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 Darklyincludes “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 Draculais 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!
I did not cross anything off my to-do list today. Is that why it was a perfect day?
Since it was gorgeous, I rode my bike and then sat in in an urban park. I attempted to read a library book, a light comic novel by Elizabeth Cadell, which turned out, alas, not to be my thing. And I was distracted by the leaves falling. Eventually I just watched the leaves.
SIGHT OF THE DAY: the toppled No Smoking sign in the park. Was it deliberately toppled? “Power to the people–smash the state!” A motley crowd of people hang out here, from Kum and Go corporate executives to secretaries on breaks to the homeless. So, yes, there are smokers in the park. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke but honestly–are smokers criminals? Where are they supposed to smoke?
CURRENTLY READING: A Winter’s Promise: Book One of The Mirror Visitor Quartet by Christelle Dabos. This French fantasy novel, just published by Europa Editions, is one of the most absorbing books of the year. The heroine is a museum curator who reads the history of objects by touching them. She can also travel through mirrors. When her family arranges a marriage for her to a chilly man in an alien sexist country at the Pole, she is horrified. And her explorations of the city prove dangerous: a flirtatious ambassador picks her up (literally) when she wanders into a masked ball. She has no more sexual interest in him than she does in her fiance. Dabos writes, “She’d once read a romantic novel lent by her sister. All those amorous outpourings had done nothing for her and the book had bored her to death. Was this abnormal? Would her body and heart be forever deaf to that call?”
Now how am I going to wait til April for Book 2? Should I just learn French?
More on this remarkable book later!
CURRENTLY WONDERING: how the organizers of Victober, a charming event that entails reading Victorian novels in October, can keep up with their busy schedules. They are devoted to reading multiple Victorian book, have group reads, buddy reads, a Goodreads group, and cross off the number of pages read per day on spreadsheets. It’s a lot of work. I do think private schools would happily recruit them to teach English.