RIP Short Story Monday: M.R. James, Saki, and Katherine Mansfield

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Time for three more RIP Stories! I am loving the Ghost Stories collection I have from Everyman’s simply because they are addressing so many different kinds of ghost stories. I’ve really enjoyed the majority of them so far.

Saki’s “The Open Window” was my favorite ghost story from my collection so far. It’s was quite short but Saki managed to create characters we liked, with distinct attitudes from one another. The dialog was realistic. This story was not a spooky story at all: it had ghosts, but with a delightful touch of humor. Because it was only a few pages long, I’ll refer you to the etext.

Because I had never come across M.R. James before, I felt the need to read a little about him after reading his short story “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” Wikipedia tells me that he redefined the ghost story, by using realistic contemporary settings, rather than Gothic settings, as previous ghost stories had done. I really appreciated the setting in the Whistle story. Parkins, a professor of Ontography (a study of the nature of things), travels to a sea-side hotel for a week of golfing, agreeing in the preface to also visit a nearby former graveyard site for an antiquarian friend. I was quite interested in the story from the very beginning. It begins in the middle of a conversation, and M.R. James refers to one of those participating in the conversation as “a person not in the story.” This made me wonder at M.R. James’ purposes, and I loved how the entire subject of “nature of things” was questioned as the ghost story unfolded. This was a delightful spooky-ish story on a misty beach front. Read it online here.

Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” was simply wonderful. I definitely need to read more of Mansfield’s writing. Two elderly spinster sisters are dealing with the death of their father. After probably more than 50 years of submitting to their father’s wishes, they struggle to find their own opinions. Although this story is once again of a different type of ghost story from the gothic or horror tradition, I really loved reading it: the characters, setting, flashbacks, and haunting scenes were perfectly rendered and the story as a whole is nearly a masterpiece. I wanted it to keep going. Read it online.

Question: I’m finding it’s quite challenging to discuss the great stories I read in a short post. Would you, as a reader of this blog, be more interested in a single review of the rest of the book? Or, should I keep talking about the stories a few at a time? Do you like these brief short stories roundups? I may just do what I want anyway, but I’m curious to know your thoughts.

Next up in the Ghost Stories collection: P.G. Wodehouse, L.P. Hartley, and Edith Wharton.


Reviewed on October 17, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

    • Trisha » oh I’m glad you like it. I enjoy doing the weekly posts on a few stories, but they always get few comments, so wasn’t sure anyone else really did like the approach…

  • your brief but to the point comment on Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” came in handy to me very much. It was a good trigger for me to write an article for Katherine Mansfiel’s Society. Incidentally, I suggest you also give it a try because it is exactly a call for paper on gothic aspects of KM’s short stories.

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