Happy Birthday Mr James (or, A Note to the Curious)
Today I was reminded by chums on Twitter that it is the birthday of one of the great raconteurs of the British traditional ghost story : M.R.James. Over the course of the day I have suggested adding quotes, visiting this or that site, posting about it here and there in those places you would most expect to find him in. Yet there is little ‘noise’ about him, birthday boy though he be. But then, generally, his is a quiet influence, something left subtly behind with his passing; almost without comment, quasi intangible. He thrilled and continues to thrill a wide gamut of readers, and has inspired and influenced writers and film-makers. Scarcely a Yuletide passes without some version of one Jamesian tale or other being televised or played out on radio. Yet try to establish exactly what it is that attracts his audience, and the responses tend to vary : is it the setting? the academic detail? the dry wit and humour that add further edginess to the horrors to come ? Surely it is a bit of all of these, the sum of parts resulting in classics such as The Stalls of Barchester, Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance and a particular favourite of mine, Casting the Runes.
It was with the centenary in mind that I suggested to some author friends earlier this year that we put together an anthology of our own ghost tales – a sort of ‘in memoriam’ . There was immediate response, and with any luck, the anthology will launch around Hallowe’en. In the meantime, a small effort of mine(barely even a novelette, but too long to be a short story) will be launching soon from Captive Press. While the publication is not on the day of his birth, I can at least post the trailer for it now as a sort of salute.
Happy Birthday, M.R.James.
Related links :
Papergreat : with a lot of nice links
Master of the Ghost Story : a more in-depth look at the writer’s life and works
Spooky Isles : a special, erudite post in honour of M.R.James’s birthday
A Podcast to the Curious (minute, detailed discussion of M.R.James’s tales)
Thin Ghost (I particularly like this elegant site, in particular the illustrations for the tales)
Dark Media City for all things spooky
And if you fancy sporting a ribbon in the world of Twitter in memory of the great man : http://twibbon.com/join/MRJames-Centenary
I am celebrating the centenary for the whole of this year, so I am hanging on to my Twibbon.
Now, where’s that punch bowl . . .