My favourite creepy classics
I was brainstorming some book-related post ideas the other day when something struck me: I'm not a massive fan of stereotypically 'classic' literature. Austen doesn't do it for me at all, Virginia Woolf sends me to sleep and Hardy is not my friend. Sorry-not-sorry. God, it feels good to get that off my chest! Generally speaking regardless of a writer has done to shape literary history, I need a story to have either some kind of sinister/mysterious element or a lot of forward momentum for it to really hold my interest and entertain me. After a poke around my bookshelf I realised that all the classic reads I really love are actually pretty creepy tales. Here's the stellar line up:
1. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe - This gorgeous Barnes & Noble volume was a Christmas present from Mat a few years ago and something I whip out every Halloween, because girl's gotta get Gothic on October 31st. Being an American writer Poe is not someone we generally study in detail in the UK, however his work featured on both Gothic modules I studied and there's something about the carefully crafted moodiness of his stuff that just hooks me. My all-time favourite short story is The Tell-Tale Heart, which you might remember from a Simpsons episode, but seriously - give it a read.
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker - If you've never thought about giving this a read you're missing out. I wasn't sure I'd like it as some of the screen adaptations of this classic legend are very old fashioned, but the writing is snappy and fast-paced. This book features on a lot of my reading lists - read more about why in this post.
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - This fable is a book that I find pretty creepy. If you've read it or seen the film you'll get what I mean. There's something about the way Wilde writes though that is to beautiful and poetic that you're kind of guided gently through what at the time was a fairly scandalous moral tale.
4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - This is a weird one because not only is this Victorian novella really short, it's not quite what I expected it to be. We read it at university as part of a theory module and straight away I could see why the story was such a classic and why there are so many derivative works out there.
5. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - Again when I read this it was easy to see why the story has been adapted for screen and re-appropriated by other writers so often. This tale is the one that scares me the most - it's so creepy and the use of light and shade when the house is described and the creepy children just give me the ultimate in heebie-jeebies. The fun (or frustration, depending on your view) of The Turn of the Screw is that you aren't supposed to know for sure whether the ghostly goings on are real, or a figment of the protagonist's imagination. It's the stuff of nightmares I tell you.
6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Hear me out guys. I know this isn't a typically scary story, but there's something about Dickens, and Great Expectations in particular, that I find so inherently Gothic. It's a character novel at heart, and those that stick out to me all have something fundamentally awful about them: Mrs Joe and her domestic violence, Mrs Havisham and her sinister home, Estella and her cruel ways. The landscape is also bleak and haunting and adds so much to the story. It's no horror story, but there are plenty of ghosts if you read between the lines,
What are your favourite creepy tales to read?