Yay, I made it. By the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. I admit I saved a few of these stories for next year, but I’m counting it toward this year’s reading. I only wish I had more time to wax poetic over the book in this post.
I adore Edith Wharton’s writing. As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy Wharton’s precise and subtle observations. Although I can’t say these stories were particularly spooky, they are interesting and full of her particular way of illustrating characters, as in this example from The Eyes:
His mind was like a forum, or some open meeting place for the exchange of ideas: somewhat cold and drafty, but light, spacious and orderly–a kind of academic grove from which all the leaves have fallen.
And here’s an example that brilliantly captures the essence of characters (as well as instilling a sense of desolation) in a single sentence (from Afterward):
Dorsetshire had attracted them from the first by an air of remoteness out of all proportion to its geographical position.
My favorite tale is Pomengranate Seed, a true page-turner. This short passage captures the ever-shifting relationship changes between a husband and his new (second) wife:
She had meant to move her husband and had succeeded only in irritating him; and this error of reckoning seemed to change him into a stranger, a mysterious incomprehensible being whom no argument or entreaty of hers could reach. The curious thing was that she was aware in him of no hostility or even impatience, but only of a remoteness, an inaccessibility, far more difficult to overcome.
These are tales that create tension between specific places (typical of the gothic or horror tale) and those who dwell in these places. In the best of the stories, place cannot exist without character and vice versa; one reflects the other. I’m glad Edith Wharton was brave enough to overcome her fear of ghosts by writing such an interesting collection of ghostly tales. More intriguing than suspenseful, more revealing of the human condition than paranormal activity, these stories transcend Halloween–they can be enjoyed during any season.