Le Fanu, Sheridan. In a Glass Darkly. Trowbridge: Redwood Press, Ltd. 1971
Every other “scary” book I have read for October pales in comparison to In a Glass Darkly despite being composed of short stories. Let’s face it, the stories no matter how short are weird. In a Glass Darkly is made up of five short stories (although “Dragon Volage” is long enough to be classified as a novella) that are a mix of ghost stories, horror, mystery and fantastic. Each story is a little stranger than the last which makes for the perfect Halloween-time read especially with the lights dimmed low. The book ends with the short story “Camilla” about a lesbian vampire who needs more than victims to survive. “Camilla” appears to have the most success out of all the short stories, prompting other authors to write similar vampire stories with greater success.
“Green Tea” is about a doctor, Dr. Hesselius, who deals in the occult who is convinced his patient is being possessed by demons. The patient is Robert Lynder Jennings. He is a reverend haunted by a demon in the form of a little black monkey with glowing red eyes. When Dr. Hesselius meets the reverend he is convinced his afflictions are caused by excessive consumptions of green tea. His intuitions allow Rev. Jennings to take the doctor into his confidences and soon relates how the monkey demon came to haunt him. Things become more dire when Rev. Jennings admits the monkey has been making him do vile, unthinkable things. From here there is no turning back and the story can only end in tragedy.
“The Familiar” was originally written as “the Watcher” which I think is a better title. “The Familiar” is about a sea-captain, James Barton, who is being stalked by someone calling him/herself “the Watcher” (hence the better name for the title). The stalker turns out to be an ominous, little dwarf. After the dwarf’s appearances Captain Barton starts hallucinating voices and thinking an owl is out to get him. There is nothing he can do to stop the mental breakdown that is inevitable.
“Mr. Justice Harbottle” is a freaky little tale about Elijah Harbottle, a cruel and corrupt judge. His conscience starts to get the better of him after an unusual visit from a stranger. He begins to feel haunted by past prisoners he has unfairly put to death by his rulings. The hauntings become so severe that Judge Harbottle can’t escape the noose around his own neck.
“The Room at the Dragon Volage” moves away from being frightening (until the end) and takes on the genre of a mystery as the villans are human. I found the bulk of this story to be long-winded and boring. Maybe that is because it is the longest of the short stories in In a Glass Darkly (26 chapters equaling 176 pages) and really should be called a novella. It takes a long time for the story to come to a head. —- is too naive, too trusting, too innocent for my taste. He’s also too obsessed with a woman he’s only seen once. As the reader you have to suspect nothing good can come from this strange passion, especially since she is a married woman. This was my least favorite story of them all.
“Carmilla” is a good old-fashioned vampire tale. The kind that inspires others to write the same. The twist to this is that the vampire is female and lesbian. When a strange girl known as Carmilla is thrown from her carriage she is brought to the home of a lonely young girl. Hungry for companionship the young girl welcomes Carmilla into her home. Hungry for a new victim, Carmilla readily accept. The reader can see the plot coming from a long ways off, but the young narrator is slow to grasp the danger she is in.
Favorite line: “The Clerygman felt a chill of horror steal over him, while, during the wail of a sudden gust of wind, he heard, or fancied he heard, the half articulate sounds of rage and derision mingling in the sough” (p 65).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
When I recited the exact date of when I met a friend she chided me, “…speaking of demons! You can’t let go of yours!” I had to laugh. I was ready to blurt out the old caught in the act, “it’s not what it looks like!” Because it is true. For all intents and purposes it doesn’t look like I have let go of anything.
But, as I explained to my friend, I have good demons. I keep them with me to remind me of how my life could have turned out; where I could have been. I think of her brother and know that I am not vain enough to think I would ever have any impact on his life. So, if our relationship had worked out I would be a puzzle piece in his very complicated life. Fate has run its course and everything would be as it is today. There is a demon and his name is Care, because I still do.
Then there is the demon Gabriel. He is the angel of hurt and pain. He exists to remind me of of troubles far deeper than anything I live with today. Liked a drowning survived I have surfaced.
I cannot forget the demon of Humility. I cannot forgive myself for the pains I have caused others. My selfish need to be the center of someone elses world at a loved one’s expense. I never, ever want to go down that road again so I cannot let myself forget.
So many demons to keep for so many reasons. I love them all, need them all, want them all.
And yet. My friend is right.
I was having dinner with someone the other night. We sat stabbing pasta and fiddling with drink straws while discussing family and the expectations bred within bloodlines. Something she said struck a nerve, rattled a belief, and disconnected an age old longing. Just because you are tied by genes doesn’t mean you have to be tethered. I thought I wanted that tell-all, close as shadows siblingry – the first to know, the last to let go kind of relationship. In all actuality I have never known it or needed it. Another demon to let go of.
Hello my friend. I would like to bombard you with the number twenty-two. That is my wish for you. I would make you embrace it as your own. Twenty plus two. Think of it this way: Twenty-two is your magic number. It holds the key to letting go. It’s the permission to move on (not that no one needs to give you premission…except yourself). I am tempted to call you on every twentieth day and say (with authority, of course), “let one slide, let one slide…” I could send you a bottle of cheap azz tequila, make you have a shot – one for each hand – then, one for me, too. After that, maybe then you could let one slide.
One down, five to go.
Think of them as demons: