Schuyler's Reviews > Ghost Story

Ghost Story by Peter Straub
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U 50x66
's review
Aug 20, 2011

it was ok

I enjoyed this book at the very beginning. I liked Straub's willingness to keep information from his reader. It made for both frustrating and compelling reading. But after 100 pages or so I realized it was all hollow posturing. There wasn't anything to this story, other than the central mysteries, but they're none too mysterious. I'll put it this way: When I read Stephen King's "Needful Things" earlier this year, I knew, more or less, who Leland Gaunt was and I knew what he was going to do to Castle Rock. And I knew it from the very beginning. King didn't really try to give his novel an air of mystery. He alluded to ideas and information and therefore didn't beat one over the head with his narrative's point. But the point of the book was there if you were paying attention. In Straub, though, the air of mystery is the point, and, as I said, if you're at all familiar with the horror genre, it's a poorly constructed air. I really wanted to like this novel--the movie adaptation was filmed near where I grew up and I love Hawthorne and James (the authors, not the characters in the book), to whom Straub owes a debt (though a much less significant debt than I had hoped). I think Straub thought he was redefining the ghost story--a ghost story without ghosts, as one of the characters refers to a different work. What he winds up with is something that I'd call pastische if it was done with a modicum of artistry. The lack of artistry makes it something less. Straub cannibalizes narratives by Hawthorne, James, King, and Lovecraft/Lovecraft's followers and doesn't transform them into anything original. He may change names, but he doesn't really alter the ideas behind them. This is to say nothing of the lesser novelists that he apes (namely Whitley Streiber). All in all, it's all rather unfortunate. A pretty uninspiring novel.
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