Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Adventures in Reading: Gothic Literature

I'm spending more time on Goodreads these days. I moderate a fairy tale group there and have recently discovered the Gothic Literature group. In the midst of final revisions to Half Mortal and preparing for what will (hopefully!) be an epic finale to the Daughter of Light trilogy, War & Grace, I find myself scavenging for things: dark and light.

I just finished reading The Castle of Otranto. OMG! That made me laugh out loud. NUTS! It was totally over-the-top. And yet, tagged as The First Gothic Novel, it's a fascinating (and short) (though arduous) read. All that olde englyshe and the way they wrote dialogue can give you a headache.

What I loved learning is that the first talking/walking portrait in literature appeared in The Castle of Otranto. Remember how J.K. Rowlings used this device to such brilliant effect at Hogwarts. Mmmm. Influences. I was even more thrilled to learn that a significant event in Half Faerie <spoiler alert so shall not call it out here!>was also part of the Otranto plot. And heck, I thought I was so original. The thing is when you read a lot, things seep into the subconscious and what drifts back up when your searching for the points of your own plot...well, it's not always clear where they came from. It can be a circuitous path from a book you've never read, or a movie you've never seen, through a completely different story, back through a dream...

I also read The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe recently. Another early Gothic Novel that is supposed to have increased the genre's popularity. The first two-thirds of the novel was engaging enough, what with all the hints of evil, madness, and sexual seduction...but then the end came wrapped so tight in a package with bows and glitter, it hurt my eyes.

I'm going to be re-reading Frankenstein soon.  A book which I've read once and passionately loved. I'm mystified that I couldn't produce a copy from my meandering bookshelves so had to order another. Hmmm.... On the way to that book, I stopped by Mathilda, a novella written by Mary Shelley as well. Wow. Interesting, but again ... these three books mentioned here: M-E-L-O-D-R-A-M-A-T-I-C. Something that just really doesn't fly with readers these days. You end up laughing at points where it's likely the author didn't intend for you to do so!

Regardless, I'm thoroughly enjoying my adventures in reading Gothic Literature. I'm a reader particularly attuned to setting. I can fall in love with a book BECAUSE of the setting! The author has created a place that I want to be. I also love the shadows and intimated sense of doom in Gothic literature. I know—I shouldn't! I should always be thinking happy, positive thoughts, and so be co-creating a more cheery vibe on the planet. But I can't help myself: I love a good ghost story, shiver, thrill. How about you? Do you shun the dark in your reading forays? Or are stories the safest place to take what threatens and horrifies us head on?