From Lovecraft to Kafka, from Akutagawa to Walpole – the first month of weird

fox_spiritI wondered if reading the amazing compendium of The Weird would have an effect on my mind, memory or dreams. I decided to read an average of 1 story per day over winter. These stories are tales of ghosts and gods, supernatural and preternatural and I thought that reading so many might infect me in some way.

So, with the first 30 days over with I’ve read 25. Which I think is ok. Not great but not bad. The authors haven’t particularly leapt out at me, other than James, Lovecraft and Kafka. I guess there’s a reason why they’re so well known, in the west in any case. I have to say, however, that with only a couple of exceptions, I haven’t found them particularly weird. They generally have traditional short story structures, be they long or short, and are all written in the style of the times – the early 20th century. Most are dry narrations.

So, my favourites so far are probably Blackwood’s The Willows, Merritt’s The People of the Pit, Irwin’s The Book, and Sakutaro’s The Town of Cats. I also enjoyed the stories by Akutagawa (The Hell Screen), Walpole (The Tarn) and James (Casting the Runes).

As I mentioned, only a few have been genuinely weird in my eyes. I guess Kafka’s In the Penal Colony has an oddness about it, especially the premise if not the style. The stand outs are probably the aforementioned Hagiwara Sakutaro’s story of a town fully inhabited by the spirits of cats which bends reality effectively, and Bruno Schulz’s Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass. In this tale, you’re never sure of what is happening and why. It is an unsettling story of a man visiting his father in a sanatorium, where time seems to run differently for different people, and everyone sleeps most of the time.

But no oddities in my reality thus far. 25 tales of the weird in 30 days and not a dream or thought out of place. Is that a good thing? I’m a tad disappointed, but I’m cracking on…


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