The Green Flash, and Other Tales of Horror, Suspense, and Fantasy by Joan Aiken
Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1971
Genre: Suspense, horror, fantasy, children’s lit, short stories
Jacket copy: A small self-contained child who dreams reality; the ghost of a love-struck bicycle-riding night watchman; a canary who bears an acute resemblance to the younger sister of Charles II; an old lady, hard of hearing, almost blind, but with a murderous sense of smell–these are just a few of the characters you’ll encounter in this spine-tingling, mind-boggling collection by Joan Aiken.
The impact of the tales is varied and ranges all the way from grisly horror through old-fashioned mystery to comic fantasy. It’s a book to curl up with and enjoy on a dark, rainy night, a book which continues to astound from the first page to the very last.
Book report: So, though it’s been a couple of years since I found out that Joan Aiken had written a whole mess of books in concordance with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (the Wolves Chronicles, they’re sometimes known as)–a shocking discovery for someone who’d read and re-read TWoWC like it was her job–I hadn’t read anything else by her til last winter’s Shivers for Christmas, which included a really excellent little story, “The Ferry.” I not sure why, but I don’t read short stories all that often, though I like them a great deal (especially TALES OF TERROR), but the title of The Green Flash was well-nigh irresistible. I mean, how evocative is that?
It is such an odd little collection of stories, ranging from the, well, grisly to the subtly disquieting, and from pathos to humor. And for the most part, they’re very, very good. I don’t think I disliked any of the stories, but I couldn’t say that I liked them all. Not because they were bad or uninteresting, but because of that lingering sense of disquiet (“Summer by the Sea” has taken me three readings to come to terms with, and it still makes me uncomfortable) they invoke. But that’s a good thing; I’d much rather puzzle over a story and how it made me feel than simply forget it. Read the rest of this entry »
Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural edited by Phyllis Cerf Wagner and Herbert Wise
originally published 1944
Modern Library, 8th printing, 1994
Genre: Horror, anthology
Synopsis & Review:
From ghoulies and ghosties
and long-legged beasties
and things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord deliver us!
This is a massive tome, clocking in at over a thousand pages, with fifty-two stories by forty-two authors, from the early nineteenth century till World War II. There are textbook classics (Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw,” and Saki’s “The Open Window”) and lesser-known works by masters (LeFanu’s “Green Tea,” Dineson’s “The Sailor-Boy’s Tale,” Blackwood’s “Confession”), and stories in every shade, form the comic or ironic to the downright horrible. (And even the occasional snorer.) Published in 1944, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural features none of the late twentieth century masters, such as Jackson or Matheson, but instead provides a solid foundation of modern horror. Each story (or pair of stories, as a few authors feature more than one) is prefaced by a short introduction, usually with some notes on the author and tale. These notes are occasionally humorous, reflecting the changes in seventy years of scholarship. For example, the introduction to Sheridan LeFanu’s “Green Tea” makes no mention of the author’s Uncle Silas or even “Carmilla,” a massively influential vampire story. Because “Green Tea”—which I’d never heard of—“[is] a favorite of anthologists.” You know, I used to read a lot of anthologies, and never once happened across this one. Heh. But, tastes change.
This was my final official book for RIP IV, and it took me FOREVER to finish this. I refused to consider completing the challenge until I had finished it, too. I thought I was never going to, and nearly gave up in despair several times. Three weeks! An entire fortnight, and nearly a half! How is that possible? “Schatzi,” you say, “Cut yourself some slack. It’s a thousand pages.” You don’t understand, a thousand pages is nothing to me; I can read that in a night if I like. Shoots, I read The Stand in a day—in sixth grade. Read the rest of this entry »