Thursday, September 27, 2012
Two Spooky Novels
Sort of… by happenstance… two of the most recent books I have read have been downright spooky.
I love spooky books. Ones with scary elements to them, or bizarre un-realiities laced throughout. And so I thought I would mention these two real beauties here.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.
Drood, by Dan Simmons.
Usually, in and around Hallowe'en season, I love a good creepy book. But this year I have pre-empted myself, and read these a month or two ahead of time.
Many of you know of the tale of Dorian Gray, or have indeed read the thing. I was surprised by how much I truly enjoyed the book. Written way back in 1890 by the infamous Oscar Wilde, it tells the story of Dorian Gray, a young man who makes a dire oath when presented with a portrait of himself:
"How sad it is!" I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that -- for that -- I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!"
Suspend your imagination for long enough to read this whippersnapper of a tale, if you have not already done so, my friend. Dorian's wish comes true, and leads to unimaginable horror.
Then there is this massive book, Drood -- by American writer, Dan Simmons.
I have about 40 pages left to read, and so I want to quickly write a bit here and get back to it -- because the thing has me in its thrall.
Drood is a fictionalized story of the relationship between the latter-day Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins -- arguably two of the most famous English authors of the Victorian era. Thoroughly intriguing and engaging.
On June 9, 1865, Dickens survived a devastating train derailment -- and became obsessed with a figure he "saw" wandering amongst the wreckage. Or so he says!
The reader never knows if this "Drood" character really existed -- and neither does Wilkie Collins. Because of his dependency upon laudanum [opium], Collins becomes enmeshed in this character, and Drood [real or not] gains possession of his already drug-addled brain. Told in the extremely unreliable first-person narration by Wilkie Collins, this story is filled with doppelgangers, hypnotism [or mesmerism, as it was referred to back then] and more twists and turns than an underground sewer system! Grisly murders and suspense reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe.
In fact, if there are two things that link these two books, they are this:
1) In each, the primary antecedent event occurs in the month of June.
2) Both emphasize the idea that nightmare-ish obsession leads to murder.
This latter thing I find interesting, because -- well, laudanum usage has never had that effect on me!
Two great reads which I highly recommend -- Hallowe'en or pre-Hallowe'en!