For the past couple years, the approach of Halloween has prompted me to re-read my Lovecraft anthologies. This year, although I’ll probably watch my DVD of The Eldritch Influence: The Life, Vision and Phenomenon of H.P. Lovecraft sometime in the next two days, I’m holding off on the books; the stories are too fresh in my mind, and I think that if I read them now they’d seem flat. Instead, inspired in part by cleolinda’s forays into Gothic literature, I’ve excavated some other tales of the uncanny from my Wall o’ Media.
I started with The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, which contains chillers like F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth,” Bram Stoker’s “The Judge’s House,” M.R. James’s “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” (which must have influenced Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness), and “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (a tale whose author I never remember, and whose plot I’ll never forget). I bought this book ages ago, and halfway through I began wondering if I’d ever read it to the end, because there some excellent stories that were completely unfamiliar; one that particularly stood out was “A Story of Don Juan” by V.S. Pritchett, though that may be due in part to a recent viewing of Russell T. Davies’s Casanova.
Next was The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins. It just occured to me that it would make a good companion piece to The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James (which I read in college): both feature characters who believe themselves doomed to catastrophe, though James’s John Marcher allows his forebodings to trap him in stasis, while Collins’s Countess Narona runs headlong into loveless marriage, fraud, murder, and insanity. Guess which story I enjoyed more.
Today I’ve been wavering between Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, also by Collins, and a volume from the Library of the World’s Best Mystery and Detective Stories with two sections titled Oriental Mystery Stories and True Stories of Modern Magic. Though ultimately I might set both aside in favor of Best Ghost Stories of J.S. LeFanu, which I’d completely forgotten about until I ran across it as I took down my copy of Dark Ladies so I could verify the title of the Leiber story I mention in the third paragraph.
ETA: Links to the stories under the LJ cuts!