Thursday Aug 18, 2022

Stephens, John Richard “The Book of the Living Dead”

Mark Twain 2
Image via Wikipedia. This is Mark Twain, one of the authors featured in the book.

I bought this book on impulse while browsing a local bookstore.  The subtitle, “Explore the other side of mortality with the world’s greatest authors” caught my eye.  I realized that I had read new stories from authors like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, but I hadn’t read anything before that.  The book contains stories from Washington Irving, H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain, and Jack London.  It never occurred to me before that some of those writers had delved into the dark side of literature.

The book opens with W. W. Jacobs’ offering “The Monkey’s Paw”.  This story has always been one of my favorites because of its simplicity.  It is a terrifying story and is told in a way that causes the imagination to run wild.

Theophile Gautier’s story “The Amorous Corpse” tells the story of the courtesan Clarimonde who is in fact a vampire.  I also think that she can be described as a succubus, because she comes to her victim in his dreams, even though she has an actual physical body as well.

“The Ghoul” by Sir Hugh Crawford deals with death rituals, and what happens when one is not mindful of another culture’s way of life.  It also deals with a hideous creature with a hunger for not-so-fresh human flesh.

Years ago, I had come across a version of “The Vampire of Croglin Grange” in a children’s book.  The story, written by Augustus Hare, was toned down so as to appear less frightening.  In the story, three siblings rent a house, and the sister is viciously attacked by a vampire.  After reading that story, I had trouble sleeping for a few nights.  I guarantee you will too.

Mark Twain’s social commentary “A Curious Dream (Containing a Moral)” was one of the more light-hearted stories.  In the story, a man spends his night on a park bench conversing with skeletons who are leaving their current cemetery for a better dwelling.  As with most Twain stories, it is thought-provoking and very enjoyable.

The book was a welcome change from the usual carnage in the zombie books I have read.  The stories were creative, insightful, and also invited the imagination to take part in the story.  Sometimes its nice to sit back and imagine what the monsters look like instead of being explicitly told.

Oh !  Last but not least the book contains the first mummy story that I’ve read.  I’m not going to tell you which one – I want you to find out for yourself.  It was one of the best stories in the book !

Holly Ann Kasprzak

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