Anthony Chambers, who is a professor of Japanese literature and literary translation at Arizona State, has brought together these little tales of ghosAnthony Chambers, who is a professor of Japanese literature and literary translation at Arizona State, has brought together these little tales of ghosts, spirits and other things in this slim little volume. The title "alludes to the belief that mysterious beings appear on cloudy, rainy nights and in mornings with the lingering moon;" it's a great book to read on a dark night when all is quiet -- rain is a definite plus -- and for someone like me who is very deep into history, it goes well beyond just the stories.
There are a couple of different ways a reader might approach this book.
1. Chambers offers information about each story just prior to its beginning, offering information and history on Title, Characters, Places, Time, Background and Affinities. If you are not at all interested in the literary, cultural, political and historical background of the stories, then skip to #2 approach which is to
2. skip directly to the story itself. The downside of that approach is that in footnotes, annotations, etc., there are references to other literary works, so just watch out.
In either case, I would skip the intro and return to it after you've read the entire book, but of course, that's my own preference (I do that in every book I read) -- but it is also very interesting in terms of historical background so do not miss it.
As for the stories themselves, there are nine. I have to say that I've recently discovered Hulu's collection of 900+ Criterion films, and watched one called "Ugetsu." I fell instantly and deeply in love with this movie, so I did a bit of research on it. It turns out that the movie is a combination of two stories in this book -- "The Reed-Choked House" and "A Serpent's Lust", and I was elated to discover that I actually had this collection in my home library. In fact, the title of the film references the Japanese title of this collection -- "Ugetsu Monogatari.
The story list is as follows: "Shiramine" "The Chrysanthemum Vow" "The Reed-Choked House" "The Carp of My Dreams" "The Owl of the Three Jewels" "The Kibitsu Cauldron" "A Serpent's Lust" "The Blue Hood" "On Poverty and Wealth"
The collection itself dates back to the 18th century; it is a classic in the world of Japanese literature. A number of these tales have been borrowed by Ueda from Chinese literature; he changed them to Japanese settings and adapted them to fit into Japanese culture. Samurai abound, for example; Buddhism and Shinto also play major roles in these tales. All of these little stories are quite good (with the exception of "On Poverty and Wealth," which I did not particularly care for), but my favorites were "The Reed-Choked House" and "A Serpent's Lust," followed by "The Kibitsu Cauldron" "The Chrysanthemum Vow" and "The Carp of My Dreams," the greatness of which is in the author's ability to blur the line between dreams and reality to an uncanny extreme.
While not exactly the mainstream fodder of modern readers of supernatural tales, this collection is beyond outstanding. Anyone who is one-hundred percent serious about literary horror/dark fiction should have this book in his or her library; for me it's a beautiful blending of works from two cultures I love and it perfectly suits my need for reading something different every time I pick up a work of dark fiction. Just so I feel like I'm being honest here, it is not always an easy read -- you have to read, think, and do both slowly.
It is an absolutely stunning collection I can highly, highly recommend. Even if you want to bypass the scholarly approach, the stories themselves are amazing....more
From 1935, I'll just say that most of this book was entertaining, but when it came down to the last few chapters, I would have poured mymid-June, 2015
From 1935, I'll just say that most of this book was entertaining, but when it came down to the last few chapters, I would have poured myself something very strong to take away the reading pain had it not been so early in the day. Oy! Talk about convoluted!
One of the side benefits of discovering new old authors is that some of these women have amazing histories. Dorothy Ogburn, who wrote this book, and her husband became famous (although I'd never heard of her) as major proponents of the Oxfordian (DeVere) theory of Shakespearean identity; for more author info and basic plot points you can click here.
The Will and the Deed is yet another country-house sort of mystery, taking place at Thanksgiving at a home called Stonecliffe "not sixty miles from the City of New York." The Walters family and sundry others have been "convened" so that they could hear the reading of the late patriarch's will, which is on film, rather than via an attorney. Afterwards, isn't long until there's a death in this rather dysfunctional family -- and the question comes down to murder or suicide?
The very last part of this book was awful. The first half wasn't too bad, and actually presented a good mystery and some family secrets that were revealed along the way. There is an entire house filled with possible suspects from which to choose, and as it turns out, I totally got the rationale behind the murderer's motive once all was revealed. But when it came down to those last few chapters, it became such a tangle of strange subplots (involving among other things, a séance, a gun loaded with blanks and hypnotism) that I had to read these pages twice. Another thing: I'm very used to stilted language from early mystery novels, but I must say, this one absolutely takes the cake for archaic throughout the book. The long and short of it is that no one should have to work that hard to read the last few chapters in a mystery novel.
Still, it's another female mystery novelist I hadn't previously heard of, so I'm quite happy to have discovered Ogburn and to have read her work. Plus, I do have this enduring fondness for country-house murders, so it's another one to add to the list, once I start keeping one! That's another whole project for another day. Anyway -- if you're into obscure country-house murder mysteries, I'd say read it, but beware of the last few chapters, and maybe read it after 5 pm so you can help your headache and confusion with a nice martini or something....more
Obviously I haven't read this book yet, but I do have an extra copy, so if anyone would like it, and you're in the US, it's yours! Just be first to leObviously I haven't read this book yet, but I do have an extra copy, so if anyone would like it, and you're in the US, it's yours! Just be first to leave a comment and I'll gladly mail it to you. ...more