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Collected Ghost Stories (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 12 Sep 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (12 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199674892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199674893
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

In his introduction to the 2013 Oxford World Classics edition of MR James's Collected Ghost Stories, Darryl Jones cites the story Casting The Runes, in which a Mr Dunning, lying in bed in the dark, gropes for matches under his pillow. (Teddy Jamieson, Sunday Herald (Glasgow))

They are classics of the genre. He had a brilliant skill for unsettling you and you wake up panting in the night (Reverand Richard Coles, Daily Express)

About the Author

Darryl Jones's other publications include Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film (London: Arnold; New York: OUP, 2002).


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Lovely Treez TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently had my first ghostly encounter with the illustrious M R James whose collection of creepy tales has been lingering on my shelves waiting to pounce for several years now... James is considered to be the master ghost story teller and he really has a deft hand when it comes to creating suspenseful scenarios which can scare the wits out of the reader by suggestion rather than in your face gore.

I read all of the tales in a couple of sittings but it would probably be a more satisfying reading experience to spread them out a bit and read them over a couple of months as they can seem quite samey after a while.

My favourite story was The Haunted Dolls' House not only because of the terror inspired by the narrative but also because of my phobia of china dolls, you know the kind whose eyes follow you around the room... Another of my favourites was Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad whose title actually sounds quite friendly but oh no, there is menace lurking in the wings. I found myself wanting to shout at the protagonists - "No, don't go into that cellar/church/crypt/cupboard!".

If you like to be thrilled in a subtle, sophisticated way then M R James is the man for you.
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No doubt that James is a great writer of the paranormal. Well worth a read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great products, thank you!
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There are classics that deserve no separate review apart from mere stating of the fact that these stories have been shaping the contours of horror fiction for the past century, and since 1931 (when these stories were brought out together, except 3 stories that were later collected) they have remained continuously in-print. However, this book was special in the sense that the stories often mention certain details that require gentle ministrations in the shape of annotations & explanations for Latin-challenged readers like us (who must be 99.9% of the total readers), and this book does it to some extent. Of course, its comparison with the gold-standard of annotated editions set by "A Pleasing Terror" published by the Ash Tree Press would be made, and the book would be found short on many grounds (esp. in terms of non-inclusion of certain non-fiction written by MRJ himself that have immense relevance in understanding the stories themselves) rather inevitably. Nevertheless, it is very reasonably priced, and deserves to be appreciated, esp. since the Penguin volumes (edited by S.T Joshi) are ridiculously overpriced, and since the Ash Tree Press is not coming out with their long-awaited 2nd edition of "A Pleasing Terror" (in 2 volumes!) any time soon. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Readers will understandably be divided on these stories: some will prefer the tight early pieces, others the wordier later ones. The reason is that they were written over a lifetime, and thereby chart the writer's growing abilities in the craft of writing, and his changing outlook.

The narrator of most stories is an antiquarian bachelor employed in academia or the church, which gives them a sense of social insularity. A number of James's tales are heavily immersed in the culture of Anglicanism in the late 19th century, assuming that the reader understands what disputes were current within the church. This can pose a problem for current readers. For example, the splendidly crafted "An Episode in Cathedral History" relies on a knowledge of the Gothic revival that swept through the Church of England in the mid-19th century, as well as the frictions between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic churchmen.

Also James was clearly a fan of Anthony Trollope, whose "Barchester Chronicles" novels (eg. Barchester Towers) have left an impression on some of the later stories with their colourful casts of eccentric clergymen and cathedral staff. One odd tale is actually titled "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral". There are extremely convincing and well rendered portrayals of character types that hold up so well against Trollope, Charles Dickens and George Gissing - this is good writing.

Having said that, as stories of ghosts and supernatural events go there are some real gems in this volume: including "The Mezzotint", "The Ash Tree", "Whistle and I'll Come to You Lad", "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas", "The Haunted Doll's House'", "An Uncommon Prayer Book" and the gruesome "A View from a Hill".
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Written in a more innocent and graceful era, MR James's ghost stories are subtle, with very polite and, at times, utterly chilling ghosts.

I enjoyed most of them, with some of the stories giving me delicious goosebumps (The Ash Tree, Number 13, Oh Whistle & I'll come to thee, my Lad, The Uncommon Prayer Book, Wailing Well and others).

One issue I had with this particular text, was that the explanatory notes were by means of an * (no differentiaton within each story) and the note itself was at the back of the book, rather than at the foot of teh relevant page, which would have made reading the explanations without interrupting the pace and tension of the story a lot easier. In the end, I stopped looking at the notes and just enjoyed the stories, although I would have liked to know what some references meant.

Quaint and appealing, these ghost stories are a great in bed late at night ...!
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