Thursday, October 15, 2009

Short and sweet

For a woman who swore off buying books for a week or two I’m spending an unhealthy amount of time in Waterstone’s, excuses that I’m only there for the coffee, or ‘honestly, it’s a shortcut’ are wearing rather thin as I spend most the time hovering around the fiction and cookery section. Only the promise of a trip to Astley book farm at the weekend and the possibilities for second hand bargains contained therein are allowing me to exercise any self control at the moment, that and the stubborn refusal of large book chains to tailor their 3 for 2 offers entirely to my reading pleasure.

Actually my local Waterstone’s is a shortcut, which would be far handier if the time saved walking through it wasn’t spent on browsing, but it’s hardly my fault that yesterday I noticed a big stack of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery and Other Stories’ had finally arrived, and not really my fault that I had to stop and look. In fact it’s a positive testament to self control that I didn’t opt to spend every last penny on my person there and then. The Lottery will wait, I want some Jackson to look forward to, but I also noticed the ‘Oxford book of Gothic Tales’, and now is the time for all things ghostly.

I’m a big fan of short stories, especially compilations – they make such good travelling companions for shorter journeys and sit so happily by the bed and bath. A look at the Oxford collection revealed an F M Mayor short. This time last year I hadn’t heard of Mayor, but when I finally discovered her novels I found them profoundly moving. 3 perfect books which left me wanting more... Fortunately ‘The Virago Book of Ghost Stories’ was sitting right next to the Oxford and it also had the Mayor story, and I already have it, so I was able to hot foot it home without spending anything.

Getting the book of the shelf was one of those great moments of discovery and rediscovery. I originally bought it a year ago because it had Richmal Crompton, E. Nesbit, May Sinclair and Stella Gibbons and a whole lot of other stuff that looked interesting. A year later I’m looking through the index getting excited by F.M Mayor, Mrs Henry Wood, and Margaret Oliphant. There are a couple of names I don’t recognise but how intriguing does Margery Lawrence’s ‘The Haunted Saucepan’ sound? I’m saving it for tonight, and if I happen to find myself in a bookshop again today I might do some proper looking for a new collection – there was a tempting anthology of Victorian ghost stories and I am going to be spending a lot more time on buses...

By the by the F M Mayor story was 'Miss De Mannering of Asham', it has one of the most horrible images I've ever read in it, and the first indication of haunting is surprisingly similar to my experiance, although on the whole it's more sad than frightening - best read at night!


  1. I've read about this somewhere else recently, but didn't realise it contained such an All-star cast of writers!

    I may have to see if I can get a copy before tomorrow's bookban starts.

    I'm glad someone else does the short-cut through Waterstones; it cuts maybe 2 seconds off to go in one door and out the other here in Oxford, but definitely that is lost within 0.5 seconds of entering.

  2. Yes as shortcuts go it's not the best - it probably saves me 2 mins walking up then back down the next street but as I go through fiction and cookery to get out again....

    It's deffinatly a book worth checking out, so far it hasn't been anybody's best work, but lots of curiosities in there.

  3. I've had this book for a while but have yet to read a story from it. I'll definitely try the Mayor story first. Sounds perfect for Halloween!

  4. I picked up a requested copy of The Virago Book of Ghost Stories from the library yesterday and look forward to delving in over the coming days leading up to Hallowe'en.