Tag Archives: psychological suspense

Barely Breathing Into the Afterworld

Last Night  by James Salter (2002) and author’s anniversary month.

Tuesday’s Tale,  June 11, 2019

Poet Walt Whitman said that “nothing can happen more beautiful than death.” Several poets—Rainer Maria Rilke included—believe death to be “our friend.” So a short story about choosing to die, when and how, already has a mysterious power going for it.

Meet Walter, a translator of Russian and German poetry, and his wife Marit who is seriously ill. This is the Last Night of her life, as she and Walter have planned it.

This story is masterful and highly polished. A beguiling tale full of emotional shadows. It takes a great deal of talent and skill to construct a short story that is fulfilling and reaches deep into the heart, and author James Salter (born June 10, 1925, yesterday the anniversary of his birth) wrote this with insight and empathy. Salter is not as famous as authors Roth or Updike, and you might not have heard of him. He’s often referred to as the forgotten hero of American Literature. He’s a stylist and a purist.

Honestly,  if you love great writing and great stories, you have got to experience Salter’s Last Night.

Read Last Night here at the New Yorker Magazine:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/11/18/last-night-2

Salter died June 15, 2015 in Sag Harbor, NY.

James Salter, born in New Jersey, grew up in New York City, was an American fiction writer and screenwriter whose work is characterized by a careful, economical use of language and by themes that often involve the passage of time and the losses experienced along the way.

Meet James Salter on YouTube.com (3 minutes)

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Triumph Over Madness, Phantom or Fragment?

The Yellow Wallpaper by  Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1899)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   February 19, 2013

Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman_c._1900

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Imagine you are confined in a yellow papered bedroom, bars on the walls, and “rings and things in the walls,” with a bed nailed down and a bedstead that is gnawed. In The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, we have an unnamed narrator (we learn her name at the end) with shifting consciousness between her inner world and the real world. This is a story of psychological horror that is quite unnerving. Although dated—and beautifully so—our character is between madness and the imaginary with a dash of obsession, and, yes, there is something else.

The narrator and her husband John, a physician, spend a summer at a grand house (she tells us “a haunted house”) in the countryside. She suffers from “nervous depression” and “excited fancies.” Because of her odd behavior, John confines her to her bedroom where she can “rest.” She keeps a secret journal and it is through this journal that the story is revealed. What occupies her mind much of the time is the “dim sub-pattern” in the yellow wallpaper. She describes it as “faded and where the sun is just so–I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.”

The symbolisms here abound. The themes are clearly feminism and repressed individual expression as John insists she stay in bed, suppress her imagination, and discontinue writing in her journal.

You will find the narrator’s minute-to-minute descriptions of her descent into madness keep you going to the very last line until her sanity or insanity is determined. The key question to ask at the end of the story is, who is really in control now? Who is free? Note John’s condition in this last scene. I love the little twist at the end, and how her mental derangement succeeds. It makes you want to say, Ha!

Read it here:

http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/wallpaper.html

It may not surprise you to know that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a feminist and lecturer in social reform. She wrote 186 short stories. Here’s one of her quotes that is memorable and, I think, captures the meaning of The Yellow Wallpaper.

“Here she comes, running out of prison and off the pedestal; chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”

Leave a comment if you find the ending to be less triumphant than I’ve suggested. There is much literary debate on Jane’s descent or release of her madness.

Stop by next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.

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