In October I peruse gentle ghost stories, or a Victorian Gothic that won’t scare me to death. I dip into The Virago Book of Ghost Stories, an anthology of tasteful ghost stories, including two by E. Nesbit and Elizabeth Bowen. I have standards: I had to banish a Penguin hardcover edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Stories, after a mere glance at the horrific contents.
Below are Recommendations for Wimpy Readers, so that you may survive Halloween insanity without fainting.
Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly includes “five tales that focus on the haunted men and women rather than on the visitant.” Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House proves that it is a bad idea for curious people to spend the night in a haunted house. (The 1963 movie with Julie Harris is chilling; there is also a Netflix show.) Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend describes the plight of the last man on earth to survive a plague that turned humans into vampires. (The movie with Will Smith is excellent but I had to leave the theater because it was terrifying. I fared better with this on a smaller screen.)
And now let us move on to classics everyone has heard of. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is THE influential vampire classic, and I have an attractive small press edition – remember Capuchin Classics? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, occupies a higher plane, because Shelley’s gracefully-written interpretation of the Prometheus myth inspires compassion for the lonely monster created by Dr. Frankenstein. Beware of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: the hero has a dangerous double personality! And I am still fond of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven,”(“Quoth the raven nevermore”), which you can read at The Poetry Foundation.
What are you reading for Halloween? More ghosts and goblins, please!