Here are a couple of perilous goodies of which I’ve partaken:
A Long Fatal Love Chaseby Louisa May Alcott
“I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom,” cries Rosamond Vivian to her callous grandfather. A brooding stranger seduces her from the remote island onto his yacht. Trapped in a web of intrigue, cruelty, and deceit, she flees to Italy, France, Germany, from Paris garret to mental asylum, from convent to chateau – stalked by obsessed Phillip Tempest. (via Goodreads)
This was a “lost” novel from Louisa May Alcott. After an eventful European tour, Alcott returned home and began writing a serial in order to help provide for her family. (This was before the publication of Little Women.) A Long Fatal Love Chase is sensational, melodramatic, and sometimes over-wrought. There is a bit of swooning, but also a heroine who escapes via balconies, disguises, intricate plans. I enjoyed this books quite a bit.
Haunters: The Art of the Scare (2017)
I have a confession: Aside from the very tame haunted “ride” at Peony Park, I’ve never been to a haunted house. Honestly, I have no desire to, but I am curious about how these attractions are created, who runs them, and who works at them. I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror, but I’ve always loved make-up and practical special effects. This is a really interesting documentary about all of those things. Haunters also addresses extreme haunted/torture houses, a relatively new phenomenon which I really don’t understand.
It’s all about ladies being spookily in love this week:
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo – I’m at 20%. I expected a few more supernatural aspects, but there’s a lot of book left.
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott – I’m nearly 100 pages in and it’s still ridiculous fun.
…a few gothic short stories for good measure.
And starting Saturday:
Yep, pre- and post- readathon readathons. And a Something Wicked This Way Comes read-along and watch-along. Can October get any better? All the details are up on the Seasons of Reading blog.
What do I have on my #Frightfall TBR?
I like the concept of cover albums where each track of an album has been covered by a different artist. Nightmare Revisited is one of my favorites of that genre. (And tell me that Flyleaf’s cover of “What’s This” can’t nearly double as a Christmas song?)
Well, our first “for real” frisbee league game was rained out last week. On one hand, yay! rain! On the other, boo! soggy fields. Such is life in the Valley of the Sun. We are finally down around the 100F mark for highs—fall is here! 🍂
I sometimes forget that gothic literature is more often than not “romantic” literature. So many gothic stories are centered on match-making and weddings and star-crossed lovers. So far, a good number of my Gothic September stories highlight this very thing.
“Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1839) – Schalken, a poor painter, is in love with Rose Velderkaust, the niece of his mentor. Although he isn’t the richest or most handsome, Rose is a bit keen on him too. Alas, a mysterious stranger with a chest of gold asks for Rose’s hand in marriage and Uncle Douw can’t refuse. Rose disappears on the way to her new home in Rotterdam and Schalken is left to discover her fate. Le Fenu uses a nested narrative to tell this tale as part of The Purcell Papers. Rev. Purcell relates Schalken’s story as a story told to him by the owner of Schalken’s painting of events. Unnecessarily labyrinthine? Maybe.
“The Dream Woman” by Wilkie Collins (1874) – The subtitle of this story is “A Mystery in Four Narratives” and Collins also engages stories being told to others. We start with Percy Fairbank and his wife encountering a hostler, Francis, suffering from a nightmare (during the day, when he should be attending to his duties). Francis tells his story of a mysterious woman who he met on 2am of the night of his birthday. He married her, but through a dream he knows she will bring him ruin. Fairbank then relates how he tried to help Francis, but it’s all too obvious that his efforts will be in vain. The last narrative is that of a man set to watch over Francis on the night of his birthday. The set-up for the story is long, but it’s the inevitability that is chilling.
“The Ebony Frame” by Edith Nesbit (1893) – The narrator of “The Ebony Frame” has matrimonial problems as well. He’s engaged-ish to Mildred, a “dear good girl,” but he believes his destiny is the beautiful Pre-Raphaelite woman who inhabits a painting that he inherited. She totally real; he’s sure of it. “The Ebony Frame” is less unsettling than the others, but still entertaining.
In the land of perilous novels, I pulled A Long Fatal Love Chase by Lousia May Alcott from my TBR “jar.” A doomed, scandalous love affair with a tall, dark stranger seems to be the order of the day. More thoughts on it in the future.
Other Perilous Stories of Note
I’d also like to mention a couple of contemporary horror short stories that I read in the last week or so. Definitely worth checking out!
Directed by David Bruckner
Starring Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
I picked this off of Netflix’s horror list just because. The Ritual starts off as a pretty decent “lost in the woods” movie with a slight psychological twist. Four friends take a memorial trip to hike King’s Trail in Sweden. A short-cut takes them deep into the woods and into the sway of the Jötunn and its followers. This movie does for tall, straight trees what The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did for the rev of a two-stroke engine.
I read “Dark Warm Heart” by Rich Larson a couple of weeks ago and was reminded of the wendigo and Blackwood’s contribution to the myth. I figured it would be a great accompaniment to The Ritual. And it is. The horror is as quiet as the wind through the trees. I think I can see some of ETA Hoffmann’s influence as Defago chants about his burning feet, and Blackwood’s influence in John Carpenter’s The Thing as “men” huddle around the campfire.
Directed by André Øvredal
Starring Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck
The wendigo and jotunn led me, of course, to trolls. Trollhunter is a Norwegian found footage film. It isn’t entirely horror and is sometimes slightly on the comedic side. There is a certain ridiculousness to the Troll Security Service, a sort of wildlife control society for trolls, and the film is aware of that. A few moments are pretty tense though. I did really like that the “found footage” is appropriately open-ended and does lack a narrative beat or two.
For someone who joined #FrightFall on Sunday, I haven’t done much frightful reading. My eye was turned by a “romance of the mind” involving Nikola Tesla. But, I promise my next few short stories will be suitable. I have a story from Dark Screams: Volume Eight “due” today, a story from The Architecture of Fear for Deal Me In, and I’m thinking about reading some Clive Barker to learn how to properly torment one of the characters I’m writing.
Peril of the Short Story
The October Reading Club is underway at Facebook. This year Craig, the admin, has gone to an every-other-day posting schedule. The first story was by Lovecraft. I skipped it since I’d just read some Lovecraft and he’s not really my bag. The second story was “The Dancing Partner” by Jerome K. Jerome, which I had just read a couple months back.
The first read-along for Season of the Witch is my favorite Edgar Allan Poe story: “The Masque of the Red Death.”
I went to a small Lutheran school for grades K-6. It had a library that was about the size of my apartment’s front room and kitchen. In this library’s small collection were illustrated Edgar Allan Poe books published by Troll Communications. I clearly remember “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” but there was apparently a version of “A Cask of Amontillado” too. Sure, they were abridgments, but the color illustrations were glorious. I checked them out often and they cemented my love of Poe at an early age.*
I always forget how short “The Masque of the Red Death” is. In less than 2500 words, Poe conjures a world dying a bloody death, a selfish prince, *and* gives us a lot of architectural details. The only place that the illustrated version of “Red Death” falls down is in its depiction of Prince Prospero’s abbey. I was going to call it a hall, and I had thought of it in the past as a series of drawing rooms, but, in the text, it is an abbey. Nothing matches what my mind’s eye has built from Poe’s plans.
A subtlety I noticed this time around, probably because I’ve been thinking about Romanticism since rereading Frankenstein, inside the abbey is a Romantic ideal of beauty. In fact, it’s literally Beauty with a capital B. At the end of the story we’re left with Death and Decay with capital Ds.
* Don’t worry. My mom was the school librarian and most people agree that I turned out alright.
Other Small Perils
I joined the October Reading Club on Facebook. The community features a short story every day throughout October. I haven’t read every story, but I’ve gotten a few in.
It was after midnight that the candle in the alcove suddenly went out,
and the black shadow sprang back to its place there. I did not see the
candle go out; I simply turned and saw that the darkness was there, as one
might start and see the unexpected presence of a stranger.
Brown was the first to break the silence that followed. He asked me if I had any brandy on board. He said he felt he should like just a nip of brandy before going to bed. That is one of the chief charms of Jephson’s stories: they always make you feel you want a little brandy.
It was the design of Angelo Ricci and Joe Czanek and Manuel Silva to call on the Terrible Old Man. This old man dwells all alone in a very ancient house on Water Street near the sea, and is reputed to be both exceedingly rich and exceedingly feeble; which forms a situation very attractive to men of the profession of Messrs. Ricci, Czanek, and Silva, for that profession was nothing less dignified than robbery.