Deal Me In, Week 37 ~ “The Witch”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Witch” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 3
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
Johnny is traveling by train with his mother and baby sister. Since the train car isn’t very full, Johnny is sitting on his own across the aisle. He says “Hi” to passersby and imagines seeing witches outside the window and telling them to go away. Johnny like to tell the occasional fib (“What is your name?” “Jesus”), but surely that’s what four-year-olds do. His mother is enjoying some quiet reading time in between taking care of Johnny’s sister. All is well until a man with a cigar stays to chat with Johnny. “Shall I tell you about my little sister?” the man asks.

“I bought her a rocking-horse and a doll and a million lollipops,” the man said, “and then I took her and I put my hands around her neck and I pinched her and I pinched her until she was dead.”

Of course, this rattles Johnny’s mother. The man continues. Johnny is amused. Mother is appalled. Finally, she manages to shoe the man away. “He was teasing,” she tells Johnny.

And we’re left with another mother in a Shirley Jackson story who isn’t a bad mother, but we wonder if this happenstance (could it have been prevented?) will leave some terrible scar on her child. And what are we to think of Johnny’s lying? There is a very thick feeling of judgement in these stories even though nothing is explicitly stated.

Peril of the Short Story

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Deal Me In, Week 36 ~ “Where the Heart Is”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Where the Heart Is” by Ramsey Campbell

Card picked: 3
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer & Peter D. Pautz

The Story
Our narrator (unnamed) is writing to the current resident of what had been his house. He relates his circumstances: He sold the house after his wife died, but he increasingly regrets the decision. He is troubled by their renovations; memories of his life with his wife seem to have disappeared along with the wall they removed between the dining room and living room. He knows about this change because he *did* make an extra key. He is, in fact, writing this at the dining room table. He intends to stay in the house…

Now this is a story that lives up to my hopes for this anthology. Delightfully unsettling. Through our narrator’s memories, the house feels like an actual place rather than a prop. And it plays with the notion of a haunted house, one that will just become more haunted.

Peril of the Short Story

Perilous Updates, Week 1

Peril of the Short Story

This week’s short story is part of Gothic September: “Berenice – A Tale” by Edgar Allan Poe. (According to a note “Berenice” rhymes with “very spicy.”)

I believe this is the first time I’ve read this story or, if I have previously, it was a long time in the past. Egæus, our narrator, tells of his cousin Berenice. As they grew up together, she was always the vital, adventurous one while he was more than content to remain in the library. Indeed, Egæus’ obsessive interests in various subjects often drive him to distraction. Alas, a sickness strikes Berenice and afterward she isn’t the same. Her behavior changes as well as her appearance. Egæus assures us that he was never in love with his cousin, though he knew she was beautiful. After her illness, he finds her repulsive…especially her teeth.

In many ways, this is a quintessential Poe story. Narrator suffering from monomania? Check. Doomed female cousin? Check. Illness with death-like symptoms? Check. Zinger ending? Check. What sets “Berenice” apart is the narrator’s self-awareness (before concluding events) of his obsessions. This is one of Poe’s earlier tales, written in 1835, but I can see how Egæus might lead one day to Dupin.

I had chalked Berenice’s change to general, ill-defined, sudden sickness while reading the story. The rest of my perilous week lead me to wonder about…vampirism!

gothic sept button

Hosted by Michelle @ Castle Macabre

Continue reading “Perilous Updates, Week 1”

Deal Me In, Week 35 ~ “Ellen, in Her Time”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Ellen, in Her Time” by Charles L. Grant

Card picked: 4♠
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer and Peter D. Pautz

Timothy has recently suffered a devastating loss, of whom we don’t quite know at first. He’s having problems doing much more than visit the cemetery and return home to Ellen making comforting hot chocolate any time of the day or night… Okay, that’s a little weird…

Timothy away from home is a different man. When he does manage to go in to work, he is a very slick, and therefore successful, car salesman. He’s a bit of a ladies man with a good collection of phone numbers. Always has been.

Even when Ellen was alive.

This anthology is continuing to be rather lackluster, but at least the house in this story has a larger role than the places and buildings in several of the other tales. Timothy in his modest home with the memories/ghost of Ellen doesn’t really feel regretful for being unfaithful or unthoughtful, but he doesn’t feel the need to go anywhere either. The house seems to like it that way.

Mini Reviews, Vol. 8

MiniReviews
Sometimes, I don’t have a lot to say other than, “Man, I liked this.” So, here are some things I’ve liked recently.

alt text The Janus Tree by Glen Hirshberg

Two stories from this anthology that are going to stick with me: “You Become the Neighborhood” and “Shomer.” “You Become the Neighborhood” has a rather ambiguous path and maybe a zigger ending, but, man, the ending is enough to make any arachnophobe uneasy. “Shomer” is a more direct tale and more indicative of Hirshberg’s ability evoke creepiness. In both cases, Hirshberg takes what is “normal,” points out the shadows and uncertainty, and then populates those places with… well…

Interestingly, this collection also includes “Like Lick Em Sticks, Like Tina Fey,” which would seem to be the short story jumping off point for the novel Motherless Child. This is a great place the get a taste for that in-progress trilogy.

alt text “Kindred Spirits” by Rainbow Rowell

A charming tale about…waiting in line. Okay, waiting in line for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s also about expectations and assumptions. Elena loves Star Wars and expects to be part of a celebration of that love. Instead, she faces that embarrassment that sometimes occurs when you love something deeply and slightly irrationally—even when among other fans of that thing. The notion of the “true fan” is handled lightly along with how we casually judge others without knowing anything about them.

alt text “Mystery of Asgina Lake” by Caren Rich

It might be the end of the summer vacation for many, but it’s just the beginning for Ella and Lena. This is a solid monster tale from Caren Rich with a great action climax that left me wondering, “What was that ting?!” I also loved that Ella and Lena were just casually tomboyish geek girls. Ella is gung-ho for adventure and Lena goes along, but with a good stock of comic books to keep boredom at bay. Originally included on the Fantastic Creatures Fellowship of Fantasy anthology.

The Janus Tree is 5.5/10 Books of Summer!

Deal Me In, Week 32 ~ “The Gateway of the Monster”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Gateway of the Monster” by William Hope Hodgson

Card picked: A
From: Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson

The Story
For some reason I was under the impression that there was a short story entitled “Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder,” which is what I originally had as my ace of spades story. Apparently there is not(?) and I therefore substituted the first story in the anthology of that name: “The Gateway of the Monster.”

This is the first Carnacki story I’ve read (and maybe my first Hodgson) though he’s been on my TBR list for quite awhile. Carnacki is maybe the quintessential paranormal investigator. This story (the first?) showcases his MO perfectly with a blend of occult know-how and technological invention. I wasn’t expecting that last part. I’m not sure there’s anything more 1910 than the notion of an electric pentacle.

I also enjoyed the allusion to M. R. James’ “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad.” Both hauntings involve moving bedsheets, but Hodgson gives them a rather interesting provenance where James doesn’t bother explaining his ghost at all. While Hodgson gives some closure to the matter, I think James’ is the scarier story.

A thought that crossed my mind: I’m guessing that Shirley Jackson did not have a very solid grounding in the pulp/genre fiction. Carnacki takes more scientific control precautions in this short story than Dr. Montagu does in the entirety of The Haunting of Hill House. For the literary world, was Jackson bringing something new to the table with her paranormal investigator? For the genre world, did Hill House read as very weak horror?

Deal Me In, Week 31 ~ “In the Memory Room”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“In the Memory Room” by Michael Bishop

Card picked: K
From: The Architecture of Fear, ed. by Kathryn Cramer and Peter D. Pautz

The Story

Gina Callan is dead. Her relatives, especially her adopted son Kenny, are not happy with the work the hostess of the Memory Room has done to their loved one. Gina’s glasses and earrings are missing and Kenny claims that the body can’t possibly be that of his mother because his mother had been beautiful. Mrs. Dennis, the hostess, is trying her best and does a little more work on the corpse as the Gina’s family takes a break in the parlor. While she works, Mrs. Dennis overhears family stories and eventually Gina chimes in with her side of things as well.

I’ve read quite a few speculative fiction stories lately that are very light on the “speculative.” This is one of them. There wasn’t much indication of Gina being a ghost or the titular Memory Room being particularly important. Easily, this story could be about a slightly unbalanced funeral home worker who is having trouble dealing with the stress of her job. I was waiting for a little twist, or some more sinister aspect of the Memory Room to reveal itself. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

♣ ♣ ♣

Shin Lim’s latest appearance on Fool Us is not related to this story and only slightly to the card picked. But for Deal Me In purposes, I figured I’d link to this a masterful bit of cardistry.