The Ex-Magician and Other Stories by Murilo Rubião is a gemlike collection of improbable tales reminiscent of Kafka. These tales are full of transformThe Ex-Magician and Other Stories by Murilo Rubião is a gemlike collection of improbable tales reminiscent of Kafka. These tales are full of transformations that challenge the existence of memory and the boundary between life and death. In "Zacarias, the Pyrotechnist," for example, a man is run down by a car filled with young men and women. When the perpetrators stop to see what happened, the corpse speaks up and asks to be driven to the cemetery. In "Barbara," a man's wife keeps asking for the impossible. At one point, when he thinks she is about to ask for the moon, the narrator is relieved that she wants only one of the smaller nearby stars.
I can see myself coming back to this collection and re-reading some of the stories. ...more
I had seriously thought that all the great horror classics had already been written years ago, until I ran into Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas LigoI had seriously thought that all the great horror classics had already been written years ago, until I ran into Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas Ligotti. This collection of horror stories has a strange expressionistic slant, as if all the places of which the author writes resembled the sets of Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Although Ligotti is an American, the stories can almost be set anywhere at any time. There is not the fruitiness of Lovecraft's style -- though Ligotti has often been compared to him.
I look forward to reading other works by this superb writer.
The author of A Vanished Arcadia is also the author of an excellent collection of short stories about Argentina, the Middle East, and other exotic locThe author of A Vanished Arcadia is also the author of an excellent collection of short stories about Argentina, the Middle East, and other exotic locales to which the author had traveled. Cunninghame Graham deserves to be better known and more widely read, even if he writes in an at times sticky Victorian style....more
Not everything by Charles Dickens is worthy of being called a masterpiece. The Haunted House is a selection of short stories on the theme of a hauntedNot everything by Charles Dickens is worthy of being called a masterpiece. The Haunted House is a selection of short stories on the theme of a haunted house. Dickens dashed off the joining story and two smaller contributions, and edited the other stories. The contributors included Wilkie Collins (who wrote the only good story in the collection) and Elizabeth Gaskell, along with three other writers whose names were not familiar to me.
At first I thought the stories would all be about ghosts in the particular haunted house which Dickens's hero and his friends were staying, but it seems that most of the stories were about incidents in the others' pasts that haunted them....more
Clark Ashton Smith is not read much nowadays. Surprisingly, it is his former associate H.P. Lovecraft whose reputation continues unabated; but, exceptClark Ashton Smith is not read much nowadays. Surprisingly, it is his former associate H.P. Lovecraft whose reputation continues unabated; but, except for a brief time during the 1970s when the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series issued four of his titles (of which Poseidonis is one), Smith outshines Lovecraft, who seems comparatively stuffy. Years ago, I had read and admired Zothique, published in the same Ballantine series; but I had never followed up on it.
Now, Poseidonis has renewed my interest. This volume collects stories and poems related to the mystical realms of Poseidonis, Lemuria, and Ptolemides, as well as a number of related stories about "other realms." Some of these are gems, such as the two Malygris stories that open the Poseidonis section. I also liked "The Uncharted Isle," "The Epiphany of Death," and the delightful "The Willow Landscape."
Smith's poetry is quite good, and I have seen two collections of it published within recent memory.
Ghosts in Irish Houses sports an interesting introduction by Padraic Colum, in which he writes:
In his painting of horses and his writing about horses, James Reynolds is able to communicate the excitement he receives from these nervous creatures. And the quality that is in his accounts of ghosts and houses is the rare quality of excitement. The writing is in the period and has the character of vigorous men and women who move through the great rooms, ride along the avenues, appear in the windows of their rocking coaches. This is a book which brings over to us, even in its legendary content, an authentic Ireland, an Ireland that exists in the memory of the people.
This Dover Thrift Edition makes for good Halloween reading. It consists of ten stories within exactly one hundred pages. The only one of those stoiesThis Dover Thrift Edition makes for good Halloween reading. It consists of ten stories within exactly one hundred pages. The only one of those stoies I have ever read before is W.W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw," which was worth re-reading. Great Ghost Stories is edited by John Grafton, who is responsible for other Dover horror titles.
Other than "The Monkey's Paw," I enjoyed Amelia B. Edwards's "The Phantom Coach"; J.S. LeFanu's "Dickon the Devil"; M.R. James's "The Rose Garden"; and E.G. Swain's "Bone to His Bone," which is a rare ghost story with a happy ending.
I think that J.D. Salinger might be remembered for the wrong things. The outsize reputation of The Catcher in the Rye, especially among the young, isI think that J.D. Salinger might be remembered for the wrong things. The outsize reputation of The Catcher in the Rye, especially among the young, is that it makes it difficult to see the author's real range, which is more apparent in Nine Stories.
Salinger's interactions between adults and precocious children can also be found in some of these stories, such as in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," "The Laughing Men," "For Esmé—with Love and Squalor," "Down at the Dinghy," and especially "Teddy." But there are also his young men and women trying to cope in the postwar world of the United States.
There are touches of wit in the stories, such as in the following exchange between Teddy's parents:
"One of these days, you're going to have a tragic, tragic heart attack," Mrs McArdle said, with a minimum of energy. Without bringing her arms into the open, she drew up her top sheet more tightly around and under her body. "There'll be a small, tasteful funeral, and everybody's going to ask who that attractive woman in the red dress is, sitting there in the first row, flirting with the organist...."
That's a very nasty but effective way to end a spousal argument.
There's also that wistful love that "DeDaumier-Smith," a correspondence art school instructor, feels toward a nun in Toronto -- whose age and appearance he can only guess at -- but for whom he's conceived a long-distance passion.
This short story collection is perhaps the best American contribution to the genre in the latter part of the 20th century, and well worth reading without so much as thinking about Holden Caulfield....more
Roald Dahl is one of the most sardonic of short story writers. This little volume, with just five of his best stories, makes for a fast, but exceedingRoald Dahl is one of the most sardonic of short story writers. This little volume, with just five of his best stories, makes for a fast, but exceedingly high quality read. I should warn you that you had best be prepared for a near-lethal dosage of snark. The best and longest of the five, "Parson's Pleasure," is the classic example of a greedy antique dealer hoist on his own petard.
I did not care that much or "A Piece of Cake," about a World War II bomber crash injury, but the final three stories are gems. "Lamb to the Slaughter," the title story, was made into a 30-minute film by Alfred Hitchcock that was one of his best. "The Bookseller" is a brilliant tale of graft, and "The Butler" shows us the danger of trying to be nouveau riche without knowing what you are doing.
This thin book of short stories started slow for me, but then picked up speed as I began to see the author's multifaceted world. Virginia Woolf was aThis thin book of short stories started slow for me, but then picked up speed as I began to see the author's multifaceted world. Virginia Woolf was a writer who, from the early years of the twentieth century, saw many of the changes that were to come. (More's the pity that she cut short her own life.) Monday or Tuesday is an experimental easel for her to begin to paint the world in a different way. Take, for instance, these observations from the last story in the book, "The Mark on the Wall":
Wood is a pleasant thing to think about. It comes from a tree; and trees grow, and we don't know how they grow. For years and years they grow, without paying any attention to us, in meadows, in forests, and by the side of rivers—all things one likes to think about. The cows swish their tails beneath them on hot afternoons; they paint rivers so green that when a moorhen dives one expects to see its feathers all green when it comes up again. I like to think of the fish balanced against the stream like flags blown out; and of water-beetles slowly raising domes of mud upon the bed of the river. I like to think of the tree itself: first the close dry sensation of being wood; then the grinding of the storm; then the slow, delicious ooze of sap. I like to think of it, too, on winter's nights standing in the empty field with all leaves close-furled, nothing tender exposed to the iron bullets of the moon, a naked mast upon an earth that goes tumbling, tumbling, all night long. The song of birds must sound very loud and strange in June; and how cold the feet of insects must feel upon it, as they make laborious progresses up the creases of the bark, or sun themselves upon the thin green awning of the leaves, and look straight in front of them with diamond-cut red eyes.... One by one the fibres snap beneath the immense cold pressure of the earth, then the last storm comes and, falling, the highest branches drive deep into the ground again. Even so, life isn't done with; there are a million patient, watchful lives still for a tree, all over the world, in bedrooms, in ships, on the pavement, lining rooms, where men and women sit after tea, smoking cigarettes. It is full of peaceful thoughts, happy thoughts, this tree. I should like to take each one separately—but something is getting in the way.... Where was I?
I kept running into these Buddhist bursts of contemplation in such stories as "An Unwritten Novel" or the mesmeric "Kew Gardens."
This little collection is a good place to start reading Virginia Woolf....more
Chile is a discontinuous country: One can drive all the way from the border of Peru near Arica, but one's southward progress is halted by the Andes maChile is a discontinuous country: One can drive all the way from the border of Peru near Arica, but one's southward progress is halted by the Andes marching all the way to the shore. Beyond Villa O'Higgins, there are no roads. All travel must be by plane or boat. South of the Torres del Paine, you encounter roads and population once again, but not very much.
It is this Southernmost extension of the Chilean mainland and the islands of the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel that are the locale of the stories of Francisco Coloane that are to be found in Tierra del Fuego. I have only seen the Argentinean side of Tierra del Fuego, which is wild enough; but the Chilean side around Punta Arenas, Porvenir, and Puerto Williams and the Isla Navarino are not only wild but cut off. Because of a long standing border dispute going back 150 years, Chile and Argentina make border crossings difficult -- at least in Tierra del Fuego.
The stories in this book have been compared with Jack London's work, but I think they are possibly better. Looking back, I don't know which story I like most: All were incredible. Whether they are set on land or sea, I think Coloane is the bard of the wilds of the extreme South. These stories are not only worth reading, but Coloane's work is well worth exploring -- if you can find any of his other books!...more
To those who are not familiar with his work, James seems to be a singularly bland, even bloodless character who seems incapable to any great depths. Far from it! Why I particularly like this collection is that it includes a number of stories in which the author, being cognizant of his reputation, tries to address it. In this category are "The Real Thing," "The Figure in the Carpet," "The Tree of Knowledge," "Maud-Evelyn," and most especially the great "The Beast in the Jungle."
Also included are two great ghost stories, the novelette-length "The Turn of the Screw" and the surprising "The Jolly Corner." These and all the other stories are from the early 1900s.
Usually, I like to include a quote from the author, but James does not quote well. With him, the context is everything. And how he manipulates the reader by lulling him or her into a false sense of boredom before he wrenches the carpet away and one finds one is groveling among the dust bunnies.
Here I thought I was embarking on some of Ursula K. Le Guin's excellent short fantasies. The name Klatsand sounded very like a place in the Orsinian THere I thought I was embarking on some of Ursula K. Le Guin's excellent short fantasies. The name Klatsand sounded very like a place in the Orsinian Tales or the EarthSea stories. But no, here is a set of tales about a small town along the Oregon coast -- specifically, even, a book of tales about a road that follows the dunes along the shore and separated from the town proper.
Searoad: Chronicles Of Klatsand consists of eleven short stories followed by a novelette (entitled Herne about one Klatsand family between, roughly, 1890 and 1990. Most of those stories are about women alone, mostly women who have been with men but found them too selfish to build a life with. This is no feminist screed, however, because Ursula Le Guin is the daughter of two great anthropologists, Alfred and Theodora Kroeber, and she knows how to be fair to both sides.
In fact, her women partake of myth in their lives of coming and going and caring. In Herne, she brings up the myth of Persephone, who lives half her life in Hades, and half on earth as a goddess of vegetation along with Demeter. She was abducted by Hades, king of the Underworld. Although present only half the time, she is queen of the Underworld. Le Guin seesw her in the waves that break along the coast:
Crosswaves pile the foam into heaps like thunderclouds and then, receding, strand the heaps, one here one there along the beach. Each foam-billow, foam-pillow shivers under the wind, shakes, quivers like fat white flesh, inescapably feminine though not female at all. Feeble, fatuous, flabby, helpless mammocks of porous lard, all that men despise and paint and write about in woman shudders now in blowsy fragments on the beach, utterly at the mercy of the muscular breakers and the keen, hard wind. The foam-fragments shatter further. Some begin to scud with a funny smooth animal motion along the wet slick of the sand, then, coming to drier sand, they stick and shake there, or break free and begin to roll over and over up to the dunes, rounding and shrinking as they go, till they stick again, quivering, and shrink away to nothing.
And here, in this paragraph, is the subject of all the stories of this book -- wrapped up in a nutshell.
In general, I feel I am not altogether fair to women writers. I keep trying to read them, but usually get stuck in what I refer to as a relationshipy morass. Among American writers, the only three I keep coming back to are Ursula K. Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates, and Emily Dickinson. On one hand, all three are deep and know how men's minds work. Le Guin's men are not Mr. Darcys. They are real, and at times capable of real understanding, even when their selfish ends carry the day.
Her stories are frequently short, but always cruel. She is from a wealthy family who married a handsome writer named Adolfo Bioy Casares. This same BiHer stories are frequently short, but always cruel. She is from a wealthy family who married a handsome writer named Adolfo Bioy Casares. This same Bioy Casares was a frequent collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges, who in turn published many of his works in a magazine called Sur, whose publisher was her sister, Victoria Ocampo.
Silvina Ocampo is a sort of Hispanic Patricia Highsmith, except that she also wrote poetry (which now I will have to look into). Thus Were Their Faces: Selected Stories is a selection of mostly short fiction from eight of her many books. Included also is a novelette called The Impostor which has one of the most surprising endings I have ever encountered in fiction -- and I say that in a good sense.
Although she is so very different, with her concentration on wayward women and children and the evil thoughts that sometimes hold sway over them. Yet I almost feel as if I were reading a story by Borges set in Buenos Aires or the Pampas, except that instead of a deep literary or philosophical intellect I encounter a distaff sense of evil. It seems almost as if Pandora were loose by the Lakes of Palermo.
The Orkney Islands sitting as they do off the northern tip of Scotland are a world onto themselves, part Scottish and part Viking. I have myself haveThe Orkney Islands sitting as they do off the northern tip of Scotland are a world onto themselves, part Scottish and part Viking. I have myself have visited the islands twice, once in 1976 and once in 1997. In fact, on my first visit, I even had a brief exchange in person with George Mackay Brown. At the time, I had not yet read any of his books. Since then, I have collected them and, little by little, tried to make up for not then appreciating one of the great poets and fiction writers of our time.
Andrina And Other Stories is a collection of short stories, mostly about the people of the Orkneys but with a few exotic fairy tales thrown in for good measure. There have been few short story writers in English who were better than GMB, possibly none.
There is clearly a Nordic flavor to many of these stories, especially "Andrina" -- the best ghost story I have read this year -- and "The Feast at Paplay," whose tale comes straight out of the medieval Orkneyinga Saga, in which Earl (later Saint) Magnus is slaughtered by his co-ruler Earl Hakon, who has to explain why Magnus is not coming to the feast to celebrate their reconciliation.
I understand that GMB's works are not easy to come by in the States, but any effort is worthwhile. In particular, I recommend this, his short story collection Hawkfall, and his novel Greenvoe. ...more
There do not seem to be any end to discoveries among Victorian and Edwardian short story authors of superb supernatural fiction. Hugh Lamb in Tales frThere do not seem to be any end to discoveries among Victorian and Edwardian short story authors of superb supernatural fiction. Hugh Lamb in Tales from a Gas-Lit Graveyard has gathered from the English (and Spanish) speaking worlds a collection of minor masterpieces from authors who have been forgotten for the better part of a century.
Of particular interest are Lady Dilke's "The Shrine of Death," W. C. Morrow's "The Permanent Stiletto," and two stories by Bernard Capes, namely: "The Green Bottle" and "An Eddy on the Floor." Of the seventeen stories in this volume, not one was a stinker, and several more will be imprinted on my memory for some time to come. That's a rare thing to say about a collection written by a miscellany of writers.
I finished reading this book on Halloween night, and I am sure it will affect my sleep this night.
My favorite story was Frank Norris's "The Ship That Saw a Ghost," about an encounter with a ghost ship off South America. I also liked E. and H. Heron's "The Story of Baelbrow," with a ghost hunter named Flaxman Low; Erckmann-Chatrian's "The Three Souls," with its Hoffmanesque quality; and the Conradian W. Carlton Dawe's "Coolies" about a mutiny enroute to Singapore.
Many of the best horror stories I have read have been in paperback editions from Dover Publications, such as this one. Highly recommended for Halloween!...more
This collection by Harlan Ellison, the bad boy of science fiction, is a bit uneven at times. Still, Ellison at his best -- even if his spark plug fireThis collection by Harlan Ellison, the bad boy of science fiction, is a bit uneven at times. Still, Ellison at his best -- even if his spark plug fires only a fourth of the time -- is awesome. In particular, I loved "A Boy and His Dog," which had been made into a movie. Other stories I liked are the title story, "Along the Scenic Route," and "Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R."
It is not a good sign when I re-read a book I read eight years ago without being aware of the fact until I checked my book log. Eric Ambler is an exceIt is not a good sign when I re-read a book I read eight years ago without being aware of the fact until I checked my book log. Eric Ambler is an excellent writer of spy novels, but not such an excellent writer of mystery short stories. Waiting for Orders collects all eight of his known short stories and reprints them in this single volume.
Six of the stories are based on Baroness Orczy's Old Man in the Corner Stories, in which an old hand at crime detection explains a number of cases in which a young lady reporter is interested. What happens in both books is a discussion of evidence, rather than live crime and apprehension of the criminal. In the Ambler stories, the detective is a retired "Late Prague Police" official as his business card states, who has been stranded in England as a refugee after the Nazi takeover of his country. Dr. Jan Czissar has the makings of an interesting character, but we never see him in play, as it were, but always explaining evidence to Assistant-Commissioner Mercer of Scotland Yard. Too bad, because Ambler is good at action.
The two non-Czissar stories in the collection are moderately interesting, but really only a further demonstration that Ambler is first and foremost a writer of novels....more
Daniel Alarcón is a young Peruvian-American author whose short stories in War by Candlelight straddle both worlds, Peru and Los Uniteds. I am always sDaniel Alarcón is a young Peruvian-American author whose short stories in War by Candlelight straddle both worlds, Peru and Los Uniteds. I am always somewhat abashed when I pick up a book at the library not expecting much and find I have made a discovery. People don't read short stories as much any more. I do: I've even read a new Haruki Murakami in the new Yorker during lunchtime. I suspect that, like Murakami, Alarcón has the stuff to write good novels as well.
For one thing, he has a turn of phrase that shows depths to his thinking. In "A Strong Dead Man," the teenager Rafael muses on his father's stroke:
Rafael had begun to understand that life bends you, forms you, creates the spaces you fill without hope or interest in the particulars of your plans. He had none. His mother got a sleeping pill after she cried and cried, her eyes and face nearly bursting with red, all tears and sweat, but Rafael was quiet and said nothing and so he got nothing and was not spoken to. This is it, he thought. Life is bending me.
In "A Science for Being Alone," the hero, Miguel, desperately wants to marry the mother of his daughter, but she keeps putting him off.
In this city [Lima], there is nothing more useless than imagining a life. Tomorrow is as unknowable as next year, and there is nothing solid to grab hold of. There is no work. There is nothing I could have promised her in that moment that wouldn't have been built on imagination. Or worse, on luck.
Of the stories in this volume, I particularly liked "City of Clowns," "War by Candlelight," and "A Science for Being Alone." More remarkably, there were no stories that I didn't like.
Remember this name: Daniel Alarcón. I think he will become a name to be reckoned with. And I plan to follow his career closely....more
I read the Kindle version of this superb collection by Bybliotech. As one who has read about a dozen of Philip K. Dick's full length novels, but noneI read the Kindle version of this superb collection by Bybliotech. As one who has read about a dozen of Philip K. Dick's full length novels, but none of his short stories, I was amazed by the range of inventiveness displayed in this anthology, which ranged from Space fiction to horror. At one point in "The Defenders," in which all life above ground is destroyed by nuclear weapons, a robot says:
We found that human cultures pass through phases, each culture in its own time. As the culture ages and begins o lose its objectives, conflict arises within it between those who wish to cast it off and set up a new culture-pattern, and those who wish to retain the old with as little change as possible.
And this is from a story published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in January 1953!
One characteristic of just about all of the stories in The Philip K. Dick Anthology: 18 Classic Science Fiction Stories(except perhaps "The Variable Man") is that we are on the losing side. You just can't win in the Philip K. Dick Universe. The Terrans are going to lose to Proxima Centauri. The Wub is not all that helpless. The Gun will continue to bring down ships that land on their planet. An assassin goes back in time to discover that he himself is the victim. Again and again, Dick prevents any optimism: Rather, his paranoia always seems to win out.
Paranoia, perhaps, but also an incredible vitality. The last two stories, "Upon the Dull Earth" and "Of Withered Apples," belong in horror anthologies alongside the stories of Poe, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, Lovecraft, and Machen. "Tony and the Beetles" seems to be a story written for children, but it's about the momentum beginning to change in a long war between Earth and a buglike extraterrestrial enemy. (At the same time, it could just as well be about racism in America.) "Second Variety" is about another endless planetary war involving robots who, starting as weapons, become a force on their own -- and about the danger of not being paranoid enough....more
Robert Barr was a Canadian author who moved to England during the heyday of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. While remaining a friend ofRobert Barr was a Canadian author who moved to England during the heyday of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. While remaining a friend of Doyle's he published several humorous detective stories mocking the British detective. And then, in 1906, he came out with The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont.
Valmont is a French detective who was made to leave the force when, through a mistake (explained in the first three stories in the collection, he arrests an English detective rather than the jewel thief. He sets up in London and, while shaking his head over the vagaries of English justice, manages to develop a clientele for himself. He is never quite so perfect as Sherlock Holmes, but he is at times amusing, though not always successful:
I hope I may never follow an example so deleterious, and thus be tempted to express my contempt for the stupidity with which, as all persons know, the official detective system of England is imbued. I have had my failures, of course. Did I ever pretend to be otherwise than human?
The only problem is that Valmont is too much the stage Frenchman. Compare him to, say, Flambeau in Chesterton's Father Brown stories, and you will see what I mean.
Still, these are amusing stories, though they never reach the level of excellence of either Doyle or Chesterton....more
I was bemused by the fact that Lydia Davis, whose translation of Proust's Swann's Way is so excellent, is also likewise a superb writer of short storiI was bemused by the fact that Lydia Davis, whose translation of Proust's Swann's Way is so excellent, is also likewise a superb writer of short stories. In Break It Down: Stories, some of the stories are very short indeed, often no more than a middling paragraph in length.
What struck me first, however, was the almost complete lack of dialog, it being one of the principles of the modern short story that the reader is drawn to come to his own conclusions by reading what the characters say to one another. One result of a lack of dialog is a growing feeling of dread: Instead of a Godlike narrator (a la Anthony Trollope), we frequently have a confused narrator who goes from bad to worse.
I am hard put to say which stories I like the most, but "Break It Down" must surely be one. It deals with the monetary value of love from both a male and female perspective. I can understand why Davis chose to name her collection as she did....more
I'm not quite sure if it happened only once, but I seem to have the memory in my mind of the blind Jorge Luis Borges, whenever an English-speaking visI'm not quite sure if it happened only once, but I seem to have the memory in my mind of the blind Jorge Luis Borges, whenever an English-speaking visitor came to interview him, asking the visitor to read out loud to him from the work of Rudyard Kipling. As for myself, it has been some years since I've read any of Kipling's work. I suspect I have been staying away from his work because of his reputation of being an unregenerate imperialist. (My friends from India, for example, loathe him.)
When I picked up a copy of The Mark of the Beast and Other Horror Tales to read, I was surprised to find that there is something about the man's style that is indeed admirable. I would find myself re-reading a passage out loud just for the color of the words and the marshaling of the sentences. Take, for instance, the opening of "My Own True Ghost Story":
There are, in this land, ghosts who take the form of fat, cold, pobby corpses, and hide in trees near the roadside till a traveler passes. Then they drop upon his neck and remain. There are also terrible ghosts of women who have died in child-bed. These wander along the pathways at dusk, or hide in the crops near a village, and call seductively. But to answer their call is death in this world and the next. Their feet are turned backward that all sober men may recognize them. There are ghosts of little children who have been thrown into wells. These haunt well curbs and the fringes of jungles, and wail under the stars, or catch women by the wrist and beg to be taken up and carried. These and the corpse ghosts, however, are only vernacular articles and do not attack Sahibs. No native ghost has yet been authentically reported to have frightened an Englishman; but many English ghosts have scared the life out of both white and black.
Most of the stories in this collection are set in India and liberally interspersed with Anglo-Indian slang. Many of the more unusual terms are explained in a glossary at the end of the book.
It has become a ritual for me as Halloween approaches to read one of the many Dover Publications collections of horror stories, of which this is an excellent example. It contains a short, but adequate introduction by S. T. Joshi before launching into the stories themselves.
As horror stories go, Kipling's are not particularly horrible the way some of Algernon Blackwood's or M. R. James's stories are. They can even be said to be as much psychological as horrific, like many of the Val Lewton horror films of the 1040s. ...more
This selection of 19th century gothic horror tales includes one of the original vampire stories, supposedly written during the same "competition" thatThis selection of 19th century gothic horror tales includes one of the original vampire stories, supposedly written during the same "competition" that produced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Alas, the John Polidori story cannot hold a candle to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Fortunately, the book also contains an excellent tale by A E Housman's sister Clemence entitled "The Werewolf," which has some nice touches. The Vampyre, The Werewolf and Other Gothic Tales of Horror is filled out with some other interesting short tales, including "Monos and Daimonos" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and some moderately interesting anonymous tales.
This book is primarily of interest to those who are interested in the literary antecedents of the horror tales and movies to come over the next century and a half. All the stories are well selected for their eeriness, with "The Werewolf" being the best of the lot....more
Years ago, I read Alexander Pushkin's The Queen of Spades and found myself not liking it very much. When I heard how Tales of Belkin influenced DostoyYears ago, I read Alexander Pushkin's The Queen of Spades and found myself not liking it very much. When I heard how Tales of Belkin influenced Dostoyevsky according to Joseph Frank's biography of the latter, I decided to give it a try. It has been so many years since my first exposure to Pushkin, and I have changed so much in the meantime, that I expected the result this time would be different. It was. The five tales of Belkin were brief, to the point, and composed with a lightness that I found delightful. Curiously, the story I liked best was the only sad one in the lot, "The Postmaster," which I found to be remarkably similar to Dostoyevsky's Poor Folk in tone.
Now I think I am ready to read Eugene Onegin and some of the author's other prose works. ...more
While The Innocence of Father Brown and The Wisdom of Father Brown contain more spritely stories, The Incredulity of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton iWhile The Innocence of Father Brown and The Wisdom of Father Brown contain more spritely stories, The Incredulity of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton is still worthy of a closer look. If one goes to the Father Brown stories expecting to find more traditional whodunits, perhaps in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle or Richard Austin Freeman, he or she will be perplexed and disappointed. To begin with, Father Brown has no particular interest in seeing the guilty party being led to judgment. There are, in fact, no trials in these stories; and one is equally likely to see Father Brown passing heavier judgment on the victims than on the murderers.
In The Incredulity of Father Brown, all the stories involve murders. We find the usual Chesterton "moral landscape" -- in which the author paints a picture of nature somehow mirroring the fact that something is very wrong. A good example is this descriptive paragraph from "The Dagger with Wings":
The rolling country round the little town was sealed and bound with frost, and the sky was as clear and cold as steel except in the north-east, where clouds with lurid haloes were beginning to climb up the sky. It was against these darker and more sinister colours that the house on the hill gleamed with a row of pale pillars, forming a short colonnade of the classical sort. A winding road led up to it across the curve of the down, and plunged into a mass of dark bushes. Just before it reached the bushes, the air seemed to grow colder and colder, as if he were approaching an icehouse or the North Pole.
By the time he solves the mystery, which he does, as is usual with him, with his lightning intuition, the priest wends his way back down the hill -- but the ominous quality is all gone, because the moral Gordian knot has been cut by the Father Brown's intellect:
When the priest went forth again and set his face homeward, the cold had grown more intense and yet was somehow intoxicating. The trees stood up like silver candelabra of some incredibly cold Candlemas of purification.
Perhaps the best and most typical story in the collection is "The Doom of the Darnaways," in which a painting with a grim prediction has cast a pall of gloom over succeeding generations of an old English family:
In the seventh heir I shall return, In the seventh hour I shall depart, None in that hour shall hold my hand, And woe to her that holds my heart.
The action is set in a half-ruined estate bordering the sea (with one of the best examples of Chesterton's moral landscapes). Fortunately, the little priest is there to unravel the skeins of gloom that are draped on this grim household.
As he wrote in 1930 in the Illustrated London News, "[t]he essence of a mystery tale is that we are suddenly confronted with a truth which we have never suspected and yet can see to be true." And that is what the Father Brown stories are all about. ...more
Graham Greene is one author whose work I read mostly when I was younger. For some reason, I had read most of his novels, but bypassed his short storieGraham Greene is one author whose work I read mostly when I was younger. For some reason, I had read most of his novels, but bypassed his short stories. I see now that was a mistake. Twenty-One Stories is an excellent collection. Greene is no stranger to the feeling of dread which seems to suffuse so many of these tales, most especially his creepy 1936 story "The Basement Room," in which we see a child retreat into fear when dealing with the confidences of adults, which are beyond his ability to understand. In the most recent story, "The Destructors," written in 1954, a gang of children literally demolish a house that has somehow survived the German bombs.
Even the less successful stories take on interesting twists, at times with a macabre sense of humor, such as "A Chance for Mr. Lever," set in West Africa, or "Jubilee," in which an old ladies' man gets his come-uppance.
With the disappearance of so many magazines, I get the feeling that short stories are gradually vanishing from the literary landscape. That would be a pity. During their relatively short heyday, there have been so many great ones -- some of which can be found in this excellent collection....more
Wodehouse always makes me laugh. This collection of short stories is mostly centered around the Drones Club and features a good mix of Wodehouse's besWodehouse always makes me laugh. This collection of short stories is mostly centered around the Drones Club and features a good mix of Wodehouse's best characters, ranging from Oofy Prosser, Freddie Widgeon, a pair of Mulliners, Jas Waterbury, and Bingo Little to a guest appearance by Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. There are the usual romantic and pecuniary embarrassments which are miraculously cleared up deus ex machina style by the author in a manic (though frequently unlikely) burst.
But it doesn't matter. Pelham Greville's (that's P.G.'s) sense of humor carries all before it and smooths over any potential rough spots.
My favorite stories are "Jeeves Makes an Omelette" about another of Aunt Dahlia's dangerous quests and the last story in the book, "Oofy, Freddie and the Beef Trust" about Oofy's venture as a wrestling promoter who narrowly escapes marrying Jas Waterbury's niece, who resembles nothing no much as a codfish with glasses. Top stuff!...more
Nothing in literature is so calculated to put the reader in as good a frame of mind as a novel or collection of stories from the inimitable P. G. WodeNothing in literature is so calculated to put the reader in as good a frame of mind as a novel or collection of stories from the inimitable P. G. Wodehouse. Nothing Serious (1950), a collection of ten short stories, each featuring a different character, including a Lord Emsworth (without the Empress of Blandings, no less), Rodney Spelvin, Bingo Little, and Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge and his terrible Aunt Julia.
As in Disney cartoons, the world of Wodehouse is populated with sticky uncles and formidable aunts, but virtually no mothers and fathers. There are, however, a lot of down-at-heels young men badly in need of a fiver for some impractical scheme or other, and usually involved in a proposed or trouble relationship with a pie-eyed young lady. Engagements are made and broken off with startling rapidity, for the most trivial of reasons. In "Tangled Hearts," the res involves differing attitudes toward golf; and, in "How's That, Umpire?" a young scamp gets hitched on the basis of finding a mischievous young woman who hated cricket as much as he did.
Although most of the stories are set in the United States, the characters and the setting are indistinguishable from the author's England. One has to shake off the notion that, although the place names are in the States, Wodehouse's head most certainly is not.
No matter. Be prepared to snicker, laugh, and perhaps even guffaw once or twice. ...more