Spine tingles

chill
Haunting bedtime reading?

Joan Aiken A Touch of Chill:
Stories of Horror, Suspense and Fantasy

Fontana Lions 1981 (1979)

These fifteen short stories, six published for the first time in this collection, are full of mystery and surprises, not least because UK and US editions feature — apart from a core of eight — different selections. I first read these tales in the early eighties, but apart from the odd déjà-vu moment I regret I didn’t remember any of them in this reread — my failing, not Joan Aiken’s, because these are wonderfully dark narratives.

I don’t know who made the final choice for the order of the UK edition but it was curious that pairs of succeeding stories are often linked — witches both black and white, Irish or Welsh characters, youngsters climbing through windows, murder intentional or otherwise, sinister automatons, and finally tales which somehow become true. But despite commonalities each story is very different, very distinct. Continue reading “Spine tingles”

Half sick of shadows

Georgian door

Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility
Edited with an introduction by Tony Tanner
Penguin English Library 1980 (1811)

Because [Elinor and Marianne] neither flattered herself nor her children [Lady Middleton] could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but that did not signify. It was censure in common use, and easily given.

With a title like Sense and Sensibility it’s easy to think this is merely a novel of contrasting dichotomies. Elder sister Elinor is the sensible one (“sense”) while her younger sister Marianne is the sensitive one (“sensibility”);  Continue reading “Half sick of shadows”

Passion, poetry and … biology

Lynn Margulis The Symbiotic Planet:
A New Look at Evolution

Basic Books 1998

I’m a sucker for popular science books. As a minor member of one of C P Snow’s Two Cultures, I am respectful of but in no way conversant with the scientific mind (and even less so with technology), so popular science writings are my way of consuming regurgitated scientific principles without too much indigestion. (Too many mixed metaphors, methinks.)

Lynn Margulis is a celebrated microbiologist who has, by all accounts, done sterling work on the relationships between bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Her main contribution to science is her endosymbiotic theory, which postulates Continue reading “Passion, poetry and … biology”

Zine, not herd

minizine

Magazines come in all shapes and sizes, finesse and finish, from professional to amateur, glossy to gauche. With its largely leisure associations it’s strange to realise the word has industrial and even military origins, from the Arabic makhazin (“stores”) through French magasin and Italian magazzino (“warehouse”), and on to its conflation with arsenal. It only acquired its modern meaning of periodical after the 18th-century Gentleman’s Magazine included it in its title to suggest a “storehouse of information”.

So we’re all familiar with the concept of magazines now but, innocent that I am, I’d never come across mini-zines before. So I was pleased to be sent (via an offer on Lory’s blog Emerald City Book Review) two Elsewhere Minizines. These really live up to their name. Continue reading “Zine, not herd”

Erudite yet entertaining

Maelstrom Carta Marina, WikipediaCropped version of Carta Marina.jpeg (Wikipedia Commons)

 A S Byatt The Biographer’s Tale Vintage 2001

The Maelstrom: how evocative that name is, the Charybdis that tempts you, the whirlpool that draws you down into its watery depths, a volatile spiral maze from which there is no escape. The Maelstrom, or Moskstraumen as the Norwegian original should really be called, features only sporadically in The Biographer’s Tale but its symbolism permeates the whole novel. Continue reading “Erudite yet entertaining”