Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The power of darkness

Another Wordsworth Editions' Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural I have been reading recently is their collection of E Nesbit stories. It is called Tales of Terror with another subheading of The Power of Darkness just to punch it home (if the laminate skull wasn't enough)that these are creepy stories and not something to do with The Railway Children. As with Robert E Howard being called R Howard, the publishers have decided to call her Edith Nesbit rather than the E Nesbit we all know her as.

E Nesbit is a great writer. Her books for children still hold up really well. And she was a fascinating woman, co-founding the Fabian Society along the way. The stories I have read so far are surprisingly odd. In fact they are very, very odd. The Head is utterly bizarre from beginning to end and has a plot that even Edgar Allen Poe might have worried was a little over the top. A man happens across a house in the middle of nowhere, the occupant of which has built a scale model of a particularly traumatic event in his life in the cellar. Not only that, but he is persuaded to reproduce this life-size as a money-making scheme in London, all in the hope of attracting the attentions of a man he has sworn vengeance upon. Nesbit clearly has a horror of such things because The Power of Darkness itself has a (slightly) more believable plot about a waxworks at night.


But just as with Robert E Howard there is something compelling about the atmosphere she creates and the feverish intensity of the writing. People might be saying 'By Jove!' a lot and getting into a 'funk', but there is something much darker and stranger going on. A psychoanalyst would have a field day.

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