A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson

A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson” is a short story written in 1917 by  H. P. Lovecraft. It was first published in the September 1917 when Lovecraft was 27 and is unlike any of his earlier works. The story begins by our narrator Littlewit stating that he is a much older man than people belive and then  instantaly begins name-dropping.  We as the reader are made aware of all the famous English writers Littlewit has been acquainted with over the years.

I will admit I never really got this one, maybe I was tired or maybe I was not aware of the fact it’s a parody but I just didn’t get it. However saying that I still did enjoy the flow of the language used, I have always loved how beautiful crafted Lovecraft’s sentences are and even though I was not familiar with many of the writers that are eluded to in this story which I guess would make the jokes more meaningful I was able to enjoy the eloquence of the narration.

The Tell-Tale Heart

Villains!” I shrieked, “Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! Here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!” – The Narrator 

“The Tell-Tale Heart” was first published in January 1843 and begins like many an Edgar Allen Poe’s tales with an unnamed narrator addressing the reader.  Our narrator claims that he is nervous but not mad and that he will defend his sanity with a story that begins with a confession of murder.  The motivation for this murder neither of passion nor for the desire of money,  but rather the fear of the man’s pale blue “vulturious” eye.  The tale tail heart is a study of paranoia and mental deterioration after the murder of an old man.  Our narrator offers no conflict to his guilt but only seeks to attain the evidence of his sanity. I found it a strange tale akin to a child doing something wrong and admitting to the deed before they are found out. The ticking or throbbing of the heart the narrators once conscience thumping away until they cannot bear it and must confess all or die. It is a very short story, surprisingly short in fact for as much as I have seen references to it in popular culture.

The Great Gatsby

He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.” – Nick Carraway

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, follows the story of Nick Carraway our narrator, and the events that take place over the summer of 1922.  Nick having moved from the Midwest to New York and rents a small house on Long Island next door to the extravagant mansion of Jay Gatsby a theatrical, charismatic man with a mysterious past.  After receiving an invitation by this mysterious millionaire to attend one of his extravagant parties Nick and Gatsby become friends and over the summer discovers that Gatsby’s vast fortune was amassed in order to win the affections of a love he lost five years ago.

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite novels.  Fitzgerald has an astonishing ability to turn a phrase, and the great Gatsby is full of maxims and idioms that are both humorous and immensely insightful.  The book itself has a way of ensnaring you so that you can’t seem to put it down, I even found myself reading passages again and again for the sheer joy of it.   My emotions were constantly changing, anger, mystery, hope, in such a smooth and eloquent way that you just become part of the novel and associate with the characters themselves.  Fitzgerald’s use of figurative language in this story is what makes it flow and sound like poetry.  Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is a classic piece of American fiction. A tragedy that in its melancholy finds a light-hearted humour and is incredibly insightful.  Most of all The Great Gatsby is about something we all can relate to, an almost delusional kind of love that in the end, whether rightly or wrongly, robs life of all its purpose and vitality and our inability to move beyond the past.

The Moonlit Road

The Moonlit Road is a short horror story written by Ambrose Bierce, an American editorialist, journalist and short story writer.  The moonlit Road was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1907.    Ambrose Bierce switched back and forth between rigidly controlled war stories and macabre, otherworldly ghost stories but he also publishes several volumes poetry.  This is my first experience with Ambrose Bierce and was a wonderful way to become acquainted with his works.

This morbid and tragic tale of Julia Hetman is imparted to the reader from three perspectives that being Julia Hetman, her husband Joel Hetman, and her son Joel Hetman, Jr. The irrational state of events are conveyed n an ambiguous and distorted manner which is never really resolved leaving the reader to make gleam some sense out of the affair for themselves.  I enjoyed the narrative segments each one building on the story from a different point of view and it is completely subversive.  The language used is also beautifully eloquent and the three-handed narration is a very clever technique that I have never come across until now.  The abrupt dark imagery used to describe these impossible events serves to not only draw you further into this world but to do so with ease.  I would recommend this little tale, it plays out almost like a fireside ghost story or an urban legend.

 

Something Fresh

Something Fresh a novel by P. G. Wodehouse that was first published in September 1915, under the title Something New.  This was to be the first in the Blandings Castle Saga which after reading this I will most certainly be looking to read. Our first story in begins with the absent minded Lord Emsworth accidentally pockets a priceless scarab belonging to American millionaire, two young neighbours Ashe Marson and Joan Valentine, find themselves drawn down to Blandings castle on a mission to retrieve the scarab while impersonating servants.  The scarab belonging to Mr. Peters  who’s daughter Aline is coincidentally engaged to Lord Emsworth son  Freddie, who himself  is worried about some incriminating letters he wrote as a young man that could be the ruin of him is only but a taste of the hilarity of what insures over the course of this novel.

It took me a while to get into, with all that was going on and the “set up” so to say it was seeming a little scattered.  It wasn’t until the accidental theft of the scarab that things started to bind together and revolve around it when I could relax into and enjoy it fully.  Its so wonderful to read, I would read  some parts of it over and over just to get the proper flow between the back and forth between the characters.  It really is just a joy! The characters are so wonderfully detailed and their personality’s jump off the page at you so much you can hear them talking as you read.  This is my very first experience of Woodhouse and I will be drinking up as much as I can get my eager hands on from now on!

The Midnight Express

“It was the story of a man who, in childhood, long ago, had chanced upon a book, in which there was a picture that frightened him.” – Narrator, The Midnight Express

Midnight Express is a dark short story which tells the tale of a twelve year-old boy’s fear of a battered old book, bound in read buckram. The old book names “The Midnight Express” had the strangest fascination for the boy even though he had never quite grasped the story itself, having tried to read the book night after night but keeps falling asleep, and never remembering its details the following day.  The fear lay in the illustration on the fiftieth page, an illustration at which he could never bear to look at. “It showed an empty railway platform at night lit by a single dreary lamp. There was only one figure on the platform, the dark figure of a man, standing almost directly under the lamp with his face turned away towards the black mouth of a tunnel.  Eventually he forgets about the book, but recalls it suddenly thirty-eight years later when he finds himself one night in a dark railway platform facing a shadowy figure standing beneath the single lamp post.

This is an astounding little story which made every hair on the back of my neck stand up as a very real chill ran down my spine.  It has a symmetry that cannot fully be explained, it has to be discovered for oneself.  The horror comes from something primal, from a deep rooted nightmare that you one day wake up to find you are living. Very few tales of horror have been able to bring a satisfied smile to my face at being so frightened.  I could discuss this story all day with someone, and I am happy to have discovered it!

Dagon

“The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it”

Dagon is a short story written in July 1917 by H. P. Lovecraft one of the first stories he wrote as an adult. The story was inspired in part by a dream he had Lovecraft later wrote “I dreamed that whole hideous crawl, and can yet feel the ooze sucking me down!”.  In Dagon the unnamed narrator recounts his tale beginning when his cargo ship is captured by a German sea-raider.  Escaping on a lifeboat and drifts aimlessly across the sea until eventually finds himself inexplicably stranded on “a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see”.  Our narrator recounts the tale of horror that follows bringing it all back to the beginning when he first began in his drug and fear induced state of madness and the reason for the note is revealed.

The eloquence of the vocabulary is what gives this short story all of its punch.  It does not feel supernatural but more other worldly and in many ways has a hint of conspiracy to it. Other than the hunted feeling that the story evokes Dagon’s major theme is that of forbidden knowledge. Dagon does not have the same suspense or horror as some other works but it still drives home a hunted and otherworldly feeling into its pages!  I as a kid was terrified of a seaweed monster coming to get me when I was staying at my granny’s in Larne and it is this memory that Dagon aroused in me most of all.   It is hard to tell you more without giving anything away but it is safe to say that there is a lot more going on under the oceans than we would like to believe according to our narrator that is! I really enjoyed this little tale!