Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review of the Book: Ten Imaginary Years

I am a huge fan of The Cure. So when I learned of Ten Imaginary Years that was published over twenty years ago, I had to read it. Initially this was no easy task because it was difficult to find. A used copy showed up on Amazon and I snatched it.

The book is physically large and filled with great photos of The Cure's early years. Contrary to other reviews I have seen, the book does contain color photos though they are outnumbered by the black-and-whites. For some reason the text is intent on establishing The Cure as a classic heavy drinking/drugging band. I am unsure why because most fans (myself included) love The Cure for their music and phenomenal lyrics. In this regard I would have liked to learn more about the songs, what inspired them and how they were written. Alas, it is not until we get to The Top album that much attention is paid to song meanings.A few snippets address Camus and Killing an Arab, but that is about it. There is nothing about the whole drama that unfolded between The Cure and Penelope Farmer, author of Charlotte Sometimes, when the song of the same name was released. There is not a word about The Gormanghast Trilogy and its impression on Robert Smith and a number of the band's songs. An entire section could have described the video shot in the insane asylum and what Robert found there. Sigh.

Many bad reviews of The Cure are included in the book and a quarter of a century later appear comical given the wild success of the band. A number of these clippings are so small that one needs a magnifying glass to read them. The exclamation point is used like it is going out of style and there are few references to what year of The Cure's life the book is detailing so it is sometimes difficult to follow. But these are small annoyances.
"Ten Imaginary Years" is a must for any fan of The Cure. Just the photos alone make it worthwhile, especially those of a beanpole Robert Smith. If you only know Just Like Heaven and Boys Don't Cry, however, you will likely be disappointed by this book. Now, if only The Cure would publish "Twenty Imaginary Years," or better yet "Thirty Imaginary Years!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Unholy Compact Abjured Vampire Story by Charles Pigault-Lebrun )

The Unholy Compact Abjured was published by French novelist Charles Pigault-Lebrun (1753-1835) in 1825. This is a very early vampire story and was only the fourth published in the English language. "The Vampyre" by John Polidori in 1819, "The Black Vampyre" by Robert Sands also in 1819 and "Wake Not the Dead" by Ludwig Tieck in 1823 are the prior three and are included in The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Vampire Anthology. "The Unholy Compact Adjured" is not, however, since it is rather flamboyant and does fails to reach the level of character and story-line of the others. It is still worth a read on a dark night. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Review of The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849 Anthology


It's not often that I post a review of one of my books in its entirety. In fact, I never do. Nicola Manning, however, has recently published one of the most well thought out reviews of the best ghost stories anthology that I edited. I agree with her on most points (Washington Irving excepted). You can follow all her reviews on GoodReads. They are worth your time.

"Reason for Reading: I have a particular interest in the Gothic story and my favoured literature time period is the Victorian era, which admittedly doesn't start until 1837. But both the time frame of this book and the life works of the included authors does fall within my preferred historical reading period.

This is a fine collection of ghost stories. Andrew Barger has done an excellent job of combining the familiar with the obscure both in title and author selection. He has written an interesting, engaging introduction to the topic and his choices of stories. From this introduction the reader knows they have an editor who knows the literary time period and genre being presented. Preceding each story is an introduction by the editor with background information on the story and the author in relation to the particular story. This is invaluable reading and is a joy for the reader to have this contemporary insight before proceeding with the story. I always appreciate an anthology that introduces each story. Following the collection of nine stories, is a long list of stories from which Andrew Barger read to select those he called "best" for this collection. This would make a great reading list for the enthusiast! I found most of the stories very good, with several excellent, only a couple merely good and just one less than satisfying. Mr. Barger has several other books which look like they would make excellent reading. The stories included and my impressions:

1. Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving - A depressed German student goes to "gay Paree" for his health, unfortunately it's just as the French Revolution gets underway. Sickened by the blood of the guillotine he becomes a recluse and dreams of a woman. One night as he takes a walk, the only time he'll ever leave his flat, he meets the woman of his dreams, and has an encounter that literally drives him insane. Good, even though I'm not a huge Irving fan. 3/5

2. The Old Maid in the Winding Sheet by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Two women who loved the same man who dies young make a pact to meet up again in the room of his deathbed, in the distant future. One to go on and make something of her life, the other to stay in the village, a recluse, following death. This was pretty creepy and I enjoyed it a lot. Hawthorne is hit and miss with me. I don't like his novels but his stories usually win me over, as did this. 4/5

3. A Night in a Haunted House by Anonymous - This was an ideal ghost story. A naysayer after hearing the story of a haunted house, from a parson no doubt, asks to spend the night in the abandoned house to prove there are no such things as ghosts, only overactive imaginations. Needless to say he has an eerie evening and becomes a believer. This is a long short story, clocking in at 30 pages and a very good read. Really two stories in one, first the parson's story and then the other man's story; I can imagine how it would have hit the sensibilities of the public at the time it was written (1848) being quite creepy and containing the classic qualities of both the ghost and Gothic story. For the modern reader it's not hard to guess the twist at the end fairly early into the second part of the story, but still it is an eerie, fun story and one I enjoyed a lot. A classic ghost story of this era (5/5)

4. The Story of the Spectral Ship by Wilhelm Hauff - A new-to-me author, here with a Flying Dutchman type of ghost ship story. The main characters are Muslim, making it rather unique for its time. A well-told eerie ghost tale. I'd love to read more of the author. (5/5)

5. The Tapestried Chamber by Sir Walter Scott - I wasn't looking forward to this story as Scott always brings to my mind his horrible historicals such as "Ivanhoe" and his wretched poetry. I didn't know he was a fan of this genre as well, so was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this classic tale of an upstanding military General spending the night in an haunted room. Tame by today's standard's but a disturbing story nevertheless. (5/5)

6. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving - Everyone knows this tale from one source or another. I've read it before and didn't like. It is long, Irving's writing is too old-fashioned for me and I just don't find the story scary or creepy. It's been about 8 years, so I gave it another go, but found it just as boring as I previously always do. (2/5)

7. The Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe - I've read Poe many times. This is classic! Extremely creepy, the images the words create in your mind are just impossible to render in visual media. It is very debatable whether this is a ghost story, though. I've never thought of it as such. The character, to me, here is Death, or Disease manifested, not a ghost. Nevertheless a fine story! 5/5

8. A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - With one short story left to go I don't think it's too early to call this long short story the "piece de resistance" of this collection. A masterpiece of a story whose plot has been retold numerous times by now but as the original still manages to thrill and shock. The plot follows a theme used in Jane Eyre and yet pre-dates that classic by 8 years prompting the editor to include an afterword to this story alone that convincingly suggests Bronte "borrowed" from it. I'm not very familiar with Fanu's work but I would certainly like to explore him further! 5/5

9. The Deaf and Dumb Girl by Anonymous - This is another fine example of an eerie ghost story that tells the tale of a tragic used, spurned woman whose spirit waits for the return of her ruthless lover to exact revenge upon him. This is an obscure story the editor says has not been published since its original appearance in 1839. A chilling tale to end the volume with! 4/5"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Vampire Arnod Short Story of 1849 Link and Descrpition

Not many vampire stories were published in the English language from 1800-1849. Those that were, however, are very interesting. One of them found during research for my vampire anthology is The Vampire Arnod published in 1849. The story did not make as the very best for this period, but it is still good. It appeared in The New Monthly Magazine on page 190 and tells of a scary man who lives in a village near Belgrade. I won't give away the plot of this very short horror story, but it's worth a read if you are into classic vampire stories.