I’ve Had Those Moments
As a woman in my mid-fifties, I’ve experienced the horror expressed in this classic moment of cinematic grand dame guignol. I started a YouTube channel recently, and I admit to spending as much time on my make-up, hair, and flattering lighting as I do my “content.” Like many Virgos, I’m vain. I can relate to that famous literary Virgo, Blanche DuBois, who once bemoaned about the “hard knocks my vanity has taken,” and she was only in her thirties at the time.
Vivien Leigh still looks damn good under the bare light bulb. My God, Tennessee Williams was a genius. Check in time at the Tarantula Arms. It doesn’t get any better than that.
The days have been cool and misty. Fall is my favorite time of year, and this year feels like an early one. I don’t miss those balmy September days. Summer is over (perhaps not officially) and so is summer reading. Done are those cheap romance and horror novels I love so (well, maybe not completely). I read a lot this summer. I meant to read Dune, but it’s still sitting on my shelf. Mostly I read silly Gothic romances. I bought a bulk lot of them on eBay. They are fun and mindless entertainment, but as the weather chills, I try to be more disciplined. It’s time to get back to my Gothic reading list. Next on my list is the Henry James classic The Turn of the Screw. I’ve seen The Innocents many times (it’s one of my favorites), but I never read the entire book cover to cover. It’s perfect reading for this time of year. After that, maybe some Hawthorne.
Besides doing a lot of reading, I’ve been writing a lot. Not only did I just self-publish my second novel, Black Magick: an Occult Thriller, I started two new stories. See them unfold in real time on Wattpad (strange name, but it’s my new favorite website). Wispy Hollow is based on a television pilot script I authored from a few years back. I shoved it in a folder and kind of forgot all about it until I was looking for projects to add to the site. The site and the stories I’m writing there are definitely geared toward the young adult audience.The second one is a twisted, Gothic tale inspired by My Cousin Rachel. It’s a
I picked up the baton of my Gothic literature reading challenge again and went running down the track with one of my favorite novels My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. I was inspired by a Goodreads reading group to join in even though this is probably my third time reading going at it. Three’s a charm because I’m loving it once again. There are so many reasons why this story works, one being that it’s essentially a Victorian novel written as a 1950’s pulp romance. Love the cover above, especially considering Rachel wears nothing but mourning through the entire novel, albeit seductively so.
What separates du Maurier’s book from the legions of these… Continue reading “My Cousin Rachel”
Do you share my madness?
The spark that lit the imagination of an eighteen-year-old girl during a bleak summer on Lake Geneva gave life to the Gothic novel. The Castle of Otranto may have started it, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is without doubt the genre’s seminal work. Scanning (with amusement) some of the one or even zero star reviews on Goodreads from readers seething with rage over expecting a horror book and instead finding a (God forbid) melodrama, I wonder if it should not be reclassified as as romance; although that might result in a shirtless Fabio as the creature with a fainting Elizabeth in his arms, and there is already enough confusion about a brilliant story eclipsed by monster B-movies, comic books, and a brilliant comedy called Young Frankenstein. All of these have, of course, little to do with the actual novel, which is perhaps why the outrage. But if readers can possibly clear their minds of prejudice, they will find one of the finest novels in the English language. Its themes are deep, its symbolism vast, and that a young woman was able to conceive all of this and write it down in elegant prose and moves the reader’s eye effortlessly along the page to its devastating conclusion is a wonder as profound as Victor Frankenstein’s creation.
Faint of heart…
Continuing with my Gothic Literature Reading Challenge 2017, I head for the granddaddy of Gothic literature The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (try to say it fast). After reading some of the Goodreads reviews, I expected this to be a real chore, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this (gratefully) brief, at times silly tale. It helped that I found this beautiful Easton Press leather bound copy in my personal library. The moiré endpaper, satin book mark, color plates, and gold embossed leather cover enhanced my reading experience of this classic. Continue reading “The Castle of Otranto”
Victorian Brain Fever
As part of my personal Gothic literature reading challenge, I start with Dracula by Bram Stoker. Here’s a book that I pretended to read in the past (I’d started it several times) but in truth I’d only seen the movies from Murnau’s silent Nosferatu to Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula , which I re-watched last night and highly recommend as a companion piece to the reading challenge (if you care to join me). The film, which I’ve seen a few times, is visually stunning, and is faithful to the book with one major difference. The central theme of the film is the relationship between the Count and Mina Hawker, a woman for whom he crossed centuries of time. Alas, there is no such romance in the book unless you read between the lines (Mina does swallow his blood). The novel’s Mina character is the model for unstained Victorian womanhood (yawn) and cheating on poor Jonathan Hawker with the Count just won’t cut it. One reason I think I struggled with the book , versus reading Frankenstein which is my favorite novel, is that it’s episodic without being very insightful. There are certainly moments that chilled me to the bone–one that comes to mind is Lucy coming back as undead and smuggling a child back to her crypt; another is the dead captain tied to the wheel of the ship that brings the count to London along with his boxes filled with the profane, foul-smelling earth in which he must sleep each day.
There are also comical touches (like Lucy dropping that kid) that both the book and Coppola’s film explore, particularly in Van Hesling’s character (Anthony Hopkins is a hoot) as he casually mentions cutting off dear Lucy’s head and stuffing her mouth with garlic. The novel is told in an epistolary format using letters, diary entries, ship’s logs, clippings, and recordings from early cylinder phonographs. Written in 1897, the book explores these modern inventions of bustling London juxtaposing it with the old world superstitions and dangerous landscape of Transylvania. There is a lot of information about the source material for the novel. Whether Vlad the Impaler was Stoker’s inspiration is up for debate (but I’d like to think so).