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All Hallow’s Read

As many of you probably know, All Hallow’s Read is the Halloween tradition proposed by Neil Gaiman with the simple purpose of giving someone the gift of a terrifically terrifying tale.

Here are my recommendations:

For the teens:

Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories
I read this while I was still in middle school and although I haven’t had a chance to really revisit it since I remember several of the stories leaving me ill at ease afterwards– which is something I love about a great “ghost” story, that lingering sensation of uncertain safety. Suspicion and doubt is always more unsettling than heavy-handed reveals. In the introduction Dahl says it best, that,

“The best ghost stories don’t have ghosts in them. At least you don’t see the ghost. Instead you see only the result of his actions. Occasionally you can feel it brushing past you, or you are made aware of its presence by subtle means.”

For the adults:

Edogawa Rampo, The Edogawa Rampo Reader
This is a more recent read, and I’m actually still getting through it. It’s a collection of short stories as well as essays, all of which deal with mystery, crime, and/or ero guro (“erotic grotesque nonsense”). Stories like “The Daydream” and “The Martian Canals” border on vividly gruesome, and yet I found “The Stalker in the Attic” and even “Poison Weeds” more troubling not in spite of, but due to, the subtlety of them. The issues of capriciousness and ambiguity of morality and human responsibility are presented and handled in such a way that is delightfully disturbing. Moreover, ya gotta love a guy whose pen name is not only a play on “Edgar Allen Poe” (just keep repeating “Edogawa Rampo” over and over again!), but also suggests drunken wandering!

Mark Z. Danielewski, House Of Leaves
Pardon my French, but all I have to say about this book is that is a mindfuck. I read this in high school, and I know that reading it now would vastly change how I perceive and understand it. I’ve also since gotten Poe’s album Haunted, so I can further “experience” this book. Even if Danielewski doesn’t consider this a “horror story”, the density and immensity, no pun intended, of House of Leaves is disconcerting to say the least.

What are some of your favorite ghost/horror/mystery stories?

books, philobabble

The I’s Have It

Strangely, and in hindsight, serendipitously, it appears that most of the books I’ve been reading this year have been written in first person point of view. It’s a mixed bag of genres too: Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You, and I’m currently reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (although this isn’t only in first person POV).

It’s “strange” in the way that I don’t really read first person POV. In fact, until this year, I would have said that I don’t even like reading first person POV. So yes, this is strange to me.

Writing online again, in this personal manner, is uncomfortable. I haven’t done this in years, and I’ve developed this fear that I’m wasting the time of whoever is reading this. I worry that it’s all mundane details and convoluted thoughts, and at the end of the day, I’m so afraid to just write.

Which is where this whole first person point of view issue falls in. Even though it’s fictional, it’s still getting into someone’s head, becoming acquainted with their thought processes– empathizing with them.

It’s shifting oneself into the skin of another, and understanding what it’s like to wear their burdens. In doing so, a contrast is created. A contrast that sharpens the lines and the divides, brightens up the wearer, the reader. Me.

In spending time reading their voices, I’m hearing my own more clearly. I’m learning to listen to myself more.

Although it’s unintended, it’s a fortunate accident– serendipity.