March 2024

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
My third reading of this, and it grows a little less interesting each time (particularly the opening section, before Victor creates his monster). The most stimulating part remains the section where the monster narrates his history to Victor.
William Beckford, Vathek
The first Oriental gothic novel published in English (Beckford wrote it in French). A novel of excess, lurid, violent, and one that lays the groundwork for later works of imperial romance such as Haggard's King Solomon's Mines. For anyone who enjoys this, Byron's narrative poem, The Giaour (1813) may also be of interest (this poem also marks the entrance of the vampire from Eastern European culture into that of the West.) I didn't hugely enjoy this, but the section where Vathek's mother and her retinue of evil African slaves journey to his camp was truly excellent.

Short Stories
Edgar Allan Poe, The Complete Short Stories
Read all short stories (only The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym left.
The weakest stories were, unsurprisingly, satirical writings which, being closely tied to Poe's own time have lost their interest, many of the references having sunk into obscurity. There were then pieces of fairly short length, which obviously lack the potential for development, but which are, on occasion, still satisfying on account of their style. Lastly, there were the excellent pieces, the best of which rise to the heights of world classics.
Herman Melville, The Complete Short Fiction
The Piazza
A multitude of literary, mythological, historical, geographical references complicate this short story of a lonely, wealthy man who notices an unusual feature high up in the mountains above his home and designates it 'Fairyland' and then makes a journey there, where he encounters the lonely Marianna. Beautiful prose style.