Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invitation to the Curious..., 26 Jan 2007
This review is from: Ghost Stories (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Ruth Rendell once remarked that she wished she had never read M.R. James so that she might have the pleasure of reading him for the first time, and I for one understand exactly what she meant. If you have not yet come across his work either in a complete edition or in anthologies then indeed a treat awaits you. The secret of James success lies not in the portrayal of apparitions but in the consequences of an invasion of the supernatural into the cosy, cloistered academic worlds of his dons and squires who exist very happily in their erudite comfort until that moment when their neat assumptions about the world are shattered by the appearance of the irrational. Although James can create monsters as shocking as anyone, they are always implicit rather than explicit, glimpsed for a fleeting moment as much in the brain as in the eye, the consequences of their presence far more powerful than the manifestation itself. The effect of two different dimensions colliding is all the more powerful here for James was steeped in the ideas and traditions of a nineteenth century scholar's world, and spent his whole life in the kind of parsonages, churches and collegiate institutions that provide the atmospheric setting for so many of these stories. Then there is the writer's flair for evoking character in a few short lines and the humour which emerges from a pen that might seem altogether too weighty to indulge in such levity. Everyone has their own favourite M.R James stories: for excitement my pick would be Casting the Runes, others argue the merits of A Warning to the Curious or Lost Hearts but then again I have a soft spot for An Episode of Cathedral History, as it is the epitome of the virtues listed above. Television has made a number of creditable attempts to adapt these stories but nothing beats the original texts. A pleasure not to be missed.
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Eugene Onegin
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Location: Lincoln England

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