Post by Craig Herbertson on Oct 28, 2009 11:48:55 GMT
Gertrude Atherton - The Bell in the Fog and Other Stories (Wordsworth Editions, 2006)
The Bell In The Fog The Striding Place The Dead and the Countess. The Greatest Good Of The Greatest Number. A Monarch Of A Small Survey. The Tragedy Of A Snob. Crowned With One Crest. Death And The Woman. A Prologue (To An Unwritten Play) Talbot of Ursula.
Blurb: Gertrude Atherton was born in San Francisco in 1857, and died in 1948. She eloped at the age of nineteen, took up writing against her husband's wishes, and after his death became a protegee of Ambrose Bierce, whose influence can be seen here in those stories, ‘The Dead and the Countess’, ‘Death and the Woman’ and ‘The Striding Place’, which have an overtly supernatural element. ‘The Striding Place’ was rejected by one editor as ‘far too gruesome’, but was in Atherton's view ‘the best short story I ever wrote’. Elsewhere, (‘The Greatest Good of the Greatest Number’, ‘The Tragedy of a Snob’, and ‘A Monarch of a Small Survey’) the psychological takes precedence over the supernatural. And in ‘The Bell in the Fog’ (reminiscent of ‘The Turn of the Screw’, and dedicated to Henry James) the supernatural and psychological combine to brilliant effect: an angelic child bears a striking resemblance to an old portrait. Is she a reincarnation of her ancestor? And will she turn out as unangelic in adulthood as that distant ancestor turned out before her?
this is probably in the wrong thread as I wanted to review The Bell in the Fog & other stories by Gertrude Atherton. Tales of Mystery &the Supernatural.
One of the excellent things about this marvelous series of books is that you can make a fairly objective judgment on the qualities of the authors. You feel instantly that you trust the editors.
In this case Atherton comes across to me as a peculiar failure. She has many of the qualities necessary to be a great writer - she is capable of setting atmosphere, description, observing psychological states, settings, creation of believable and sympathetic characters.
At times however her plotting is weak, you get the feeling she rushed to the next scene or didn't quite managed the jumps. She almost also betrays passivity in endings - you can almost guarantee there will be a wishy washy ending with everyone being discovered dead rather than dying horribly.
On the other hand 'The Striding Place' goes to my top twenty pop chart horror tales. All the failings, all the good qualities merge in this one tale and come out as a work of genius. The blurb says she thought it was her best story and I'm man enough to agree with her.
As it happens, the title story and The Striding Place are the only two I've come across, wasn't as taken with The Foghorn as many critics but The Striding Place received a red asterisk against it when I was going through my tragic marking phase. Agree with Craig, it's a creepy one.
Wyatt Gifford has gone missing from a grouse-hunting party in the West Riding and his best friend, Weigall, knowing Gifford to be an incorrigible practical joker, is both angry and concerned. Walking through the wood, he comes to the lonely pool.
"Below the great rocks which form the walls of the Strid was believed to be a natural vault, on to whose shelves the dead were drawn. The spot had an ugly fascination. Weigall stood, visioning skeletons, uncoffined and green, the home of the eyeless things which had devoured all that had covered and filled that rattling symbol of man's mortality; then fell to wondering if any one had attempted to leap the Strid of late. It was covered with slime; he had never seen it look so treacherous."
Weigall spots a man struggling in the water. It can only be Gifford! And ...
.... and you'd be better off reading the story for yourself! it's only short, worth the effort, and you'll find it at The Literary Gothic
*speaking of creepy, hope you didn't mind I tarted your post up some with a scan and contents list, Mr H!*
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.