I'll fall back on a good ghost story for New Year's Eve - I'm still snowed under with half-read collections and anthologies.
#150 - I may be being a little unfair to A Christmas Carol. On the one hand, the last Dickens I read was the absolutely outstanding The Signalman, which some might remember me raving about, and 'Carol' might have suffered from the comparison. On the other hand, I did read it very piecemeal in odd little gaps in the festivities with all the distractions that entails, not to mention the effects of excessive amounts of good Christmas fodder and wine.
Perhaps I should give it a re-read, to be fair.
"I'm still snowed under with half-read collections and anthologies". - me too!
Nothing suitable for New Year's came to mind. I did a quick search on Google. It looks like there are plenty of "real life" stories, which is not quite what we're looking for, but I did find one online by Grant Allen, "My New Year's Eve among the Mummies" (1880). To say I found it isn't the same as recommending it, though.
#155 - I've just hunted that up and read the first few paragraphs. I see what you mean by your last sentence.
It's odd - I did a bit of googling and it seems quite genuine, but it doesn't read like a Victorian writer - more like a modern half-heartedly aping the Victorian - the odd 'By Jove' and so on.
Having read a few paragraphs, I'm going to have to read the lot, now, from sheer curiosity, so I'll save it for New Year's Eve. Thanks for that.
Werewolf of Paris - Not quite successful as a lycanthropic exploration, but it does present some interesting eroto-thanatotic moments. The political background was a change of pace too.
The Golden Pot/The Sandman - Striking moments and ripe for symbolic excavation, yet I felt somewhat disappointed. Perhaps a case of expectations, given the large influence Hoffman had.
Hoffman is one of those writers I've always intended to read but still haven't got round to ...
... I think I was vaguely aware of The Werewolf of Paris, but it hadn't really registered with me, as it were. Having just read the Wikipedia page, it's another one that has to go on the 'intending to read' list!
Anyway, welcome to the group and to LibraryThing, EyeDoleOn.
Incidentally, if you put square brackets round book titles and double square brackets round author names, they'll come up highlighted and anyone reading your post can click on them and get transferred to the particular book's or author's LibraryThing page.
Longsword, Earl of Salisbury: An Historical Romance by Thomas Leland was published two years earlier than The Castle of Otranto (that is, in 1762).
There is no supernaturalism in the story (not even of the eventually-explained-away, Mrs Radcliffe/Scooby-Doo variety). It does have pretty much everything else though: a medieval setting (Longsword/Salisbury was a real person: the historical illegitimate son of King Henry II); stories within stories; a lady's virtue pressed; an evil, lascivious monk; and the inheritance of the sentimental novel, much in the way of tears and fainting away - men and women both.
The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction - I read this straight through, so a fairly superficial reading for what is after all a set of academic essays. I was struck by the range of definitions of "Gothic", to the extent that in aggregate it still seems to be the sort of thing where "one knows it when one sees it". The essay on "Colonial and Postcolonial Gothic: the Caribbean" by Lizabeth Paravinisi-Gebert (no touchstones) was particularly informative about an aspect of Gothic - and literature in general - about which I knew very little.
In The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (no touchstones, again), Nick Groom traces the idea of Gothic through 2000 years of Western intellectual history. With only 143 pages, this is a whistle-stop tour but touches on things that I haven't seen in strictly literary histories. Chapters on the political uses of the barbarians from Rome to the Modern era; the long-lasting almost psychic damage (Groom argues) done to England by the Reformation; the various meanings, the semiotics I suppose, of Gothic architecture from occasional 18th century follies, to Strawberry Hill and Fonthill, to the Houses of Parliament; and up to present day with Goth music and Goth youth subcultures. Gothic literature as such has to take its place as just one part of the whole mosaic, although Longsword gets a "shout out" as I believe the young people say ;)
Oh holy hell, after another bizarre absence, I have returned! I've dealt with a very trying personal challenge over the past few months, and the desire to read anything relating to the Gothic, Decadence, et al seemed to have fled me entirely until a chance discussion of Dracula this past weekend reinvigorated some of my sensibilities. That sounds cryptic, so I'll elaborate: this kind of literature was a very integral aspect of my relationship with a man I had begun to fall in love with and, when we split ways about six months ago, it was somewhat painful to re-immerse myself in, again, what was an extremely central aspect of our relationship. But I've begun to reclaim literature, and particularly this sort of literature, as something that was 'mine,' and not necessarily 'his' or 'ours.' And it feels really, really, really good: like coming home out of a very cold, damp, and windy night...
Anyway, now that this melodramatic, entirely unprompted personal revelation is out of the way: I reread The Hound of the Baskervilles two nights ago and have found a lot of Gothic sensibility there; not just in the central 'mythology,' but in the denouement. It's Radcliffean, even. And speaking of Radcliffe, I've finally committed to a proper reread of The Mysteries of Udolpho, but can't promise it taking me any less than two months to finish the project... Finally, I'm attempting a reread of the Solomon Kane stories. I haven't read most of them since high school...
Have any of the Folio Society people here picked up the recently published editions of Byron, The House of the Seven Gables, or In A Glass Darkly? Are they up to snuff? I was considering purchasing them as a birthday present to myself. I'm particularly interested in knowing whether or not Byron's 'Darkness' is included in that particular selection...
And for those interested in hearing, my production of Macbeth was an enormous success! I was actually voted as one of the 25 most influential people in my county as a result, which was very humbling. Carrying that clout over to the director's meetings at my theatre, I was able to secure permission to direct my favorite play this year, and as a result, I am finally producing Wilde's Salome, this August! I'm extremely excited!
So, by way of concluding this little open letter, I hope to hear from my old friends and perhaps do a little reading with you all in the near future! :)
Yay, she's back!! Congratulations on the adulations--and SALOME, how lovely!
Yes, welcome back, J. Condolences and congratulations as appropriate.
Welcome back from me, too.
Some details of those folio Society books to follow.
The Folio Society Lord Byron: Selected Poems
This is the latest in the irregular series of “The Folio Poets”.
Dimensions 280 x 188 x 38 mm.
Quarter bound in orange leather (it might be genuine but there’s no smell) with printed cloth sides - or maybe a textured paper. The details on the copyright page confirm “leather” and “cloth”.
Printed in dark blue on white with a repeating design of lapping waves engraved by Simon Brett. Brett also produced the internal illustrations (wood engravings).
Dark blue endpapers.
Typeset in 14-pt Baskerville (the point size isn’t specified in the book itself, but this is a detail given for the first in the series (Keats) in Folio 60.
16 pages of prelims and 400 pages of text (notes starting at page 383).
The paper is Caxton wove. It’s quite thin, not overly white. There is some show through from the other side of the leaf.
I gather from the copyright page that the text and the notes are both taken from the 1996 Penguin Selected Poems. The editors are Susan J. Wolfson and Peter J. Manning. The introduction is by Jonathan Bate.
a “Note on the Text” explains that the selection untimately derives from the Works published by John Murray 1832-1834. The Folio edition prints Byron’s own notes on the same page as the poetic texts.
“Darkness” is included, on pages 362-364.
The House of the Seven Gables (Folio Society 2012)
Dimensions 230 x 165 x 30
20+278 pp + 9 plates
Introduction by Brenda Wineapple.
Text based on the first US edition. Hawthorne’s “Author’s Preface” is included.
Typeset in Adobe Garamond. Printed on Abbey Wove (similar to the Caxton Wove).
The plates are full-page colour illustrations by Francis Mosley. He also produced the image on the printed cover, of the house. The cover is “cambric-grained paper”. It’s quite shiny and the effect is a little like lacquered papier mache - suitable for a 19th Century novel, perhaps.
Edited to add:
to explain that comment about papier mache a bit better, the shiny paper laid over the boards of the cover is what produces the effect: the cover has an unexpectedly bright, hollow sound if you tap it with a fingernail.
In a Glass Darkly
In many ways this edition of Le Fanu's most famous story collection is a traditional, even safe, production. The spine and back cover is a sober brown cloth. The type is Bulmer, which is a more authentically 19th Century face than the digital typeface chosen for The House of the Seven Gables.
Folio don't give the dimensions of their books in the traditional sizes anymore, sadly, but this is some species of octavo - 240 x 163 x 35.
I might be overstating the case here, but in design terms, I reckon that what makes or breaks the book - either raising it above the ordinary by subverting the traditional design, or spoiling it - are the illustrations by Finn Campbell-Notman. I say this because (even if you can overlook the interior illustrations), one is pasted across the whole of the front board. There's a real contrast between them and the restraint of the rest of the book. Luckily I don't have to attempt to describe them because they can all be seen on the illustrator's own website:
The introduction is by Patrick MacGrath. In addition to the illustrations, there are 15 pages of prelims, an unpaged leaf with Le Fanu's dedication, and 314 pages of the main text.
Thanks, houseful! Much obliged! Does 'Darkness' have an illustration to go with it? I've never seen anyone bother illustrating that one, which is a pity, because it's my favorite poem of all time...
So nice to hear from everyone again! Missed you all! Is anyone up for a group read? I was thinking it might be fun to try another poem (I think the last time we did poetry was about two years ago!)... Keats' 'Lamia' would seem to have some Gothicism about it. I've also been itching to discuss some Le Fanu...
Yup - go for it. Either or both.
Keats is probably my favourite poet, and I haven't read that one in a long, long time.
You've reminded me that I've a lot of unread Le Fanu here.
Edited because I previously pressed 'Save message' instead of 'Preview' ...
"Darkness" has a small engraved design occupying roughly to top quarter of the page: an abstract sun design of concentric (but, unevenly spaced) rings around a central disc - but the disc is solid black.
Either Keats or Le Fanu would be good choices, but as pgmcc noted, this year is Le Fanu's bicentenary.
It's also just occurred to me that The Castle of Otranto is celebrating its 250th birthday this year...
I'm working my way through Freud- The Key Ideas by Ruth Snowden. I have difficulty getting a firm grip on those essays in The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction where the authors are heavily influenced by Freudian and psychoanalytical ideas. So I thought I'd start with this and then read two or three of Freud's most frequently cited works.
Let me state quite firmly, here, that I don't believe the problem lies with me - for some reason, the essayists who hold these ideas don't seem very hot on clarity and precision of writing.
I'm in the situation at the moment where I'm wondering what they were talking about, wondering whether they knew what they were talking about, wondering whether they really knew what Freud was talking about, and, having got half-way through the Snowden, wondering if Freud really knew what he was talking about in the first place.
Edited, my tenses were all over the place ...
It's weird - after a lifetime of steady reading I sometimes feel as if I'm just starting out - there seem to be so many well-known and 'important' works that I've never read. I've never, ever read any Freud.
From my early 20's to my mid-30's I spent a lot of time trying to fill the woeful gaps in my knowledge (a lot of my knottier and challenging unread books date back to that time!).
As part of this attempt I read a couple of short introductions to Freud, the Oxford 'Past Masters' volume by Anthony Storr, for one (it's probably since been republished as one of their 'Very Short Introductions'). I've also read one or two of Freud's essays but I can't claim to have studied him in any degree.
I picked up a bit more about Freud through reading essays in, primarily, The London Review of Books. About ten years ago there was evidently something of a movement to criticise both the methods and the theoretical underpinnings of psycho-analysis. The essays I read tended to be 'anti'. The case for the prosecution seemed pretty convincing to me, and it put me off delving any further into the subject.
However, tastes change and more recently I've read a description of Freud as a fin de siécle writer (rather than a scientist), and that's more likely to catch my interest these days. In addition, over in 'The Deep Ones' reading group (there's a disparaging double-meaning there, of course: we could be Lovecraftian fish-men!) we recently looked at E. T. A. Hoffman's story 'The Sand-Man". It was noted that Freud used this story as a basis for his essay on 'the uncanny' and so coincidentally I bought the Penguin edition of Freud containing this essay, today.
In my experience, Freud is tons more fun to read than anything about him I've fell upon, but housefulofpaper is spot on with the suggestion to approach him as a creative writer rather than a "scientist".
A scientist he was not, nor are his theories science. And some of the things he did border on or even are downright criminal (the famous "Dora" case, where he prompted a fourteen year old girl, despite her firm protests, to own up to her supposed sexual feelings towards her father's friend whose wife her father was sleeping with--what fictional plot can compete with that?), so caveat lector.
Still, he was fabulously imaginative, a superb stylist, and some of his stuff, especially case histories, read like a thriller.
>178 housefulofpaper:, >179 LolaWalser:
Snowden is clearly a fan of Freud, but she quite fairly lays out his and his theories' flaws. As far as I can tell so far, it seems a pretty good first introduction.
I'm glad to read Lola's comments about Freud being a such a good read. Also, Snowden says something to the effect of his works being quite accessible to the lay reader. There is quite a stack of them cited in the Cambridge Companion!
One of the problems I have is understanding why literature academics are so engaged with a chap who's been dead for seventy-five years. Assuming, for the moment, that his work had scientific validity, it's in the nature of science that over the passage of time much of it would be disproved or superseded by deeper and better understandings. It seems to me it would be more legitimate to study present-day understandings of psychology. But they don't - so I'm stuck with Freud.
One of the problems I have is understanding why literature academics are so engaged with a chap who's been dead for seventy-five years.
I don't think it's possible to overstate Freud's influence, in lay literature as much as in academic circles, and that is more due to how exciting his theories were than to their validity. The man, for all purposes, invented sex and sexuality--dragged them into the light of day, plopped in the middle of bourgeois tea. Pro or contra Freud, the references to his work still continue. It will be a while before he's completely forgotten.
Reminds me that recently I came across a particularly funny (unintentionally) instance of raw Freudianism in Jim Thompson's A swell-looking babe.
Pondering over your last line over the last couple of weeks has made me really conscious of how tricky - and even treacherous - Freud made language. I suppose one could say that he markedly enriched language for writers and readers - he certainly added an extra dimension.
I've been reading Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft with ... um ... a moderate amount of interest lately. I was on holiday last week and, having his name in my mind and never having read him and fancying something new and a bit different for before bedtimes, I downloaded Carrie. His first written or first published, according to 'Writing', so it seemed a good place to start - and I regard De Palma's Carrie as a classic film (or did, don't think I've seen it for decades).
I've been rather surprised. I have to say that I find his writing rather mediocre - in this book, anyway. I just find it flat and 'un-gripping'. I'm not sure whether I find his style poor or I just can't find it at all. I bought it on the 13th and I still haven't finished because I'm struggling to keep up my interest.
I mean - this chap is one of the most successful writers alive! Did he get better with later books? I'm feeling a bit puzzled.
>183 alaudacorax: - The Curse of Kindle: even when there's no web access, it's too easy to buy stuff I really should get from the library. I'm a hapless victim of capitalism.
I bought It when it came out in UK paperback - 1989? But I gave up on it. I've since read two or three King short stories in anthologies, and enjoyed them more than I would have expected, given the earlier experience.
On the issue of style/non-style He does have a very 'straight ahead, no-nonsense' US mainstream writer style. Perhaps curiously this masculine style of writing (as I was taught to think of it) is often welded to an introspective, psychological style - a 'feminine' style - that I suppose is intended to deliver character development but for my money only slows everything down.
It's a bit like Hemingway and Henry James have been forced to collaborate and fight over every sentence.
Stephen King isn't the only writer to do this, by any means.
>183 alaudacorax:, >185 housefulofpaper:
I may have been a bit hasty in my earlier post. I thought that with the second part, 'Prom Night', it developed a bit more tension and 'grip'. Not bad, but not particularly special, either - I'm not particularly bothered whether I read any more of his books or not.
I was at the launch of The Green Book 3 this evening. Dr Jarleth Killeen of Trinity College gave a fascinating talk on Le Fanu's Carmilla. He put the story in the context of the prevailing social attitudes about being a good mother, using quotes from Mrs Beaton's Book of Household Management to demonstrate his point. He also put forward the concept of the female vampire as a sexual being with Carmilla being the first, but presented the evidence that male vampires do not have to be sexy. There were many interpretations of homoerotic elements of the story and the counterbalance of the female vampire as mother and child to her victim.
An excellent evening for a volume that contains three articles on Le Fanu to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth.
Fans of Carmilla, check out the cheesy goodness of the 1970's adaptation, The Vampire Lovers.
With Ingrid Pitt as Marcilla/Carmilla/Mircalla Karnstein, also Kate O'Mara and Peter Cushing.
>188 LolaWalser: Jarlath mentioned Vampire Lovers in the same endearing terms you used.
Would have loved to have been there for that.
The idea of Carmilla (the character, I mean) as mother or child to the other girl (name escapes me, at the moment) is a bit of a challenge - intriguing. I'd have loved to have heard his views on the homoerotic elements: I can never get a grip on the Victorian mind-set as regards sexuality - as per Lola's post at >181 LolaWalser:, this would have been before Freud practically invented the subject, so I'm unlikely to find any contemporary discussion on the matter. It's something I keep knocking up against with a certain amount of puzzlement (as in my thread on Goblin Market!) - it often seems so much like late-20th-/21st-century titillation, and yet I've read some extraordinary accounts of Victorian naiveté on the subject.
Anyway, not having been there, I've ordered The Green Book 3 as compensation.
Connections ... coincidences ... the picture with 'Book Chat: "Carmilla"', on the other end of pgmcc's link, has been ringing bells all through writing #190. I've just worked it out.
I was watching the film The Moth Diaries yesterday evening. The schoolgirl heroine was being taught about Carmilla in a class and was later looking at an edition with that picture. I can't tell you any more about the film as I think I fell asleep at that point and I woke up on my settee at 2:30 this morning with the parrot fast asleep against my neck (and it was only when I'd stowed her away and gone to bed that I realised I hadn't even had my dinner - starving this morning). Um ... I'm not sure if that reflects on the film or not.
ETA - I'd actually forgotten the film completely till writing this, so it probably doesn't reflect very well on it.
>190 alaudacorax: Jarlath spoke on The Goblin Market pointing out the same point you made. The more I think about it ghe more I want a copy of his talk.
I'm not sure I understand what it is exactly you are puzzling about, so apologies if I'm off the mark... I don't think the Victorians were "naive" about sex at all, they just didn't talk about it, not those in "polite" society at any rate.
The contortions and concealment that custom imposed on expression of sexual knowledge are often what makes the typically middle-class literature of that era so weird. But contemporary readers certainly read between the lines and picked up cues to sexual behaviours from most oblique references.
Take the famous example of the sight of a lady's ankle sending men into frenzy--it's not the ankle, it's what the ankle hinted at--the leg, the lower body underneath the skirts etc.
Yes, but I can never figure out if the sexuality in Goblin Market or Carmilla, which seems quite blatant to me, was so to the Victorians.
We've become a highly 'sex-conscious' society, but I can remember a time in my own life - in my childhood ('50s) and probably well into my teenage years or even later - when the sexuality in those works would have whizzed right past me. I can quite imagine - and, indeed, I've read of - situations where sections of the adult world could be just as unaware. I remember that in the '70s we watched The Morecambe and Wise Show and nobody turned a hair at the regular sketches where Eric and Ernie shared a bed - the subject of homosexuality didn't enter most people's minds. People and the media just weren't so sex-conscious. It was very different from today and how much more different might the mind-set have been in an age so much more remote from ours?
So, with Goblin Market, for instance, I see a range of possibilities from CR deliberately putting in stuff to 'spice it up a bit' to her being quite unconscious of the sexuality of what she was writing, and I have no idea where on the scale the facts might lie. In Carmilla, were the sexual overtones obvious to everyone, to just a few 'sophisticates', or were they unconscious productions of Lefanu's perhaps suppressed erotic leanings and no more consciously registered by his readers?
>194 alaudacorax: The talk indicated that Le Fanu was well aware of what he was writing and the implications of the actions in the story.
My understanding is that Morecombe and Wise shared a bed because they (or their writer(s)) were consciously copying an earlier comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy, who (sometimes) shared a bed.
Laurel and Hardy shared a bed simply because the characters they played were poor - no sexual element was intended or perceived by the audience.
If MW hadn't had the example of L&H at the front of their minds, I doubt that they would have shared a bed on screen in the 1970s and not expected/anticipated a sexualised reading of the situation.
What I'd take from this example is that the reading(s) of social situations, speech, fiction, etc, at any given moment in time would have been at least as complicated as today - looking back to the 19th Century, with its less communication between places, peoples, and classes than today, maybe even more complicated.
The problem with talking about what people in a repressed culture perceived is that, well, they didn't talk about it.
A homosexual person might look at two men in bed differently from a heterosexual, in any era.
Certainly Victorian pornography and prostitution testify to a wide range of sexual activity--see The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England for a short introduction to the topic.
But if it's not openly talked about, there will be plenty of people who never learn about it at all, or only half-understand any hints and innuendoes that they pick up on as "something dirty".
Not sure what you mean by "it" in that sentence--sex in general, specific practices, homosexuality...? At any rate, I think we are very biased in judging what our ancestors knew and didn't know by their fiction (the written record most of us know that period by). That fiction was produced according to a mass of rules about taboo subjects and does not reflect accurately what the authors actually "knew". Dickens doesn't describe childbirth graphically anywhere, but we can trust he didn't think babies came from cabbage patches.
Thank you for reporting on the launch. I read my copy of The Green Book 3 as soon as it arrived. It's as good a read as Tartarus Press' journal Wormwood, despite its narrower focus.
Ha! I've managed to look like an old prude with that post, but yes, "it" would be "sex in general, specific practices, homosexuality" - to a greater or lesser degree, on a case-by-case (person-by-person) basis.
Sometimes, I get some very confused emotions when playing around with my Kindle.
I've just received my copy of the third issue of 'The Green Book' (see >187 pgmcc:, >200 housefulofpaper:), with its focus on Le Fanu. Now, my collection of Le Fanu is (was) almost all on the Kindle and downloaded - very piecemeal - from Project Gutenberg, and, hence, unwieldy and difficult to navigate. After struggling for about five minutes to locate a couple of works treated in The Green Book, I gave up, deleted the lot, and downloaded the Complete Works of Sheridan Le Fanu from Amazon.
Now I've got guilt coming at me all ends up!!!
For some reason, I feel guilty that I can get the complete, lifetime's works of a writer for just £1-83 (though that hasn't stopped me buying a number of them since I've had the contraption). It just doesn't seem respectful, somehow. At the same time, I feel guilty about buying ebooks at all - I suppose I feel that if I pay real money for ebooks I'm encouraging them when I should be using my money to support 'proper' books; and don't ask me to explain why I don't feel the same guilt when I'm getting the ebooks free from Gutenberg - I just can't explain it - I know it doesn't make sense. And then I feel guilty about consigning the old Le Fanus - to which, them ('they'?) being ebooks, I thought I had no sentimental attachment whatever - to the dark, chilly, nether wastes of the internet.
If Mr Le Fanu is looking down from somewhere, I promise I'll get some nice hardback editions at some point - honestly, I will!
ETA - Edited because I'd got myself feeling so guilty and confused that I actually committed the unforgiveable sin of putting an apostrophe in a plural. The Shame!!! The Shame!!!
Sir Terry Pratchett says, somewhere, that the use of multiple exclamation marks
"a sure sign of someone wearing his underpants on his head", I believe. But I believe he restricted the comment to using more than three exclamation points.
(FWIW, I was thought in school one should always use single or triple exclamation marks, never double or 4+.)
I don't suppose that feeling attached to an e-book (even though you know it's really just a string of data) is psychologically any different to feeling attached to a particular mass-market paperback (even though you know the same text is reproduced in umpteen different editions and you may already possess more than one of them). In other words, you're as sane I am, or I'm as crazy as you are!
Tonight, I've read the first two stories in Ramsey Campbell's Dark Companions. I'd never heard of him until recently, but I found him mentioned here (I'm a sucker for lists) and was convinced enough by the write-up that, on impulse, I downloaded this title.
I'm very impressed. The stories are quite full of tension and unease. In fact, there are layers of tension and unease, stemming from different aspects of his main characters' situations, combining into
>176 alaudacorax: to >182 alaudacorax:
I'm still working my way through Freud- The Key Ideas by Ruth Snowden, but, reading it, I'm realising that I hadn't taken on board just how thoroughly Freudianism has permeated the arts and media world - everywhere from academe to popular culture. One of the essays in The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (I'm too lazy to look up which one, at the moment) argues that modern Gothic is pretty much dependent on Freudianism, but I'm starting to see it in every genre - practically anything that has a plot to it - not to mention when talking heads on politics and discussion programmes start to get a bit exercised.
If there's intelligent life on this planet in a thousand years, I imagine their historians and archaeologists will regard Freudianism as one of the great cults of our (western) world - something like the cult of Isis in the later Roman world.
By a nice coincidence, today I found an off-air recording of a Radio 3 Sunday Feature from about 15 years ago. In 'America on the Couch' Christopher Cook looks at "the impact of Freud's theories on American culture" (Radio Times).
There were, Cook suggests, a variety of reasons why late-19th Century America was particularly receptive to Psychoanalysis, from the the practices of Evangelical Christianity to the historic moment when the Frontier was closed and the country, in a sense, 'completed'; so America had to stop and reflect on what it was, to the opportunity it gave therapists to carve out a new profession for themselves. One which took them out of the asylums (ministering to those committed there as insane, while playing second fiddle to neurologists) and permitted them to treat private patients in their own private clinics. Psychoanalysis in America, despite getting so deeply into the popular culture - at least for the first half of the 20th Century - was essentially for the well-off.
From the viewpoint of the year 2000, the suggestion is that psychoanalysis's star was eclipsed by pharmacology from the 1960s on. Prozac is specifically mentioned. It was in the media a lot at that time, I remember (Prozac Nation book 1994, film 2001, for example).
On the media's adoption of psychoanalysis, Cook points out the number of cultured Central European refugees and emigrees who came to Hollywood, Freud's theories being part of their intellectual and cultural chattels they brought with them. And of course advertising: Freud's nephew (Edward Bernays) was the founder of modern advertising and he saw it as a psychological mechanism, slogans being retained in the unconscious for example.
I read Algernon Blackwood's Ancient Sorceries last night - I've discovered there were two or three unread tales, still, in my Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood.
Good story - gripping, suspenseful, richly colourful - and Blackwood has a way of striking chords from our common, shared experiences that both adds a deeper layer and conjures a greater intimacy between reader and story (I'm sure we've discussed this before in this group). In this case, although, superficially, nothing to do with the tale, Blackwood definitely plays on male memories of adolescence's scary first experiences of love and sex, especially with a dose of good old Judeo-Christian guilt complicating issues.
But I'm a little up in the air about the ending. Blackwood has his character, 'John Silence', give a semi-Radcliffean 'explanation' at the end. The trouble is that I can't decide whether Blackwood intends us to take Silence's words at face value or to read him as being mistaken about - perhaps 'underestimating' would be a better way of putting it - what really happened. Or is Blackwood deliberately offering us the choice?
Incidentally, this strongly reminded me that Blackwood was an influence on the younger Lovecraft. The echoes of this (or similar Blackwood works) are definitely in Lovecraft.
ETA - Having written that last paragraph, other instances of Blackwood's influence pop into mind. Blackwood was special.
I can appreciate Blackwood's fiction, and his importance as an influence on later writers of weird fiction, without loving it in the way I do (most of) M. R. James or Poe (to give a couple of examples).
The reasons, I suppose, ultimately come down to temperament. I don't share in any great degree his Nature worship (is Pantheism the right word?) and his careful, sometimes moment-by-moment delineation of psychological and/or spiritual states can sometimes leave me cold because I can't fully relate to it in my own experience. Or it might simply be that I haven't given him the time and attention he deserves - he tends to write long stories that need at least a couple of hours. I fear I've some of them in instalments, as it were, in spare half-hours and where he seemed prolix maybe I wasn't allowing him to work his magic.
Still on the subject of Algernon Blackwood, towards the end of his life he became quite famous for reading his stories on the BBC - on radio (and television - there was a very brief clip of him shown on a BBC4 documentary some years ago).
At least three recordings of Blackwood reading his own stories are commercially available on CD from the British Library.
"Pistol Against a Ghost" (duration 7:03) is included on the set "The Spoken Word: British Writers". This set also includes 3:31 of Arthur Machen - apparently the only surviving recording of his voice.
A later set, The Spoken Word: Short Stories: English and Irish authors read their own work" includes "The Destruction of Smith" (16:42) and "The Texas Farm Disappearance" (5:18).
This set also includes Kingsley Amis reading "The Green Man Revisited" (23:46) (a sort-of sequel to his novel The Green Man), Lord Dunsany reading "The Pearly Beach" (17:33) (a Jorkens story), and two fairly stories from authors who have done some weird fiction, Angela Carter reads "The Snow Child" (3:13) and A. E. Coppard reads "The Princess of Kingdom Gone" (14:49)
The current British Library exhibition includes a letter from Blackwood giving some criticism on a story by an aspiring author. The same voice that heard in the stories also comes over in this personal letter (and indeed, naturally enough, in his readings). One gets the impression of a kindly man, and a wise one (and we know from his biography that that wisdom was hard-won in his earlier years).
One final thought. After Blackwood died the Scottish actor John Laurie took over the reading of his stories on television, which must have fed into his portrayal of Private Frazer in Dad's Army.
I never read most of The Dead of Night: The Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions after I bought it when this group got interested in his 'The Beckoning Fair One'. So I took it away with me for Christmas, and managed to read a handful.
He's very good. I'm not sure they're that strong on suspense or creepiness, but I've been finding them quite engaging and absorbing. Usually, you're not done with a story when you've finished reading - being left with something to chew over - they're usually enigmatic in some way or other.
Of the ones I read, I found 'The Rope in the Rafters' particularly absorbing and thought-provoking - particularly, probably, as we've just gone through the Great War centenary. And 'Tragic Casements' has to have one of the most original-ever denouements to a tale of the supernatural (not absolutely sure it works, though).
>213 alaudacorax: - I assume the title 'Tragic Casements' to have been intended as a nod to Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale'. However, I've got it into my head that
Another frustration is that I can't find any but the sketchiest biographical information on Onions. He was born in Yorkshire, died in Wales, but how long did he live in Wales - what sort of relationship did he have with the country and its language in literary terms? An old Welsh tune featured in 'The Beckoning Fair One' and in 'Tragic Casements' he, for no obvious reason, uses the Welsh word 'morfa' instead of 'marsh' - it's not in the OED, so I don't think it can have been a regional usage in English somewhere or other - as far as I can work out, the story seems to be set somewhere between London and Bath and nearer to London. As I said, it's frustrating not to be able to find out more.
Apologies, I missed your posts over Christmas (and looking back at what I wrote in October, apologies for being such a slapdash typist, too! Carter and Coppard are represented on those CDs by fairy stories, of course).
I've got the Tartarus Press collection of Onions' ghost stories. It has a three-page introduction from Rosalie Parker, but the brief biographical details don't throw any light on the question of how, or if, living in Wales affected his writing.
I'm going to have to re-read both "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Tragic Casements"!
>216 housefulofpaper: - I'm going to have to re-read both "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Tragic Casements"!
Be warned that the connection is almost certainly all in my own head!
>216 housefulofpaper: - I've got the Tartarus Press collection of Onions' ghost stories.
Oddly, having a hunt round, just a few days ago, for a nice hardback collection of Onions' ghost stories, I'm pretty sure a Tartarus Press collection never showed up. I'd forgotten it existed till your post, to be honest, though I'm sure it's been mentioned previously in these threads. Just checked AbeBooks again and now there are two on there. Unfortunately, they're suffering from 'small imprint syndrome' - the cheapest would set me back £168-plus!
Haviing written that, I see it only has twenty-one stories compared to my paperback's twenty-seven. Still, it would be a nice edition to have ...
I'm about a third of the way through Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation by Michael Gamer. It's quite absorbing and not quite as hard work as literary studies sometimes are. This is probably a gross over-simplification, but his basic idea is that the Romantic genre was fundamentally shaped by the early Gothic.
So far, he's been dealing with all the criticial controversy and disapproval, combined with unprecedented commercial success, around the first few decades' worth of Gothic novels. A lot of things, apparently, were not what we've always been lead to believe - for example, the early readership wasn't as predominantly female as is usually said.
It was all very complicated and one thing that's delighted me is realising how knowledgeable Jane Austen was about all this and how much, in Northanger Abbey, she can be seen to be engaging in the controversies as much as simply satirising the early Gothic novel. The more I read and learn, the more I love that woman ...
We batted around some ideas of the origins of Romanticism and the Gothic's place in it, a couple of years ago (was it in connection with Vathek?). Should I read Gamer's book to get my ideas straight?
In a desultory way, I've been reading Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful. for all that it's a founding text for the Gothic movement I haven't been able to engage with it. Obviously it was written before 90%(?) of what we now know about human origins, psychology, and so on was discovered, and I imagine there's a danger I might miss that the philosophical ideas Burke puts forward may not be rendered redundant, or falsified, by later scientific discoveries - but for all that I'm too often brought up short by a naive "just so" story about the origins of human society, or an assertion that's confidently put forward as an unchanging human trait, idea, or value, that doesn't hold water in the 21st century. I'm reading the latest Penguin edition which also includes a lot of pre-revolutionary writings, and I'll feel obliged to work through those as well. I can leave a book on the shelf with a bookmark sticking out for a long long time, but I almost never give up on a book.
Shocking admission time: I have never read any Jane Austen (leaving aside the Folio Society facsimile of a book she wrote as a child - a History of England?). I plan to read Northanger Abbey after reading the six "horrid novels" mentioned in it. I got hold of the Folio Society edition a while ago and I'm about a quarter of the way through Castle of Wolfenbach (which in fact I read about 18 months ago - but that was a paperback from Valancourt Books).
Swan River Press and Tartarus Press both published the latest volumes of their literary journals last week. Perhaps of particular Gothic interest are articles on the 19th Century Irish-born American writer Fitz-James O'Brien and the 1901 Abridgement of Dracula, in Swan River Press' The Green Book; and pieces on "The Forgotten Fiction of Richard Marsh", John Buchan's The Dancing Floor, and two volumes of supernatural tales by Sir Andrew Caldecott, in Wormwood.
Should I read Gamer's book to get my ideas straight?
Don't know about that. I'm only a third through at the moment, and all I can really say is that I, personally, am finding it absorbing.
One point to bear in mind is that it was published fifteen years ago, so it's probably already had influence; I already had inklings of some of his points in there and a lot of it may not be new to you.
The two main arguments of the book are: 1: the Romantic was fundamentally shaped by the early Gothic, and, 2: (and I should have said this in >218 alaudacorax:) that right up until modern times our ideas of the reception of the Gothic novels of the first decades have been distorted by the contemporary critics' prejudices against the novels and the criticisms of Romantic writers who were uneasily negotiating the combination of those prejudices and the Gothic's offered commercial advantages (often with a fair dose of hypocrisy - but that's just my comment). So far, Gamer's been very thoroughly laying down the groundwork for his arguments - in depth - lots of detail and examples. As I said, I, personally, am finding it absorbing, but ...
I was reading Burke for a long time, kept leaving off and then going back to it. I eventually made a 'heroic effort' - went back to the beginning and read it through in a few weeks, finishing about a month ago.
For its importance and influence, I'm glad I read it, and, having read it, I could see it's influences - but I can't say much else for it.
I agree with your comments about his ideas on psychology and so forth - I had difficulty in remembering that, for the purpose of cultural studies, my opinion of them doesn't matter, and I constantly found myself having to suppress the impulse to argue with him in the margins.
I got the impression that Burke was feeling his way, writing at first attempt, with no prior notes or outline. For example: the editor (Oxford Paperbacks edition), footnotes nearly all his quotations as having mistakes (though it’s very impressive if he was writing them all from memory). And can I say 'long-winded'? Some of his sentences were quite tortuous to unravel and I got a definite impression that he was doing a lot of 'padding', too - I found a lot just redundant.
Also, I kept getting tripped up by his deliberately idiosyncratic use of one or two words - 'delight' I remember as a particularly annoying one - and kept having to ruffle back through the pages to find his personal definitions - with hindsight, I should have written his definitions on a bookmark - but, then, I sometimes suspected he'd forgotten he was using them, too, which was even more confusing.
When I first read Northanger Abbey
ETA - The results of getting old - I've just realised that 'not that many years ago' means about fifteen!
Remembering your struggles with Caleb Williams, this might interest you: David Wolmersley (for whom, Touchstones returns "no results") in his introduction to the Penguin edition of Burke that I'm reading, looks across the man's whole career but focuses on the impact of Reflections on the Revolution in France. He pays attention to the criticism that came from those of Burke's contemporaries who'd assumed he was allied with them in what I suppose today would be "the progressive left".
Wolmersley says this: "The character of Falkland...is plainly a spokesman for the Burke of the 1890's: a man of great talents curdled and eventually destroyed by by his allegiance to a chivalrous and aristocratic principle of 'honour'. But Caleb Williams, at once Falkland's adversary and double, is also a version of Burke: he is recognisably the aesthetic subject of...A Philosophical Enquiry"...
Oh dear - jumbled feelings! That's a really interesting idea ... about a book I really have no wish to again go near. My brain really can't cope with it tonight.
And now I've completely forgotten why I've just logged into LibraryThing ...
I've just finished reading The Castle Spectre - a drama in five acts by M. G. Lewis.
This was appendant to my reading of Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation , but I rather enjoyed it for itself.
It's a bit silly, and I sometimes laughed in places where I'm not sure 'Monk' intended me to, but it was quite fun. I felt it had a bit of a 'Castle of Otranto' feel to it.
Reading it, the extremely antagonistic critical reception it got is a bit surprising, and I'm now not sure if I've accidentally got hold of his severely revised and watered-down version produced in reaction to that - back to the books!
My intended reading has been derailed by my rediscovery of Philip Sandifer's Doctor Who blog "TARDIS Eruditorum" which appraises each episode from 1963 onwards by setting it in its historical or cultural context, or analysing the approaches of actors, writers etc. (As an example, teasing out the significance of why a particular script editor would name a time loop a "chronic hysteresis" and how it indicates that editor's intentions regarding storytelling conventions in the programme, and how the main character should be used. It's ingenious and illuminating even it can't be proven). Sometimes he goes off the deep end, as when the 10th anniversary story is analysed through the lens of William Blake's Four Zoas!
Doctor Who did have its Gothic moment of course, when the production team cheerfully plundered the look and themes of Hammer Films and re-presented them for a Saturday teatime audience between The Basil Brush Show and The Generation Game.
I've got it in a collection of six Gothic melodramas entitled The Hour of One. It's actually a reproduction of original 19th century play scripts (much reduced in size and hard to read. I think there was a larger version and what I own came out later - rather than a paperback, a shrunken hardback.) I remember getting a distinct sense of "Otranto" as I read The Castle Spectre.
The other plays in the book, incidentally, are The Vampire (J R Planché), The Devil's Elixir (Edward Fitz-Ball), The Flying Dutchman(Fitz-Ball again), A Tale of Mystery,(Thomas Holcroft) Frankenstein (no dramatist credited, but acknowledging something called Le Magicien et la Monster by H M Milner, as well as Mary Shelly's novel).
I read Aeschylus' The Oresteia. It's the rather sumptuous Limited Editions Club edition from 1961. I was lead to it by a book by designer Adrian Wilson called The Design of Books. This was written in 1967 but republished in the early '90's - which is when I bought it.
I was very taken with the civilised, humanistic (in the broad sense) picture of book designing, publishing and printing that Wilson presented, as well as the "antique charm' (to me) of the 1960's-vintage book designs given as examples throughout. The LEC Oresteia was one of these examples. However, I didn't at that time have the wherewithal to seek out any of these books. It was a very long time later that I realised I could search on the Web for a copy.
The point of this story is, LEC used the "classic" translation by E. D. A. Morshead, who has rendered Aeschylus in more or less Shakespearean prose. For example, "What, think'st thou, in thy place had Priam done" "He surely would have walked on broidered robes.", etc.
This had the effect that the scenes of, for example Cassandra's foretelling of Agamemnon's, and her own, murders in Agamemnon; or Orestes seeing the Furies at the end of The Libation Bearers, read like the proto-Gothic scenes in Shakespeare's tragedies. Last year's British Library exhibition make clear how much those plays fed into the early development of Gothic in this country.
It struck me that Shakespeare was a classicist (even if Ben Jonson thought he had "small Latin and less Greek"). So he knew the Latin dramatists, at least; and in his career as a dramatist he wasn't reinventing these effects from scratch.
>127 housefulofpaper: - I'm currently - belatedly - reading The Green Book, Issue 1.
I've enjoyed Albert Power's 'Towards an Irish Gothic: Part 1' - the first article. I was intrigued by his argument that the great flowering of Gothic literature at the end of the 18thC was sparked by Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. On the idea of Longsword being the first Gothic novel, I thought he - if inadvertently - made as good a case for The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley.
I'll have to read Albert Powers' series of articles again, but on the question of what was the first Gothic novel, I'm inclined to go with contemporary opinion - remembering Borges' line about works of genius creating their own antecedents.
After reading Christopher Frayling's book, I've just begun reading Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber.
Does anyone here have any experience with Victorian-era Gothic Penny Dreadfuls? I'm currently reading George W M Reynolds' The Mysteries of London from 1844/5 working on the idea that this cheap, popular literature helped to move the Gothic to a contemporary, urban setting.
My experience is limited to having read Varney the Vampire (in the Wordsworth Editions paperback).
However, I have also read one of the Gothic novels referenced in Northanger Abbey, namely Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons. If the events in that novel weren't contemporary at the time of writing, they were set only a couple of decades in the past, and take place partly in Paris and London (but 'polite' Paris and London - see below for possible relevance of this point).
I would even hesitate to say that the Penny Dreadfuls were the first to put supernaturalism in contemporary settings. I think Schiller's Ghost-Seer, to give the example that comes to mind, was set in his present day.
However, you might be on firmer ground ground if 'contemporary, urban' means lower middle class/working class. Even so, the Penny Dreadfuls - as far as I know - were not pioneering in this regard (not that your post suggests this to be the case) - but would only be moving in step with British publishing generally, in catering for a new market (for Dickens's audience, you might say).
Thank you. It's an interesting feature of the Gothic in general how it started as quite a rarefied thing and spread to the burgeonjng middle class in the 19th century. Gothic revival design and architecture took a similar course. I guess my thinking is that Penny Dreadful gothics took the form to a newly literate working class and habitually used settings the writers and audiences would be familiar with, helping the Gothic become associated with Victorian London, a far cry from the medievalism that brought about the original Gothic revivial in the previous century.
I think you're right, but surely for the original audience the Gothic was pretty much the antithesis of their daily lives in grimy, commercial, resolutely unglamorous 19th century London? The association happened in the 20th century. with a few years distance, the reality and the fiction could begin to become conflated (the same thing, surely, has happened to the 1960s).
I suppose it was inevitable, but it's still strange when you consider it, that some things have moved from the world of sordid Victorian reality to that of Gothic fantasy - the horrible polluted fogs, the street walkers and a serial killer murdering them, and so on.
Edited to add - to try to express it more clearly, the Penny Dreadfuls were a form of escapism, but later generations have tended to conflate them with that which they were an escape from.
>232 IanFryer: >233 housefulofpaper:
The only penny dreadful story I have read knowing it was of penny dreadful origin was The String of Pearls which firmly falls into the dirty streets of London category. It struck me that Sweeney Todd was the first pure antihero I knew of. There was not a single redeeming characteristic about him. In addition, I have never come across a dramatisation that tells the full story or that does not try to give Sweeney Todd some redeeming attribute. Tim Burton's musical produces a villain that is a hybrud of the villian and hero in the original story.
I suppose, once the villain becomes the main character, there's a need to make him/her more three-dimensional.
That said, I don't remember Tod Slaughter being presented in any kind of sympathetic light in the 1936 film version. It is a few years since I've seen it though.
>234 pgmcc: Try Tod Slaughter's version from late 1930s (free to watch online). Slaughter didn't really do subtlety and it really is the purest, lip-smacking, moustache-twirling villainy!
>233 housefulofpaper: I wonder what the audience was for the 18th century Gothic novelists such as Walpole, Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. I'm imagining a more lower-middle class type of reader than for the type of reading regarded as more 'acceptable', but that literacy rates and book prices largely excluded the working class.
I'd be interested to look into the subject.
I've finally got round to finishing Ramsey Campbell's Dark Companions.
My initial enthusiasm quickly wore off - which was probably why it's taken so long to finish. In the end I gave it three stars - not one thing or the other in my rating system - though I rated one or two of the stories higher than that (I simply rated all the stories and took the average).
ETA - I posted a brief review here.
I have just finished what I thought was a cosy crime novel. While reading it I noticed a few things that reminded me of M.R. James stories. Two of the chapters were headed with quotes from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Wylder's Hand. A quote from Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone was used for another chapter.
This all surprised me as the novel is The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers. My researches led me to an academic paper which explains how The Nine Tailors has all the hallmarks of a gothic novel. It appears Sayers was writing Gothic novels under the cover of cosy crime. Nice one!
Fascinating link, pgmcc. You're a better reader than I am - The Nine Tailors is one of my favourite novels but I really never twigged on to all those allusions.
I've been meaning to thoroughly explore the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies since >130 alaudacorax: and I've never properly got on with it. If it means finding more gems like this article, I really should get to it (wish they'd proof-read a little more carefully, though).
My first introduction to the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies is a tale of the Internet globalising social interaction. On LiveJournal, a somewhat depleted social media platform that I used many moons ago, I met someone online who was lecturing in media and communications studies. He gave all his lessons using horror stories in the written form, as film, or radio adaptation. He lives in the Philippines and it was he that informed me that Trinity College, located not ten minutes walk from my place of work, was publishing the Journal. He let me know in time for me to see the first edition come online. (We are still in regular contact and he now has his PhD as well as his interest in horror.)
I do not read the Journal regularly but I do drop in every so often to pick up snippets of interesting information. Some of the articles are a little too academic for me but I usually find something of interest in The Vault and The Lost Souls sections. While I found the Sayers article through a Google search I have had another look at the Journal and found more articles on the Gothic in other novels of Sayers. She appears to have been a fifth columnist for the genre.
It must have been over 25 years ago that I read The Nine Tailors and I would have been oblivious to the references built into the narrative. To my discredit, the quotations at the chapter heads clearly didn't prompt me into investigating further at the time!
Just finished The Third Episode of Vathek, an unfinished piece of Beckford's for which Clark Ashton Smith provided an ending. I think he succeeded pretty well in maintaining the style and feel of the original.
I've got that in a couple of collections but I haven't read it yet. It's hard to think of a writer better suited than Clark Ashton Smith to undertake a job like that, despite the myriad differences between Smith and Beckford in time, nationality, background and social situation, and so on.
I've started reading Vampers Lord Byron to Count Dracula, which is an anthology of vampire literature (including some non-fiction) compiled by Christopher Fraying back in 1991. Some of the material I've already got (extracts from Varney the Vampire, "The Family of the Vourdalak", etc.) but what makes the book stand out for me is the 84-page introductory essay. I don't think I knew before reading it here, about Lady Caroline Lamb's influence on the genesis of the modern vampire myth, through her Glenarvon, which presented an unflattering (to put it mildly, I gather!) portrait of Lord Byron as Clarence de Ruthven, Lord Glenarvon. So this is where Dr Polidori got the name of his Byronic vampire...the looks and behaviour coming from his employer Byron, of course. Christopher Frayling also notes that Byron explicitly based his public persona on the Radcliffean Gothic villains of 20 or so years earlier...a nice link from the early Gothic novels right up to the culmination of the the 19th century's vampire literature, Count Dracula.
>246 housefulofpaper: - I've started reading Vampers ...
That introduction sounds fascinating. That bit on Caroline Lamb adds an extra layer of malice to one's reading of Polidori's story. I note the anthology also "... includes Bram Stoker's detailed research notes for "Dracula ..." - I'd like to read them. Another book for the wish list ...
>242 alaudacorax:, >243 pgmcc:
I'm having a fun old time ...
The 'The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies' isn't as easy a read as I thought.
First of all, and I've never figured out an answer to this, I can't read for any length of time on my PC - my eyes get tired and itchy. Next, the IJOGAHS and my Kindle don't like each other much: the print is too small; if I resize it, the words spill off the sides of the page; even in 'landscape' mode, it's pretty small print ... and ... you can't navigate - no links in the contents pages. I'd forgotten, but these things are why I never got on my reading of it.
So I decided my best option is to print them off. It was only after I'd set an issue going that I realised it was 158 pages ...
... and my printer pauses after every second page, "Waiting for the previous page to dry."
It's going to be interesting to see the ratio of issues to inkjet cartridges - I suppose similar paper journals do come rather expensive ...
Just put up a review of The Castle of Wolfenbach so horrid it was great. Spoiler-y, but you get a warning. I'm sort of tempted to read more of the 7 horrid novels, but maybe not right away. One big dose of gothic is enough for now!
It's not fiction, but it might interest the vampirologists here--The vampire: a casebook edited by Alan Dundes collects some very interesting essays and studies of the lore of the undead, as well as of numerous incidents relating to vampires, into the 20th century. (Fred Vargas' Un lieu incertain deals partly with one such epidemic of vampire panic in 19th century Serbia--I thought that was invention but apparently no.)
This is a fascinating thread: I've re-read the whole thing this morning, and not for the first time.
The only thing is, before reading it I had a post in my head ready to type out - and now I've completely forgotten it ...
It happened again! I more or less remembered that post I had in mind, came on here - and ended up reading most of 'Gothic Gossip' and the 'A dream I had last night' thread.
What I wanted to write was that I bought a bunch of Tanith Lee, Kindle, short story collections and how much I'm enjoying reading them. This was brought on by my coming across a new (I think) used bookshop in Derby and finding a paperback of The Silver Metal Lover, which I was impressed by and read very quickly
A problem with Lee - for the purpose of groups and threads like these - was that she was rather hostile to the idea of genres. No problem to me - I think she's a great writer (I've put down my worries of >116 alaudacorax: to multiple shared influences). The trouble is that you often don't know exactly what you're reading - how to categorise it. While some of her stories - to me - fit solidly into a Gothic discussion group, others might argue.
Quite some time ago I was rather shocked to find that Lee had passed away in the May of last year and I'd been quite unaware of it. I've had her on my profile page as a favourite author for years, but I think it was only then that I realised how much in awe of her talent I was. I couldn't and can't understand how she could write so prolifically and yet to such a high standard. Though I've read a lot of her, I have to admit that I've only read a fraction of her output, but I've yet to read anything where I thought her heart wasn't in it and she was just hacking it out. I can't track down a quote which I've read in the last few days where she said, talking about her difficulties in getting published in recent years, words to the effect that she was still producing stories and novels because she was incapable of not doing so. She put it much more concisely and clearly.
As I implied, a vast output. I don't think I've read any of the Scarabae stuff.
I've now finished all the Tanith Lee short story collections I bought. I've been thoroughly enjoying them - rather like going away for a holiday.
The trouble with posting in groups like this is that Lee's stories can often be quite hard to pin down as to genre. However, plenty of them will fit in a group where we've had threads for Ligeia, Rapaccini's Daughter, The Outsider ... I'm probably touching on Lee's influences, there.
I can't guarantee someone else will like her, of course, but I'd thoroughly recommend anyone to read at least one anthology of her short stories as an introduction.
Incidentally, she can occasionally surprise by writing in a narrative voice that is clearly not her. Which adds to the elusive quality that can make things difficult for the commentator.
The book is Vampyres not "Vampers" .. why autocorrect to a word that doesn't even exist?
I haven't read anything by Tanith Lee since she last came up in conversation but your posts prompted me to get a collection of her stories when it came up in a catalogue. It's Dreams of Dark and Light and when I added it to my collection, I saw you have it too.
I've been on a bit of a Tanith Lee binge, lately - bought several short story collections, including Dreams of Dark and Light, and it's rather as if I've been reading through one big anthology - I really have no sense at all of the individual books (especially as they're on my Kindle rather than being discrete objects I can hold separately in my hands).
The trouble is that I've been - well, almost blind-sided, I suppose - in the past when I've a couple of times
According to Wikipedia, she wrote three-hundred short stories, and, personally, I'd quite happily read them all if I could get my hands on them. Unfortunately, even daughterofthenight.com doesn't seem to have put together a separate list of them yet, so that's a daunting task.
I have just joined this fascinating group and did not know I had been reading gothic books since about 10 or 11 years of age. But now I do.
I have just begun Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor so we will see how this one goes.
I've read exactly three Flannery O'Connor short stories, and none of her novels. However, I was impressed with the small amount I have read, and certainly intend to read more.
One of her short stories, "A Good Man Was Hard to Find", was reviewed by The Weird Tradition group a little while ago. I contributed to the discussion. Here's a link (warning: spoilers!)
Yes, welcome to the group from me too, rainpebble.
Do hang around - it's not always this quiet round here.
Wide Sargasso Sea, for some reason, is inextricably bound up in my mind with The Madwoman in the Attic (I mean apart from the Jane Eyre connection). I can't remember why, and I've never read either, and you've just reminded me of yet two more books I've been 'meaning to read' for years. I really must get down to some serious reading now the nights are getting longer.
I remember reading and quite liking some Jean Rhys - short stories, I think - so I don't know why I never got round to Wide Sargasso Sea.
Let us know how you get on with it.
Well Paul, that last post of yours definitely opened a really, REALLY, big can of worms for me. I read it several times & continued to wonder what drew me so to what you had said. I mean as posts go, it's not so very extraordinary and I kept going to The Madwoman in the Attic book page and reading everything that was said about The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Kamholtz Gubar. Then I went online and read everything I could find out about it there & ended up at Amazon.com reading the reviews, etc there & decided I had to have this one. Now I can't wait for it to arrive but it may be a while as it wasn't easy to find a hardback edition that was new & I want to make my own markings in this one!
Thanks for the rec, dude. (even though it killed two hours of my day)
Wide Sargasso Sea is good. Not Jane Eyre good but still very good & well worth the read.
... decided I had to have this one ... even though it killed two hours of my day ... - Yep - rainpebble just nailed the two problems with this site!
So............ I have read 2 gothic novels since I last was here. The first was:
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys & here are my thoughts & comments:
I think that Jean Rhys did an excellent job of creating an interesting storyline as well as boggling our minds with the beauty of Colubri. Her images were so strong that I didn't have to try to imagine the characters or settings. I could see, smell & feel them.
This brilliant novel primarily deals with contradictions and ambiguity. Written as a prelude to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys creates an identity for the otherwise shadowy figure of Bertha Mason, Rochester's mad creole wife, through Antoinette a beautiful lonely Creole woman. Wide Sargasso Sea deals with contradictions and not just with feminist "rag issues" as other reviewers suggest, rather tending to deal with gender reversal. Christophine, the freed black slave from another Caribbean Island, is a strong female character who displays masculine traits standing up to the bullying unnamed Englishman (Rochester) who tries to use oppressive colonialist tactics to control the inhabitants of an exotic Island which cannot be controlled. Both are wild and unruly compared to his staid English persona and as such, something which he cannot relate to. Antoinette is the weak female figure who is finally destroyed by the Enlgishman, driven to madness through a combination of his desire for her and his distaste and hate for everything that she represents. An intriguing tale full of ambiguity Wide Sargasso Sea is a sad tale of dispossession and dislocation.
But please do not attempt to compare The Wide Sargasso Sea to Jane Eyre. To do that is to do yourself & Jean Rhys a great disservice.
The 2nd gothic novel, which I just completed, is:
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. My thoughts & comments follow: (5*)
This is the story of the Pyncheon family that is slowly becoming extinct. We meet Hepzibah Pyncheon, poor and old, who lives alone in the family mansion. This house was built with seven gables, thus the title. Without funds Hepzibah opens a penny shop to earn money to live on. Other characters in this tale are her brother Clifford, imprisoned because of the acts of Jaffrey Pyncheon, a wealthy judge who lives in his own country manor and is determined to find an ancient deed to other Pyncheon property.
When the penny shop seems to be failing the young Phoebe Pyncheon appears. She is a lovely, vivacious, and enthusiastic young woman who lives in the country and has come to visit her cousins. She enjoys running the penny store and brightens the gloomy atmosphere in the house. When Clifford returns from prison she entertains him with her charms. In addition she meets Holgrave, a young boarder in the house and romance blossoms.
This story is often considered a romance but I think it is more a story about the Pyncheon family and the curse it endured. Hawthorne sets the stage by giving us an overview of how the original Pyncheon obtained the property and built the house. His actions brought about a curse from the original land owner that is to last throughout the family's existence.
There are ghosts and strange occurrences in the house and we are exposed to the lives of former residents. But life improves for the current residents when another tragedy strikes the Pyncheon family, particularly the judge. Hepzibah and Clifford temporarily leave their ancestral home. It all comes to a climax as the author weaves the tale into an ending that is unexpected but makes the reader smile. Many like to look at the symbolism used to represent aspects of the human condition. I have never been certain that Hawthorne chose to approach the novel in this manner. Nevertheless I like this tale more each time I read it.
And BTW Paul, I 'stole' your star-merit system of scoring your reads. Brilliant!
You're welcome. I find that I star books, then look at the rating a week or so later and think 'that's not right' and alter it by half a star or a star ...
ETA - This post is quite wrong - somehow, I got crossed wires with my film ratings, I think.
I'm starting to make inroads on The Madwoman in the Attic. There's a lot of particular relevance to female Gothic writers in there, as well as the more general.
There is nothing there at all that I'd argue with (so far), but they do tend to be a little long-winded.
>276 alaudacorax: If you've read it and are familiar with the characters you don't need to reread Jane. The male character isn't ever named, the reader is just supposed to know that it's meant to be Rochester (though I think she was quite unfair to him) and that the wife is Bertha. It's just meant to provide the perspective from the discounted black side of things rather than the rich white view of Brontë. As something that is meant to reflect already-created characters, I really didn't think it did a good job at all. I can understand why she did it and what her point was, but I really feel that in twisting the characters the way she did, she made them something they were not, and I disliked the book for it. Had I read it as simply a stand-alone thing, unrelated, I'd have viewed it more favorably.
I recently bought myself a new book published by the British Library, Horror: A Literary History edited by Xavier Aldana Reyes. The first chapter, written by Dale Townshendis entitled Gothic and the Cultural Sources of Horror, 1740-1820. Unsurprisingly it makes the same argument as the BL's "Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination" exhibition of 2014-2015. That is, beginning the story with Walpole's The Castle of Otranto but recognising the influence of earlier writers, especially Shakespeare and John Milton (Paradise Lost, of course).
The later chapters tell the chronological story of horror in UK and US literature. Gothic is sometimes treated as a continuing influence on or thread running through the evolving genre of horror; sometimes the terms "Horror" and "Gothic" seem to be used interchangeably.
Academically it's not a super-weighty text, but it's not disappointingly superficial either: it's pitched at the level of the Oxford University Press "A Very Short Introduction" series.
I totally agree with .Monkey. that it is unnecessary to revisit Jane Eyre before reading Wide Sargasso Sea. I, however, loved the book but have not reread 'Jane' for a number of years. I find them both wonderful reading but for very different reasons. 'Jane' is obviously a very classic & timeless work of art.
Horror: A Literary History sounds like a rec I will need to find at some point in the near future. Thank you for the background info on it.
Just editing my post to say that I have now turned my attention to some of the short stories:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Rip Van Winkle
The White Cat
The Bingo Master
The Doll by Joyce Carol Oates to name a few.
Haven't done much fiction reading lately, but I've been 'browsing' the odd poem or short story here or there ... and last night I found myself ambushed by an unusually powerful but somewhat uncomfortable example of each - pretty much connected by a common theme.
In The Longman Anthology of Gothic Verse, I found myself reading Robert Browning's 'Porphyria's Lover'. A much less substantial poem than his 'My Last Duchess', for which I started a thread here, it has some similarity of theme and a narrative voice almost as amoral and, if anything, even more disturbing.
So, after reading that a couple of times and pondering over it, I felt in need of some good, healthy creepiness and turned to The Second Macabre Megapack: 20 Classic Dark Fantasies and The Doom by 'Benedict', only to find myself confronted with a parallel story and comparably deranged narrative voice (albeit a secondary one - 'story within a story'), in almost as powerful a story.
Nobody seems to know who 'Benedict' was, but the story was published in The Southern Literary Messenger before Edgar Allen Poe's editorship and there seems to have been some idea that Benedict was actually Poe. I wouldn't like to swear that Benedict wasn't Poe, but for some reason which I can't quite pin down I have a suspicion that Benedict was a woman.
There's an added bit of intrigue to 'The Doom' in that The Southern Literary Messenger editor, Thomas H. White, was quite disapproving, but published it anyway! The Second Macabre Megapack: 20 Classic Dark Fantasies includes his comments or footnotes and I quote:
If ... 'Benedict' really had such a friend, he should have drawn the mantle of oblivion over his dark frailties, and never have recorded them with seeming approbation. He should have avoided too, certain profane and unchaste allusions ... which we have been obliged to suppress ... the 'Messenger' shall not be the vehicle of sentiments at war with the interests of virtue and sound morals ...
So I now find myself intrigued all ways up - about Browning's apparent predilection for killing women, about who 'Benedict' was, about how much White's words can be taken at face value, about what the hell he left out ...
I definitely lit upon a couple of items that stand a bit above the common herd, though.
Am reading Machen, The House of souls, and will be adding lots of pulpy vintage horror on Alll Halllowsss Eeeeheeeeheeevvvee... *ghostly sound effects*
Someone wants me to go to a party. I'd rather stay home with my books...
Back to The Second Macabre Megapack: 20 Classic Dark Fantasies last night and I read F. Anstey's The Curse of the Catafalques.
It's a really great story. Somehow, he manages to make it work both as a suspenseful and scary Gothic horror and as a brilliant satire of the same. And it has the most gloriously unreliable narrator. Well, I can't say any more for fear of spoilers, but it's quite short and available free online.
The name F. Anstey didn't mean anything to me. After looking him up on Wikipedia I'm annoyed with myself - author of Vice Versa (the original of Disney's Freaky Friday, frequent contributor to Punch magazine, a pioneer of time-travel-to-change history stories - yes, I definitely should have known the name.
I've started T.E.D. Klein's early-80's novel The Ceremonies, which is a much-expanded version of his short story "The Events at Poroth Farm". I read the story in the Penguin Anthology American Supernatural Tales a few years ago. The set up - of the short story, at least, is that an English Professor (that is, a Professor of English - he's American) has rented accommodation on a rural farm over the summer to work on..either a teaching course or a dissertation, I can't remember exactly...based on H P Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Fiction in Literature". So it's in part a conscious calling-up/referencing of the whole history of "Weird literature". But of course events on and around the farm take a weird turn themselves...
I've also been reading the essays in Booklore, some of which are the kind of straightforward piece on a neglected work or author one might find in an issue of Slightly Foxed, whereas others go for a more personal, or fictionalised-personal, occult, or "meta" approach. Slightly unnervingly, the essay I read last night referenced The Ceremonies!
You see, that's the trouble with LT: I've been quite busy lately, not much time for reading and I - as always - have a metaphorically towering TBR pile; but, one post from houseful and there are three more books I'm lusting after.
And nothing is simple - the most intriguing of the three - to me - is Booklore and, looking at the price, I'm going to have to forgo, I think. One can't read everything.
If anyone actually reads F. Anstey's The Curse of the Catafalques (out of copyright so free in a few places online) ...
However, I can imagine that some readers might find find the ending annoying. Perhaps I would have, had I been in a different mood - I'm not really sure. The ending could quite logically have been expected from such a #$@&%*! of a narrator, though.
I've just listened to the LibraVox recording that has been uploaded to YouTube. I (still) don't do ebooks, but it's time to rein in the spending at bit...
If audiobooks had been a thing in the '50s or '60s, Terry-Thomas would have been a perfect choice to read this story. I understood the story as a send up (in the vein of Gilbert and Sullivan, and indeed the Punch contributors of which he was one) from the off, and so the ending didn't strike me as disappointing. The story didn't, perhaps surprisingly, debunk the Curse; it could be genuinely supernatural (I also liked the references to the Sir John Soane Museum, which I've visited a couple of times).
Once you mentioned Terry-Thomas I couldn't but read the rest of your post without his voice in my head.
>286 housefulofpaper: - Just had one of those 'Why didn't I think of that?' moments - Terry-Thomas would have been the perfect fit.
I came on here for the first time in ages, just for the hell of it, and as usual, always some funny coincidences: for one, I just reread 'The Events at Poroth Farm' less than an hour ago. Haha.
Also wrote a short story on that theme, with some other stuff besides, a few days back! Funny how something, once you start thinking about it, can be found everywhere you look!
Hope you're all well. I'm not dead, clearly (though with the way my country's blown up the past week and a half, I might be soon).
Great to hear you're not dead. Good to see you posting. I hope we'll see a few more posts.
I'm gradually reading my way through the free sample issue of the journal Gothic Studies (http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/journals/gs/) - Volume 15, Number 1, May 2013: Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture.
As always with these things, some articles are better than others; but I'm only three in so far. I suspect I'm going to subscribe.
Having written that, I have the latest issue of The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies - 15 (Autumn 2016) - on the back burner, as it were, to read next, and there are several very tempting articles in there, too - https://irishgothichorror.wordpress.com/issues/ - and it's free. Spoilt for choice.
Oh gosh, sorry I missed you! I wasn't online yesterday. Good to hear from you.
I just checked that site out: wow, what a goldmine! Got lost in it for a couple hours last night.
On another line:
Say, has anyone read Mohamed Mrabet? Bowles taped and translated a lot of his work in the 60s/70s and I think into the 80s. I have some signed editions from Black Sparrow Press... Anyway, a lot of his work is actually quite Gothic...the marijuana-soaked stuff in M'Hashish is deliciously weird and there's a novella called The Big Mirror that is just insaaaaane. I reread much of what I have of his a month or so back and I can't help but wonder how much of that sensibility Bowles himself may have helped cultivate in Mrabet, at least by encouraging his darker impulses (Mrabet was illiterate, and as far as I know spoke Arabic and French, perhaps Spanish, but not English; his stories were relayed in Moroccan Arabic, Darija, which Bowles had become fluent in by the 60s). Bowles' novel Let It Come Down is one of my favorite books, and there's absolutely a Gothic sensibility there. His short fiction, even more to the point, out-Poes Poe again and again, and I rather think the influence may have extended both ways between Bowles and his circle of Moroccans: the short fiction, the best of which uses Moroccan themes and motifs, has much in common with the stories of Mrabet and other storytellers Bowles translated: quick, economical, almost shatteringly dark, witty, violent, colorful. Very, very Gothic, to boot.
Any Mrabet/Bowles fans out there?
I don't think I'd even heard of Mohamed Mrabet. Looking on Amazon, most of his work (in English translation) seems to have been out of print for years and silly prices are being asked for what's still available (an edition of M'Hashish aside). I did look online last night and found a Youtube clip of Mrabet telling a short fable.
Although I was aware of Bowles (the film version of The Sheltering Sky and his connection with the Beats), I haven't actually read any of his work. I don't remember seeing him described as Gothic...the critical consensus, as I perceived it from mentions in places like the Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books, was a little dismissive of his work. I think one of the charges was that stylistically he still had one foot in the mainstream of Anglo-American literature; he hadn't been as bold an experimentalist as the writers he's grouped with. As I said, I haven't read him so haven't got my own perspective on this. Maybe those criticisms have put me off reading him, though.
Although he's still in print (in Penguin paperbacks) The Reading branch of Waterstones hasn't got any of his books on its shelves.
What I did see though, which might be of interest, is a new translation of Eugene Sue, The Mysteries of Paris. It's another Penguin paperback, every bit as hefty as the Wordsworth Editions paperback of Varney the Vampire.
'I don't remember seeing him described as Gothic...the critical consensus, as I perceived it from mentions in places like the Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books, was a little dismissive of his work.'
Oh man, oh man: nothing could be further from the truth. Give him a go and you'll thank me, I promise!
(Funny, though, that you haven't seen him described as Gothic, because for a moment I felt sort of pedantic writing my earlier post, as though I were noting something that had already been noted often. I've read many comparisons of Poe and Bowles, particularly, but he has some affinities with Hawthorne, too. I think the critics must be off: I'd argue that Bowles had a major impact on the Beats, but he entirely predates them, so his experimental efforts are actually (in my humble estimation) far more penetrating and impactful than even theirs. Even just as a kind of ethnographer, he's a seminal figure. His tenuous connection with the Beats has always felt like a bit of an exaggeration; he may have been the go-to guy in Tangier, and his work interested them very much, but he's really an entirely different school (nearly unto himself). I'd place him much more with Gertrude Stein, Capote, Tennessee Williams, etc, than, say, Kerouac or Ginsberg (although Bowles' poetry is outstanding, and certainly experimental, though there's very little of it and it's scarcely in print (my copy was certainly a very 'silly' price (I love that, btw), but it's signed and he's a bit of an idol of mine, so I saved up a few years back...). I suppose he's a writer's writer, maybe one of the better examples of a writer's writer, even. I would throw that criticism out and give him a go. I know you've an interest in the decadent, too, and Bowles is...well, you're in for a treat. Anyway, if you can spring for them, I recommend the Library of America's two volumes: they have collected short fiction and the three novels, each set comprising a volume. Of the short fiction, 'The Delicate Prey,' 'A Distant Episode,' 'Allal,' 'The Circular Valley,' and 'A Thousand Days for Mokhtar' are all intensely Gothic and some of his best. He captures violence particularly well, and the first two of those selections are EXTREMELY brutal, so be forewarned. As for the novels, I suppose The Sheltering Sky and Let It Come Down are more in the scope of this group than The Spider's House, but the latter is still good reading (particularly if you have an interest in post-colonialism or the makings of modern North Africa).)
I hate when my parentheticals become longer than my non-parentheticals. And when there's parentheticals within my parentheticals. Oh, well. :)
(Oh, as an aside, Gore Vidal reckoned Bowles' short fiction to be 'among the best ever written by an American,' but I know Vidal polarizes, so take that endorsement as you will...) ;)
>297 housefulofpaper: - ... his connection with the Beats ...
Aha! I've puzzling since yesterday why his name was so familiar to me and his work wasn't - I'd seen it in connection with Burroughs, Ginsberg and that lot - odd the connection didn't come up when I was googling him yesterday.
Very interesting opinions on Bowles, J. I haven't read him.
I don't read much on topic these days (except for Machen's stories, slowly--when the mood is just so), but I just finished M. P. Shiel's The purple cloud. Amazing prose. Even the Christian angst doesn't ruin it completely.
Having gone just a bit dormant, I thought I would post my most recent gothic tale. (I may return & post the others I have read this year)
Whistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden; (3 1/2*)
This is a very interesting and enjoyable gothic tale. Our protagonist, Cathleen, is a writer who is going through a rough patch at the time, having recently lost her husband and baby in an accident. Her publisher friend finds her employment with an elderly spinster; ghost writing her memoirs or book about her family. The woman has years, generations really, of diaries, letters, clippings and such for Cathleen to go over and pull from for the writing of the book.
Cathleen's employer comes from an old moneyed family which has fallen upon difficult financial straits so she is hoping the book will make the family a great deal of money. She lives in an old castle with her ill sister-in-law, her two nephews and her niece along with servants, a nurse who cares for the S-i-L and now of course Cathleen.
The two brothers begin vying for the attentions of Cathleen which sets the crotchety old woman on fire and makes her even more crotchety than ever.
It is interesting to watch as Eden grows her locale descriptions and her characters as the novel moves forward. There are all of the suspenseful cries in the night, deaths, secret rooms, and mysterious elements that one expects from gothic lit and this is very much a fun read.
Has that been made into a film? I'm pretty sure I haven't read it, but the story rings bells; there's something in the back of my memory. I'm thinking a black and white - it was published in '64 so I suppose that's possible.
Nothing comes up on IMDb, though. I suppose someone could have pinched the story - or she did ...
I'm going to read that, if only to try to jog my memory.
Haven't read any Lovecraft for ages. I re-read The Shadow over Innsmouth last night and I've been reminded anew how powerful his writing can be. I know he has his detractors (too many adjectives, etc), but, to me, he stands on his own - Lovecraft is special.
>302 rainpebble:, >303 alaudacorax:, >304 alaudacorax: - Still haven't finished Whistle for the Crows. There's possibly a note of Mills & Boon about it that's discouraging me.
As it happens, I re-read "The Colour out of Space" yesterday. I'd been reading pastiches and felt a sudden urge for the real thing.
>302 rainpebble:;>303 alaudacorax:
Plot-wise it sounds similar to a film I recorded off-air, I think the Christmas before last. The film was an adaptation of a novel but not this one, I'm sure. I can't say much more, because I haven't actually watched the film yet. I can try to find it and give a bit more information.
Having got half-way through the book, I don't think whatever film I was remembering was connected.
ETA - I worded that badly - I'm quite sure whatever film I was remembering was not connected.
I've also been reading a short story collection by Sax Rohmer, The Haunting of Low Fennel - free download from somewhere or other.
A mixed bag - so far I've read a couple of quite good stories and three where I was unimpressed, mainly because of what I consider poor endings.
I've recently joined the group 'The Weird Tradition' (purely as a lurker, so far) and one of the good ones - The Master of Hollow Grange is one of their summer reads, which was what got me onto Rohmer.
>302 rainpebble:;>309 alaudacorax:
This is the film (actually a TV movie) that I was vaguely reminded of:
The Thirteenth Tale from 2013, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Coleman - the touchstone is to the novel.
That's an interesting question. I'm no expert on Tolkien but it seems unlikely to me.
Putting aside the fact that readers from the '60s onwards would have bought paperback editions of Tolkien and Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Michael Moorcock (in Elric of Melniboné mode), and so on fairly indiscriminately, I think that a generation beforehand, Tolkien and American pulp magazines were in different cultural universes.
In fact I have a feeling that the pulps were not even available in the UK (unless, perhaps, they came over as ship's ballast, like the horror comics (and rock'n'roll records?) later on - but then only to major ports?). I suspect, if you replace "Weird Tales" with "Spicy Detective Stories" the scenario is no more unlikely! Incidentally, I've checked the index of Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings (yet another to-be-read book!) and neither Weird Tales, nor any of its stable of authors is named.
I said that I doubted the pulps were even available here...but I do have to concede that I think I've seen UK reprints mentioned somewhere. These would, I'm sure, have more conservative covers than the originals but I have a feeling they were short-lived, and poorly selling things; and (I suspect) still below the Oxford don's dignity to peruse (you may reply that I don't know many Oxford dons; that it perfectly true but I don't think Tolkien was the Inspector Morse kind of dodgy don, somehow!).
And yet, further weakening my argument in the cause of disinterested scholarship (!), I do know that Weird Tales was drawn on for a series of hardback horror anthologies, the "Not at Night" series edited by Christine Campbell Thomson between the mid-20s and the mid-30s. These books (according to Wikipedia) saw the first UK publication of works by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.
We do know that M. R. James was asked about the state of horror fiction towards the end of his life. It's either a newspaper piece that I've seen reprinted, or its one of the author recordings that the British Library has put out on CD. He was very dismissive of what I suspect was one of Campbell Thomson's books; he spoke of something - "American, I suppose" - with equal parts dismissiveness and disgust. To think, it might have been Lovecraft! However, must have been right at the end of James' life and he was, I feel, in full "Provost of Eton" mode!
Actually, I am reading some Lovecraft at the moment. I've been slowly working through the Stephen Jones-edited Necronomicon. I've read all the stories before, in the Penguin Classics editions. As I've mentioned before, I've taken to correcting the more obvious typos that this edition is plagued with - although things get noticeably better about halfway in. I'm currently re-reading "The Shadow over Innsmouth". The race/miscegenation aspects of this story, that naturally have drawn criticism, were not obvious to me on previous readings. Probably because I was relating the set up to the "we don't like strangers 'round 'ere" unfriendly village trope; but I'm seeing it more clearly on this reading. I'm also noticing Lovecraft's rather subtle setting-up of the narrator's eventual fate...what looks like, for example, too many inferences being drawn from viewing the curious tiara in the museum is actually "blood calling to blood".
I was thinking in terms of there maybe having been a difference in what you read and what you'd admit to having read - what you say of James exactly illustrates the kind of attitude.
Reading some passages in Lovecraft and Ashton Smith gives me echoes of Frodo and Sam's wanderings in Mordor, or - I've forgotten the exact details of these passages - the group's adventures under some mountain or other.
Having said that, I suppose it could be a case of shared influences - I've yet to properly explore Lord Dunsany, for example.
>314 housefulofpaper: - ... race/miscegenation aspects ...
I'm really in two minds over that. We have to accept the fact that Lovecraft was racist - there seems no question of that and, because of some recent 'pre-reading', the subject has been in mind during my recent readings of him.
Like you, I've previously read the story (and others of his, I suppose) without noticing those aspects. When the idea is fresh in one's mind, it's hard to read the story without noticing them. I find it difficult to sort out what's in my mind and what's actually on the page. I want to say that any racism in it is fear of 'the other' rather than any particular racial group - but then I'd worry about it being a case of me missing a few obvious pointers. Fear of the other is at the base of so much of horror literature, of course.
Caravaggio has been lurking in the back of my mind during my current readings. He made such beautiful, colourful and often violent paintings. But you wouldn't have wanted to cultivate his friendship - the man seems to have been a bad 'un - violent and unpredictable and at least a one-time killer. Does that mean we shouldn't admire his paintings? And would his paintings have been what they were if his personality hadn't been so ... challenging?
Between the problem of Lovecraft's attitutudes, the problem of how much they are reflected in his fiction, the problem of what one's reaction 'should' be, I find myself going round in circles, but I take comfort (and I know this is challengeable) from Caravaggio - I've yet to come across anyone arguing we shouldn't look at his paintings, and in my book a destroyer of a human life is much worse than a reclusive racist. It seems we can forgive a creative artist much as long as he/she is safely dead - though there's the added complication in that it seems the longer dead the better.
For what it's worth, the passage where the narrator is fleeing for his life strongly evoked the phrase 'lynch mob' for me - which puts a diametrically-opposed tone on things to what we've been discussing - for me, at least.
ETA - I'm well aware that the above can be seen as special pleading based on the fact that I really like Lovecraft's fiction - which doesn't make discussing things any easier!
I also take comfort from the idea that Lovecraft seems to have been prejudiced against anyone who wasn't an upper-class WASP, rather than just the one ethnic group, which sort of moves the pointer slightly from racist towards eccentric (nouns). At the same time, I double-guess myself by suspecting that what I'm getting here is from PR efforts by his supporters.
For me, Lovecraft is less problematic than Caravaggio (or to take a more recent example, Eric Gill who was the subject of similar discussions in relation to Folio Society facsimiles of fine press books that he designed and worked on), because as far as I know Lovecraft's attitudes never had any impact in the real world. I haven't read S. T. Joshi's biography or much of the correspondence but he's always described as unfailingly polite, was never (as far as I know) in a position to sabotage anyone's career or launch any kind of media campaign against any individuals or groups.
I pretty much accept the current orthodoxy that in his art, Lovecraft transmuted his personal failings into the artistic successes of his work. Also, growing up in the 70s and early 80s I took in the idea - it was just in the air, rather than something I can pin down to a particular incident or TV programme, or school teacher - that Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four is the great modern myth and dreadful warning; and the lesson you should take from it is the idea "thought crime" is a great evil. The contents of our heads should be inviolate. So unless someone can demonstrate that Lovecraft caused harm to others, I'm not going to feel uncomfortable about enjoying his work. as you said, a destroyer of a human life is much worse than a reclusive racist, but I'd add if that racist does not influence others.
>319 housefulofpaper: - I pretty much accept the current orthodoxy that ...
I really must read up on this stuff - I'm arguing while really knowing very little detail about the controversies and what he actually said or wrote at different times.
For what it's worth, I did a second re-read of The Shadow Over Innsmouth last night - more carefully, this time - and, rather than it being more obvious, I've ended up rather less convinced that it shows signs of Lovecraft's racism. I suspect it's the old 'just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you' thing again - just because Lovecraft was racist doesn't mean that he's not the victim of political correctness.
just because Lovecraft was racist doesn't mean that he's not the victim of political correctness.
Someone needs a cuppa. :)
I have a different perspective, although without, I suppose, a notably different result as far as consumption goes.
I think demanding that certain harm be proven is generally useless and often just a red herring and diversion. Orson Scott Card publishes direct homophobic screeds but I'm guessing it would be infernally difficult if not impossible to show that he has "harmed" someone directly. Even if he deeply distressed thousands of people, it's unlikely that would be legally judged harmful. But are his actions for all that blameless?
As with historical racism and similar, the problem isn't that the damage is unprovable but that it is incalculable. We literally can't assess and compute all the ways in which someone (famous, typically, as we usually discuss this in relation to well known people) contributed to the maintenance and spread of oppressive notions, and how these affected people's lives--but we do know that they affect lives.
>321 LolaWalser: - '... just because Lovecraft was racist doesn't mean that he's not the victim of political correctness.'
Someone needs a cuppa. :)
What I meant by that was that I suspected people find racism in the story because Lovecraft was a racist rather than because it's actually there. Imagine reading The Shadow Over Innsmouth if you knew nothing about Lovecraft except that he was black and the story was suspected to be an allegory of his experiences exploring an isolated white town in 'twenties America.
Well, I can't imagine that as I don't know (don't remember at any rate) the story, but black and white aren't interchangeable because white supremacy and discrimination against non-whites, and not the opposite, are structural features of our environment, cultures, history. (What makes counter-factuals like Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold so obnoxious, besides their intellectual fatuousness, is that they add insult to ongoing injury. Rubbing salt in live wounds, as it were.)
As a racist Lovecraft can't be a "victim" of being called a racist. How his individual stories stack up on racism index is likely debatable and moreover people will vary in what they observe and can and can't take. But to many it's less about quantifying scientifically the amount of presumed racism in everything he wrote as if it were mercury in tuna, than the knowledge that he held such views. Given the viciousness of his positions, regardless of how overtly or not any given text is informed by them, I can't blame those who can't read him at all.
If you haven't seen it already--Nnedi Okorafor's post on this topic, on occasion of receiving the World Fantasy Award, is really worth reading:
Lovecraft’s racism & The World Fantasy Award statuette, with comments from China Miéville.
... and then I went and read Beyond the Wall of Sleep ...
Dear me ...
Lovecraft would have been welll-advised never to take a holiday in the Catskills. Arrogant sod.
Actually, I'm not sure that I ever read this previously. Perhaps it was censored from whatever volumes I was reading.
>323 LolaWalser: Well, I can't imagine that as I don't know (don't remember at any rate) the story, but black and white aren't interchangeable because white supremacy and discrimination against non-whites, and not the opposite, are structural features of our environment, cultures, history.
There aren't any black people in the story, just Euro-Americans and Pacific Islanders. And while the portrayal of the latter isn't going to win any prizes for sensitivity, what people complain wrt racism in this story is, from what I've seen, is how it treats nonhumans and the interbreeding between them and humans. It portrays miscegenation between people and the alien deep ones as abhorrent - should one take this as an implicit condemnation of miscegenation between human races? Knowing Lovecraft's general attitudes cannot but incline one towards "yes", but unlike some I don't think its obvious.
Well, his treatment of the Catskills people is a strong point in favour of your argument in >317 alaudacorax: that he wasn't so much a racist as a generalized xenophobe. :)
Just to be clear, my ill-advised attempt at humour - 'victim of political correctness' etc. - was aimed specifically at The Shadow Over Innsmouth; I'm not arguing his racism isn't evident in other works.
I reread A Midsummer Nights Dream which isn't, clearly isn't, Gothic, but which includes some elements that fed into the genre (the book published to accompany the British Library's Terror and Wonder exhibition notes Samuel Johnson's description of the play: "replete with the Gothick mythology of fairies". There is, too, Egeus' opposition to Hermia's choice of Lysander as a husband and the threat of death or confinement in a nunnery - stress isn't laid on this, as it's a comedy, but it's a staple situation in later Gothic fiction.
I was also able to see the 1969 Peter Hall-directed film version, which I had thought unavailable in the UK, but the R1 DVD turned out to be region-free. There's some roughness to it, but it manages to be not too sweet and not going too far the other way so the comedy gets lost.
I hadn't realised it was region-free; I'll have to check my copy. Did you buy it from Amazon, by any chance? They pretty regularly describe region-frees as R1 - must lose a lot of sales.
Was it yourself I remember arguing that A Midsummer Night's Dream started the change from fairies being creepy and scary to the cute modern version?
ETA - If fairies were scary and dangerous to Will's original audience it would have given a bit more of an edge to the play than we now feel.
Yes, it was a seller on Amazon. He described it as a "special edition", so it may not be true that all US DVDs are region-free. The box didn't look any different from the copies available from other sellers.
If I said that, I would have been quoting someone. I wouldn't have offered an opinion like that without having done the reading to back it up (and most of the corpus of Old and English literature remains unread by me).
Re. Rohmer, I read the first Fu Manchu novel in the early ‘00s and enjoyed it as a period piece, and as, really, a crude parody of Holmes/Watson/Moriarty (I particularly enjoyed the assassin hiding up a tree, waiting his chance to drop a cat with poison-tipped claws on Nayland Smith’s head!).
I’ve since read a few more in the series, and I think I actually have them all in paperback reprints, but to be honest the law of diminishing returns was setting in after only a couple more, and I haven’t been in any hurry to finish reading the series.
Of the non- Fu Manchu material I’ve only read a couple of the short stories, neither of which I found particularly striking.
Readers seem to have been tolerant of nonsensical “rational” explanations back then. There’s an infuriating one in M.P. Shiel’s first Prince Zaleski story, for instance.
Robert E. Howard is one of those authors that people say you should read in early adolescence (if you're a boy, that is) - Conan the Barbarian and so on. I encountered him at an earlier age, albeit through the medium of a comic-book adaptation (the first Marvel UK reprint has date in March 1975 on the masthead - so I was couple of months short of my 8th birthday). I guess enough Conan, and Sword-and-Sorcery generally (or Heroic Fantasy, which is the preferred term now, I gather) has got into the wider culture I don't need to say much more about that.
Howard was incredibly prolific (although even more than Lovecraft, he's had posthumous collaborations and completions of works adding to his bibliography) and quite frankly sometimes it can be formulaic and a bit wearing - but often enough a hell-for-leather storytelling vigour carries the reader through.
I gather than the designation of HPL, REH, CAS as the "big three" Weird Tales writers is somewhat revisonist. Was Edward Lucas White more popular than CAS? I think I read that somewhere. In any case, it's well-known - infamous, even - that the most popular contributor was Seabury Quinn with his derivative series character, "the occult Hercule Poirot", Jules de Grandin (I have to confess that de Grandin is something of a guilty pleasure of mine and if I needed something unchallenging to read, say recovering from a (very) minor illness, I'd like to have some de Grandin stories to hand where another person might go for a Golden Age Detective story or a Dan Brown (is he still read?). It would have to be some stories I hadn't seen before, though; they don't really stand up to re-reading.
I'm not ignoring the comments about Clark Ashton Smith, by the way. I might have some thoughts of my own, if I can put them in some sort of order.
Was Edward Lucas White more popular than CAS? I think I read that somewhere.
No, i think the name I was reaching for was Henry S. Whitehead.
My first exposture to Conan beyond pop-cultural osmosis was one of the Schwartzenegger movies as a teen, but I didn't try and actually read anything by REH himself until I was thirtyish.
>337 AndreasJ:, >339, >341
Well, judging by how long it's taken me to catch up with CAS, I probably won't be reading REH any time soon.
I can't really put any logic to this at this time of the morning, but although I think the original Conan the Barbarian is a pretty entertaining film it's somehow given me the impression that I wouldn't care for the book(s).
You've boggled my mind! The thought of trying to play around with a live cat while hiding up a tree had me choking on my cup of tea.
Confession: I think I had the 'big three' thing from the Wikipedia page for one of them rather from any specialist knowledge of Weird Tales.
... and now you've given me three more authors that I just have to hunt up. Er ... I mean Whitehead as the third, not Dan Brown. At this point, I couldn't give chapter and verse against Dan Brown, but somewhere along the line I've picked up a disinclination to trying him.
Another 'Er ...': thinking about it, I'm probably wrongly biased against Dan Brown in that his books have become connected in my mind with some really rubbishy 'non-fiction' books of some decades ago about the things he deals with and which almost certainly inspired him.
I read a lot of that kind of stuff back in the day - for some reason, my then local library was full of the stuff - Rennes Le Chateau, Atlantis, ancient astronauts, Blavatsky, you name it - and though exasperating to read it's probably a rich and legitimate source of inspiration for fiction.
ETA - Bit of a wild tangent, there - apologies.
Oh, no worries. I'm in no position to complain about going off on a tangent!
There's quite a lot of stuff around about the "occult '70s". I'm sure I've mentioned Matthew Sweet's "Black Aquarius" Radio 4 documentary from a couple of years ago before now (it's still on the Radio 4 website - but I presume only accessible if you're in the UK).
Searching for it, I found this brief discussion on the Vault of Evil boards, which covers some of the topics in the documentary (and expands on some of them).
Thinking about Clark Ashton Smith, Reggie Oliver uses a telling phrase in a review in the latest issue of Wormwood. Not actually about CAS, but a later author working in the same tradition (Tales of Telguuth). The phrase is "Middle Earth Maudit", and Oliver goes on to unpack it: "dystopian Sword and Sorcery fantasy laced with grotesque cynicism". Whilst there's more to CAS than this I think it does have an element of truth about the limits that CAS works within.
I should say that really like his work, for the language and for its true decadence (in the literary sense - he was a decadent poet in the early years of the 20th century, when it was still fashionable in California - sadly for him it didn't last). There are other influences of course, William Beckford probably chief among them.
Lovecraft seeming the more modern author is something of a paradox, given his hankering after a classical eighteenth century prose style. But maybe it lies in what Alan Moore discussed in a recent interview to publicise his Lovecraftian graphic novel, Providence (I can't link to it as I saw it on Facebook; if it's saved on the internet somewhere, I don't know where it is). He said that rather than being the Outsider Lovecraft considered himself to be, out of step with the modern world, he actually embodied the key concerns of the time to an extreme degree: he worried about Man's place in a post Darwinian world (which was all of a piece with his class consciousness and his racism); he understood the importance of Einstein's theories of Relativity; he almost understood quantum theory ... where Smith was in a sense stuck in the world of the 1890s, Lovecraft was almost (or actually?) despite himself, pushing ahead into the 20th century.
With regard to CAS, I was seeing dark humour rather than cynicism - I suppose they're close relatives.
Very interesting what you say about Lovecraft's reluctant modernity and engagement with his times. It's probably why CAS feels to me more - I don't know if 'cosy' is the right word - I'll say 'comfortable', though I'm not expressing myself very well - perhaps if I say he feels more 'escapist'. I am talking about feelings here, though, not logical thought. I've been deep in CAS lately and I need to re-read more Lovecraft alongside for comparison - it will be an interesting exercise.
I'm quite keen to have a go at CAS's poetry, too, though it sounds as if it's probably not relevant to this group. I find it fascinating that CAS's short stories should be so good when they were clearly a means of earning a living rather than a vocation. I suppose one could call it a classic example of the bloody-mindedness of fate if his poetry turns out to have been not as good.
By the way, thanks for reminding me about Wormwood - another of those things I've been 'meaning to' investigate for a lo ....... ng time.
... This thread is getting a bit big - starting a new one ...
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