Today marks the official start of my glorious Thanksgiving Break. My sage advice—to sacrifice Columbus Day as a day off in exchange for an entire week of freedom for Thanksgiving—has apparently, via osmosis, found its way to my school’s administration, and after slogging it out for three months, we’re finally reaping the benefits of that sacrifice.
This past weekend was also the first time in a few weeks I did not have to travel out of town for one reason or another, so I have watched a lot of movies on Shudder—the good, the bad, and the forgettable (I also managed to get in a late-night session of Civilization VI, eschewing my most recent playthrough as the Celts and cranking up a new run as the Incan Empire, which is slowly expanding across South America at the time of this writing). I managed to catch two flicks with the word “Ghostland” in their titles, one memorable and somewhat good, the other absolutely terrible: 2021’s Prisoners of Ghostland and 2018’s Incident in a Ghostland, respectively.
So, for the second year in a row, I’m looking back this TBT to 2019’s “On Ghost Stories,” a post that now will hold the distinction of being a perennial favorite.
One might think that as scary as the real world is, we’d spend less time reading spooky fiction. It seems the opposite is the case. Perhaps the idea that malevolence is not necessarily the result of human frailty, but rather due to wicked supernatural influences, is oddly comforting. That evil is the result of our fallen nature—and, of course, the malignant supernatural influence up on it—is a bit easier to forget, perhaps, when reading about some ghostly figure wreaking havoc in the English countryside.
More likely, it’s just that we enjoy being scared—when we can easily flip off the television or close the book. Horror is fun when there are no real consequences attached to it. Then again, just watching horror movies probably isn’t healthy (I’ll report back if I suddenly get any macabre urges).
Well, whatever the reason, a good ghost story is hard to pass up. With that, here is “TBT: On Ghost Stories“:
Despite my griping about South Carolina weather in yesterday’s post, the first day of September was surprisingly cool and overcast, giving the slightest taste of the crisp autumnality to come. This time of year always gets me thinking about Halloween and spooky stuff, especially as everything feels more magical.
Our modern minds have diminished and dismissed the supernatural as mere superstition, often accompanied with attempts to explain away supernatural phenomena with explanations that themselves require faith to believe. That “faith” is in scientism, a counterfeit “religion” built purely on a material understanding of the world.
We see but through a glass darkly. There is more to our world than meets the eye—more to it than what we can observe. God tells us much of what is there—at least, what we need to know—and Scripture seems to suggest we shouldn’t go looking for things beyond Him and His Son.
At one point or another we’ve all experienced the situation where we’ve seen or heard some new idea, word, or concept, and suddenly, we see it everywhere. When I bought my car in 2020, I suddenly began seeing Nissan Versa Notes constantly.
Well, it was fun while it lasted—another Spring Break is in the books. I enjoyed this brief respite, the eye in the middle of the storm that is the Spring Semester. The next couple of weeks will be a flurry of activity for yours portly, followed by the long, graceful descent into summer vacation.
Like last year, I’ll be recapping the short stories I recommended this past week, and offer up a short ranking of them. The list will be shorter by two this year, as I dedicated last Monday to a movie review and did not reblog an earlier short story review Thursday.
“Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part III: “Out of the Deep” – This tale was an excessively wordy, psychological ghost story. It admirably confuses the reader with its unreliable narrator and the weird visions of its protagonist, Jimmy (who is fairly unlikable), but part of the confusion comes from the authors overwrought writing. Still, if you can wade through the dense swamp of the prose, it’s an interesting little tale.
“Recommendation” is perhaps a strong word for this story, which is, at times, excessively wordy and confusing—and that’s coming from me!
“Ghost story” is also, perhaps, a bit of a misnomer, though there does appear to be at least one—and possibly three—apparitions in the story, although that’s never made entirely clear.
It’s the wordiness and lack of clarity, though, that paradoxically make the story interesting. Walter de la Mare was a poet, and brings something of poetry’s attention to the consonance of words. At least, I’d like to think that’s what he is going for here; he clearly enjoys playing with language, almost the way a punster does. It makes for tedious reading at times, but does have the effect of keeping the reader guessing as to what is really happening.
But I digress. The real “ghosts” are the ones haunting the protagonist, Jimmy, a listless young man who has taken possession of his late uncle’s rambling London townhouse. Jimmy apparently has no occupation, and lives by selling off the sumptuous possessions his aunt and uncle left behind. Jimmy is also something of an eccentric insomniac, who finds it difficult to sleep unless bathed in candlelight (at least once in the story he sells some household items so he can purchase candles).Read More »
Today is the 99th edition of Lazy Sunday; it is also my birthday. I’m getting to that age where my birthday is still enjoyable, but also serves as a reminder that I’m on the wrong side of my thirties, slipping towards forty ever-faster.
It’s also that point in my life that I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality. Youthfulness compensated for poor dietary choices and succulent overeating in fifteen years ago; now, I’m feeling more and more the ravages of delicious indiscretions. I also find I don’t sleep as well (usually) as I once did, and I will ache in places that never bothered me before.
That said, I’m still fairly spry, and while my on-stage antics might not be nearly as acrobatic as they were in my twenties, I still manage to huff and puff my way around a stage—and onto coffee tables, if need be. Anything to entertain the crowd.
With that, I thought I’d celebrate Lazy Sunday and my birthday with some of my personal favorite posts:
“On Ghost Stories” (and “TBT: On Ghost Stories“) – Not surprisingly, I also love ghost stories. Indeed, the expiring Christmas season was, for the Victorians, a prime time for ghostly tales. The ancient bonds of memory and tradition that flow through Christmas make it the perfect time to contemplate our heritage—and the ghosts that haunt it.
“SubscribeStar Saturday: The Lost Art of Letter Writing” and “Update on Letter Writing” – I’ve discovered a new hobby, letter writing, and I’m hoping to do some small part to revive the practice. To date I’ve written around twenty-five or -six letters over the past three weeks—including one to a dog!—and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m planning on writing many more in 2021, and hope you, too, will join in on the fun and write letters to your friends and loved ones (or request one from me!).
We’re a mere day away from Halloween. All the build-up and fun are reaching their culmination. Indeed, I’ll be playing a fortieth birthday party tomorrow—a last-minute booking that will make it a very lucrative Halloween for yours portly.