The nameless narrator becomes tired of city life, and when seeking solitude, he finds a cottage on a moor and falls in love with the landlady's daughtThe nameless narrator becomes tired of city life, and when seeking solitude, he finds a cottage on a moor and falls in love with the landlady's daughter.
I expected a giant turd. Sure, there are these gems:
"[M]y city-dried brains were again becoming juicy." (Reads like a 7-year-old's first attempt at writing.)
"Meantime Ariadne and I passed our time in a thoroughly idle and lotus-eating style." (I'm sorry, but although I'm aware this means something similar to idle, my brain automatically turns this into dirty stuff.)
But nope, The Vampire Maid is just boring, which can be even worse than an actual badly written turd. Especially after reading the Bierce short story, Nisbet's writing just seems like a poor attempt to make a mark in vampire literature. I can imagine him getting all tingly from the vampire ladies in Dracula, and then writing his own little piece about the bloodsuckers. A piece that is uninteresting, clichéd, and flat in every sense of the words. I don't even know why I'm wasting my breath writing a review, but here you go.
Nothing to see here, just run away like the idiot did....more
Now, first of all, whenever Carcosa is mentioned, the discussion inevitably turns to True Detective. Despite the plagiarism accusations (some of whichNow, first of all, whenever Carcosa is mentioned, the discussion inevitably turns to True Detective. Despite the plagiarism accusations (some of which, I think, are pretty reasonable and founded), it's still a good series overall, and Cary Fukunaga's vision as a director created the most interesting and intense atmosphere not seen in television for a while. The show's mystical aspects then led me to explore Robert W. Chambers's The King in Yellow (1895) (which I didn't finish, but I'm planning on revisiting it soon), and I spotted a reviewer mentioning Bierce's short story.
I've actually read this before. Some years ago I bought The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce (compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins) and loved it, but now I can't seem to remember any of it, including this particular short story.
That makes me itchy to revisit the collection, because An Inhabitant of Carcosa is great. It's short (only three pages in my edition), but I feel like it doesn't need any more. It's succinct, to the point, without extra padding, and even within the word count it managed to creep me out and showcase the most gorgeous prose. It's also completely predictable, with a theme that is already kind of a cliché in the horror world, but that's ok. Bierce's imagery of a grey desolate place with dead trees and grass that "bent to whisper its dread secret to the earth" is wonderful. A classic example of a short story that skillfully creates a creeping sense of trepidation and anxiety. The mood immediately made me think of the bleak ending of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981)....more
It's time. A while ago I decided to slowly reacquaint myself with Fitzgerald, and I feel it's now the perfect time, because my taste in prose has someIt's time. A while ago I decided to slowly reacquaint myself with Fitzgerald, and I feel it's now the perfect time, because my taste in prose has somewhat evolved since my experience with The Great Gatsby (1925), so I want to see whether there's something I've missed or if there's a quality to it I can appreciate more now that I'm older. First, though, I was intrigued by Fitzgerald's first short story collection.
Published the same year as his debut novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), Flappers and Philosophers is mostly a subtle and sensitive look into the 1920s with echoes of Fitzgerald's private life here and there. There's the mismatched pair of Head and Shoulders, where at its melancholic conclusion comes a realization that romance comes with a price. There's Bernice Bobs Her Hair, where bobbing your hair (a recognizable feature of flappers) becomes a symbol for courage and a way to attract boys, but which in the end is only revered as an image (a wet dream of the conservatives), not a concrete act.
However, only two of the stories stood out to me and to which the rest don't measure up (especially the four I haven't mentioned). The Offshore Pirate, the opening story, was a big surprise for me, because it's essentially a love story. It's not your typical cotton candy fare, though. It's as zesty as the main character, Ardita, in all her spoiled flapper glory, and as glimmering as a turquoise sea during a summer day. It's a glass of bubbly under a starry sky and the sound of waves hitting against the sides of a boat. The Ice Palace, on the other hand, is mostly about the difference between the South and the North. Sally's growing disillusionment and the abstract need for something big culminates in an ice palace, where loneliness turns into a hazy and dreamlike wave of crystal clear ice, and Fitzgerald's prose tinkles like ice cubes in a glass.
For me, Flappers and Philosophers wasn't a complete success, but the few diamonds made me confident to continue with more Fitzgerald. More zestiness and tinkling, please!
"And courage to me meant ploughing through that dull gray mist that comes down on life - not only overriding people and circumstances but overriding the bleakness of living. A sort of insistence on the value of life and the worth of transient things."
"We're going through the black air with our arms wide and our feet straight out behind like a dolphin's tail, and we're going to think we'll never hit the silver down there till suddenly it'll be all warm round us and full of little kissing, caressing waves."
When I was a kid, there was this one time when I woke up in the middle of the night and the pile of clothes on my chair looked suspiciously like someWhen I was a kid, there was this one time when I woke up in the middle of the night and the pile of clothes on my chair looked suspiciously like some deformed monster, and I quickly dove under the covers. Fortunately, I'm really good at the whole sleeping thing, so I fell asleep quickly. I also used to have an irrational fear of vampires for a few days when I was little, which made me cover my neck every night when I went to bed, but that's a different story. I rarely had any troubles with sleep or fear, or both of them together.
Then, a couple of years ago when I was already living in my own apartment, I suffered a bout of sleep paralysis. I think I was at a stage when I was about to wake up, but I couldn't move or fully open my eyes. I saw my eyelashes flickering in front of my eyes, and then I saw a shadow on the wall. It didn't have a familiar form, just this blotch that was both oily and fuzzy at the same time, but I remember being convinced that it would attack me if I didn't run away right there and then. Obviously, the fact that I couldn't move horrified me, and I felt like I was stuck in another realm. I wanted to scream, but only a tear ran down my cheek. It didn't feel like reality at all, although I knew I was still in my apartment. At some point I just fell asleep and everything was back to normal again when I woke up.
I know that none of what I saw was real, so it's strange that you can actually have an experience where you fully believe in monsters (it's also not that comforting to know that you can't stop sleep paralysis from coming; if it comes back, it comes back). Wells's short story brought all that back to me. It's a very conventional story about a man who doesn't believe in ghosts and wants to stay in a haunted room. The ending falls flat and I expected more from the actual haunting, but the approach is interesting. It's up for the reader to decide what really happened, because the first person narrative allows room for interpretation.
It's all about the power of imagination and suggestion, and what being alone in a supposedly haunted place, with only shadows as your company, might do to you. The shadows might hide something or they may not, but the human mind is nevertheless able to change innocent things into something else, especially if there's complete silence and solitude. Also, would the narrator have had the same experiences if he hadn't known about the room's past or heard the stories about ghosts? Fear is an interesting thing, because it can suddenly creep up on you even when there's no reason to be frightened.
"There is neither ghost of earl nor ghost of countess in that room; there is no ghost there at all, but worse, far worse, something impalpable—"
"Well?" they said.
"The worst of all the things that haunt poor mortal men," said I; "and that is, in all its nakedness—' Fear!' Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms. It followed me through me in the room—"
Luin alkuvuodesta kokoelman aikuisille tarkoitettuja islantilaisnovelleja, joka oli ihan pätevä johdanto islantilaiseen mielenmaisemaan ja kirjallisuuLuin alkuvuodesta kokoelman aikuisille tarkoitettuja islantilaisnovelleja, joka oli ihan pätevä johdanto islantilaiseen mielenmaisemaan ja kirjallisuuteen, mutta nämä lapsille ja nuorille suunnatut novellit eivät puhutelleet. Löytyi töksähteleviä lauseita ja latteita tarinoita, mutta onneksi pieni valonpilkahdus tuli Peikkomuori-tarinasta, jossa peikon muotoinen kallionkieleke sulautuu ikävöinniksi isoäidin perään. Melko suuri osa novelleista on muuten aika surumielistä tavaraa ja käsittelee yllättävän aikuisia aiheita, eli kovin montaa pienelle lapselle suunnattua tarinaa en usko tästä löytyvän....more
One of those short and nifty stories that you read and probably like as well, but which you'll forget in the months to come. Pushkin has a much lighteOne of those short and nifty stories that you read and probably like as well, but which you'll forget in the months to come. Pushkin has a much lighter touch than his fellow Russians, and I think that is starting to be a problem for me. Not once did I actually feel the protagonist's greed, and the matter-of-fact ending abruptly wrapped things up....more
The ending stops you right where you are, and it feels exactly like a sudden flash of light after you've been sitting in the dark. Greene conveys theThe ending stops you right where you are, and it feels exactly like a sudden flash of light after you've been sitting in the dark. Greene conveys the atmosphere very effectively and the fear of the dark is palpable. It's amazing what is achieved with so few words. All short stories should be like this, and more importantly, all those who hate short stories should find stories like these to understand their appeal....more
A beautiful and decadent Russian princess with a scandalous past, a fog that engulfs everything, a murder, an explorer believed to have died in AfricaA beautiful and decadent Russian princess with a scandalous past, a fog that engulfs everything, a murder, an explorer believed to have died in Africa returns to London... There's basically everything you need for a fun tale of mystery. The plot seems simple at first, but at the end there's a twist, and even after the conclusion the story spins once more. The first chapter's description of being lost in a fog is great, slightly oppressive, which alone would elevate the story even if the mystery itself wasn't good. A great bedtime story, actually....more
Kokoelman alussa oleva katsaus tiivistää miten islantilainen kirjallisuus on historian saatossa kehittynyt. Toki ei voi sanoa, että kokonaisen maan kiKokoelman alussa oleva katsaus tiivistää miten islantilainen kirjallisuus on historian saatossa kehittynyt. Toki ei voi sanoa, että kokonaisen maan kirjallisuus olisi täysin homogeenistä, mutta vielä nykyäänkin kirjallista arvoa kantavista saagoista alkaneessa tarinaperinteessä on käsitelty muun muassa merta ja sen vaikutusta niin ihmisten luonteeseen kuin elinkeinoonkin.
On kuitenkin hyvä muistaa, ettei Islanti ole sen asuttamisen jälkeen ollut sijainnistaan huolimatta täysin eristäytynyt muusta maailmasta, joten eri kirjallisuussuuntauksetkin ovat saapuneet mantereelta saarelle ja muokanneet tarinankerronnallisia perinteitä. Uudet nykykirjailijoiden sukupolvet ovat käyttäneet muun muassa ironiaa, maagista realismia ja surrealismia uudistaessaan islantilaista kirjallisuutta. Usein kaikkea tätä ei ole aikanaan ymmärretty, vaan osa on aiheuttanut tarinoillaan pahennusta.
Halldór Laxness on yksi heistä, joka on saanut kritiikkiä yhteiskunnallisilla kannanotoillaan. Linnun laulun kaiussa (1964) eristäytynyt kuolemaisillaan oleva mies sanoutuu irti yhteiskunnan vaatimuksista. Vieraisilla olevat viranomaiset edustavat rationaalista järjen ääntä, eivätkä ymmärrä miehen ajatuksia, vaan väittävät tietävänsä mikä tälle on parasta. Knúturissa on jopa jonkinlaista mystiikkaa pitäessään loppuun asti kiinni omasta itsestään.
Ásta Sigurðardóttir edustaa joukkoa vahvoja naiskirjailijoita, jotka ottivat kantaa naisten asemaan. Tämä ei ulottunut Sigurðardóttirilla pelkästään kirjojen maailmaan, vaan opettajan tutkinnostaan huolimatta (siihen aikaan yksi islantilaisten naisten harvoista vaihtoehdoista) hän toimi alastonmallina, teki taidetta ja vietti aikaa taiteilijapiirien kanssa. Nykyään Sigurðardóttir on yksi luetuimmista islantilaisista novellisteista, vaikka kokoelmia onkin julkaistu vain yksi. Naisasialiikkeen lehdessä julkaistu Kuningasliljoja (1958) erottuu tässä 25:n novellin kokoelmassa ehdottomasti edukseen. Se sijoittuu Islannin miehityksen aikaan, jolloin islantilaisten naisten ja sotilaiden kanssakäyminen oli yleistä. Päähenkilö on sairas parakissa asuva tyttö, jota ei kukaan tunnu ymmärtävän (ystävätär ei ole hienotunteinen vaan valitsee kovan asenteen, ja mieslääkärin mielestä naimisiinmeno on ratkaisu kaikkiin ongelmiin). Pala palalta tytön tilanne paljastuu, kunnes lopussa on jälleen toivoa ja kukat tuovat kauneutta rumuuden ja epätoivon keskelle.
Jakobína Sigurðardóttirin (ei sukua edelliselle) upeassa Stella-novellissa (1964) on parakkielämää, alkoholismia, troolarilla työskentelyä ja ihmisiä, jotka puhuvat toistensa ohi. Elämä on muuttunut katkeraksi, meri pelottavaksi eikä lapsille pysty osoittamaan hellyyttä vaikka haluaisikin. Kaunis tarina sanomattomista lauseista ja siitä, kun toinen ihminen ei näytä päällisin puolin olevan enää sellainen kuin joskus.
Muita mieleen jääviä novelleja olivat Ólafur Haukur SímonarssoninJäähyväiset (1987) (kalapakastamossa työskentelevä poika kaipaa kauas pois), Þórarinn EldjárninAjopuulahtelaisen saaga (1992) (hauska saagoja hyödyntävä tarina siitä, mitä tapahtuu kun Ajopuulahteen saapuu uudisasukkaita: "Perkele, siitä sait! Senkin runojenrustaaja!"), Matthías JohannesseninPääsiäismyräkkä (1981) (hengästyttävän upeaa luontokuvausta, ja jonka mystistä tunnelmaa en pystyisi ikinä kuvailemaan), Guðbergur Bergssonin absurdi Ensimmäinen joulukertomus (1995) (partainen Jeesus-lapsi saa kerrostalon asukkaat siivoamaan rappukäytävän) sekä Andri Snær MagnasoninKalastaja ja merenneito (1996) (päähenkilö saa huomata, ettei merenneito olekaan ihan se kaikkein käytännöllisin puoliso).
Kuten useita kirjailijoita sisältävissä novellikokoelmissa usein, oli tässäkin välillä tyhjäkäyntiä, mutta sehän on täysin makuasia kuka kirjailijoista onnistuu jättämään jälkensä lukijaan. Kokonaisuudessaan kokoelma jäi kyllä hieman miinukselle, mutta katsauksena islantilaiseen kirjallisuuteen tämä oli kuitenkin lukemisen arvoinen (yksi editointikerta olisi tosin ollut vielä paikallaan, sillä kirjoitusvirheitä oli harmillisen paljon). Lopussa on myös kattava lista fiktiosta sekä islantilaista kirjallisuutta käsittelevistä tietokirjoista....more
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, the Black Forest region is known for its wood-carving, Black Forest Cake, gourmet cuisine, anOne of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, the Black Forest region is known for its wood-carving, Black Forest Cake, gourmet cuisine, and beautiful scenery, but the dense and sinister forests have also served as inspiration for myths and storytellers (the most famous ones are of course the brothers Grimm). Émile Erckmann's and Alexandre Chatrian's werewolf story draws from that tradition, but also reminds us of the classical historian Tacitus, who wrote that Germans dress in the skins of wild beasts.
Every year, on the same day, count Nideck suffers from fits, and his chief huntsman invites the narrator to the castle to try and cure the count of his malady. A mysterious old woman called the Black Plague is seen on the castle grounds every year, and is therefore suspected to be a witch and responsible for the count's howling and yelling.
Hugues-le-loup is rich with descriptions of the Vosges mountain range, and you can feel the mysterious air of the castle and the crisp silence of a wintry forest. Traditional horror this is not, instead it leans more towards the Gothic genre with its wolf howling, dark rooms, family curse, decaying aristocracy, fainting lady, and brooding master of the house.
I do take issue with the bland narrator, who constantly disrupts the action with his long and boring ponderings. At one point he contemplates the nature of Knapwurst, "this dwarf, - - an ill-shaped caricature", and during a chase he's thinking about animals and whether "the wolf, the fox, and the ferret seek the darkness that conforms to their ugly deeds". Shouldn't you, uh, maybe stay sharp in case the witch is trying to kill you?
The story would be perfect for cold and quiet winter evenings, but the fact that it could have been told within half the space somewhat detracts from the enjoyment. Plot-wise not the most balanced short story either, but the atmosphere and the involvement in the Black Forest tradition might prove interesting to others as well.
This is also pretty much a definite must-read for those who are intrigued by the older mythical werewolf stories, and how the "condition" is portrayed in them. In that sense Hugues-le-loup is (like Hugues the Wer-Wolf) without a doubt interesting, because it treats lycanthropy as a thing of the mind (at least if I interpreted the transformation scene correctly), and one particular scene is effective in all its creepiness.
(Will probably check the other stories in the collection later on, but for now I was only after the title story.)...more