Read Classic Ghost Stories by Charles Keeping Free Online
Book Title: Classic Ghost Stories|
The author of the book: Charles Keeping
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2998 times
Reader ratings: 4.6
Edition: Blackie & Son
Date of issue: 1986
ISBN 13: 9780216920125
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 491 KB
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July 10, 2011
While I just finished reading two ghost story collections at the public library in Harrisonburg, and might have been tempted to go for more variety in my next selection, I opted for this one because it contains Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost," which someone here on Goodreads had recommended to me a while back. (Because of its length, though, that particular story will have to wait until the next go- around.) The "classic" in the title is appropriate; all of the eight selections (all by British or American writers) are drawn from the 19th or early 20th centuries, and each of the authors represented are well known either in this genre or in the world of letters in general.
Both of the two American writers here, Poe and Irving, happen to be represented by the two stories in the collection that I've read before, and both are good. "The Adventure of the German Student" links a romantic/erotic (which is not the same thing as dirty) element to the motif of supernatural menace, in a way that's always struck me as being rather frank for the early 1800s. (While there's nothing explicit said about what they do there, the protagonist does take a young woman to his bed; and they're not legally wed, though, to be fair, they consider themselves married and have shaken hands on it.) Irving also plays very effective head games with the reader in making it dubious whether or not the supernatural denouement here is real --a common theme in stories of this type, but more prominent than usual here. Poe's "the Black Cat" is a tale of the narrator's personality disintegration, under steady alcohol abuse, from gentle normality to sadistic and homicidal sociopathy, told in the author's characteristic purple prose. One of my Goodreads friends found the psychological portrayal here unrealistic, but I think it illuminates something that's possible (though, to be sure, abnormal and unusual). Also, I personally don't interpret the cats here as agents of evil, though this could no doubt be debated. Strictly speaking, of course, this isn't really a ghost story (unless one interprets the second cat as the ghost of the first?). The same could be said of Charles Dickens' "The Signalman;" it's a well-told tale of the uncanny and inexplicable, but nothing clearly identifies the apparition the title character sees as a ghost as such. (It does, though, illustrate the fact that Dickens was an able practitioner of the short story form, though the prominence of his novels has tended to obscure his work in the shorter format.) More later!
June 30, 2012
The remaining five stories in the collection proved universally well-crafted and rewarding, though commenting on the plots of specific ones is (as is typically the case with short stories that depend heavily on their conclusions for the intended effect) often difficult to do without resorting to spoilers. We can say, without the latter, that the specters in these tales run the gamut from malevolent, homicidal ghosts, through ghosts seeking vengeance for wrongs inflicted by the living, to ghosts whose intentions are benevolent. Most often, the tone is serious, but Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost" is an exercise in wry whimsy from the beginning, and drawing much of its humor from a British take on the foibles of typical Americans --though Wilde's sympathetic heroine is an American, and he also takes seriously the ideas of redemption and of Divine forgiveness. (Some reviewers have felt that the moral tone of the latter story darkens as the reader learns of the past harm inflicted by the ghost before he died --he callously murdered his wife-- and afterwards, when he takes pride in having driven numerous people to death and insanity by his ghostly appearances; but all of these elements, IMO, are presented in such a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top fashion that they don't really elicit the kind of serious reaction that a different tone might have engendered. No humorous note is evident in the other stories, however. Stevenson's "The Body Snatchers" is set in his native Scotland, against the dark milieu of the notorious Burke and Hare, who ran a real-life racket of not only grave-robbing but murdering people to serve as dissecting specimens for medical students. (Burke and Hare themselves don't appear in this story, but it involves similar activities.) M. R. James' "Wailing Well" and A. M. Burrage's "The Sweeper" (which I think, after having read it, that I read years ago in another collection; it has a frisson of familiarity) are both typical of these two masters of the genre. My favorite of the entire collection, though, proved to be Du Maurier's "Escort," a tale of the uncanny and supernatural at sea, in the submarine-infested waters of the North Sea during World War II, which shows the author to be as much a mistress of short fiction as of the novel.
Overall, I rated the collection at four stars, but a good case could be made for five; every one of the stories are good, and some are certainly very good examples of their type. (If I could give half stars, it would easily have rated four and a half.) I chose not to go all the way to five only because eight stories arguably makes for a rather short collection, and because of the lack of bio-critical comments on the authors/stories (or even dates for the selections); but nonetheless, this is still an excellent anthology, highly recommended for readers who like this type of fiction.
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Read information about the authorCharles William James Keeping was an English illustrator, children's book author and lithographer, born in Lambeth, South London. This childhood background of markets and docks influenced much of his work. At fourteen he became an apprentice in the printing trade before working as an engineer. Later he served in the Royal Navy. On leaving the Navy he changed careers yet again and worked for a while as a rent collector before starting on a three year course at the Regent Street Polytechnic studying drawing, etching, and lithography. (He later took up a teaching position here).
Charles Keeping had his work exhibited all over the world and throughout his career illustrated over 100 books. He received many awards, including the 1967 Kate Greenaway Medal for his picture book Charley, Charlotte and the Golden Canary, and the 1981 Kate Greenaway Medal for The Highwayman.
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