Month in Review

What I read in October 2020

Books:

The book Dracula resting against white Venetian blinds. The cover has a red and black floral design, with the title and byline in gold. The center of the cover is bisected by a portion of a painting of a woman’s face, featuring her eye and part of her lips. Sunlight criss-crosses the cover.

Dracula by Bram Stoker – It’s Dracula. This was my first time reading it, and I was really struck by what parts of the book made it into the public consciousness and what didn’t. I didn’t realize there were like 9 characters in this, I assumed it was Dracula, Van Helsing, and Jonathan Harker and his fiancee who gets bitten. And Van Helsing is an older man who speaks in accented English – not, as the movies would have me believe, a ripped badass with 20 billion guns. I thought the final show-down occurred in London, not that they returned to Dracula’s castle. The whole plot with Lucy and the suitors was completely new to me. I thought it was fun to read from that point of view, and the opening chapters of Harker trapped in the castle were still gripping.

Short Stories:

The Mad Eyes of the Heron King by Richard E. Dansky, narrated by Kris Straub at Pseudopod – A man stumbles on the monarch of the wetlands, and thinks he understands the rules of the court. This story has it all! Birds! Horror! Birds again! I love the way the author manages to take a pretty common bird (at least for me, I always see at least one on my walks) and give it an otherworldly, unknowable air. The building sense of dread is delicious.

The Bone-Stag Walks by KT Bryski at Lightspeed Magazine – A young girl living with her grandmother sees the bone stag in the dead of winter, and it wants to come inside. Vengeful horror with a reparative, hopeful ending. The bone stag’s rhymes are chilling, and the culmination of the dual stories being told is haunting, and for me at least, unforseen. A really good spooky winter read.

A Warning to the Curious by M. R. James – I watched the BBC movie from 1972 and then went back and read the short story. They’re both pretty fun. I wasn’t a huge fan of the the framing for the original short story of the narrator telling someone else the story while also dipping into Paxton telling the narrator the story, it was too many layers. I did really enjoy the scene of the chase around the ruins of the battery by the sea. The movie really improves on the ghost chase scenes, and builds up the terror of the villagers maybe being almost-able but not-quite to see the ghost as it tales Paxton, as well as the ghost’s ability to change its form.

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