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  • Ginni Chen 5:00 pm on 2014/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: alvin schwartz, , , , , , , , , mary shelley, patrick mccabe, scary stories to tell in the dark, , stephen gammell, , the butcher boy, , ,   

    Beat the Summer Heat with 8 Bone-Chilling Books 


    I grew up in Japan, where, in addition to fireworks and temple festivals, it’s a cultural tradition to tell scary stories during the humid summer months. Spooky stories are popular during that time of year for a couple different reasons. First, Japanese Buddhists believe that spirits return to their ancestral home during the month of August, so it’s the prime time to tell ghost stories.

    Secondly, there is a cultural belief that scary stories will both figuratively and literally “chill” you in hot weather. After all, when you’re frightened, the hair on your neck stands on end and chills run up and down your spine. Thus, theoretically, your body’s physiological response to fear effectively cools you off and you don’t feel the heat anymore.

    To test it out, here are 8 bone-chilling books. Give them a read and see if the creeps keep you cool!

    Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy
    By far the most disturbing book I’ve ever read, but also one of the most beautifully written. In a mere 200 pages, McCarthy takes you through one social outcast’s descent into isolation, violence, and depravity in the deep South.

    The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe
    I couldn’t sleep after finishing this ghastly masterpiece about a young Irish boy. It’s narrated from the point of view of Francie Brady, the only child of an unstable mother and a drunken father. Like all young boys he loves comics, candy, and his best friend, Joe. He’s also a monster.

    The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, by Edgar Allan Poe
    Nobody can give you goosebumps like the Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. I get shivers imagining the dungeons in “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” even when it’s a blistering 90 degrees outside.

    In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
    Capote’s nonfiction book is based on his own investigation into the murder of a Kansas family and interviews he conducted with the convicted murderers. There are innumerable true-crime novels out there, but something about Capote’s classic will haunt you long after you finish it.

    Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz
    These stories might be for kids, but mark my words, they’ll make an adult’s hair stand on end, too. I still get the heebie-jeebies from these classic tales, especially when they’re accompanied by Stephen Gammell’s creepy, drippy, oozy illustrations.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Though not in the vein of classic ghost stories, Palahniuk’s collection of short stories will nonetheless make your blood curdle. The premise? A bunch of writers think they’re on a retreat, then realize they’ve signed up for something much more sinister. What they do in response is incredibly unnerving, gory, and entertaining. You’ll get pangs of phantom pain alongside the shivers.

    Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
    Shelley’s classic never fails to make me shudder while still pulling on my heartstrings. Frankenstein’s monster has been a ubiquitous and influential character in pop culture, but he’s become increasingly less scary over the years. Go back to the original Frankenstein and get properly frightened, the good ol’ Gothic way.

    The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    It’s not a ghost story, it’s not a horror story—it’s even written for young adults to read. It’s nonetheless one of the most brutal, ominous books I’ve ever read. So far this reading list has been about murderers and monsters, but I’ve added one cult classic about a band of British schoolboys, stuck alone on an island with a conch shell. Why’s it on this list? If you haven’t already, just read it and see.

    What books have given you the chills?

  • Nicole Hill 7:00 pm on 2014/07/29 Permalink
    Tags: , carolyn keen, , , , , , mary shelley, , , , , , , ,   

    8 Female Characters Who Need a Relationship Intervention 

    Nancy Drew

    Clearly, not every fictional relationship is straight out of the lusty pages of a bodice-ripper. Similarly, many of literature’s most storied unions lack the progressivism one might wish for. To spell it out: sometimes your favorite heroine brings home a real clunker. And you sit there, page after page, shouting at her to wake up and realize her romantic worth. But she doesn’t listen, for the plot must trod on despite your totally sensible objections to the inferior object of her affections.

    It ends today. It’s intervention time. Today we tell our favorite women of the printed word that “there is something rotten in Denmark, and it’s his terrible attitude.

    Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte)
    Girl, sit down. Look, I know, Mr. Rochester is le dreamy, as your young chanteuse Adele might say. But honey, he kept his deranged wife holed up in his attic while he made big puppy dog eyes at you. I hear you saying, “Everyone has skeletons in their closet.” But not everyone’s skeletons set their beds on fire in the dark of the night. If you insist on going through with this relationship, I’m going to need you to go over every nook and cranny of Rochester’s House of Secrets, because you certainly can’t count on the wickedly complicit or insanely oblivious help to help.

    Nancy Drew (The Nancy Drew series, by Carolyn Keene)
    Let me put this quite simply: dream a little bigger, darling. There are more exotic, intriguing men out there than some cookie-cutter, insurance-selling frat boy. Ned’s probably not even the most interesting man in Mapleton. Not to mention, this exchange from The Double Jinx Mystery:

    Nancy: “How would you like to spend a few days at my house and help me do some sleuthing?”

    Ned: “Great! I’m tired of cooking my own meals. I’ll come right away.”

    Nancy, you’re just a meal ticket to him! He doesn’t deserve you or the wares from your fine family’s table!

    Bella Swan (The Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer)
    Come on, come on out of that fetal position. True, Edward is one hot cold piece of man vamp meat. It’s naturally you’d go all swoony. Pretty understandable to have a little puppy love with Jacob while we’re at it. But girl, you need to find yourself first. You can’t love them truly, until you love yourself. Go eat your way through Europe or something and then see how you feel about long-term commitment.

    Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    See above, only maybe instead of Europe, you should try a convent for a few years. Just get as far away from your Scrooge McDuck vault of a life as possible before finding a nice simple farm boy somewhere.

    Cersei Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin)
    When they say keep it all in the family, they didn’t mean it like that, homegirl. I get it. Jaime’s a stud. Cousin Lancel? Well…that was a choice. With a loveless marriage to the lecherous ogre formerly known as Robert Baratheon, it’s perfectly reasonable to look for other creatures who understand you. Understand you, yes, but not look like you. Try Tinder, for the Seven’s sake.

    Elizabeth Lavenza (Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley)
    Yo, I don’t know what Victor Frankenstein put under Hobbies on his dating profile, but it might be prudent to check for some subtext. Not only is this entanglement dangerous, but Toying With the Laws of Nature leaves precious little time for Meeting Elizabeth’s Emotional Needs and Nurturing Her Towards a Positive, Fulfilling Existence.

    Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
    Hester, I’m never taking you to the track, because you couldn’t hit a winner with the broad side of a Puritan barn. A+ match with Roger Chillingworth, and twitchy, righteously guilty old Dimmesdale isn’t the one I’d fall over myself to be publicly shamed for. Really, though, what’s more important for you is this bit of solid real estate advice: location, location location. Get new neighbors. Get new clothes. Get out.

    Penelope (The Odyssey, by Homer)
    Twenty years, a gosh-darned war, vengeful gods, sirens, cyclopses, insane-in-the-membrane natural disasters, errant bags of wind, the Underworld, girls tryna’ steal your man, all them piggish suitors. Maybe it’s a sign…

    What fictional characters do you think need a relationship intervention?

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 5:00 pm on 2014/07/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , mary shelley, , petals on the wind, , , ,   

    13 Signs You Might Be Living in a Gothic Novel 

    Flowers in the Attic

    We love gothic novels for their emotional power, their over-the-top drama, and the creepy-shivery feelings we get while reading them. Of course, part of the fun of gothic novels is that their characters and situations are so much larger than life…or are they? If you’ve started to suspect that the drafty cathedral your family has called home for countless centuries may in fact be the setting of a bona fide gothic novel, here are 13 spooky ways to tell for sure:

    1. Either there are no clocks in your house, or your house is filled with clocks…but they’re all set to different times.

    2. Also, though you refer to it as “your house,” it’s actually one of the following: a dilapidated mansion, a moldering manor, or a crumbling castle with no plumbing to speak of. Also, the wind is always howling outside.

    3. People around you are regularly tumbling dramatically down stairs and breaking all of their bones.

    4. You can tell that things are starting to get kind of serious with the guy you’ve been seeing because he’s started talking about how you two are actually one person and how if you’re ever separated by death he will throw himself into your open grave and be buried alive with you. Also, you suspect that the two of you might be somehow related. Best not to dwell.

    5. Flickering candles everywhere.

    6. Three or more friends or family members have wasted away from mysterious fevers, but always looked great doing it.

    7. Instead of watching TV, you plot revenge.

    8. Every time you’re about to finally fall into bed with the long-term object of your obsession, a gust of wind ablows the French doors open, a candle gutters out, and one of you immediately begins to waste away from a mysterious fever.

    9. Your living quarters are no great shakes, but you’ve noticed that going outside is somehow always a bad idea.

    10. 20% of the meals served and eaten in your house are laced with some kind of drug or poison.

    11. People are constantly being locked in their rooms or locking other people in their rooms without anybody ever batting an eye over it.

    12. Most of the marriages of the couples around you were motivated by vengeance.

    13. An attic without an insane person chained up in it for years just doesn’t have that lived-in feeling. Same goes for cellars, and the odd cupola.

    Do you suspect you might be living in a gothic novel?

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