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Add to want list. Are you a frequent reader or book collector? Social responsibility Did you know that since , Biblio has used its profits to build 12 public libraries in rural villages of South America? Early memories of horror. Halloween: theatre, film and story-telling listings. Fay Weldon chooses five of the best tales of the uncanny. But, of course, they have done better than that. Often imitated but never bettered, they have in the ensuing century proved themselves to be some of the most influential supernatural fiction in English.

If the weird tale aims to horrify or astound, the ghost story aims to haunt. But such writing depends to a great degree on form, and, as subsequent practitioners have found, it is far easier to admire than to imitate: few since James have managed so consistent an output. Others have taken a less enchanted view of the form.

But if the Jamesian ghost story is anti-scientific and counter-progressive, it is so by design. The whole focus is on the mechanism of suspense, the ghastly narrative conjuring trick being performed. James heightens the effect by writing just to the edge of boredom, so that ominous portents are spaced out with care among inconsequential prattle or scholarly digressions. His formula rarely changed. There are several recurring features of Jamesian horror, but attempts to derive psychological and biographical conclusions from them have led more than one exegete down the critical rabbit hole.

A Pleasing Terror by M R James

More horrid than all this paraphernalia, though, is the phobia of being touched. By contrast, the appearance of the ghost is almost always associated with a drastic violation of personal space — each revenant appears horrifyingly close at hand, ready to thrust its own face into that of the protagonist, envelop him in spindly arms, or coil an appendage about his neck. The OUP book collects all the stories that James published in his lifetime, as well as one posthumous piece and several extracts from writings on the ghost-story tradition.

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