Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 11, 2013

George Kelley will host this endeavor next week.

For Halloween; Sara Waters Favorite Ghost Stories and Waters' THE LITTLE STRANGER is high on my list.  I read THE DEMON LOVER (Bowen)  recently and it is a marvel.

Sarah Waters is the author of THE LITTLE STRANGER, a ghost story.

The Monkey's Paw" by WW Jacobs
This is one of the most anthologised of all ghost stories, and its "be careful what you wish for" message has become one of the clichés of the genre. Every time I read it, I realise how economical it is: we never see the son who, summoned up by the diabolical power of the monkey's paw, has dragged his mangled body out of its grave and back to his parents' house; we only hear his baleful knocks at the door. But it's the anticipation that makes it so hair-raisingly good.
Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
This story of a beautiful revenant and her fascination with teenage girls is about a vampire rather than a ghost, but it can't be beaten. Most memorable is the "very strange agony" into which her voluptuous wooing plunges the story's unworldly narrator: "Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat . . ."
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
As far as I know, none of Ishiguro's fiction is actively supernatural, but his novels have a brilliant strangeness to them, which makes reading them always an unnerving experience. Here his Nagasaki-born narrator has become so detached from her own traumatic past, she has effectively turned it into someone else's life. As in many great ghost stories, the result is a tightly controlled narrative surface, with half-glimpsed, terrifying depths.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a brilliant depiction of a woman's decent into insanity. But the room in which its unnamed protagonist slowly loses her wits is definitely a "haunted" one: the ghosts are other women, trying furiously but fruitlessly to "shake the bars" of the claustrophobic patterns in which they are trapped.
"The Specialist's Hat" by Kelly Link
All of Link's stories are wonderfully odd and original. Some are also quite scary - and this, from her collection Stranger Things Happen, is very scary indeed. It's the story of 10-year-old twin girls in a haunted American mansion, being instructed by an enigmatic babysitter just what it means to be "dead".
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The definitive haunted house story, and one of the novels that inspired a fabulously scary film, the 1963 The Haunting (1963).
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I'm not really much of a James fan, but I think this has to be on my list, if only because the story - of a lonely governess whose charges may or may not be being haunted by the ghosts of wicked servants - has been such an influential one. As far as chills go, I actually prefer the two films for which it provided the inspiration: the 1961 The Innocents, with a fragile Deborah Kerr, and The Others (2001), with a demented Nicole Kidman.
"The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen
In many of her novels and stories, Bowen beautifully captures the eerie atmosphere of wartime London, with its blitzed, abandoned houses. In this story, a middle-aged woman tries to evade an assignation with the sinister soldier fiancé, lost to her many years before.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Watching a BBC adaptation of this several Christmases ago, I got so frightened, I was sick. Admittedly, I had eaten a lot of Christmas pudding - but Hill's story is terrifying, a classic of the genre. The "woman with the wasted face", made so malevolent by the loss of her own infant that she destroys the children of others, is a fantastic creation.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
"Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief," one of the characters points out, when Sethe, the novel's protagonist, suggests fleeing from the spiteful spirit inhabiting her home. One of the great fictional studies of slavery and its scars, Beloved is also a sublime literary ghost story: a meditation on the ways in which individuals and communities - an entire nation - can be haunted by the violence and injustice of the past.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series of political thrillers.

I like to read while I eat. Lately I've been working my way through David Thomson's enormous Biographical Dictionary of Film at lunch time. Thomson is the most interesting and entertaining flm critic since Pauline Kael--and every bit as frustrating. When I disagree with him, I want to all him up and read him his rights--before violating every one of them.

Today I read his take on Edmond O'Brien. Thomson notes going in that movie stars aren't supposed to sweat. That makes them too much like everybody in the audience. Part of movie stardom is inaccessability, fantasy. But what a clever hook because beefy O'Brien sweated all the time, especially in his most memorable movie DOA. He was also fat, frequently out of breath, devoutly neurotic and often frightened. He was, in other words, pretty much like the people in the darkness watching him on the big screen. An Everyman of sorts.

In the course of his entry on O'Brien, Thomson makes clear that he enjoys the odd-ball actors and actresses far more than he does the stars. Thus he finds Warren Oates vastly more compelling than Robert Redford and Jeff Goldblum more intriguing than Paul Newman.

When I was a kid I rarely wondered about the lives of the stars. But I was always curious about character actors such as Elisha Cook, Jr. and J. Carrol Naish. There was a vitality to their performances that the stars were rarely capable of matching. And in the case of Cook, there was a melancholy and weariness that I recognized even then as being much like my own.

Same with the women. The ones I was always excited about were the second- and third-leads. They were the ones I got crushes on. They were often as pretty as the leading ladies, sometimes even prettier. And they frequently had more interesting roles, the bitch, the tart, the victim.

Barry Gifford once remarked that when you see a musical with all those young gorgeous girl dancers you have to wonder what became of them. The majority probably became housewives; more than a few probably took to the streets as parts became harder and harder to come by; and a lucky handful became the wives of powerful Hwood men.

I've been watching a lot of silent films of TCM and the same impulse grabs me then, too. Who were they? What happened to them? Did they know they'd become immortal? A full century later I sit in our family room and watch them as--most likely anyway--another century from now people will still be watching them. This is probably heresy of sorts but to me film immortality is far more imposing than literary immortality.

Sergio Angelini, BLACKMAILER, George Axelrod
Brian Busby, THE LONG NOVEMBER, James Nablo
Bill Crider, SAD WIND FROM THE SEA, Harry Patterson
Martin Edwards, FATALITY IN FLEET STREET, Christopher St. John Sprigg
Curt Evans, MURDER IN 913 and MURDER OBLIQUELY, Cornell Woolrich
Ray Garraty, DARK TIMES IN THE CITY, Gene Kerrigan
Randy Johnson, BRAGG'S HUNCH, Jack Lynch
Nick Jones, OUT ON THE RIM, Ross Thomas
George Kelley, NEXT OF KIN, Eric Frank Russell
B.V. Lawson, WOMAN OF MYSTERY, Maurice LeBlanc
Evan Lewis, THE BRAVOS, Brian Wynne Garfield
Steve Lewis/Bill Pronzini, THE FOX VALLEY MURDERS, John Holbrrok Vance
Neer, BLACK PLUMES, Margery Allingham
J.F. Norris, POLICELAN"S HOLIDAY, Rupert Penny
Juri Nummelin, MURDER FORESTALLED, Peter Chester
James Reasoner, RED, Jack Ketchum
Richard Robinson - guest post by Art Scott, ASK A POLICEMANThe Detection Club.
Gerard Saylor, BLACK ORCHID
Ron Scheer, THE BETTER MAN, Arthur Henry Paterson
Kerrie Smith, CHILDREN OF  THE WIND, Kate Wilhelm
Kevin Tipple, Patrick Ohl, THE JULIUS CAESAR MURDERS, Wallace Irwin
Prashant Trikannad, HELL IS TOO CROWDED, Jack Higgins
James Winter, SHOTGUN and JIGSAW, Ed McBain


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I posted an FFB two days ago titled HELL IS TOO CROWDED by Jack Higgins. Thank you as always.

Anonymous said...

Obviously it's me, as the show has been running forever in England, but I just couldn't get into the Susan Hill WOMAN IN BLACK at all. In fact both of us were so bored by it we walked at intermission. The TV version left us just as cold. I can't explain why but it never got to me in the way it was meant to do.

he movie that scared me was Polanski's REPULSION.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And the movie was the worst.

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess I didn't expect "Beloved" to go along with that group. An awesome set of stories though.

J F Norris said...

I dont' get all the hoopla about THE WOMAN IN BLACK. I saw a dreadful production of the play version in Chicago and like Jeff was bored and never once frightened. To me it's incredibly cliche and old hat.

Nothing by M.R. James listed there? For shame. "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You" deserves to be on everyone's list of best ghost stories. A true classic, practically the epitome of a well told ghost story. Maybe you
have not read him yet.

Anonymous said...

Oh, there's a nice list of reads here, Patti - thanks!

Todd Mason said...

Another omnibus reprint review-set:

Rick Robinson said...

George next week, eh? Going off galavanting again, are you? Have fun.

Anders E said...

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER was included in a horror collection I read the summer I turned 12. If any one cultural experience changed my life, that collection was probably it. I read the same colection again this summer snd it still holds up and THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is as creepy as anything.

Kelly Robinson said...

I love that the top two picks ("Monkey's Paw" and CARMILLA) are both things I've covered recently.

I'm behind on writing, reading, and commenting, as my fiance had heart surgery last week. He's doing better, and I'm starting to catch up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Best for speedy recovery, Kelly.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Best for speedy recovery, Kelly.