Category Archives: Gothic literature

Halloween Reading Treats!

Every October, I like to have some bedtime reading that suits the season.  I just finished two new books:  Midnight Fires and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  The first is a mystery by Nancy Means Wright that features Mary Wollstonecraft as its intrepid detective.  marywollstonecraftaWollstonecraft is a great choice for the role, as anyone who has read her Vindications would agree that she has all the nerve, smarts, and wit to boldly ask the questions and dig the dirt necessary for an investigator.  Her being cast in this role makes perfect sense. The novel is set during Wollstonecraft’s tenure as governess to the aristocratic Kingsborough family in Ireland and does a neat job of characterizing “the troubles.”  We also get good views of the workings of the Kingsborough family, as well as how contemporary views of women have stunted and warped them – right in line with MW’s own writings.  The descriptions of the landscapes are a pleasure to read as well.  Not least of all, the mystery has some neat twists and turns.

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a pleasantly amusing visit with the supernatural – a low key, smile-inducing progress of Lucy/Lucia Muir’s liberation from oppressive Edwardian propriety to become a mischievous, independent woman – with a little help from a frank and fiery sea captain’s ghost – though she was already well on her way to freedom before they met at Gull Cottage.ghost-tierney-really-good  There are some significant changes from book to film, but both work equally well.  I do think that Gene Tierney gives Lucia Muir a bit more power than the character in the book.

 

 

There are four books that I usually return to once I finish any new prizes for the month:  The Uninvited (Dorothy Mcardle), The Sign of the Ram (Margaret Ferguson), The Undying Monster (Jessie Douglas Kerriush), and  Redeeming Time (me, unpublished – yet!).  What I admire in the first three (and try to emulate in the fourth), is the depth of characterization, the creation of a powerful mystical/eerie atmosphere, the vividness of the landscapes, and the intelligence of the storylines. signoftheram What makes them such a pleasure to read is their authors’ deftness with language:  there’s enough detail to savor and shape your imagination but no excess or filler.  Right now, I’m working on The Uninvited.  I review it and The Sign of the Ram on this web site, under Golden Age MysteriesThe Undying Monster is part of the psychic detective genre, with a woman psychic brought in to help a scientist uncover the nature of the beast that has ravaged an ancient British family for centuries and now threatens to destroy his two close friends.  The novel deftly captures the post WWI fascination with psychic phenomenon and leads characters and readers into the dark depths of ancient ruins, crypts, and family history to reach a final, mystical resolution – and it’s a fun ride!

What’s Redeeming Time about?  Think H. P. Lovecraft meets film noir meets Indiana Jones meets Val Lewton.

Image of Gene Tierney from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir copyright 1946, 20th-Century Fox (http://classicbeckybrainfood.blogspot.com/2010/08/just-thought.html)

Yang Speaks!

So, to keep you entertained while you breathlessly await the forthcoming blogs on my appearance at The Book Lover’s Gourmet and my adventures at the Shakespeare of America Convention in New Orleans, here’s a link to an audio interview with me by Pat Driscoll for The New Worcester Spy.  It contains more details on my interests in film noir and horror, on film and on the page, and even a little more on my background. Just click here.  It’s what Dusty would want! Dusty reduced1

 

 

On Tour for Dracula

So, the last work we’re covering for my Romantic and Victorian Gothic course is Dracula, on December 2nd.  For “educational” purposes, I’m going to post some pictures that Yang and I took on our visits to England in 2013 and 2015.  The first trip was a kind of “English major’s dream.”  We visited Tintern Abbey, the Lake Country, Haworth and Whitby in Yorkshire, and in London St. Pancras Cemetery,  Samuel Johnson’s House, Highgate Cemetery, and other neat places.   So, let’s start with images from Whitby that correspond to events in Dracula.
Here is a shot of the cemetery for the Church of St. Mary’s,Whitby6 overlooking the harbor.  You can even see a few graves that might have been the very ones that Mina and Lucy sat upon – where Lucy was attacked by the evil Count and where he hid out during the day.

 

 

Here are some of the views of the harbor that the young gals would have see from their spot – or Dracula if he peeked through the cracks of his sepulcher hideyhole.  Whitby7Note the man-made breakwater with its lighthouse, described in the novel.
 The brilliant  roofs on the houses perhaps inspired Stoker’s emphasis of red predominating his descriptions of the town.Whitby13

 

Whitby12The other arm of the harbor stretches mightily outward.  You can see the depth of the harbor just by noting the height of the opposite cliff.
You get the same impression looking at the abbey and St. Mary’s from the heights above the beach and the concert pavilion. Whitby8

 

 

 

 

 

Whitby10Mina must have lied.  She could never have run up these stairs in her bare feet.  The girl must have had her New Balance sneakers on – and collapsed when she got to the top!

 

 

 

Here are some shots of the magnificent ruins themselves.Whiby14

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notice me in the corner for scale.Whitby5

 

 

 

 

 

The other Dracula portion of my tour was at Highgate Cemetery.  There are actually two sides to the cemetery.  One is called the Old Highgate and the other the New.  They’re both pretty old, but Yang and I figure that the encounters highgatecwith Lucy’s Undead self probably occurred in  New Highgate, since she would have been buried in 1897.  We weren’t there in the middle of the night; that’s frowned on.  So, our pictures are all in daylight – they wouldn’t have looked too good with only flash light, anyway.  Still, these pics definitely capture the eeriness – especially if you are a Dr. Who fan.  Don’t blink!Highgate2

 

 

 

 

 

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The graves are closely crowded, so you can imagine how easy Dr.Van Helsing and the boys would have had it finding a place to hide and peek at the vampires.  I don’t know how overgrown the landscape would have been about 120 years ago, though.

 

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You can’t forget to visit some of the famous folk buried here, highgatealike George Eliot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my husband said hello to one of the more fiery of the Marx Brothers, Karl.highgatemarx  I guess Van Helsing and Co. were in too much of a rush to pay any literary/political social calls.

 

To end on an adorable note, enjoy the English Robin on the tomb stone, though you might have to click on the picture and enlarge it to see him/her.Highgate4

 

Or this fox, who is way to adorable to fall under Dracula’s evil sway.
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