What Do You Think Are the most Literate Horror Books and Stories Ever written ?

  1. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    What do you think makes them so ? :)
     
  2. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Frankenstein and the works of Poe. Just a gut feeling. As for why, I'll let those who know what they're talking about do the explaining.
     
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  3. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I'd agree with Frankenstein (Mary Shelley's other works don't measure up to this masterpiece). And Poe is an obvious answer. Though I would also add a number of stories by J. Sheridan LeFanu, Elizabeth Gaskell, and especially Vernon Lee (Violet Paget), although I suppose most people would insist that these are ghost stories not horror, as though a story can't be both. R. Murray Gilchrist's stories (which are not nearly so well-known as they ought to be) offer some of the best and most literate examples of psychological horror I have found.

    When a question includes the word "most" I suppose that answers will lean rather heavily toward personal taste.
     
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  4. Pedro Del Mar

    Pedro Del Mar I am content

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    King's Salem's Lot would be up there for me. He's underrated as a writer. In a few hundred years he could be the Shakespeare of our generation.....

    How about including Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, some of the prose in this novel is outstanding
     
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  5. Randy M.

    Randy M. Well-Known Member

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    I haven't read anything by Gilchrist, but Teresa's other suggestions strike me as spot on. I think M. R. James belongs to that group, too, and we shouldn't forget Shirley Jackson. I also second Bradbury, one of the handful of writers coming from the pulps who grew into a major literary talent.

    Whatever you think of their end results, both Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith wrote literate fiction; there may be gaps and idiosyncrasies in their work but that may stem from being largely self-taught.

    Besides Jackson, among recent writers I'd nominate Robert Aickman, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Thomas Ligotti and Caitlin Kiernan.

    Aickman's stories are precisely written for all their intricacy and enigmatic conclusions. Within the narrow confines of short word count he creates a world that stays with anyreader who is at all open to his work. I would say much the same about Ligotti, whose work is informed by his passion for philosophy and dramatizes and illustrates his own philosophy; he arrives at enigmatic from a different direction than Aickman.

    Campbell isn't as obviously literary as, say, Straub, but his stories show a psychological complexity and a kind of ruthlessness about his characters that doesn't sugar-coat their flaws nor insist on making one or the other a "hero" and in this way works against commercial expectations; further his characters are fully-realized without sacrificing the satisfaction of plot that comes with genre expectations. I'd say similar things about Straub, though he does leans more toward having a sympathetic main character/narrator. His fiction taps into American literature, like that by Nathanial Hawthorne, and Henry James; his exploration of story-telling and how our reality is reflected and distorted in the stories we tell (or the stories we create to explain our experiences) is central to much recent American literature.

    Kiernan's stories and prose are influenced by Lovecraft but also, I believe, by the writers from the American South, like Faulkner; further, her work taps into her background in paleontology, giving some of her fiction a scientific authority as well as a grounding in reality. (Kiernan doesn't consider herself a horror writer, which is fair, but the end effect of much of her work that I've read lies within the "weird" that precursors like Smith, Lovecraft and Arthur Machen were aiming for and which has ties to s.f., fantasy and horror.)

    All of these writers, whatever their individual quirks, write fluid and precise prose and create complex stories and characters. They are not aiming for a simple, "Boo!" but for stories that can be enjoyed multiple times, offering the "Boo!" and more.


    Randy M.
     
  6. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Randy M. has covered a lot of territory I'd have wanted to mention. Have some of y'all not gotten around to reading Henry James's The Turn of the Screw? Really, it's very good.

    M. R. James and Arthur Machen are resourceful with language, well acquainted with literature, and inventive. This helps them to be rereadable.

    Some ones that haven't been mentioned yet...

    Walter de la Mare, a really worthy poet but also storyteller -- see "Crewe," for example.

    Rudyard Kipling, in stories such as "The Phantom 'Rickshaw."

    Charles Williams for sure -- All Hallows' Eve.

    David Lindsay's The Haunted Woman.

    Phyllis Paul's Twice Lost.
    [​IMG]
    I know I'm failing to explain why I've nominated most of these.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  7. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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  8. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    They are both great books

    Also Ray Bradbury's October Country . (y)
     
  9. Randy M.

    Randy M. Well-Known Member

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    Oh, for crying out loud. I can't believe I didn't think of de la Mare or The Turn of the Screw, especially since I just reread the latter last year.

    And, as long as I'm here, L.P. Hartley, in particular "A Visitor from Down Under." Every time I've reread this I've been surprised again by how subtle it is, especially early on. A touch of wry humor accentuates the not-right feel of the opening scene.


    Randy M.
     
  10. HanaBi

    HanaBi Is it Safe?

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    Henry James' "Turn of the Screw", is an absolute classic, and gave me nightmares for months on first reading back in my teens.

    Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House". Another classic ghost story, later to be turned into film with the equally creepy "The Haunting"
     
  11. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Randy, I read a bunch of L. P. Hartley back around 1980 -- the Eustace and Hilda trilogy, The Go-Between, The Boat, The Hireling, & some short stories. It's funny how you can delve into an author like that and then just not be reading him or her. Never read Hartley's sf novel Facial Justice, which knowing this author to the extent I do, I would bet is a good example of the literate sf that Baylor has asked about. Or is it a dud? I don't seem to remember ever seeing it mentioned here at Chrons.

    I liked Hartley, but I've never forgotten seeing Harlan Ellison's barb about "L. P. Hartley yawners." Thing is, from what he says I can't be sure Hartley is really the author whom Ellison had in mind when he said that.

    Harlan Ellison's Watching
     
  12. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Any interest, by the way, in reading Phyllis Paul's Twice Lost? It's out of print, as far as I know, but there should be a few used copies of a Lancer paperback edition available, and libraries might have it or be able to get it on interlibrary loan, which is what I'm trying to do.

    Generic "Gothic" cover. You probably have to be Of A Certain Age to remember when these were all over the place (say early 1970s)...
    [​IMG]
    Paul herself was an obscure person:

    An Invisible Darkness by Phyllis Paul
     
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  13. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    I have started a thread on Phyllis Paul.
     
  14. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    The Dark Chamber by Leonard Cline might fit this category.
     
  15. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    The Black Fox by Gerald Heard was, as I recall -- it is slated for rereading soon, after about 30 years -- a good, literate ghostly story, a combination of two of my favorites, M. R. James and Anthony Trollope.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]The greenish dustjacket is that of the American edition.

    Anyone here read this? I read it aloud to my wife, as I recall, and we both liked it.
     
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  16. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Ive never heard of this book or this wither. :unsure:
     
  17. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Heard wrote this novel and two collections of stories in the vein -- loosely so-called -- of supernatural horror (and science fiction). I haven't read most of the stories

    Contents Lists

    but I can speak for "The Chapel of Ease" as an interesting (and "slow") very literate ghost story.

    Heard wrote a reported dystopian novel, Doppelgangers, also.

    [​IMG]

    You've probably heard of his neo-Sherlockian novel A Taste for Honey, which I have read; it didn't make a big impression.

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Russell Kirk knew Heard a bit, at a time when, Kirk said, Heard had really messed up his health with drugs, etc.

    [​IMG]Heard

    Kirk thought very well of "The Chapel of Ease," however.
     
  19. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Burn't Offerings by Robert Marasco
     
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