DEAR READER OFTHE WEIRD: I am a hauntress of bookstores. I shudder at ghost stories and weird fiction. I shun 12-foot skeletons on lawns. I buy candy on sale on All Saints' Day. WELCOME TO SUPERNATURAL SUBURBIA! HEH HEH HEH HA HA HEE HEH HEH
READING THE WEIRD
Ghost stories and tales of the supernatural are labeled weird fiction. But weird fiction to me is fiction for weirdos.
I do enjoy some traditional weird fiction. I recommend Night Terrors: The Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson. Benson is well-known for his witty Lucia novels, and the two superb TV series based on these charming books. This prolific writer also wrote tales of the supernatural.
His most fascinating ghost stories wrestle with the concept of home and haunted houses. In “Bagnell Terrace,” the narrator loves his quiet neighborhood in London, but he is jealous of his neighbor’s house. The addition of a huge room extends into the yard. How he wishes he had such a room! Finally he has a chance to buy the house, and things begin to go terribly wrong. In this suspenseful, entertaining ghost story, friendship is the key to survival.
Then there is weird fiction for weirdos. Olga Ravn’s short, moving, poetic novel, The Employees, was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021. It is at first puzzling. Written in the form of employees’ “statements,“ the novel gradually reveals the import of their statements. The crew are on a spaceship, reporting their reactions to objects they have brought on board from the New Discovery planet. in the dedication to the book, Ravn reveals that she was inspired by Lea Guldditte Hestelund’s installations and sculptures.
The crew is manned by humans and humanoids: are the humanoids also objects? The relationships between them are touching and affectionate. and their observations of the objects are in sync. But the humanoids get upgrades and uploads and re-uploads and begin to surpass the humans. They begin to avoid the humans. And the humans are saddened by their separation, by their own mortality, and the end of friendship and possibly their race.
FINDING BALANCE: HUMOR WRITING
Humor will cure the sense of imbalance. I recommend Cornelia Otis Skinner’s Soap Behind the Ears. one of her best collections of humor columns. It is worth buying for her satire of For Whom the Bell Tolls, which she calls For Whom the Gong Sounds. How I wish I’d read this satire when I plowed through Hemingway’s ghastly novel!