|from Kernow Coasteering|
|the Cornish Coast, from The Book Trail|
|from Kernow Coasteering|
|the Cornish Coast, from The Book Trail|
|"The Wet Woman" (p. 49), illustration by Reggie Oliver.|
"Oliver's work is notable for its style, wit humour and depth of characterisation, and also for its profound excursions into the disturbingly bizarre and uncanny"
and I have to tip my hat to this man who's given me so many hours of reading pleasure over the last few years, and to Tartarus as well for bringing forth this eighth volume of Oliver's stories. It is definitely one not to miss whether you are a regular fan of Oliver's stories, or a reader drawn to the realm of the strange or the weird. Don't be surprised if you find yourself feeling a bit off kilter after reading this book -- it's part and parcel of the Oliver experience.
most highly recommended.
"This is a place where at your most vulnerable, you will encounter no fairy godmother, no knight will rush in on a horse."
I couldn't agree more.
"ask whether children who do not have a good and peaceful death will definitely go to heaven; what the consequences might be if no glory awaits to compensate the child's suffering"
while also asking "what if the child is angry or even vengeful for their treatment in life and the fate to which they have been consigned?" These stories, as Baker also explains,
"revive, appropriate, and often merge domestic folkloric and literary traditions where the spirit of a wronged child would passively wander and bewail its fate with the darker traditions of non-Anglophone cultures, in which such spirits would terrorise and sometimes kill those who wronged them or even passers-by."
In between each story there are brief "snippets" of other literary works in various forms that "illustrate the sense of historical and cultural debt," all of which may send you on a quest to read the original source material once you've finished reading this book. At least that happened with me -- I am easily sent down that kind of tangential rabbit hole where I'm happy to linger a while.
|"Lonely Hearts" 1973; photo from sandra's first rule of filmclub|
"as lief see a son of mine in a Carolina slave-gang as to see him lead the life of a stow-away. What with the officers from feeling that they've been taken in, and the men, who catch their cue from their superiors, and the spite of the lawful boy who hired in the proper way, he don't have what you may call a tender time."
The boy's treatment is so harsh that one of the crew remarks that "Dead or alive," he will be the one to bring to his tormentor a "summons" to hell. Mark his words. "The Ghost of Little Jacques" by Ann M. Hoyt is also rooted in a strange household, but here the story unfolds almost like a whodunit, as a child is murdered and makes his way back to the household to point the finger at his killer. Unfortunately, the narrator to whom he first appears doesn't understand until much later, jeopardizing her own future. Again, much more at work here than an average ghost story but I'll leave that for others to discover.
|my photo, from the book's frontispiece, from "Walnut-Tree House," by Charlotte Riddell in Illustrated London News, 28 December 1878.|
"between the 1830s, when the popularity of geology and paleontology skyrocketed, up to the end of the First World War, when cinema began to offer its own primordial prospects."
there were many vampires in Peru, but they were swallowed up in the year of the Great Earthquake when the Andes were lifted up, and there was left behind only one 'Arinchi' who lived where the Amazon joins the Marañnon, and he would not eat dead bodies, only live ones, from which the blood would flow."
Local superstition also said that when a sacrificial victim was offered to "the Vampire," he would be "bound in a canoe," and after some time on the river, the canoe would stop in "banks of slimy mud" to a creek through which a "very slow current flowed," taking anything in the water there to a cave. Into this milieu comes a University professor and "mighty hunter of beetles" from Germany who decides to explore the cave for himself, his fate recorded in journal entries over the ensuing months.
Another fine Valancourt publication, Creatures of Another Age is neither limited to short stories nor obscure writers. There are poems, essays, and even a short play, as well as selections by more familiar authors such as George Sand, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy. While not all of the entries included here worked for me personally (as is always the case), in putting this collection together editor Richard Fallon hopes that readers will "see the distant past in a strange new light," and that's exactly what happened to me here. Very much recommended. What a great idea for a book!!
"it came from its box as ugly and as poisonous as a vampire bat"
"Like the bird, the book is beautiful and ugly, intriguing and upsetting, appealing and appalling, in its different, changing moods."
The Cormorant is not only effective as a horror story, but as literary fiction with a weird bent as well. The ambiguity here left me thinking about it long after I'd finished, going through evidence in my head for both the psychological and supernatural. Writing it down now, I'm still thinking about it. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough, although on many levels it is a difficult read, so beware.
Once again my many thanks to the very good people at Parthian.
"After you've lived in Mariana Enriquez's marvelous brain for the time it takes to read The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, the known world feels ratcheted a few degrees off-center."
It didn't take until the end of the book for that "off-center" feeling to take hold -- after the first story alone I had to stop, think, and sort of shake my head back into the real world before moving on.
"are quite rooted in realistic urban and suburban settings and the horror just emanates from these places,"
and in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed the author examines the darkness and the terrors that co-exist in "these places" side by side with every-day life -- as one character says so eloquently in "Rambla Triste" (one of my favorites in this book), "the incarnations of the city's madness." Most of her characters are women from adolescence upward, their daily concerns are normal, including appearance, sex, relationships, family, drugs, and so on. It isn't too long into any of these stories however before it dawns on you that you've made your way into a situation where normal has taken a bizarre turn. In "Our Lady of the Quarry," for example, a group of girls all hanker after the same guy who doesn't seem to notice them in the way they would like; they are jealous of their "grown-up" friend Silvia ("out of high school for two years") whom Diego does notice. A typical scenario, to be sure, but what one girl does in trying out "an infallible way to snag your beloved" provides the spark for what comes next as the story moves into the realm of the eerie. Elsewhere, a girl digging in a garden unearths bones that turn out not to be those of an animal as her father had told her; a young girl who looks in a well at the home of a "witch" becomes stricken with paralyzing agoraphobia; a homeless man who is turned out of a neighborhood leaves behind a terrible curse; gentrification leaves homeless ghosts walking the streets of Barcelona; two teenaged groupies take the words of their favorite singer to heart ... and more.
Nothing is out of bounds here -- fetishes, voyeurism and cannibalism included -- but as the dustjacket blurb says, the stories are written with "resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo." They also reveal a concern with economic and social inequality as well as Argentina's inescapable past. Two chilling stories in particular (which also happen to be my top two favorites) also highlight the anxieties of the period of the Dictatorship (1976 - 1983): "Kids Who Come Back," in which a woman who maintains the archive of lost and disappeared children begins to notice an unsettling trend in Buenos Aires, "this city full of ghosts," and "Back When We Talked to the Dead" centering on a group of five girls who spend time with their Ouija board as a way of asking the spirits about their relatives who had been disappeared. Violence and ghosts go hand in hand in this book.
I read a lot of supernatural and weird fiction but not a lot of what I'd call horror, but if more writers in the genre did it like Mariana Enriquez, I could easily go that route as well. Here the terrors leave in their wake a "city of ghosts" and women doing what they must to find stability in their unstable, even haunted surroundings. With the exception of "Kids Who Come Back," the stories are relatively short which, in my opinion, gives them an incredible measure of power. Whereas some readers have noted that the stories felt underdeveloped, I disagree. I don't need everything explained to me -- each story made an impact as is. Enriquez's work is original, fresh, modern and above all powerful, and while not all of these tales were to my personal taste, overall this is a stunning collection that should not be missed, except perhaps, by the squeamish.
Good grief. The last time I posted was in February; since then it has literally been one thing after another with what seems like very little breathing space in between. That doesn't mean I haven't been reading -- au contraire, I've actually read a lot as a sanity-saving measure. Mist and Other Stories is just the latest in a lineup of some pretty awesome books, so I'll begin with this collection of supernatural/ghostly tales, which, while perhaps not the most hair-raising stories I've ever encountered, are certainly compelling enough that I read them all in one sitting. Here you'll find ghosts, as promised, along with haunted houses, haunted people, and more. For those readers of the dark who love older supernatural tales, it is no-miss read; for me there's also the added bonus of discovering a new author in the genre.
|Original 1928 edition cover, from Sundial Press|
"What we seek, and what we also half-fear, is all around us, always, had we the necessary calm intentness to discern it. "
"connoisseur of the curious, of those glimpses of another domain which are vouchsafed to certain individuals and in certain places."
The Connoisseur is a nickname given to this man by Valentine, who with the Connoisseur's consent, "dependent on anonymity and all necessary discretion," recounts "some of his encounters with this realm. " The narrator notes that while the Connoisseur is far from wealthy, he "supplements a decent inheritance" with "administrative work," he "shuns many of the contrivances of modern living," and is therefore able to indulge in a "keen pleasure in all the art forms." He is a seeker of knowledge and a walking encyclopedia of the arcane; if there's something he does not know, he knows any number of people to whom he can turn for answers. The mysteries he encounters are often built around some sort of cultural artifact either in his possession or brought to his attention, for example, in the first story "The Effigies," the narrator is looking at a "dark earthenware jug of quite perfect form" on the Connoisseur's mantel, sparking a story about his friend's visit to its creator, Austin Blake, renowned maker of "amphorae and delicate vessels" who had suddenly stopped producing at the height of his fame. There are also a few occasions in which Valentine accompanies the Connoisseur and witnesses events firsthand.
"These then, the wondrous, the spectral and the aesthetical, were the airs floating around me when I began to think whether I could go one step further than reading, and try writing, the sort of fiction I enjoyed."
It is this sense of the "wondrous, the spectral and the aesthetical" that he and in the last few stories, John Howard capture here in a style that reflects the writing of those previously-mentioned authors who came before, but still manages to remain quite original. Not everyone can carry off the voice of times past in his or her writing, but here it is pitch perfect. The last six of these stories were collaborations between the two authors, and anyone who's read the work of John Howard will recognize his style immediately. These tales are also a bit more fleshed out, with a bit more action involved, and provide a great ending to this collection.
I loved these stories, all of which on the whole offered days of fascinating reading, but of course and as always there were a few that stood out. "In Violet Veils" is probably my favorite of the collection, in which an experiment in the "revived art of the tableau vivant" results in a warning by the Connoisseur that
"such curious re-enactments were not to be essayed without some peril of affecting, in unforeseen ways, those involved: who could tell what might result from such a hearkening back to the original power of the mythological image portrayed?"
He knows whereof he speaks, having experienced firsthand an eventful, bizarre tableau vivant in the past. "In Violet Veils" has the feel of the decadent/symbolist literature I love to read, with more than a touch of the weird that gives it an extra edge of eerieness. In "The Craft of Arioch" the Connoisseur relates to Valentine his strange experience during a "walking holiday" in Sussex with his cousin Rebecca. Having left "the high roads and the dormitory towns" and traveling the "winding roads and nestling villages," they eventually find themselves at a barn where they expect to find hand-crafted rocking horses. Let's just say after a ride on a "cross between a horse and a white dragon," and "a winged cat with preternaturally pointed ears and peridot eyes," they return from "unknown regions" and "a plane of experience different to anything we may find in this world." "Sea Citadels," "The Mist on the Mere," "The White Solander" and "The Descent of the Fire" round out the list.
At the beginning of "The Secret Stars" The Connoisseur in conversation with Valentine notes the following:
"What we seek, and what we also half-fear, is all around us, always, had we the necessary calm intentness to discern it."
The Connoisseur's "rare glimpses" are the very heart and soul of this book.
The Collected Connoisseur is one to read curled up in your favorite reading space, hot cup of something or other in hand. Like the Connoisseur, I am quite partial to Qimen/Keemun tea; I am also one of those people described on the back cover blurb -- "the lover of esoteric mystery and adventure fiction. " More to the point, I am also in complete awe of Valentine and Howard's visionary writing here and elsewhere. Every reader of the weird, the fantastical, and of the occult should have The Collected Connoisseur sitting on his or her shelves. No collection would be complete without it.
"is in some ways the foremother of Octavia E. Butler, and Tanarive Due, and many of today's leading science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors -- primarily because she's another African-descended woman using a popular genre to write speculatively about hard philosophical questions, surprising truths, and the wonders of the occult."
At the beginning of this novel Reuel Briggs is contemplating "the riddle of whence and whither," which not too much later he will say the solving of which is his life; it is "that alone" that he lives for. I marked this passage and after finishing this book, came back to it, finding it beyond appropriate given what happens in this story.
Briggs is a poor Harvard medical student, a black man who keeps his heritage hidden because of the "infernal prejudice" that "closes the door of hope." An authority on "brain diseases," and a believer in "supernatural phenomena or mysticism," he often contributed articles to scientific magazines on the topic to help pay the rent. While we are privy early on to a few of his visions, it isn't until he is called to the hospital after a train wreck to help out a woman whom the doctors have pronounced dead that we discover that Reuel also has certain powers. His diagnosis is that no, the woman isn't dead but rather in a state of "suspended animation," and has also been "long and persistently subjected to mesmeric influences. " Knowing this, he is able to reanimate her, although her memory has been affected; he also discovers that he is in love with her. Eventually he decides he wants to marry this woman, Dianthe Lusk, and they become engaged, but as a poor student, he can in no way afford to offer her a decent life. Unfortunately, his attempts at finding a medical job are thwarted, and at this very low point, Reuel's closest friend, a certain Aubrey Livingston, has great news for him: he can make quite a bit of money as a "medical man" for an expedition going from England to "the site of ancient Ethiopian cities" to "unearth buried cities and treasure which the shiftng sands of the Sahara have buried for centuries." Livingston has the connections to make this happen, but the catch is that there is a two-year commitment. Although at first he doesn't want to be away from Dianthe, but being practical about the whole thing, he decides he'll take the job. They marry, and leaving her in the care Livingston's fiancée, off he goes, dreaming of "the possibility of unearthing gems and gold from the mines of Ancient Meroe and the pyramids of Ethiopia." And while in Africa, as the back-cover blurb describes, as Briggs faces "unexpected danger" before making some startling discoveries about himself in the hidden city of Telassar, he has no clue that life for Dianthe back home has also taken a rather sinister turn. It seems that Livingston's help in getting Briggs the job on the expedition was not given out of love for his best friend, but rather for that of Dianthe. Before this story is over, there will be further twists that build up to a number of beyond-surprising revelations, and what Briggs finds in Ethiopia will be a treasure far more valuable than any he may have imagined.
I don't think this is a novel that you read so much for plot -- keeping in mind that this story was written in 1902, it must have been positively mind-boggling at the time, perhaps holding out some measure of hope and redemption to its readers. It is a truly visionary novel that in the long run transcends plot, and in that sense it remains an important work still relevant today. Of One Blood moves well beyond the combination (as Shawl notes in the introduction) of Victorian society novel and lost-world narrative to explore "contemporary racial issues" through a variety of lenses, ultimately positing a hidden truth or two that upends everything and has, as she says "cosmologically expansive implications." I don't wish to divulge how this comes about, but if you really want to know, you can go to Tor's website where she has written pretty much the same material that appears in her introduction to this book. I will caution that it gives away the show so that reader awe may be diminished, and the same goes if you have this particular edition of the novel and you read the introduction before launching into the story.
I'll also note that my edition is part of the Horror Writers Association series of Haunted Library of Horror Classics and that across the top of the front cover it says that the book is from "the first great female horror writer of color." I'd call it more speculative fiction myself, but the recognition of Pauline Hopkins and her work is well deserved and very long overdue.
"He had come to this place to make one final effort to retrieve his fortunes. That effort had failed. He had put what little remained to him into various companies -- awaiting the boom -- and no boom had ensued...He was ruined."
Things look so bleak for him that he picks up his gun, contemplating suicide, but in his room the face of Lilith Ormskirk, a young, independent woman whom he'd met on the passage from Southampton, comes to him and saves him at the last moment. But what to do now? As far as Stanninghame is concerned, he would sell his soul "to the devil himself." Not too long afterwards, a certain Hazon offers him the opportunity to go up country and "come back a fairly rich man." As rumor has it, Hazon has taken men up country before, but "not one of them has ever returned." Laurence, however, views the opportunity as "the suggestion of adventure "on a magnificent scale, and with magnificent results, if successful." As the back-cover blurb reveals, Hazon is a slave trader, but as Laurence says at one point,
"The one thing to make life worth living is wealth. I will stick at nothing to obtain it -- nothing! Without it life is a hell; with it -- well, life is at one's feet. There is nothing one cannot do with it -- nothing!"
And indeed, he seems to have few qualms about what he does, feeling as though he is complying with the "iron immutable law of life" of "Preyer or preyed upon." As he sheds the trappings of "that damned respectability" while traveling deeper into the interior with Hazon over the next few years, he is captured and taken into the hidden realm of the so-named "People of the Spider." There he is somewhat hesitantly accepted among the tribespeople, but in time Stanninghamme finds himself, as the back-cover blurb reveals, "marked out as a sacrifice to the monstrous spider-god."
"Every conventionality violated, every rule of morality, each set aside, had brought him nothing but good to him and his,"
but for me, the question here centers on the price he has paid and will continue to pay in the long run. I have to say that I thought I'd be reading a sort of rugged pulp adventure story complete with a cryptid arachnid thrown into the bargain, but what I got instead was a story that has a depth I was not at all expecting.
Save the excellent introduction for last, but most certainly do not skip it, as it adds even more to the reading of this novel.
With the acknowledgment that it's tough going subjectwise, I can certainly recommend this novel, and I'm looking forward to reading the other book by this author now sitting on my shelves, The Weird of Deadly Hollow.
"peered blankly through the clinging ivy, striking into the spectator's mind a latent suggestion of guarded horrors lying concealed behind..."
all of which, it seems, was pleasing to the elder brother's "naturally morbid imagination." As just a brief aside, let me say that those three words struck a chord, keeping me on guard through the remainder of the novel. We also learn that aside from the two brothers, this family also consisted of an uncle, who had once been a "nameless adventurer and wanderer" now a "human derelict" whose mind had been affected by a long history of drug use of every kind, as well as an old nurse who in her own way continues to look after the two siblings.
I won't say much in the way of plot -- I could talk about it all day but in the long run, it's better to go into this book knowing little more than what's revealed on the back cover blurb. I will say that it is quite clear that there is something not right from the outset. As the elder brother begins writing this account of events, he reveals that he is "curiously liable to ... fits" when thinking of the younger, now dead, to the point of the ink turning "red upon the paper," the pen "dripping with blood," and "the horror" surging before his eyes. This is quite strange, given that he goes on to describe their past relationship as one of "great unspoken love," sharing "the same heart, the same mind, equal portions of the same soul," and the fact that they "understood each other so well that speech was often unnecessary." Something has obviously changed, and throughout the first part of this book, so aptly entitled "The Foreshadowing," we discover what that is as we follow the course of events involving two men who loved the same woman driving the elder to, as the back-cover blurb notes, a "murderous jealousy" that will change the lives of all three involved. The second and darkest part of Tenebrae, "The Under-Shadow," becomes a dizzying amalgamation of madness, mania, guilt and vengeance, all coming together in the form of a giant spider, "the most hideous of gaolers."
This isn't a book I read in fits and starts -- it's actually impossible to stop reading once begun. It is a novel that moves well beyond disturbing, owing to Henham's most excellent and atmospheric writing that has produced some of the most nightmarish imagery I've encountered over the course of my reading. Do not bypass the excellent introduction by Gerald Monsman, but I would suggest leaving it until the last.
Very highly recommended, especially to readers who like myself, love this older stuff -- it may be well over one hundred years old, but the horror it carries hasn't faded over the years. Not one iota.
"within the context of a hallucination a brief tribute to the extravagant fringe of the French literary and visual imagination."
I couldn't help myself -- Gautier's drug-induced encounters and dreams made me laugh out loud, as did Charles Newill's "The Club of Hilarants," in which a man gets his comeuppance after rejecting a suitor's offer for his niece's hand in marriage. The mood changes from humorous after X.B. Saintine's "The Doctor's Hallucinations: A Moving Terrain. The Danae Delusions" with Marcel Schwob's "The Portals of Opium," in which curiosity (and opium) lead a man with "a desire for strange experience" to become "lost -- as wretched as Job." Speaking of exoticism, you can't do better than "Opium and Smara" by Jean Lorrain which I'd read before (although it was a great, decadent pleasure to read them again), but Jane de La Vaudère's "Parisian Orgies," my favorite tale in this book, exemplifies it. The description of the "great hall of the Moulin Bleu," for example, stopped me in my tracks with some of the most descriptive prose to be found in this anthology:
"There were Hindu Pyres there, surrounded by byaderes with gauze langoutis, tragic mourners and Brahmin sacrificers. Egyptian houses, boats of flowers, gallant guinguettes, Byzantine Palaces and prehistoric grottoes offered women of all colors, all sellers of lust. The Moloch of Salammbo reared up in a corner, gigantic and terrifying, and the faint sounds of kisses departed from niches where cardboard gods raised their murderous arms. The priestesses of amour, always ready for sweet sacrifices, only had to disturb their jewels to offer their flesh to caresses..."
but that is nothing compared to her descriptions of what follows at the "rendezvous of the Ladybird" cabaret. According to the editor, this story "first appeared as three chapters in the novel Les Androgynes, roman passionel," in 1903, later appearing in Snuggly's The Demi-Sexes and the Androgynes, which after reading this story, I immediately pulled from my shelves onto the physical tbr pile. The last story I'll mention is also delightfully decadent and bizarre, "The Night of Hashish and Opium" by Maurice Magre, which begins with a woman in India encountering three bad omens before undertaking a strange encounter at the Pagoda of Chillambaram.