Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Digging for Diamonds

Well, I had the headache if not the fully fledged handover. That will teach me to drink strawberry beer!
I read a couple of stories ghostwritten by Lovecraft; 'The Last Case', 'Two Black Bottles', and 'The Thing in the Moonlight' There can be no tension where there is no possibility of surprise, and his formula is too uniform to offer that. The only enjoyment to be derived comes from the originality of each story's horror. In that respect he has a lot in common with television shows like (the oh, so enjoyable) 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker', and its descendent 'The X-Files'. Sadly the 'horrors' of these particular Lovecraft tales weren't too original either. Only the two-page 'The Thing in the Moonlight' had a real hint of the bizarre, though 'The Last Case' with its initial prison setting did put me in mind of 'Beyond Reanimator'.
In total contrast I picked up my Edith Nesbith collection then and read 'The Violet Car'. Edith Nesbit is famous predominantly for her children's books, particularly 'The Railway Children' and 'Five Children and It'. However, between these and her political activities (she was a member of the Fabian Society, the precursor to Labour), she also managed to write some very well-regarded ghost stories. When they are good, as in the case of 'Man-size in Marble', they are very, very good. 'The Violet Car' is very, very good.
Written when cars were still a novelty, it tells in an admirably, though deceptively, simple way of the effects a car accident has on an ordinary farming couple. A young nurse is called in to help, but exactly who is she meant to help and how? In its determined play on the is it real/all in the mind dilemma, Nesbit does unpretentiously what more heavyweight authors like Henry James exerted far more (wasted?) effort to achieve. She even manages to make a little feminist dig at the patriarchal establishment by misdirecting us about the true 'mental case'. Not a word of its ten or so pages is wasted, and the first person narrative of an older woman reminiscing on an episode of her younger years is sprinkled with sad, unobtrusive wisdom. It reminded me a little of Oliver Onions' similarly understated 'Rooum'. A very talented writer was E. Nesbit.
There are little gems like this scattered throughout the genre, though you have to do some digging and you'll probably get dirty in the process. Finding one though is always a pleasure.

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