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Collected Ghost Stories (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 12 Sep 2013
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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).
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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".
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 ...!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What more is there to say? At just under three pounds,this collection
of short stories by one of the greatest story tellers of supernatural tales
is essential. M. Read more
A much bigger book than I thought it would be for the price. Quite small writing though, but lots of short stories.Published 6 months ago by galadrial
Classic tales, which are enjoyable in the extreme. If you liked The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, this is for you. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Martin Oliver