The Diary of Mr. Poynter: A Ghost Story for Christmas by M.R. James
My rating: 4/5 cats
WHEN JAMES DENTON DISCOVERED AN ANCIENT BIT OF FABRIC WITHIN AN 18TH CENTURY DIARY, HE SHOWED IT TO HIS AUNT, WHO INSISTED THE WAVY, HAIR-LIKE PATTERN WOULD BE PERFECT TO ACCENT HIS WINDOWS. THE SENSITIVE ARTISAN TASKED WITH THE COPYING OF THE CLOTH, HOWEVER, SAW EVIL IN ITS DESIGN. THE CURTAINS, NOW HUNG, DO FILL DENTON WITH A CREEPING UNEASE. SURELY, HE THINKS, ABSENTLY REACHING DOWN TO PET HIS DOG, THE FEELING MUST BE IMAGINED…
reading the back of this one, my first bewildered reaction (uttered aloud, brow furrowed, assuming i was misunderstanding the synopsis) was, “wait, this is about haunted CURTAINS???”
it is about haunted curtains.
it is also about books and book auctions and booknerds and it is a whole lot better than i thought it was going to be. i’d always kind of lumped m.r. james in with algernon blackwood in my mind as “contemporaneous english writers of dry and boring ghost stories that do not scare me one bit.”
and all of that holds up except for the “boring” part. this story was funny and pretty modern, not at all the stuffy atmospheric ‘mayyyyyybe it’s a ghost but maybe it’s maaaaadnessss” kind of thing i was expecting.
in fact, in some ways, this is just an olde-timey version of the “humans can lick, too” urban legend which everyone knows is MY FAVORITE.
mission statement copied from my review for One Who Saw:
this holiday season, i am going to read through ‘seth’s christmas ghost stories’ line on biblioasis, and i encourage you to do the same. the books are so cute and tiny, you can stuff someone’s stocking or dreidel with ’em! the cover art and interior illustrations are by seth, and they are seasonally spoooooky, blending the spirit of halloween with christmas cheer the way nature, and jack skellington, intended.
7 more to go!