I may have mentioned this before (like, nearly every day for the past few weeks or so) – Greenwood Tree is on Tour – a Mystery Tour, no less. Guess whodunnit, win a prize or two (full description here).
As part of the Tour, we have craftily devised a new giveaway, which is on its way (the 20th), via Grey Cells Press : you can enter by visiting the Tour, liking a couple of pages, following some grog-swilling, Remington-bashing characters on Twitter …. easy. That is, if you’re looking for a chance to win some free mystery cozy reading (i.e. Greenwood Tree).
If you’re not looking for anything of the kind, then forget I spoke. I’ll just sit in the corner, drawing bears and minding my own business. Kind of dusty in here – who took my crayons? Hello ?
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 . . .
“Birds have the greatest variety of notes; they have indeed a variety, which seems almost sufficient to make a speech adequate to the purposes of a life which is regulated by instinct, and can admit little change or improvement. To the cries of birds, curiosity or superstition has always been attentive; many have studied the language of the feathered tribes, and some have boasted that they understood it.”
Lady MuchRuffles: Wherefore do those birds twitter ?
Mr FortlyBreeches : Why, for the pleasure of mankind, that we may hear their song!
Lady MuchRuffles : What sort of song is that then ?
Dr Belch : Why, ‘tis a great nattering of beaks, an explosion of feathers, a great flapping of wings, a snort of snuff, a great sneeze, – not worth the air it besprinkles!
Mr FortlyBreeches: I believe from those who study these things that the tweeting offers much in the way of enlightenment…
Dr Belch : Enlightenment, pah ! It is all so many tiny chirpings, a mighty blast of hot air from so many throats –
Mr FortlyBreeches : But if you were to address them, sir – you could tell them all so in one line – of no more than 140 characters however –
DR Belch : I fear a mere 140 characters would not suffice to tell them what I think of their noise.
Mr FortlyBreeches : Why, sir, I am certain if your put your head to it, you would surely discover a way –
Dr Belch : Have at them then ! (takes a bird and shakes it, but it continues to tweet) You see ? Sans shock, sans sense, sans anything – they tweet on regardless !
Mr FortlyBreeches : Allow me, then dear sir : (proceeds to tweet – immediately the birds begin to listen)
Lady MuchRuffles: Goodness, how did you manage that, dear sir ?
Dr Belch : How, indeed ? Is this trickery ?
(All the birds fly to Mr FortlyBreeches and follow him)
Mr FortlyBreeches : No trickery at all, Dr Belch – I merely told them something they wished to hear . . .
Lady MuchRuffles : Oh Mr FortlyBreeches, I beg that you will teach me how – I am most taken with all these feathered followers !
Mr FortlyBreeches : With pleasure, ma’am.
Dr Belch : Bless me, that would be a trick worth knowing – teach me as well !
(Mr FortlyBreeches and Lady MuchRuffles walk off, arm in arm, followed by birds and at a distance, Dr Belch, all singing ) :
“So, we’ll go now for a-tweeting
So late into the night,
Though our brains be not as thinking
Nor our words be quite as bright
For fluff out-strips good sense
With its value much in doubt;
The aether surely grows dense
With all that stuff about
So the night was made for tweeting,
And the day returns too soon
Yes, we’ll do some more a-tweeting
By the light of the moon