You are viewing sarahtales

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Let's Go Gothic

girl meets house
It is autumn now, and less than a year until Unspoken is released! So here begins my series of Gothic Tuesdays, in which on one Tuesday every month, I will talk about Gothic fiction and what about it calls my name all night long.

I am also going to have a Lady Sleuths Day, but I have not picked a day of the week for it. Maybe Thursday! Does Thursday sound sleuthy?

So my agent, the Lovely Kristin, had given up on getting me to write anything popular, because I am a monster who destroys all in my path! Or... I march to the beat of my own drummer, or something.

KRISTIN: So what's this... thing that you want to write, then?
SARAH: Oh gosh okay wait till I tell you! It's going to be awesome. You'll see. It's about a lady reporter who lives in a tiny English town.
KRISTIN: Always England with you...
SARAH: But this is different! Lexicon was cities. This is in the country, and that's quite a different feel. You know what Stephen King called 'The Peculiar Little Town'? Secrets. Beautiful surroundings. Oppressive feelings. And on the hill above the town, a house...
KRISTIN: Oh you're writing a Gothic novel.
SARAH: ... Beg pardon?
KRISTIN: I used to love Gothic novels! I love Mary Stewart!
SARAH: Mary Stewart? Didn't she write books about Merlin? My book's not about Merlin.
TRUE STORY: My book now has a Merlin mention in it. Irony's ironic like that.
KRISTIN: You know, Gothic novels. A girl trapped in a house... not sure if her surroundings are sinister, or sure who she can trust...
SARAH: Wait, like Rebecca? Oh hang on, wait, I've read tons of books like that! Huh. You know, I never put it together that all those books with a similar theme were a genre and not, you know. A weird coincidence. Gothic novels! How about that.
KRISTIN: They were very popular... in the eighties. You want to write a kind of book that was popular thirty years ago. This is a terrible idea.
SARAH: Terribly awesome.

I then began on my epic Gothic Reading Fest. But Gothic novels did not begin in the eighties. Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, a super-famous classic Gothic, was written in 1794, and Jane 'My Queen' Austen wrote an affectionate parody of Gothic fiction, Northanger Abbey, in 1817.

This is a lot of past to cover! I thought I would take Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, which came out in 1839, as a good example of early Gothic, showing a lot of the stuff that later Gothics would be famous for.

... Later Gothics would be famous for being totally crazy.

So. The Fall of the House of Usher.

HERO OF USHER: Just going to visit my old school friend Roddy, it'll be a jolly lark!
HERO OF USHER: ... Goddamn this is a creepy house.
RODERICK USHER: I feel extremely unwell.
HERO OF USHER: Well, a name like 'Roderick Usher' would get anyone down. Buck up, old chap!
RODERICK USHER: No, seriously. I might be a vampire. And I think the flowers are out to get me.
HERO OF USHER: ... Ooookay. You want to do some fingerpainting or something, Roddy?
RODERICK USHER: My house is the boss of me! It's possible I'm in love with my sister.
HERO OF USHER: ... She seems nice.
RODERICK USHER: She's not well.
HERO OF USHER: Sure. She's not well.
TELEGRAMS FROM USHER: SEND HELP STOP RODDY DEFINITELY ON THE OPIUM STOP.


RODERICK USHER: I have written a poem, and set it to music! 'Paranoia paranoia everybody's coming to get me...'
HERO OF USHER: Roddy please put the violin down.

RODERICK USHER: My house is alive! I can tell because the windows are breathing.
HERO OF USHER: I have a question about the house. IS THERE A DOCTOR IN IT?
SKETCHY DOCTOR: *is sketchy*
HERO OF USHER: ... Goddamn.

RODERICK USHER: Have you read this book called 'Staring Creepily At Dead People'?
HERO OF USHER: ... No...
RODERICK USHER: It's a very good read.

HERO OF USHER:


RODERICK USHER: My sister is dead.
HERO OF USHER: Right. Well, Roddy, considering the things you have decided are alive - this house, that flowerpot -
RODERICK USHER: It's watching me...
HERO OF USHER: You definitely got your medical degree off the internet, is all I'm saying.
RODERICK USHER: I'm just going to bury her in the walls for now.
HERO OF USHER: ... 'S totally normal behaviour...
TELEGRAMS FROM USHER: THIS AIN'T RIGHT STOP DOCTOR MAD SKETCHY STOP LADIES IN WALLS STOP I AM COMING TO REALISE RODDY MAY BE A LITTLE ECCENTRIC STOP

HERO OF USHER: She is one fine-looking corpse. So lifelike. Well, time for tea! I fancy cucumber sandwiches.
RODERICK USHER: *twitches* The sandwiches are alive.

HERO OF USHER: It's been a week since we buried Madeline secretly in the walls, and Roddy is just not looking well! How are you doing, buddy? Got any dark secrets you want to tell me?
RODERICK USHER: Just listening to the faint scratching sounds and staring into the abyss...
HERO OF USHER: Can't imagine what said dark secrets might be!

HERO OF USHER: 'Twas a dark and stormy night, nobody was answering my telegrams, and in between the rolls of thunder I could hear these weird scratching sounds. Probably my imagination!
RODERICK USHER: Hey buddy!
HERO OF USHER: Hey buddy! I'm really freaked out tonight, I'm so glad you came to my bedroom wearing a manic expression! Can we cuddle?
RODERICK USHER: LET US BE AT ONE WITH THE ELEMENTS!
HERO OF USHER: Okay, I'm going to want you to shut the window, and come sit down, and I'll read you a bedtime story and get you a cup of warm milk.
RODERICK USHER: The clouds are alive!
HERO OF USHER: ... Of course they are, Roddy. Of course they are.

HERO OF USHER: Do you hear, like, crashing and screaming?
RODERICK USHER: Ahahahahahhaha! Ahahahahahahaha!!!!!!
HERO OF USHER: .... I think I hear crashing and screaming.

RODERICK OF USHER: All right! I'll be straight with you bro! We totally buried Madeline alive! I've known for days! I could totally hear her trying to get out and starving to death and all!
HERO OF USHER: Uh, why did you not mention this earlier?
RODERICK OF USHER: Oh, I don't know. I didn't want to bother you and fuss around getting living people out of tombs. It is my aim to be the perfect host!
HERO OF USHER: ...
RODERICK USHER: Yeah, I think that's Madeline outside.

MADELINE USHER: I am wicked angry.
MADELINE USHER: ... And I don't feel so good.

TELEGRAMS FROM USHER: I'M NOT SAYING I SCREAMED LIKE A GIRL BUT SOMEONE WAS SCREAMING AND IT SURE WASN'T MADELINE STOP I WAS RUNNING AND MADELINE THREW HERSELF LIKE ON TOP OF RODDY SOMETHING VERY WEIRD GOING ON THERE STOP BLOOD MOON STOP MAYBE THE HOUSE EXPLODED I DON'T KNOW STOP I THINK IT WOULD BE BEST IF RODDY AND I LOST TOUCH STOP


This tale has a lot of Gothic stuff in it. One of those things is this...

YOUR BOYFRIEND: *is tall, dark, sinister, looming, maybe trying to kill you, definitely has secrets*
YOUR BOYFRIEND: *is a house, which is just another of many problems in your relationship*

Besides the Gothic Manor You Should Not Date, there's also the fear of being helpless, trapped and stifled. Like, literally stifled. Buried alive. People get buried alive ALL THE TIME. Dudes do not have authority over ladies by virtue of being their fathers, husbands or brothers in quite the same way as they used to back in Roddy and Madeline's day.

Parents still have authority over their kids like that. If they say 'We are moving to No. 1 Atmosfear Lane, Murderville,' you are moving.

And that fits pretty well, because that's still family. Family is another theme of Gothic novels: the Ushers are just the beginning of Gothic Families That Ain't Right. I love creepy families, their ties to each other, twisted love for each other, and giving them an ancestral home full of secrets does no harm.

One last theme of the Gothic novel: imagination. 'Am I imagining this? Should I be afraid or not? Am I just being paranoid? Is someone trying to kill me, is that the sound of someone who's been buried alive, is that a real ghost, or am I crazy?' The abiding fear of your own mind, and all the shadows in its corners. It occurred to me that a beloved and terrifying imaginary friend would be a natural progression.

Jennifer Crusie, my favourite contemporary romance author bar none in all the world, has written a lot on her blog about Gothic novels, and I will definitely be devoting a Gothic Tuesday to her Gothic novel, Maybe This Time.

Next time we'll be doing Jane Eyre and Rebecca, because Gothic Novels Have Two Mommies, and these are those mommies. Also expect references all over the place to Joanna Russ's essay on the modern Gothic, Somebody's Trying To Kill Me And I Think It's My Husband. I don't agree with all of it, but does it not have the best title in the world?

More fear, love, families and manors to come.

Comments

( 103 comments — Leave a comment )
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
chicleeblair
Oct. 18th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
I haven't read Usher, though I did see a play based off it (not a dramatized version, it was modernized and some other things).

In tenth grade, I literally got to write fanfic for The Cask of Amontillado. Bricking someone into a wall alive, now that is creepy stuff.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
I have come to have this whole new appreciation for live burial!

... They'll use this post at my trial one day, I just know it.
(no subject) - AkiraRavens - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chicleeblair - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - silentstep - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chicleeblair - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - innocentsmith - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chicleeblair - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
elsajeni
Oct. 18th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOD I LOVE THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

Also, I have been planning to go as A Gothic Novel for Halloween for many years (sandwich board done up to look like book cover with appropriate title, heavy goth makeup). Maybe this is the year I'll finally get it organized!
o_cesario
Oct. 18th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
So excited for Unspoken! And only you could make Fall of the House of Usher that hilarious.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
*happy*
AkiraRavens
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
You should definitely have a theme for every day of the week (more blog posts, yeee!)
And I love your "summaries", haha
Rebecca is really cool btw!
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
Isn't it? I love Rebecca.

Ha, I am not sure I could cope with every day, but Thursdays do look good for sleuthin'...
(no subject) - AkiraRavens - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
thegreatmissjj
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
GOTHIC NOVELS ARE STILL POPULAR. I DON'T CARE IF THEY HIT THEIR STRIDE IN THE 80S. STILL POPULAR WITH MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I have a fondness for creepy Gothic things that my mother always gave me the side-eye about as a wee child. I trace my fondness for the Gothic form to THE SECRET GARDEN, which is actually kind of the opposite of the creepy Gothic in that it's all happy and life-affirming and whatnot, but has a lot of the tropes: orphans, slightly incestual family doings, an old manor, secrets shut up in one of the many rooms in the house, creepy wailing ("wuthering"), Northern English setting...

Other wonderful Gothic writers (from all sorts of time periods because I can't be bothered to group them together coherently in my mad, rabid passion for them): Sarah Waters with FINGERSMITH and THE LITTLE STRANGER (one could argue that there's something of the Gothic about all her writing--including the lesbians), Wilkie Collins and THE WOMAN IN WHITE, Elizabeth C. Bunce's A CURSE AS DARK AS GOLD, Gaston Leroux and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Victor Hugo and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, etc. And then there are Southern Gothic writers like Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and William Faulker and Flannery O'Connor.

The Gothic, of course, has gone through many permutations, but the point, I suppose is that it's primarily "horror and romance" which inspires a sort of "pleasing terror". (I also wrote a long post a while back about why I think the Gothic is also a feminine narrative).

P.S. I know she's considered a little outdated and rather eccentric, but Camille Paglia has some interesting things to say about the Gothic in her book SEXUAL PERSONAE, and especially about the incest that seems to occur a lot in Gothic fiction as a sort of extreme form of Romantic doubling.

P.P.S. I know this is tl;dr, but I get really nerdy about this. FAVOURITE TYPE OF FICTION EVER. :) Aside from the novel of manners, that is.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)
Obviously, I like them a lot too. ;) And I love ALL the books your mention!

Wilkie Collins is totally my crazy Victorian boyfriend: I think I might have to do a Combo Sleuth Gothic post just for Wilkie Collins, because Marian and Valeria are both awesome lady sleuths in Gothics, in a way I haven't seen since.

I have an essay somewhere about why children's books are awesome because Mrs Rochester as Colin is redeemed. Full of hope! And creepy stuff. Both are important.

Must look at Camille Paglia! The dodgy family goings-on in Gothics are one of my favourite things.
(no subject) - thegreatmissjj - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - parenthesised - Oct. 19th, 2011 11:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thegreatmissjj - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thegreatmissjj - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
rockinlibrarian
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
I think "Sleuth" and "Thursdays" do go together. They both have "th"s and "u"s. And "s"s but not really in a way that makes you notice.

Also, this was a delight to read.
rj_anderson
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
*beams at your icon*
(no subject) - rockinlibrarian - Oct. 18th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Oct. 18th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rockinlibrarian - Oct. 19th, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rockinlibrarian - Oct. 19th, 2011 01:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
mainemilyhoon
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
The Fall of the House of Usher = one of the few things they made me read in school that I liked.

And I love Gothic novels in general, so it is definitely NOT a terrible idea to write one now!

Also, Mary Stewart wrote so much more than books about Merlin. If you've never read Nine Coaches Waiting or The Moonspinners, get thee to a library, now!
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
Well, see above re the epic Gothic Reading Fest. I have read all the Mary Stewart now. (My favourite is The Ivy Tree, I think.) And soon... you will all read my interpretations of all the Gothics including Mary Stewart! (Everybody is doomed.)
(no subject) - mainemilyhoon - Oct. 18th, 2011 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stale_hermit - Oct. 18th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
scott_tracey
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
SARAH STOP YOU MAKE PSYCHOSIS SOUND SO ROMANTIC STOP PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT I AM VERY EXCITED FOR UNSPOKEN STOP.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, that Roddy Usher, an irresistible fox. ;)

Yay!
rflong
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
*should have studied Sarah's version of House of Usher in college*

I did have to read Udolpho too, but Northanger Abbey made it all ok.
"Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world!" :D
nagasvoice
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
The other thing I notice about may of these books is the style of language is... erm... ornate. Possibly febrile. Or hallucinogenic?
The one exception I can think of is Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, which uses such *simple* language while it beats you up.
I'm not entirely sure if the crazy Goth Science Fiction Horror elder Uncle goes in here or not: Lovecraft. I mean, the Chthulu mythos is completely creepy Gothic in some ways, and the purple prose can't be subdued with anything short of a nuclear missile.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)
I think there is a lot of language in Gothics devoted to atmosphere, which can go very well or very badly. A fun challenge for me!
(no subject) - ladyvyola - Oct. 18th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
innocentsmith
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
Yay, Gothic novels! Yay, lady sleuths! Neither of these things will ever be outdated, as far as I'm concerned. *looks forward to more Extremely Accurate summations*

Have you read much Shirley Jackson? Her The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived In the Castle are two of my favorite novels ever in the world, and they definitely fit the Screwed Up Families and Your Boyfriend: A House profile.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
Oh yes. We Have Always Lived In the Castle, SUCH a house boyfriend book. Also a great title.
(no subject) - stale_hermit - Oct. 18th, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
katharine_b
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
Have you read Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle? It's a great, complex riff on gothic romances and the writing thereof. I teach it as the last book in my intro lit class on romance narratives in the novel.
ZMarriott
Oct. 18th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
Zolah: Wants to hug Sarah so hard for writing this post and making her laugh until she had to run to the bathroom in a hurry.
timeripple
Oct. 18th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
I have a sudden desire to read Gothic novels! Er, right after I finish with these other Victorian novels I am supposed to be Writing Serious Things about. *eyes pile gloomfully but with love* Have you read any Charlotte Mary Yonge? She's not very Gothic, but with your love of family stories and all...?
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
I have! Very fond of the Heir of Redclyffe.
firynze
Oct. 18th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
If you want a really trippy time of it, find the movie Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price. Yipes.
genkisakka
Oct. 18th, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
I find it hard to believe House of Usher could EVER be more entertaining than your summary of it. ^_~

And you're breaking down Jane Eyre and Rebecca next? *swoons*

Edited at 2011-10-18 03:27 pm (UTC)
leah_cypess
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
*Mary Stewart? Didn't she write books about Merlin? My book's not about Merlin.*

Hahahaha! That was my reaction exactly. And if there was anything that could make me more excited about this book, it's a mention of Merlin.

Speaking of houses as characters, I recommend House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels. (I know. Gothic titles, so full of subtlety.) I would like to tell you why it is so perfect after your post, but I can't without giving away the ending. Alas.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
I have read all of Barbara Michaels' books. (It really was an Epic Gothic Reading Fest.) And that one is on my list to parodify, because.... yes. ;)
(no subject) - leah_cypess - Oct. 18th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
adaptation
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
The Cask of Amontillado is amaaaazing. I also love The Haunting of Hill House!
matt_doyle
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Gothics are among my favorite genres! So very much looking forward to this! Also, have you read either Udolpho or Castle of Otranto? Because I think you would very much enjoy their randomness and drama, and I know I would very much enjoy a review of them, and obviously you probably have many better things to do than write reviews for random crazy readers, but I figured it couldn't hurt to point out!
matt_doyle
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
This comment was made shortly after I started my first caffeine binge of the week, and on even a quick re-read, it shows. Sorry.
mein_profil
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
The manor I shouldn't date. Okayyyy....?!? All of that sounds... really and completely weird and therefore phantastic. Write like the wind, dear Sarah, I am looking forward to it!
And: Jennifer Crusie wrote a Gothic novel?!? Excuse, I have to go and update my Amazon wishlist, now.
scatteredgray
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
A beloved but terrifying imaginary friend would make an awesome story.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
I have my fingers crossed hoping so, since it's my book's premise. ;)
(no subject) - scatteredgray - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Oct. 18th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
brightlotusmoon
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
There is this crazy, crazy movie "remake" of "The Fall Of The House Of Usher" starring a lovely actress/model named Izabella Miko. It is truly insane and amazing. You must see it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_Usher

(Also, I finally bought all three Lexicon books and am devouring them like a honey badger devours anything it wants.)


Edited at 2011-10-18 05:47 pm (UTC)
tieleen
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
I can't wait for the book. Some of us liked the Eighties! (All right, some of us were in grade school in the Eighties and definitely not reading Gothic novels. Still.)

Your summary is, as always, hilarious and insane.
sarahtales
Oct. 18th, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Well, I was unborn, a baby, and then a little kid, so my Gothics consumption was on the low side. ;) But that is the beautiful thing about books, they hang around existing waiting for us.

I am so pleased you are excited. ;)
sarahnargle
Oct. 18th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Thursdays are very sleuthy! Especially Thursday Next....
miraba
Oct. 18th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
I have never read TFotHoU (oh god, what a mouthful), but I have lost track of the number of related/referential pieces I have read. D:
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
( 103 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

unmade
sarahtales
Sarah Rees Brennan
Sarah's Lexicon

Latest Month

September 2014
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930    

sarahreesbrennan@gmail.com

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow