Clarice Lispector’s The Fifth Story

On this episode of Strange & Scary Story Talk I discuss Clarice Lispector’s The Fifth Story. Although Lispector, one of Brazil’s most famous twentieth century literary figures, wrote mainly short fiction and novels, her work is deeply poetic, her manipulation of language and form a testament to her ingenuity and brilliance. Lispector’s work is dark and disconcerting. Most of her stories are about women engaged in mundane daily tasks; however, her writing is not about plot but the internal worlds of her characters – worlds that, when exposed by Lispector, reveal disturbing truths. The Fifth Story is no different. Ostensibly, it is about a woman killing cockroaches in her apartment, but it is so much more. Within the frame of seven paragraphs, Lispector retells the same story five times, ending  in two sentences and the understanding that the story could continue. As for Lispector herself, she is as fascinating as her writing. Her brilliance, her glamour, her enigmatic personality created a mystique which endures today.

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One final note: Towards the end of the video I say that Gottfried Leibniz  was a mathematician and philosopher of the eighteen hundreds. I meant to say sixteen hundreds (sixteen and seventeen hundreds to be precise). It was out of my mouth before I realized and there was no going back! The perils of recording! Wondering what Leibniz has to do with Lispector’s story? You’ll have to read it to find out!

The Altar of the Dead by Henry James

Tonight on Strange & Scary Story Talk I discuss Henry James’s exquisite short story, The Altar of the Dead. This beautiful and haunting tale is not only a meditation on death, betrayal, forgiveness and unconditional love, it is also a reflection of what haunted James himself at the time he wrote it. The Altar of the Dead demands careful reading, not because it is unnecessarily complex but because James was so generous in his crafting of the tale that you do not want to miss all he offers.

*Please note that James’s 1904 masterpiece was The Golden Bowl, not The Glass Bowl. Unfortunately by the time “glass” stumbled out of my mouth, it was too late to turn back.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story

Are you tired of saccharin-sweet made-for-TV Christmas movies? If so, do as the Victorians did and invite a few ghosts to your next holiday gathering, or at least fix yourself a cocktail or cup of tea and read a classic ghost tale where winter is bleak and death is serious business. This week on Strange & Scary Story Talk I discuss Elizabeth Gaskell’s THE OLD NURSE’S STORY, a gothic tale of jealousy, betrayal and terror.

The Victorian Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories at Christmas

Let’s resurrect the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas. On this episode of STRANGE & SCARY STORY TALK, I discuss the long history of this tradition and explain why the Victorians took a particular interest in the dead and their relationship with the living. I also talk about why Christmas is the perfect time to welcome ghosts to our holiday celebrations.

The Moon and the Yew Tree by Sylvia Plath

I didn’t plan to discuss poetry on the show, but two weeks ago I listened to a reading of Sylvia Plath’s The Moon and the Yew Tree, a work that is startlingly haunting and beautiful, and I just couldn’t let go of it. This week I talk about not only the poem but the importance of broadening the lens by which we view Plath.

E. Nesbit’s IN THE DARK

This week on STRANGE & SCARY STORY TALK I discuss E. Nesbit’s ghost story-or should I say corpse story-In the Dark. Nesbit is best known as a British writer of children’s fiction. She channeled her darkness into her lesser known stories for adults. In this episode we also explore Nesbit’s demons, the infantilizing power of fear and the importance of the ghost story in helping us grapple with what most terrorizes us.

 

Marghanita Laski’s THE TOWER

It’s Devil’s Night, Mischief Night, Halloween Eve, the perfect time to discuss one of the greatest scary, short stories ever written-Marghanita Laski’s THE TOWER! I do not understand why this story is not included in the short literary fiction canon  along with Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY and Flannery O’Connor’s A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND. Please check out the latest episode of STRANGE & SCARY STORY TALK, my YouTube channel where I discuss dark and twisted short fiction, and share your thoughts. Is this story as great as I think it is? Also, if you like what you see, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

Happy Halloween!