Review of The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

lovecraft

Wow, reading through some reviews of this collection, I’m astonished to see so much negative criticism.  A lot of that criticism seems to focus on Lovecraft’s use of arcane language.  Should I be worried that I don’t find it arcane at all?

What Lovecraft does so brilliantly is to attempt to describe a truly alien horror – not like Star Trek aliens who are only men with knobby foreheads, but forces which do not reference the human at all.  That’s not a easy task, but Lovecraft, along with Blackwood (“The Willows”) tries to do the impossible and does it very well, imo. The freaky geometry and almost obscene language of the world of Cthulhu speak of another dimension.

Upon retiring, he had had an unprecedented dream of great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror. Hieroglyphics had covered the walls and pillars, and from some undetermined point below had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmute into sound, but which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters, “Cthulhu fhtagn”.

As you can probably tell, “The Call of Cthulhu” is one of my favourite stories in this collection.  My second favourite is “Rats in the Walls”.  Lovecraft is dated in that he writes in the style of the “gentleman scholars” of the 1930s – men like James and Blackwood and Onions and Benson.  Yes, these do seem like highly repressed individuals, but that was probably more common in those days. I find it charming. “Rats” does not contain the same cosmic horror as the other stories, but a more human, ancient one.  I’ve read this story many, many times and there is something so palpably, gelatinously horrifying about the underground city discovered by the protagonist.

Lovecraft was a misanthrope and so perhaps it is fellow misanthropes who can most properly appreciate his message and style.  He despaired at any attempt at human enlightenment and believed we were a race destined to be crushed by immensities we were incapable of understanding.

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Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker

dracula

When I first tried reading Dracula, I got frustrated.  I thought it needed editing and I didn’t like the way it jumped from one narrative perspective to another.  I’ve since changed my mind and I now regard this novel as one of the best ever written.

The fractured narrative stems from the fact that the novel is really a collection of documents: someone has put together all the evidence regarding Dracula.  The documents are in chronological order and we hear many voices throughout.  One narrative voice confirms and adds to another voice: we end up with a chorus.

The story, though very melodramatic (as befits a good Victorian novel) is actually quite gripping and I don’t think anyone has written a more exciting ending in fiction.  I’ve now re-read this novel twenty or more times, and I find myself more and more moved by the writing and the characters.  I once detested Lucy but now I find her story and her fate very sad.  The sequence where she describes her dream while under the Vampire spell is beautifully and tragically poetic.

In fact, the writing is amazingly lush in many parts – just sample the sequence about the attempted seduction of Jonathon by the Vampire Brides.

All in all, this is a thoroughly exquisite, exciting, and touching novel.

Review of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

haunting

Incomparable classic horror novel.  As a child, the film adaption of this novel was my favourite. I wasn’t even familiar with the term Gothic but I did know I loved a creepy, old-timey horror story.

Jackson’s novel is spectacularly creepy but it is also filled with 3 dimensional characters and this makes the reader even more unnerved.  At the heart of everything is the lonely Eleanor.  Life outside Hill House is so dismal, that the horrors within are actually strangely comforting to her.

I can’t pick a favourite bit, but the picnic scene, where the surroundings suddenly because a photographic negative is probably one of the finest sequences ever written in a horror story.

Oh, and if you are familiar with The Hero’s Journey, you will find it fits this novel admirably.

You can’t really call yourself a horror fan, imo, unless you’ve read this classic!

Review of The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

willows

I always like to think about the transgressions of the protagonists in horror stories.  Something has to cause/invite the horror. In The Willows, the narrator and the Swede eschew human civilization and in doing so, they unwittingly enter into a forbidden territory: “we allowed laughingly to one another that we ought by rights to have held some special kind of passport to admit us, and that we had, somewhat audaciously, come without asking leave into a separate little kingdom of wonder and magic–a kingdom that was reserved for the use of others who had a right to it, with everywhere unwritten warnings to trespassers…”

As is usual in horror, despite the many warnings the protagonists receive, they arrogantly or naively persist in their journey. The narrator’s dismissive tone soon changes. The moral of this story appears to be that man has his place in the world, but there are some spaces/places that are not meant for him.  The narrator and the Swede stumble onto what appears to be a conduit to another universe or realm.  The forces of man and of alien cannot co-exist: one of them must be destroyed. Clearly, there must be areas left on earth that are unsullied by the human race: there must be some room allotted to The Other.

This is a masterly, chilling tale.  It’ll certainly be considered a bit slow in its pacing by modern audiences; however, if they have the patience, they’ll certainly be rewarded.

Printed Books

I am in the process of trying to figure out how to have POD copies of both He Sees You When You’re Sleeping and Matachewan available on Createspace.com.

More info soon…

Matachewan

My newest collection of literary short stories is now available on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Matachewan-ebook/dp/B009EFSC1G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348370973&sr=8-1&keywords=matachewan

There are 10 postcard stories of about 1,000 words each.  Here’s a bit of the introduction:

“Here is a collection of postcard fiction: the autobiographical mixed with the purely fanciful/

WahWashKesh in central Ontario, Matachewan in Northern Ontario, Major Street in Toronto: these are all the haunts of my childhood.  Not where we lived but where we vacationed (if you can call spending the night at my grandmother’s house a vacation.)  How these places weave spells as the years pass.”

Adrift

Received a really cool review on my short story “Adrift” available for free on Smashwords.com:

“An impeccably written and accomplished work; intriguing and sensuous in its
language. Dark and brooding, with a tang of hidden menace. Delightful imagery,
with an old world sense of mystery.”

Well, I had a r…

Well, I had a reader get in touch with me to let me know which stories in He Sees You When You’re Sleeping were favs.  This time Memora Me and Adrift got the biggest thumbs up.  Adrift was described as follows: “Adrift was different from anything i’ve really read before, it was creepy and really built up, thought it was amazing.”

I’m really glad to hear that because I was a little concerned that it was too slow a build and I might lose the reader before things starting heating up.  I’m really gratified to learn that that isn’t necessarily an issue.  I love a slow build if it leads somewhere good!

I’ve made Adrift a free story on Smashwords for anyone who wants to check it out:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/156141

I’m also looking into the possiblity of recording my short story collection as an audiobook. I’ll definitely post about it here if that ever becomes a reality.

Cheers,

Lisa