Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Prepared to Go Gothic

 I've been getting ready!  I have 7 paper books and have downloaded 5 e-books from Google (I just love reading really old books on my tablet when I can't get them in real life.  And they're free!).  I can't possibly read them all, and if I did, I would probably end up like a proper Gothic heroine and die tragically after a severe attack of brain fever.  Here's what I've got, though:

The Castle of Otranto (1764) and Hieroglyphic Tales (1785), by Horace Walpole -- Otranto kicked off the Gothic craze.  I think someone ought to make a film of this story; if you filmed it perfectly straight, it would make a hysterical comedy.

The History of the Caliph Vathek (1786), by William Beckford -- Combine the craze for all things Oriental with the Gothic craze, and you get Vathek.  There does not appear to be a single evil Catholic priest in the whole story.  Instead, all the evil people are apostate Muslims who get into demonology.

Horrid Mysteries (1796), by Carl Grosse -- I LOVE the title, so Northanger Abbey--which is where it's mentioned as one of the 'horrid novels' Isabella recommends to Catherine.  Originally published in German as Der Genius, and I can't tell if I've got the whole story on my reader or not.  The title page says it's the 3rd of 4 volumes, but elsewhere the story is listed as 200 pages long, which is how long my ebook is.  Another mystery...

The Amber Witch
The Italian (1797), by Ann Radcliffe -- often considered Radcliffe's most sophisticated work, plus it's got the memorable Father Schedoni as villain.  Join us for a readalong!

Wieland, or the Transformation (1798), by Charles Brockham Brown -- The first American Gothic novel.  Also evil Catholic-free, it involves a man who has begun his own cult and has an American setting.  I guess we can credit him as a cornerstone of American Gothic literature, before Irving and Poe and everybody came along.

Crotchet Castle (1831), by Thomas Love Peacock -- a satirical novel that throws a bunch of single-minded obsessives together and watches the fun.  Earlier this year I read Nightmare Abbey, which was very fun, and I'm hoping this will be too.  (I just picked this up at the library booksale Saturday morning--that makes it fate, right?)

The Amber Witch (1839), by Wilhelm Meinhold -- both a Gothic novel and a literary hoax, it's about a witch trial.  Meinhold passed it off as a real historical document (found, of course, in his church) for a while in order to make fools of some academic types he disliked.

The Horla (1887), by Guy de Maupassant -- A French short story that is thought to have been an inspiration for Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories.

The Black Monk (1894), by Anton Pavlovich Chekov  -- a Russian short story about a scholar's tragic downfall.

The collected ghost stories of M. R. James in two volumes (published from 1904 to 1931).  We're reading a story a day, so stay tuned!

Seven Gothic Tales (1934), by Isak Dinesen -- This was Karen Blixen's first published work!

I think I'm in the mood to read The Cask of Amontillado too.  Just a little bit of Poe to round things off, maybe.

Wouldn't it be fun to read all of Isabella's horrid novels?  There are seven of them besides two by Radcliffe, and several are incredibly long, so I don't think I'll try this time--but what a great project for a year-long reading challenge, right?  I was amazed to read that the 'horrid novels,' which were quite popular in the early 1800s, were so lost in obscurity that for quite a while scholars thought that Jane Austen had made them up.  They have been rediscovered and--check this out--Valancourt Books is reprinting them all in a special series, which is about the best news I've seen this week.  Who wants to host a challenge?


Chinoiseries said...

Jean, I am starting to regret over-planning October, because your reading list is exciting! I'll have to see if I can find M.R. James' stories somewhere...

Jean said...

I'm sure you can find some at the library, or online, or something! Just join us for a few...