Tuesday, October 16, 2012


ETA Hoffmann- The Golden Flower Pot, The Automata- The beloved holiday favorite of The Nutcracker comes from this twisted German dude who reviewed Beethoven's new stuff. Chiefly notable for cracking descriptive power and an imagination to which the advance of time has merely added mojo.

Mary Shelley- Frankenstein- Now her we've heard more about. Familiar as we are with the movie versions, once the creature starts bounding around the craggy mountain peaks and starts telling his side, things get really interesting.

Edgar A. Poe- The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart- Master of the short story. Poe works atmosphere and gets into the head of his narrator like nobody else.

RL Stevenson- Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- We take it for granted as an image because it's so effective, but the split-personality story, and the mad doctor story, has never been outdone--in spite of spawning such great works as Altered States and The Silence of the Lambs.

Bram Stoker- Dracula- Still spot on. The dark inventiveness of the first main section from Harker's journal carries the rest of the story.

Shirley Jackson- The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle- The darkest and loneliest writer of all, with sentences as good as Steinbeck's best.

HP Lovecraft- The Colour Out of Space, The Whisperer in Darkness- He started out copying Poe and wound up becoming seminal in terms of unique style and the dark, consistent richness of his universe. Has aliens, tentacles.

Stephen King- The Shining, 'Salem's Lot- Bringing the modern world and all its pop culture brought his stories of death to life at the time they were written. These two novels don't just still hold up, the history they hold of '70s-ness has quite nicely gelled.

Stephen Gilbert- Willard- A top-quality story in every respect, and twist on the Pied Piper, about a guy living with his invalid mother, stuck in the rat-race at work, who finds he can control a whole lot of rats. For awhile.

Ira Levin- Rosemary's Baby- Could be the best Gothic book ever written. Host-woman for Devil-Boy's gestation. Just about interchangeable with the movie.

Washington Irving- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow- Two schools of Gothic thought: On the one hand, there's Ann Radcliffe--Scooby-Doo follows the Radcliffe Gothic model, which says that there really aren't spooks, it was just the wind, basically. And then on the other hand we have Matthew Lewis--the last fifty pages of The Monk are especially sweet--in whose Gothic world the supernatural does exist, and can get you. I love The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but would prefer if Irving weren't so Radcliffe-like in his leanings.

Philip K Dick- Imposter- It's not typical October fare, but Imposter is an exciting and frightening great American short story about artificial life and identity.

William Goldman- Magic- The same guy who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (the most successful Western movie ever) also wrote All the President's Men, and The Princess Bride, and this dark gem about a man and his ventriloquist dummy.

HG Wells- War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau- Big on concept, Wells' strength is not in memorable characters so much as memorable situations, too often disturbingly prescient. Was Wells influenced by the mythological figures of artist Gustave Moreau? Take a Google and see what you think.

Craig Jones- What Happened to Rhodri, Outbreak- Master of the zombie story. Huge on humor, Jones works elements of Poe, Wells, and George Romero in ways that make tales of rotting bodies fresh.

Sheridan LeFanu- Carmilla- Gives Dracula a run for the money as best vampire story--and precedes it, written by a fellow Dubliner.

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