Friday, October 20, 2006

No Creepiness Here

I've not mentioned that I've been making my way through The Best Supernatural Tales of Arthur Conan Doyle so slowly that I fear I won't have time to get to the fifth and final RIP Challenge book. To be sure, the stories are filled with ghosts, a mummy, mesmerism, and all brand of supernatural mayhem, but on the whole they are sort of boring. Maybe if I had read them in their own time I would have gotten chills, but today they all seem filled with cliche. Nor does it help that within a page or two of each story I have generally figured out what is going to happen. Once in awhile there is something that is entertaining, like this passage from the story "The Leather Funnel":

It was a singular bedroom with its high walls of brown volumes, but there could be no more agreeable furniture to a bookworm like myself, and there is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as that faint, subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.
Ah, that subtle reek! And occasionally there is an amusing story like "A Literary Mosaic" which is so cliche it is funny. But, I suspect Conan Doyle enjoyed the writing of it because his tone in this story is lighter and quicker than in the ones that come before it making it a pleasurable read. The story is that of a young man who wishes to become a writer. He comes into a small fortune, quits his job and settles in to write his masterpiece. Weeks later, he has nothing to show but a lot of crumpled up ink-blotted paper. After a long day of failed work, he falls asleep at his table to a dream of a room filled with an assembly of great writers who have all gathered in order to help him write a story. Around the room they go, each taking a turn narrating a piece of the story in his own inimitable style. Daniel Defoe starts them off on a sea voyage. The tale is then picked up by Jonathan Swift. When his begins to turn into a "second edition" of Gulliver as "Lawrence Sterne" snidely remarks, a fight nearly breaks out. But Smollet rescues the story and diplomatically steers it back to reality and England where it is pick up by Sir Walter Scott followed by Bulwer Lytton. Lytton sends Smollett into quiet hysterics and warrants many gibes from the others assembled including Sterne's acerbic question: "pray, sir, what language do you call it?" At which point Lytton storms out of the room, the dreaming writer wakes up, and both stories are at an end. I have a little over 100 pages and seven stories to go before I reach the end. And in spite of moments or stories like the above that stand out, the book is becoming a big slog. Still, I soldier on and hope the the book in my challenge selection, The Haunted Bookshop won't disappoint. On another note, Indiana arrived on my porch this afternoon. I am in the process of transferring my notes and will turn the library book in tomorrow with an invitation to the Slaves discussion inserted into it's early pages. I checked on my overdue fine too and find that my library has changed its fine amounts. I have been charged sixty-cents for the first day and will be fined thirty-cents for each day after. Better than fifty-cents a day, but still!