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Monthly Reads > The White Hands by Mark Samuels

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message 1: by Dan (last edited Jun 25, 2017 10:21PM) (new)

Dan Quigley | 115 comments The price for the July 2017 pick in print edition starts at $74 paperback and $91 hardback. My pockets are nowhere near that deep!

The only way to go then is apparently obtaining an electronic copy of the book. My only E-Reader is a Barnes and Nobles one purchased almost ten years ago and seldom used, a Nook GlowLight so I can read in the dark when the need arises. I load mostly only free stuff on it from Gutenberg, which system has worked for me until now. I will try to figure out if my little Nook can download The White Hands and Other Weird Tales.


message 2: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Dan, you'll have to buy the ePub directly from Tartarus and side load it on the Nook.


message 3: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Dan, if you plan to use your Nook more than once in a while, I strongly suggest looking into Calibre. It's free and manages all one's ebooks, no matter what the format, really well. It makes side loading a breeze. It's probably the best free software I have ever used.


message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul | 75 comments I'll just say that this is a pretty noble thing to do, given Mr. Samuels' current financial straits. Man's one of the finest living authors of weird fiction, and he deserves every little bit of extra visibility that one can give him.

Anyway, regarding the ebooks: ones bought directly from Tartarus are DRM-free, and you can convert them to whatever format you want thru Calibre. Meaning that you can read them on -anything-.


message 5: by Dan (last edited Jun 26, 2017 06:57AM) (new)

Dan Quigley | 115 comments The book was not available through Barnes & Noble. So I decided to try other means since you made it sound simple enough. Thank you for all the advice, but it didn't work out all that well. In fact, the experience has been frustrating.

1) Tartarus's website appears to be offline or out of order. I see this when I try to bring it up:
This site can’t be reached
www.tartaruspress.com took too long to respond.
Try:
Checking the connection
Checking the proxy and the firewall
Running Windows Network Diagnostics
ERR_CONNECTION_TIMED_OUT

2) I downloaded and installed Calibre, an impressive looking piece of software.

3) I ordered the Kindle book from Amazon for $7.95 figuring I could convert the Kindle format to another format and then download it to my Nook.

4) Although Calibre was good at locating a means by which I could order the book, it was 100% useless at doing anything with my order. The fact I ordered the book never seemed to reach Calibre despite the fact I ordered it through Calibre. Calibre provided no indication I ordered the book. There's no format of anything Calibre is able to see to convert. Not an impressive first performance by Calibre.

I was able to access the text of the book through my laptop on Amazon's Kindle Cloud, but this means I have to read the book on my laptop while it's connected to the internet and scroll through the pages with my mouse. This is not a preferred method for me of reading books. I haven't decided yet whether I am sufficiently annoyed to get my order refunded, or to just make do this once.

EDIT

Okay, I played around with this a little more. I downloaded Amazon's Kindle for PC app. Samuels' book appears in there in friendlier format that I don't have to be connected to the Cloud for. It also looked like I could convert the book and load it to my Nook. So I began the steps to do so. Error. KFC format could not be converted using Calibre. Further reading showed me I could solve this issue. All I would have to do is uninstall the new Kindle for PC app, download an older version of Kindle for PC, redownload the Samuels book, then convert it using Calibre and place it on my Nook.

Yeah, that might work, but I decided this was too much trouble. I will put up with reading this book on my PC and won't order any more eBooks until I have a Kindle, a purchase I've managed to avoid having to make so far.


message 6: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Sorry to hear this has been so frustrating, Dan! I use a Kindle Paperwhite for most of my e-reading so I don't have the conversion problems (although I have no problem converting epubs or pdfs to mobi in Calibre) but I generally side load all my purchases by going to my Amazon account page and downloading the book to my hard drive, then dragging it into Calibre. I have never purchased anything through Calibre-in fact, I didn't even realize that's was an option!


message 7: by Dan (last edited Jun 26, 2017 02:06PM) (new)

Dan Quigley | 115 comments To buy through Calibre you just click the "Get books" link at the top and fill in the information requested on the mask that pops up. But enough on that. I have the book now. Even if I can only read it off my laptop, I'm looking forward to these short stories.

I read "The White Hands" and enjoyed it. I like Samuels' direct, simple writing style. I wonder if he is aware of how much he resembles the protagonist here whom he draws not all that complimentarily.


message 8: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Dan, I have a contact at Tartarus. Since you've already bought the book I might be able to get you an ePub formatted copy free of drm or permission to give you one. I'll let you know.


message 9: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I misread one of the posts above. The White Hands trade paperback is available from Tartarus for £12.95 directly from Tartarus, that's going to be around $15 if my math and the exchange rates haven't gone crazy. No upcharge for posting to the us.


message 10: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I finished the title story and the first thing I gleaned is the self-referential aspect of a book called The White Hands containing the story The White Hands about a book entitled The White Hands containing a story called The White Hands...You get the idea. And is that dear Lilith we're gazing at on the cover?


message 11: by David (new)

David Peak | 4 comments Likewise, I was impressed by how that story dealt with the genre of weird fiction itself. Muswell's "eccentric theories about literature," as the narrator initially describes them, were fully formed philosophies of the weird. "It was the quest for the hidden mysteries . . . which formed the proper subject of all great literature. [He] . . . believed that literature, in its highest form, should unravel the secrets of life and earth." And then later, "'I believe,' Muswell once said, 'that mental isolation is the essence of weird fiction. Isolation when confronted with disease, with madness, with horror and with death. These are the reverberations of the infinity that torments us.'" Of course, both of these concepts are explored through the events of the story. All in all, an amazingly well-crafted narrative.


message 12: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments The White Hands and Other Weird Tales is Mark Samuels first story collection, but you already knew that.


message 13: by Bill (new)

Bill Hsu (BillHsu) | 174 comments I've finished the first three stories. I can't say that much of this is terribly surprising or memorable so far. I'm thankful that the writing is relatively plain; most of "Man who collected Machen" was too overwrought for me.

The second story, with all the chess references, is the kind of thing that's very hard to pull off. Samuels is largely correct on the technical details, but I really don't think the climatic event would work for experienced chess players. The mannikins story seems very Ligotti-an to me, rather different from the more traditional horror tropes of the first two stories.


message 14: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (RPDwyer) | 319 comments This is a re-read for me.

I think that "The White Hands" is a good story. However, I don't fully agree 'that mental isolation is the essence of weird fiction. Isolation when confronted with disease, with madness, with horror and with death. These are the reverberations of the infinity that torments us.'

I have my own aesthetic view on weird fiction.


message 15: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Personally, not being studied in the intricacies of chess, the details leant enough verisimilitude to the story to make me believe Mooney knew his stuff well enough to beat another Master. To me this was sufficient. I don't generally worry about say the details of a persons route and whether they always are consistent. Convince me the characters know the details of where they are going and where they have been and I'm generally satisfied.

Now in nonfiction these things of course matter.


message 16: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (RPDwyer) | 319 comments Bill wrote: "I've finished the first three stories. I can't say that much of this is terribly surprising or memorable so far. I'm thankful that the writing is relatively plain; most of "Man who collected Machen..."

Are you referring to the story or to the entire book? I don't recall the book written in an overwrought style, except for " Nor Unto Death Utterly by Edmund Bertrand", which I take as a parody of 19th Century Gothic fiction.

I might do an experiment: take sentences at random from both books and count the number of letters in each sentence.


message 17: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments What? Count letters? What's that prove? How can you analyze something that way. Are you going to compare the relative merits of Anthony Trollope's and Ernest Hemingway's sentences like that?

Lovecraft can certainly be called overwrought but Lovecraft wouldn't be Lovecraft without all that purple prose.

Fireworks are legal in South Carolina and where you set them off is pretty much unrestricted so I feel like I'm in Baghdad during an air raid tonight.


message 18: by Dan (last edited Jul 04, 2017 07:40PM) (new)

Dan Quigley | 115 comments Randolph wrote: "Lovecraft can certainly be called overwrought but Lovecraft wouldn't be Lovecraft without all that purple prose."

I'm just in from shooting off fireworks in my neck of the woods here in South Carolina. Sorry if I disturbed you Randolph.

I could agree that Lovecraft's prose is highly wrought, but I disagree with calling it overwrought.

One of the key components to purple prose is that according to Wikipedia it does "very little in the way of advancement of the plot or development of the characters, but the pages are still filled with words." Lovecraft does not waste words (or the reader's time) this way, therefore I don't agree his prose is purple, only that it's elevated, elegant, and extremely difficult to emulate. Lord knows I've tried.


message 19: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (RPDwyer) | 319 comments Dan, you can download for free into your computer the Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac. Then you can purchase the ebook from Amazon. I read ebooks on my personal computer.


message 20: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Dan wrote: "Randolph wrote: "Lovecraft can certainly be called overwrought but Lovecraft wouldn't be Lovecraft without all that purple prose."

I'm just in from shooting off fireworks in my neck of the woods h..."


What part of SC? I live near Greenville.


message 21: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I was terrified of mannequins as a child. I hated department store clothing departments where I was left alone while my mother tried on clothes in a dressing room.


message 22: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I put up two videos on the homepage related to this month's read. Mark mentions that he is influenced by Ligotti without accepting his philosophy which I thought was interesting. He also mentions that Ligotti made some suggestions for the story Vrolyk that he incorporated.


message 23: by David (new)

David (Professormesser) | 3 comments Finished the first story. I really enjoyed it. I felt it, kind of, not in a bad way, verged on slightly comic pastiche with the faux aristocratic tone (I loved, "How tedious the search for the sordid haunts of the necessary types." You know the types? Those awful smelly simpletons you have to deal with when you want a body illegally disinterred? Yuk!) , the belle dame sans mercy, the Lovecraftian telling-not-showing. It made me think of a Mark Ryden painting. Looking forward to the next one!


message 24: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Apartment 405 while philosophically interesting, was not particularly inspiring and more than somewhat predictable. It seemed like Samuels was aiming at a sort of Kafka/Lovecraft hybrid that ended up mostly lifeless.


message 25: by Bill (new)

Bill Hsu (BillHsu) | 174 comments I'm done. While the collection was amusing and didn't bother me near as much as Man Who Collected Machen, I can't say there's much here that I'd return to.

The last story had an interesting idea or two, but I would rewrite huge chunks of it. It's almost never necessary to explain so much.


message 26: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I always appreciate and respect honest comments from intelligent reviewers even when I wholly disagree. Thanks Bill.


message 27: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I couldn't rewrite "See Spot run." so I wouldn't even try.


message 28: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (RPDwyer) | 319 comments I find differences in taste somewhat fascinating. For example, I see that a goodreads friend gave _House of Leaves_ 4 stars. I see a 5 star rating for _House of Leaves_ from a goodreads member with tastes similar to mine.

I guess, concerning _House of Leaves_, its going to be Randolph, me, and a few others versus the world.


message 29: by David (new)

David (Professormesser) | 3 comments I enjoyed Mannequins in Aspects of Terror. Loved the descriptions of the building and it's interior. I certainly know what it feels like to find yourself walking like a mannequin at the end of a working week.
For me, the real horror (in this case a deep sadness and disappointment) in this story isn't in the fact that human beings are condemned to a life of Ligottian suffering, but in the relationship between the narrator and his work colleagues. " I worked alongside qualified architects who were university trained, but I was a mere technician. the fact that I did a comparable job meant nothing in terms of status or pay."


message 30: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Ronald wrote: "I find differences in taste somewhat fascinating. For example, I see that a goodreads friend gave _House of Leaves_ 4 stars. I see a 5 star rating for _House of Leaves_ from a goodreads member with..."

House of Leaves? I've never read The House of Leaves although I have a copy and I intend to one day when the fancy takes me. My daughter liked it.


message 31: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I'm so confused.


message 32: by David (new)

David (Professormesser) | 3 comments Randolph wrote: "I'm so confused."

Hope it's nothing to do with me! I haven't got the hang of these Goodreads communities yet.


message 33: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I thought I did but now I question my sanity.


message 34: by Bill (new)

Bill Hsu (BillHsu) | 174 comments Randolph wrote: "I thought I did but now I question my sanity."
You mean you feel like you're turning into a mannikin? Massage may help.


message 35: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Vrolyk is the best story. I think it was also in one of the Tartarus Strange Tales anthologies.
The Search for Kruptos gave me a Michael Cisco feel a la The Divinity Student up until the Bierce ending.
Black as Darkness features a reprise of Lilith Blake and Muswell of the White Hands. Another good tale.

I'd probably drop my original review rating from five to four stars due to a soft middle section.


message 36: by Dan (last edited Jul 09, 2017 02:08PM) (new)

Dan Quigley | 115 comments I have the entire book on my Nook now. Thank you so much for all the help with that, Randolph. Oh and to answer your question, I live about twenty miles west of the state capitol, in the country. The three best things about country life: 1) low cost of living, 2) the quiet, and 3) the great-tasting and free well water, no filter needed.

I read the first short story, "The White Hands", twice, and really enjoyed it. I like Mark Samuels' writing style. It's not ornate, lavish, or even all that polished. I've read some people compare it to Lovecraft. I don't see that at all. Samuels' text is also not as finely hone as Tryon's. Samuels gets sloppily wordy at times, as most British authors tend to. For the most part his prose is clean, direct, and unobtrusive. By being that he gets out of the way of his story, which is a good thing.

The story itself has a few surprises. The first one for me is that their are only two characters in it, Alfred Muswell and the unnamed narrator who is also the protagonist. I don't count Lilith Blake as a character since she has no truly active role in the proceedings, no dialog. It's hard to write a work of fiction with only two characters, especially when the main one is never even named, and I can't think of another occasion upon which I've ever seen it done.

Alfred Muswell is a character of derision. He was denounced out of academia because he took ghost stories as a worthy topic of formal study. This is certainly understandable. Academics have little respect for genre fiction, especially horror. They typically study authors like James Joyce, a writer this closed academic circle of two derides.

I suspect the unnamed protagonist is at least in part Mark Samuels himself. One because both Mark Samuels and the protagonist wrote a book of the same title, two because the protagonist went unnamed, and finally because of the use of metafictional conceits in writing a fictional book of the same title as the author. Mark Samuels makes no attempt as writer to in any way separate himself from his fictional protagonist. I suspect Mark Samuels himself might place Sheridan Le Fanu, Vernon Lee, and M.R. James to the first tier of classical horror writers while relegating Blackwood, Machen, and De Quincey to the second, as does the story's protagonist.

I found the device of having the hands transported to another person a very nice touch. I've never seen that before. I did become confused when those very same hands found themselves back on the original source so they could be used for violent purposes on the protagonist. Did I miss something?

I must confess to finding the ending to be a slight letdown. There were two devotees of Blake's work, Muswell and fictional Samuels, two white spiders that crawled across the book just before Samuels took it down, two men who dug up the corpse, and two white hands. Two and white: what does this symbolize? I thought surely this symbolism would be explained or somehow used again in the ending, yet it wasn't. The ending was just a typical horror ending with no hidden meaning or significance, or did I miss something?


message 37: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Finished this last night. I must say that I found the book a bit disappointing. Earlier, I'd mentioned to Bill that I'd probably give this collection 3 stars but, after completing it, I can only give it 2.5.

While nothing here was actively bad and the writing was generally competent, I found the tales bloodless and rather static. Endings were consistently weak, as if Samuels wasn't quite sure how to carry out or work through the horror he'd built to; and few of the ideas he built the stories around felt fresh or original. There's nothing wrong with taking old ideas and themes and reworking them (especially in genre fiction) but these variations just didn't seem to add anything or give me as a reader a new perspective or insight. Most felt tired, somewhat faded, and curiously antiseptic*.

I know little of Mark Samuels (I didn't watch the videos yet-I like to be relatively uninfluenced by an author's ideas about a text before I'm finished reading it), but I can see that he's a talented writer with a wide knowledge of the genre. Since I understand that this was his first collection, I am willing to read more by him (and I think I already own other Tartarus Press books in which he features), but I can't recommend this particular volume all that highly.

*Maybe this last is a Ligottian thing, as I also find much of his work airless and lacking in emotion. In that case, take my review with a grain of salt, as I'm clearly not a fan of the style.


message 38: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Ronald wrote: "I find differences in taste somewhat fascinating. For example, I see that a goodreads friend gave _House of Leaves_ 4 stars. I see a 5 star rating for _House of Leaves_ from a goodreads member with..."

For whatever it's worth, Ronald, I can't stand Danielewski's work and have never managed to actually finish anything by him.


message 39: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Randolph wrote: "Vrolyk is the best story. I think it was also in one of the Tartarus Strange Tales anthologies.
The Search for Kruptos gave me a Michael Cisco feel a la The Divinity Student up until the Bierce end..."


I found the ending of 'The Search for Kruptos' incredibly tasteless and thought it added nothing of any value to the story. I actually set the book aside for a day because that ending put me off so much.


message 40: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Dan wrote: "I have the entire book on my Nook now. Thank you so much for all the help with that, Randolph. Oh and to answer your question, I live about twenty miles west of the state capitol, in the country. T..."

I don't think you missed anything. In fact you caught more than I did. I've heard Samuels speak quite well of Arthur Machen so I'm not sure about that or Thomas de Quincey or Algernon Blackwood. The three authors Muswell likes are all purveyors of the so-called classic ghost story while the other three were known somewhat more for their innovation in the supernatural form.


message 41: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments Marie-Therese wrote: "Randolph wrote: "Vrolyk is the best story. I think it was also in one of the Tartarus Strange Tales anthologies.
The Search for Kruptos gave me a Michael Cisco feel a la The Divinity Student up unt..."


I'll have to look at Kruptos again. I don't recall anything upsetting but you're dealing with jaded feelings in your's truly.


message 42: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Randolph wrote: "Marie-Therese wrote: "Randolph wrote: "Vrolyk is the best story. I think it was also in one of the Tartarus Strange Tales anthologies.
The Search for Kruptos gave me a Michael Cisco feel a la The D..."

*****Spoilers*****

*Not sure how to do spoiler or hidden text here. Sorry*



It's the concentration camp thing with Ewers, et al. I'm probably just really sensitive right now due to my family history and the current state of the world, but it evoked in me feelings of anger and disgust. It felt cheap and sensationalistic.


message 43: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 15 comments I see now. I disagree. The ending, while truly horrorific, is essential to Samuels' tale. If it upset you, I think the author succeeded even if it was gratuitous.

I have read stories that I could not go back to. There was in Strange Tales, Volume II a story that was so disturbing to me I have never gone back to reread it.


message 44: by Marie-Therese (last edited Jul 09, 2017 08:08PM) (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Randolph wrote: "I see now. I disagree. The ending, while truly horrorific, is essential to Samuels' tale. If it upset you, I think the author succeeded even if it was gratuitous.

Yeah, it could definitely just be me at this point. Bad timing, I guess.


message 45: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (RPDwyer) | 319 comments "The Search for Kruptos" is Borgesian. This story, like the stories of Borges, has imaginary books and metaphysical speculation.

I submit that the Borges story "The Secret Miracle" is a direct influence on Mark Samuels. I think there are similarities between the two stories. Also, Ambrose Bierce, mentioned by Randolph, was an influence on Borges.

Here is an audiobook of "The Secret Miracle"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA4ko...


message 46: by Marie-Therese (last edited Jul 09, 2017 08:37PM) (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments Ronald wrote: ""The Search for Kruptos" is Borgesian. This story, like the stories of Borges, has imaginary books and metaphysical speculation.

Well, sure, I get that. I've read virtually everything by Borges (most of it in the original Spanish) so I can recognize a Borges-inspired story when I see one. I just don't think this is a good Borges-inspired story or one I would recommend to anyone. That's only partly because of the ending, because, mostly, I thought the story was tired and just not very exciting. And then the ending topped off what was a mediocre story with what seemed to me a cheap shot.

But, clearly, tastes vary and I accept that I'm in the minority here and my reasons for disliking the ending may well be just my own.


message 47: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (MarieThrse) | 196 comments BTW, Ronald, thanks for pointing out the Borges link with Samuels because I do think it's relevant and important to the discussion of his work overall.


message 48: by Bill (last edited Jul 11, 2017 02:28PM) (new)

Bill Hsu (BillHsu) | 174 comments Marie-Therese wrote: "But, clearly, tastes vary and I accept that I'm in the minority here and my reasons for disliking the ending may well be just my own.."
I'm no fan of the ending of Kruptos either, and I have no family history associations to point to. It just seems to me to be tacked on to the story.

The guards' names Hans Kohler/Wolfgang Ewers are probably a wink at Hanns Heinz Ewers, who was mentioned earlier in the collection. (In the same sentence, Samuels namedropped Stefan Grabinski, whose Dark Domain Marie-Therese and I are starting.)

I'm curious to check out Ewers, if I ever find a copy of Nachtmahr that isn't hideously expensive.


message 49: by P (last edited Jul 10, 2017 05:04AM) (new)

P (uair01) | 4 comments Mark Samuels is one of my favorite horror story writers. I read this collection twice and (to my own surprise) I realize that I don't remember all of the stories. These two certainly stuck in my head:
- The search for Kruptos (I wonder if there's a reference to the Kryptos puzzle of the CIA - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kryptos)
- Mannequins in aspects of terror (I have seen art installations in empty office buildings, and I recognize the atmosphere)

Note: "Vrolijk" means "happy", "playful" in Dutch. Could this be intentional?


message 50: by David (last edited Jul 11, 2017 09:34AM) (new)

David Peak | 4 comments I finished The White Hands and Other Weird Tales over the weekend. I'm not sure I agree with some of the other reviewers on this site that Samuels is on the level of Ligotti. I believe that Ligotti transcended his influences and created work that was wholly original, whereas Samuels seems content to be part of a tradition. All totally fine, as far as I'm concerned, but I think this collection falls just short of being truly great because of this. I also wish the language had been heightened throughout, though that's a personal preference, and don't hold that against the author. Samuels seems to write with concision and clarity in mind above all else. Overall he succeeds. I found the stories very easy to get into, almost relaxing in a way.

Consider me hooked. I immediately moved on to reading Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes, which I'm enjoying greatly.


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