The Yellow Wallpaper & Other Stories (1892-1914)

The Yellow Wallpaper & Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In this feminist classic, Jane’s doctor husband locks her in an upstairs room so she can tackle her tendency towards depression and hysteria. Because that sounds like a really good idea.Bustle

A story about something far scarier than monsters, nightmares and stalkers: being labelled “hysterical” and shut in a room to get over it. Then the monsters come. I absolutely love the title story of this collection but, although very different, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the tales too.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman succeeded in writing feminist stories that liberated both men and women. This is particularly the case in the last story Mr. Peebles’ Heart, where a successful female doctor manages to persuade her sister’s husband to follow his dreams, not to save their marriage, but to save each of their lives, their sanity and wellbeing. I also really enjoyed Making A Change, where a man must come to terms with the fact that his mother and his wife have colluded to create his comfortable life.

Mike Russell and his Surreal Stories

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Mike Russell is the author of two short story collections; Nothing Is Strange and Strange Medicine. His work is surreal and often humorous, with some stories even being described as erotic, absurd or disturbing. Mike has performed his stories in the South of England for over a decade, wearing his famous top hat with its all-seeing eye.

A review for Mike’s first collection, Nothing Is Strange: “Reader Beware: If you enjoy reading stories that are written with structure, stories that are comprised of a beginning, middle, and end, or stories that do not transcend the boundaries of reality, then this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want to read stories that will free you from the chains that are attached to the anchor of reality, then this is your must-read collection.

Nothing is Strange is a collection of twenty short stories in which everything is strange, but strange in a good way.

The twenty stories are miniature narratives. The collection is well written and highly imaginative. Each story takes you on a journey where the imaginary becomes reality. Instead of reason we have imagination. In place of the banal we have passion for liberation. Instead of the ordinary, we have magic.

By their very nature, the stories are freeing. They will take you to places within your mind you never knew existed. For those unaccustomed to reading surreal stories these stories may be hard to swallow. One might compare it to looking at modern art for the first time. I can only imagine how people felt the first time Duchamp exhibited his Readymades, or Picasso his art. A typical first reaction might raise the question of whether or not the artist is authentic, or is he simply trying to put one over on us.

The concept of these stories first appears to be too simple to be called art. Yet, as one delves into the collection, and crosses back and forth between the boundaries of real and unreal, one comes away with the feeling that there is more to them than at first appears – and you would be correct in this assumption.

Reading these stories feels as if you’re following footprints in the snow, footprints that take you somewhere and nowhere. Sometimes the footprints are deep and easy to follow, but sometimes they are obliterated and nearly imperceptible. The reader may, for a time, get lost. For some, tripping through these stories may be a harrowing experience. But for others, the journey on the wind of imagination will be a mind-blowing and rewarding experience.

But the magic doesn’t end there, for once discovered and devoured, the effects of a surreal adventure multiplies the further out one travels.

My advice then, dear reader, is for you to read this collection. Take a chance you may be hooked on the reality of non reality, which, in turn, will inspire you to explore other artists of the genre, some who are long gone, and others, like Mike Russell, who are our modern guides on the surreal journey.

So go ahead: Jump into the swimming pool with your clothes on. You may very well find you won’t want to get out of the water.” – Gerard Bianco

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Mike Russell’s website is StrangeBooks.com and both books are available in paperback or for Kindle. You can also read Dunce, a story from Nothing Is Strange for free here, and Flock, a story from Strange Medicine for free here!

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The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. It’s strange, it’s weird, it’s horror, sci-fi and romance all in one. The King in Yellow is a book of loosely connected short stories, full of fear and madness.

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Dare you read it? This collection has been called the most important book in American supernatural fiction between Poe and the moderns. H. P. Lovecraft, creator of the famed Cthulu mythos, whose own fiction was greatly influenced by this book stated that The King in Yellow ‘achieves notable heights of cosmic fear’.Moly

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“Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.”

—From Cassilda’s Song in The King in Yellow, Act i, Scene 2
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As well as being the title of the anthology, The King in Yellow is also the name of a play within the book, bringing madness to all who witness it. Although the play is never shown in full, it is referred to in a number of the stories.

 There is also a graphic novel by INJ Culbard. One of the UK’s most prolific cartoonists, his work always guarantees an intelligent and instantly recognizable graphic style. Clean lines, bold colors, and characters that wriggle right into the readers’ brain are Culbard’s trademark. In the realm of The King in Yellow, those skills are put to dastardly use as what begins in intrigue ends in poisonous insanity and palpable fright. Publishers Weekly

 Just as T.V. series True Detective borrowed the term Carcosa from Chambers more than a century after The King in Yellow was written, Chambers borrowed the term from Ambrose Bierce and H.P. Lovecraft later borrowed it from Chambers! This all just makes me want to watch series one of True Detective for a third time.

 You can download an audio version of Chambers’ The King in Yellow from Downpour.

10 Books Released in 2016 that I’m Looking Forward to Reading!

Here are some books already released this year which I’m looking forward to reading, along with links to reviews.

  1. When The Floods Came – by Clare Morrall

A dystopian coming-of-age tale that doubles as a paean to the author’s home town. Review by Catherine Taylor Financial Times

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2. Radiance – by Catherynne M Valente

Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe. Macmillan Publishers

3. At the Edge of the Orchard – by Tracy Chevalier

The Black Swamp is as inhospitable as it sounds, which carry off several of the children and leave the parents too weak to workIndependent

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4. How to Measure a Cow – by Margaret Forster

Margaret Forster’s tale of a woman on the run is quietly compelling The Sunday Times

5. Small Town Talk – by Barney Hoskyns

How a reclusive Bob Dylan led a rock’n’roll takeover of rural Woodstock in the 1960sThe Sunday Times

6. States of Mind – edited by Anna Faherty

“Why do most of us feel that we are something more than molecules?”, asks Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in his engaging introduction to this compelling collection drawn from literature, science, philosophy and art ranging back 500 years and tackling the thorny question of what consciousness actually is. “We are made of the same raw materials as bacteria, as earth, as rock, as the great dark nebulae of dust that swim between the stars, as the stars themselves”, writes Haddon, introducing extracts that explore how the sense of being made of something immaterial, too, has long haunted humans. The Guardian

7. The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict – by Austin Reed

What happens when a middle-class black in the 19th century goes to jailThe Washington Post

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8. Adventures in the Strand – by Mike Ashley

I speak from experience when I say that embarking on a biographical work about Arthur Conan Doyle is a challenge. The principal challenge is how to make your book original. Every biographical work on Doyle will contain material that has appeared elsewhere. What makes new books stand out is how they present what we already know, what new items are presented and how the author interprets what they present. Doyleockian

9. The Man I Became – by Peter Verhelst

The premise of the book is as bold as it is intriguing: The Man I Became is narrated in the first-person by a gorilla. The inevitably confusion and flood of questions that arise with this statement are mostly all addressed through the 120 pages of the novella, but Verhelst also uses this quasi-absurdist plot to grapple with contemporary social issues. Written in a sparse, succinct literary style that fits snugly in the Peirene canon of stylish but provocative translated fiction, The Man I Became is a book that jolts its reader and forces you to think. Bookish Ramblings

10. In Flagrante Two – by Chris Killip

Made in the northeast of England between 1973 and 1985, the book showed marginalized communities on the edge of change; seacoal gatherers, fishermen and other working class communities are shown struggling in environments that are expressively harsh. There is the wildness of the Northumberland coastline, driving blizzards brought from Siberia across the ferocious waves of the North Sea, the chimneys and cranes of the region’s industrial landmarks, and the rubble of neighborhoods destroyed in the name of urban development. It’s an unrelentingly gritty backdrop. Photo-Eye