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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Reviving a Creepy Tradition

Simply titled "Ghost Stories: Volume Two", this audio book is distinctly different from other classical collections I have listened to or read in the past. The reason for this being that each of the four tales contained within are the works of M.R. James. Despite an undeniable legacy and influence over the genre in the 20th century, James's tales are still very different from what we expect in the horror or, more specifically, the ghost short story genre. They often have the superficial criteria of a contemporary pompous upper-middle class scholar uncovering an ancient object in a remote area and subsequently becoming haunted by a supernatural entity or curse. This has become known as Jamesian. They are also not particularly horrifying, not by today's standards, not by the standards of his day and not for the standards of Victorian ghost or horror stories that preceded them. These are stories that create atmosphere and imply an unknown menace, which are perfect for the function James originally intended them: as fireside tales to be told at night to a group of gathered friends.