Some Standouts So Far from YSNKS

That’s “You Shall Never Know Security,” J.R. Hamantaschen’s collection of short stories through which I am currently making my way.

I am over halfway through these stories now and I haven’t been disappointed.  “Endemic” was particularly satisfying, scratching that itch we all have somewhere inside of us for justice irrespective of the legal system.  One of my favorites so far has to be “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.”  This is a “found” story presenting itself as a factual document in grand horror story traditon.  HPL did this a lot to great effect and this story pays homage to those, while firmly grounding itself in contemporary society.  It presents itself as a legal opinion about a murder trial.  Very effective.

“Jordan, When Are You Going to Settle Down, Get Married, and Have Us Some Children?” was disgusting, in a can’t-help-it-but-grin-at-the-grossness kind of way.  But halfway through it I realized I knew this story.  It had been read on pseudopod some time before and I remember having the same reaction then.  I have a father and a father in law that may have this problem.

“College” I thought was a little boring.  It didn’t hold my attention as well as the others.  I feel like this concept has been explored before, though I’m hard pressed right now to say where.

“Sorrow Has Its Natural End,” though, was really, really good.  Disturbing in a fresh way and on multiple levels.  There were a lot of things of which to be fearful here.

Deja Vu

Whoa.  So, yesterday and today I was reading in the Algernon Blackwood collection that I bought one of his apparently more famous stories called “The Wendigo.”  The name sounded familiar to me, but I didn’t remember where I had heard it before.  As I read it, I had the strangest sense of deja vu, that I had read this story before, but I knew I had never read any Blackwood stories before getting this book.  I heard in my mind a haunting voice, crying out, “Da-Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay-go!”  The name of the Indian guide in the story.  Then, when the Wendigo came around and took DeFago away, DeFago cried out, “Oh, my fiery feet, my burning feet of fire…”

Then it hit me.  I knew this story most definitely.  It had appeared in a severely edited and truncated version in Alvin Schwartz’s kids book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark!  By far, one of my favorite books when I was a kid!  I loved these stories!  I even had an audio tape of some.  It was the book that accompanied me on sleepovers, campouts, and any Halloween event I went to.  I was thrilled when he came out with a second volume, but it was not as good as the first.  I am now impressed that Schwartz took this very literary tale by Blackwood and made it into a kids scary story.  Genius!  It was a weird story then and it is even weirder now that I read the original story, based on an Canadian Indian legend.  In the legend, the Wendigo, a malevolent spirit, calls your name and comes to get you.  When it takes you, it runs with you so fast that your feet burn off and your eyes bleed blood from the rush on the cold Canadian wind.  You run farther an faster, covering huge distances and eventually you become the Wendigo.  Not your traditional ghost story to be sure, but frightening nonetheless.

“Oh my fiery feet, my burning feet of fire…”

Once upon a midnight dreary

I finished Reynolds’ Redemption Ark, towards the end with great amounts of speed.  The narrative really picked up, uncharacteristically for Reynolds, at the end of the story and I found it a pretty good romp.  His ideas are so big, so vast, and his use of science (astronomy, astrophysics, cosmonomy) throughout really fleshes out and backs up his fictional ideas.  I enjoyed this one the best of the three that I have read so far, but will take a break before I read the third and final book in the series, Absolution Gap.  It is unusual for me to take such a break, but I feel like his books are so dense and heavy that I need to do so.

So, I’ve moved on to something lighter and more cheery – Edgar Allan Poe.  I was reading recently that it was the 200th anniversary of his birth last year and, coupling that with the fact that I now live in a city where he once lived and where his house is a historic site, I decided it was time to re-visit some Poe.  I say re-visit because I have read one or two of his stories before (“The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”) but never much more than that and those at a very young age.  I knew that on my bookshelf sat an omnibus edition of his complete works, prose and verse.

I also read recently in a magazine a little bit about him, about his ideas, his stories, his poems, and a little bit of his personal history.  Talk about a macabre story!  All of this combined to kindle my interest and get the omnibus down from the shelf.

So far I’ve read two poems, probably by far the most famous two: “The Raven,” and “Annabel Lee.”  Both really worked on me; they are incredible.  I, of course, like most of us, was at least familiar with “The Raven,” but really only as a pop culture icon.  I’d never actually read it.  Let me say this: put it on your list of things to read before you die, and read it aloud.

“Annabel Lee” was equally as good and probably more chilling (no pun intended), though the mad insistence at the end of “The Raven” followed by the refusal by the raven to depart is pretty haunting.  I also really appreciate that they rhyme.  Their flow and meter makes them come alive.

Of stories I have also read two – “MS. Found in a Bottle,” and “The Devil in the Belfry.”  The first was rather scary and filled with a sense of dread, but is kind of antiquated now that we know more about the globe.  The second was actually rather silly, but I think it was at least intended to be partly so.  It has a kind of horror to it, but one that is singular to itself.  I have set to begin “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” tonight.

What are your favorite Poe stories?  Which should I read next?  Why?