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Posts Tagged ‘M.R. James’

A Ghost Story Near Christmas

Posted by Dirck on 7 December, 2018

After running out my own seasonal ghost story for the year, I thought I’d follow the theme at least for this week. Today’s film is more in the line of the traditional seasonal ghost story, which if I take anything from the works of M.R. James don’t usually have that much to do with the season.

The other point of interest is that it’s being told by Algernon Blackwood. I’m sure some will have said who? to that name, so I’ll explain briefly that he was famous for writing creepy stuff in the first half of the 20th century. No, that’s not quite right– through the first half of the 20th century. He began a little before radio for home entertainment became possible, and was in the public eye long enough to make stuff like the following for an entertainment-hungry post-WWII public.

He’s sort of like Stephen King in terms of career length and popularity, although I think he’s got a better delivery when he’s reading his own work (King probably has him beat in the rock guitar department).

Today’s pen: Waterman Executive
Today’s ink: Diamine Sargasso Sea


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A Name was Dropped

Posted by Dirck on 28 October, 2016

Yes, last week I mentioned M.R. James, whose works for some reason I tend to associate more with Hallowe’en than Christmas.  Some quirky of my personality, I suppose.  In any event, here’s another.  It strays somewhat from the original text, which sets up some disappointed expectations, but this is balanced by a bunch of rather good British actors doing their quiet and effective thing for about an hour.

Today’s quiet British pen: Mabie, Todd & Co Blackbird
Today’s gently suggestive ink: Herbin Lie de Thé

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The Mezzotint

Posted by Dirck on 21 October, 2016

No, not really, although watching today’s film may put you in mind of that M.R. James story.

Coincidentally, it’s one of those days when “hollow” is rather how I’d prefer my skull.  Wretched migraine!

Today’s pen: Parker 45
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Dumas Tulipe Noire

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Middoth

Posted by Dirck on 19 December, 2014

I somehow manage to be surprised every time this bit of intelligence presents itself to me– M.R. James’s work was, in the main, writing down of stories he told at Christmas.  Because telling skin-looseningly creepy stories is (or was, a century ago) apparently a regular feature of the English yuletide fun.

That’s fine with me, of course.  As the burbling I utter through October reveals, I like my creepy just fine.  I don’t think I’ll try to start this as a tradition at home just yet (a six-year-old really isn’t equipped to process Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, and I’m unwilling to deal with the night-time fallout of proving that), but for what I take to be an adult readership a recent BBC production of one of the the more moral-laden of James’s stories is an excellent installment for the Friday Film Festival.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer “TM” Triumph
Today’s ink: Diamine Syrah

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Bundled Up Snug in Your Bed

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2012

We tend not, in our modern and shiny world, to consider Christmas as a night of spooks, haunts and spectres.  Sure, there’s the reform-minded spirits that drive old Ebenezer Scrooge into a frenzy of wealth redistribution (and may their efforts thrive) but they’re not alone.  One of the fruits of listening to the M.R. James Podcast is the discovery that a lot of his stuff, with its hair-monsters as one might expect in a Japanese movie and its vengeance-driven spiders and its whistle-powered hug-demons, is meant to be read at Christmas.

Since I’m too lazy to research even a little, I wonder if  this is a hold-over from some long-ago pagan propitiation of the solstice or if it’s just a clever way to get the kids from underfoot while the mysterious gifts from Santa, or St. Nicholas, or Father Christmas (in order of increasing gauntness and terror of aspect) are installed.  Did some druid one day say, “Y’know… this is kind of icky.  What say next year we just take it in turns telling scary stories and call it good, even if no one actually dies of fright,”  or was there some bright Victorian parent that realized that it’s a lot easier for a few candies to magically manifest in stockings if the kids are in a quivering heap, dead centre of the bed, with the comforter clasped about their heads?  I know that I’d certainly not put a foot off the edge of the bed if, at age eight, someone had read Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook at me.

And then there’s this guy:

Have a very stabby Christmas!

An honest-to-goodness vintage image, which even if you’re not in the “clown = scary” camp is a pretty distressing one.  Look at the gleeful way that homunculus is working away with his knife.  Who, that isn’t bent on a rampage of destruction, uses two hands on a knife, even when trying to work free a fragment of fruit-cake?  And when I say “fruit-cake”, I say so with a tone of doubtful hope in my voice, because I suspect what wee Pagliacci there hungers for is something more in the line of… human brains!

You know how it is; laughing on the outside, plotting grim deeds on the inside.

The first mistake is to make eye contact.

Knife and repast aside, that’s a flat affect if ever I saw one.  He’s smiling with his mouth… sort of, and if we make allowance for what appears to be an utterly inhuman tongue… but there’s only calculation in those eyes.  Utterly chilling.

Looking at the matter positively, though– as much as I like the idea of the world being merry and gay (use the word however you wish) in the face of the bleakest season, I should hate for a reduction in the amount of M.R. James’s tales that might stem of an entirely un-dark Christmas.  Also, we might be without The Nightmare Before Christmas, either in its animated form, or in the earlier poetic incarnation:

By the way, if you’re as much a Christopher Lee fan as I am, you’ll absolutely want to lay hands on his heavy metal “Little Drummer Boy” (“Silent Night” is a little less fun, but not without merit).

Now, because I don’t want to be totally contrary to the received spirit of the season, I offer a couple of non-skeletal, terror-free items.  First is a link to a somewhat late gift-idea, which may not even bear more than a sense of having properly applied one’s powers in the direction of charity– Shawn Newton is running another raffle to drum up some scholarship money for a deserving urchin.  Since we are, indeed, out of work-houses, how can you decline to give?  The prospect of possibly getting a nice pen out of it is a mere sweetening of the deal.

And from nice pens, let’s move to pens being used nicely:

And that is it from me until after Boxing Day. Don’t do you livers too much injury in the next couple of days through either booze or fatty treats, forgive your family in their lesser failings, and try not to worry about that damn clown.

He knows when you are sleeping!  HE KNOWS!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Legacy
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé

Post Scriptus– I find that I’m not the only one considering the terrors of the season; there’s a BBC article on the very same subject.  Strangely, while touching on Zwarte Piet, they miss entirely that most Jamesian of Christmas critters, the Krampus:

This is just about the least distressing image on the Wikipedia page regarding Herr Krampus.

This is just about the least distressing image on the Wikipedia page regarding Herr Krampus.

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Reading Suggestion for a Creepy Night

Posted by Dirck on 30 October, 2012

Even as I type this, I’m listening to a discussion of one of M.R. James’s cracking yarns and looking out the window at some extremely uncommon fog; it’s not unseasonal, but it’s been there for hours, and we just don’t do that here.

I’m going to be very brief today, for want of any real inspiration of my own (as far as this enterprise is concerned; I’m almost crawling with little bits of fiction that need to be slotted into the various stories I have on the bubble).  All I really have is the titular suggestion, and a brief agrument for it.

The suggestion is a story I’ve known of for ages, but was finally moved to look at by a series of thematically-linked movie reviews at one of my favourite sites for that sort of thing.  The thematic link, which won’t last once he updates again, is films based in a greater or lesser degree on Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”.  Most of these movies are from the 1960s, a time of increasing creative liberation, and the reason for the confluence of time and tale is the purported undercurrent of, if I may be briefly indelicate, HAWT girl-on-girl action!! in the source material.

…which, as I’ve seen none of the films, may be present in them.  I suggest the story itself not on this basis; while I’m not a prude, I leave it to seekers of HAWT girl-on-girl action!! to discover it for themselves, and a moment of reflection will suggest that a story published at any point during the lifetime of Sheridan Le Fanu (d. 1873) is unlikely to be the kind of thing which that sort of seeker is going to be at all interested in.  Indeed, having now read it, I will reassure my own readers that the undercurrent, while perceptible by a willing mind is hardly present enough to give even Her Imperial Majesty Victoria a moment’s pause (assuming the one I looked at hasn’t been bowdlerized, which I doubt).

I recommend it because, when Le Fanu finally gets down to business on the vampirin’, it is some really good vampirin’.  There’s no sparkles, there’s wasting away, there’s unnerving imagery, and while there’s also a hint of romantic tragedy it doesn’t cloy.  It is, in fact, very damn creepy, and makes for nervous glances into dark corners of the room.  Exactly the sort of thing one wants at this time of year.

If you want a look, here’s the link.

Say, that wasn’t so brief after all.

Today’s pen: Wahl 326AW
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

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“It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”

Posted by Dirck on 26 October, 2012

Rather than bore you all on Monday with what I did over the weekend, I think I shall rather bore you all with what I intend to do.  This being the weekend before Hallowe’en, when the spirits are about (and being consumed in great quantities by college freshmen wearing either Fred Flintstone or Sexy {insert profession here} costumes), and even we firmly stick-in-mud long-married couples have a sense that, damn it, some fun needs to be had.

Of course, being what we are (and not just the preceding description), our notion of fun is not quite what others might follow.  We might, but for a paucity of sitters, be almost like others; some friends are hosting a Time Traveller party which would be right squarely up our alley.  The situation being what it is, sitting quietly about the house and watching creepy films is about the size of it, but what a bounty of creepy films we have on tap!  We have cheated ourselves a bit, having already watched something that is just on the edge of “OK with the kid in the room”, which I hint at in the title (name it in the comments and earn the admiration of others; name the somewhat-old which sampled it and gain extra lauds), but good old Turner Classic Movies is really pushing the boat out on Saturday with a solid eighteen hours of largely Hammer horrors, and what’s not Hammer is just as much fun.  If nothing there suits the moment, we’ve things on disc tame enough the tiny tyrant, but with sufficient subtle terror to see us happy.

During the day, I will probably play at least one of the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre discs I’ve got.  They’re extremely cunning simulations of 1930’s radio dramas, without any winking modern irony, and all of them do at least as good a job at offering the shudders of cosmic horror as the written works they’re adapted from; in one case, certainly, even better.

Sunday night, I am going to suggest an abandonment of electronics (Walking Dead being something we definitely can’t watch with freedom); we have occasionally had reading nights, and it’s about time we had another.  There’s a couple of M.R. James’s stories that shouldn’t panic the son, who will no doubt go and pursue his hobby of staging little wooden train crashes after a couple of minutes in any event.  Stodgy?  Perhaps… but if you read “Count Magnus” with your imaginator engaged, you are apt to be amazed at how graphic it is.

At some point on Sunday, my wife and I will no doubt also have a great roaring debate, as much as ever we do, over the making of popcorn balls to hand out on the night itself in lieu of teeny chocolate bars.  She sees it as a waste, I as both a savings and a nod to a more traditional Hallowe’en.  Should the kids not be slightly afraid of the free candy they got?

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Organics Studio Manganate V

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