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29 August 2008 @ 12:30 am
Ready for autumn  


Danielle's post on Carl's R.I.P. Challenge made me aware of this yearly event running from 1 September through 31 October, when participants read one, two, or four books fitting into the following categories:

Dark Fantasy

Usually these challenges don't appeal to me because all too soon it starts to feel like homework, but reading one book of your choice must be doable for anyone and as I had planned on reading a few scary novels this autumn anyway, I decided to join and do Peril #2: read two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories.

Scouring my shelves I was surprised to find at least 25 books that fitted into these categories. Here is my shortlist of 9 titles:

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle — a recent addition to my library

Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue — also bought recently

Albert Sánchez Piñol: Nachtlicht (La pell freda/Cold Skin)

A.A. Merritt: Burn, Witch, Burn! — pulp, but a R.I.P.ing yarn nevertheless. I tore through this twice when I was a teen (in the Dutch translation, with the less sensationalist title De poppen van Madame Mandilip), and probably will again. Public domain.

W.F. Hermans: De donkere kamer van Damokles (The Darkroom of Damocles) — this is also a reread. The English translation that appeared recently is very good and I urge everyone to read it, because this brilliant Dutch classic deserves a wider audience.

Poppy Z. Brite: His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and other stories

A.M. Homes: The End of Alice

Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White

Shirley Jackson: The Lottery — a (very) short story, also public domain.

I hope to be able to read four of these, but as I had already planned on reading some other books in September, I will be happy with two.

Oh yes, and I intend to watch The Woman in Black (based on the novel by Susan Hill), and A Bucket of Blood. Finally!

Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Watching the detectives - Elvis Costello
castallia: bookcastallia on August 28th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
I really liked The Woman in White. I hope you enjoy it also!
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on August 29th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
I'm sure I will, it's not a classic for nothing! :)
heartofdavid: davidcoffeedavidheartofdavid on August 29th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
I was thinking of you only a few minutes ago. I started Hermans' "Beyond Sleep", only read the first 10 pages or so but already feel that cozy, sucked-in feeling - falling into the world of the book, hearing the characters speak, seeing what they're seeing - that's usually the sign of a good book.

I also liked "The Woman in White", and "The Moonstone" by Collins. Good reads.

Have you read any A.M. Homes? I've only read some of the stories in "The Safety of Objects" - fascinatingly weird stories but very cold emotionally (distanced). Never get the impression that the happenings could occur beyond the paper page. In really good fantasy or horror, no matter how far-fetched the concepts, I always feel "well, this might happen, you never know" and that's what makes it scary for me, the possibility. *babbling again*
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on August 29th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
*beams* I hope you'll like Beyond Sleep, do let me know! I think I wrote before that both books are very different (The Darkroom of Damocles a thriller and Beyond Sleep more of a black comedy), but they're both great in my opinion.

No, I bought The End of Alice 11 years ago, and I have only read bits of it here and there so far (the prison scenes seemed realistic enough to me). If I don't like the book I don't think I'll try anything else by her. A friend of mine read This Book Will Save Your Life and was not impressed.

In really good fantasy or horror, no matter how far-fetched the concepts, I always feel "well, this might happen, you never know" and that's what makes it scary for me, the possibility.

For me it depends a lot on time and place whether I find something plausible and scary. I've already told you I couldn't believe in vampires hanging outside someone's window begging to be let in and that person actually being stupid enough to open the window for them.

But when reading The Shining in bed at night I was scared to go to the bathroom — turning on all the lights on my way there, and then seeing the shower curtain rustling and moving in the draught I would imagine that there was somebody — something — behind it waiting for me. However, when reading the book in the clear light of day I wasn't scared by it at all, the magic was gone — in fact, the story even became slightly ridiculous in my eyes.

(Um, who is babbling here?)
heartofdavid: greenskyheartofdavid on August 30th, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
I'm a little more than half way through Beyond Sleep, Alfred's started the expedition, the Lapp strong man has just departed, and the existence of God (or people's need for a God) is being debated. A comedy of errors and an every-man story - Alfred is very specifically drawn but he's generic in that it is so easy to identify with him. Laughed at how when he couldn't fall asleep, his mind created a mosquito dialogue - that was brilliant, and funny.

For me it depends a lot on time and place whether I find something plausible and scary.
Yeah, that can work for me too - the dark, or a dismal day, are settings that can make me more susceptible to the creepy power of a book. Other times no, and I think that bright light and everyday noises don't have any effect on banishing the spooked feeling.

Edited at 2008-08-30 01:28 pm (UTC)
callmemadam: bookscallmemadam on August 29th, 2008 08:12 am (UTC)
The Woman in White is terrific, as is The Moonstone. I always get the urge to read these in January. I have a copy of The Woman in Black but I've never dared read it! Nothing would induce me to read any dark fantasy or horror.
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on August 29th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
Yours is the third recommendation in a row for Wilkie Collins! Now I must definitely read him, but I think I will follow your idea and wait until winter.

I am just as scared to watch The Woman in Black as you are to read it! I think I will watch it in the daytime and when it gets really scary, keep telling myself that it's only Pauline Moran, whom I need not be afraid of because she also plays the wonderfully efficient Miss Lemon and there is nothing scary about her. Who knows, it might help.

I think you might like the Hermans book. It is a psychological novel/thriller with lots of suspense set in World War II. Such a shame it is only available in an expensive hardcover edition.
carl_v on August 29th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
So glad you're participating in the challenge. Your entire list is one I would love to read! Looks great. I am especially interested in The Victorian Chaise-longue. I'm going to have to order a copy of that. I've been wanting to order from Persephone for some time anyway!
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on August 29th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm looking forward to it very much!

The Victorian Chaise-longue was one of the first books I ordered from Persephone, the story sounded very interesting. Hope you'll enjoy it too!
(Anonymous) on September 2nd, 2008 10:36 am (UTC)
Nice list! I really need to get round to reading something by Poppy Z. Brite. I have a Subterranean Press edition of Antediluvian Tales on the shelf, I should probably pick it up in the near future!

~ Quixotic http://blog.quixoticmiss.com
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on September 2nd, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I have only read Exquisite Corpse by her so far, but I must say that was a bit too gruesome for my taste.

The one on my list is a small Penguin book with four short stories, maybe I'll like those more.

Antedeluvian Tales sounds very good, a bit of a departure from her other works, it seems.