Dedicated to classics and hits.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla the Vampire from Sheridan Le Fanu:  The scene depicted here is actually a direct lift from the book- the victimized heroine wakes up and see Carmilla, covered in blood, standing at the foot of her bed in a state of undress. 

In A Glass Darkly
 by Sheridan Le Fanu
p. 1872

  Sheridan Le Fanu is a good example of an interesting Author who I only read because he has two books in the 2005 edition of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die.   His obvious counter-parts are Wilkie Collins- a near contemporary, and Edgar Allan Poe- who wrote a near half-century before on a different continent.   In A Glass Darkly is actually a collection of short stories/novellas that Le Fanu collected and framed with a Doctor/investigator who presents each story as a "case study."  It's kind of narrative device that would bring delight to the heart of an earnest post-modernist, though in the case of Le Fanu he was probably just trying to make a buck rather then challenging narrative convention.

  The highlight among the collected tales is the early Vampire story at the end- the Vampire in question being a Lesbian seductress named Carmilla.  Le Fanu is clearly within the scope of the "Victorian Novel of Sensation" a group of books that laid the groundwork for the modern genres of horror and detective fiction, as well as being a precursor for horror and mystery films of all varieties.

A more modern take on Carmilla, the sexy lesbian vampire from In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

  Many of the conventions that characterize detective and horror fiction derive from these books- certainly Le Fanu and Collins were in the minds of early pioneers of film, particularly the German Expressionists who created many of the early horror movies.

  Unfortunately, the potential for In A Glass Darkly to be used as unacknowledged source material is vastly diminished by the fact that everyone else has been exploiting the same material for 150 years.  It certainly does make a welcome break from other late 1860s early 1870s classics:  The Devils, by Dostoevsky,  Middlemarch by George Eliot, Spring Torrents by Turgenev, He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope and don't forget War & Peace by my man Leo Tolstoy.  Super stoked for that title!

   The late 1860s and early 1870s certainly a feel a ton of Russian authors- including the greatest hits of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky so, spoiler alert: There is a lot of Russian lit coming down the pipe-line.

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