Book #51: In A Glass Darkly

Started off the next set with Joseph Sheridan le Fanu’s In A Glass Darkly.

In a Glass Darkly is a collection of five short stories presented as the posthumous papers of one Doctor Hesselius. The doctor was an occult detective, so all the stories are creepy and involve ghosts, vampires, demons, other apparitions, or things that are just not normal. apparently le Fanu was the father of the Victorian/Gothic ghost story.

He doesn’t really disappoint here. The stories all have a decidedly gothic feel. They deal with the supernatural or unknown, sure, but there is definitely a Gothic undercurrent, where the Victorian characters grapple with desires or fears that society considers taboo. The unexplained might, in fact, just be something that isn’t accepted by society.

So it goes with the Gothic.

Random Tangent About Gothic Literature

One of the stories involves a vampire, but it has pretty obvious homosexual undertones. Several deal with suicides and the events leading up to them (all supernatural, of course). Obviously homosexual desires weren’t cool in Victorian time. It’s only natural that they would be part of the Gothic. And since, in 2013, suicide is still pretty taboo and frowned upon by the church, it was definitely very taboo in the Victorian age. So of course it shows up here.

I like to think of the Gothic as a negative picture. The real picture would be the Victorian world. You have societal norms and the ideals of the times. The Church, society, and status quo are all there creating the scenery, vocabulary, and thoughts of people everywhere. Those values are the accepted, normal ones.

But then there’s the negative. It’s everything that you don’t see in the Victorian. It’s the taboo desires, secret thoughts, and darkness and confusion that society shuns. But it’s there still. It’s there if you just look at it differently. If you dare.

End Random Tangent

I haven’t dealt with the most important question here. Are these stories scary?

To be honest, not really.

In A Glass Darkly reads a bit like those collections of scary ghost stories I used to check out of the library when I was younger. The ones about murderers loose on the highway, or the mummy that follows people down the road, or the monkey’s paw story…you know what I’m talking about (I hope). Actually, come to think of it, a lot of the stories in a particular collection I liked to check out are pretty close to the stories in Fanu’s book. Hmm.. . .

But I digress…

Although some of the stories are a bit creepy, none of them really made my hairs stand on end. They did deal with the unexplained, but there wasn’t much of an “OH MY GOSH I’M FREAKING OUTTTT!” factor. They just sort of…were.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Ignorance


One response to this post.

  1. Hey, Kelly! My name is Callie (ha!) I just found your blog while looking for a bookish post of my own and found your blog/project. Awesome! And you’re an ESL teacher? I’ve done that! I’m currently back home in the U.S. these days, but….we should be blog friends. :) I’m excited to check out more of your reviews!


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