American Gothic Tales - Bruce McAllister, Joyce Carol Oates

The internet spazzed out on me for a good, long minute, so my spotify turned on me like it's Cujo and he's been bitten by a bat and I had to reset everything once more - and then again.  I nearly forgot that today's Saturday, and thus it was time to change my profile pic once more as well as to host the one-paragraph challenge for the short stories I was supposed to have read this week. I woke up early to do the dirty deed of cruising some garage sales and whatever else was happening this morning, and it ended up leaking into my afternoon, and then my lazy ass slept through the evening.  I feel like I just woke up long enough to pour a slushie Strawberry Daquiri into a cup to guzzle down and I just crushed a totally gross Apartment Caterpillar, so let's do this and get it over with!

 

Well, this one will deviate from what I plan to do more in the future, due to the fact that I had already added some of the stories that I will be talking about shortly originally to the draft of last saturday's review.  Yes, that was not supposed to be nearly as short as it ended up being; I think it was supposed to be double the length that it ended up being, but BookLikes ate them up and I was stupid enough to not have installed Lazarus Form Recovery, so, there you go, you get what you deserve in the long run.

 

 

 "Young Goodman Brown" - Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Can I just state, again, for the record, that it is skeevy as shit to double-dip on one contributor to ANY anthology that is supposed to be subject based, as this one is?  If I had to choose between the two Hawthorne shorts in this collection, my choice would undoubtedly be for "Young Goodman Brown".  It's terrifying on a religious as well as a psychological level, it's expertly paced so that it is nightmarish and it is elemental in its themes (Christian-focused, although they are) so that this short story is destined to stand the test of time.  This may actually be one of the top five stories in this collection that I would recommend a person to read. 

 

Although, Oates, you should have added another author to this book, instead of adding TWO Hawthorne stories.  Off of the top of my head, I would have rather seen the subtle and chilling short story, "The Willows", by later period author Algernon Blackwood than "The Man of Adamant", which feels as though it revisits the themes of "Wieland, or the Transformation" on a smaller scale.  Just sayin'.

 

"The Tartarus of the Maids" - Herman Melville

 

 "He took me up a wet and rickety stair to a great light room, furnished with no visible thing but rude, manger-like receptacles running all round its sides; and up to these mangers, like so many mares haltered to the rack, stood rows of girls. Before each was vertically thrust up a long, glittering scythe, immovably fixed at bottom to the manger-edge. The curve of the scythe, and its having no snath to it, made it look exactly like a sword. To and fro, across the sharp edge, the girls forever dragged long strips of rags, washed white, picked from baskets at one side; thus ripping asunder every seam, and converting the tatters almost into lint. The air swam with the fine, poisonous particles, which from all sides darted, subtilely, as motes in sunbeams, into the lungs."

(show spoiler)

 

Deep within the crevice of a freezing cold mountain lies a study in contrasts - deathly cold and the appallingly stifling heat of mechanisms that turn women into something akin to donkeys in coal mines, forever doing the same motions, day in and day out, with no respite or hope for freedom in sight.  And it is in the POV of a male who seems immune to the blinding cruelty of the men who work, enjoying a sort of "Paradise" deep in a tundra, an existence that is a far cry from the indentured existence of the women of the factory that we witness the lives of women who have been made the parts of the greater machinery of the factory.  Dark and well ahead of its time in terms of how aware the speaker seems to be of the cruelty that the women are forced to endure, this is a short story that cannot be forgotten about.  I REALLY prefer this story to "Bartleby the Scrivener", which just bored me,

 

 

"The Black Cat" - Edgar Allan Poe

 

I hesitate to talk at length about this story - what HASN'T been said about this shocking, disturbing work?  Well, working as either a psychological or a supernatural work of horror, it works exceedingly well in either focus on the story.  It is truthful to say that re-reading this was an experience that still managed to give me the awful creeps.

 

"The Yellow Wallpaper" - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

 

"...the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.

But I don't mind it a bit—only the paper.

There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing"

 

I do believe that is it a testament to just how AMAZING a tv show is when a character in it idly mentions Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper".  That is to say that American Horror Story is easily the best television drama, and to say that "The Yellow Wallpaper" deserves every accolade that it has earned - and more.  Unnerving and subtle, it feels like listening to a symphony whose sound is every so slightly discordant at first, and then manages to slip further and further into sheer insanity, until by the end we're firmly within the territory of the horrifyingly surreal.   It also works as a wonderful parable of how feminine creativity can express itself in a wide variety of ways when it is suppressed - sometimes in bizarre and disturbing manners.

 

"The Romance of Certain Old Clothes" - Henry James

 

I am just not in the "Henry James" fan club.  The Turn of the Screw was an experience in wanting to very nearly die of boredom throughout most of it, for me, and he proves yet again in this short story that that's just how he makes me feel - and, while I'm comparing the two, I also feel that both of them seem to make me feel cheated, with their endings.  Overlong, built like a ghost story that takes too damn long to get to the ghost, already!  I also sort of despised the supposed "moral" of the story, how one sister who was just as shallow as the other one is supposed to be better than the other one.  The ending bordered on hilarious, for how contrived it is.  It was almost a punchline to a joke that bordered on The Aristocrats in length.   Well, folks, I can't like everything that's supposed to be "amazing", so shove it.

 

Ooh, that was over before I felt as though I'd started!  It's nice to see that I am starting to get to the really good part of the anthology. 

Have a good weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

Reblogged from Bitter Scheherazade