Double Book Rec: The Aspern Papers, A Good H.P. Lovecraft Collection

As promised, Book Rec: The Aspern Papers by Henry James Do I feel The Aspern Papers is Henry James best work? No. I much prefer The Turn of the Screw for that title. However, what Aspern provides is a beautifully written tale of deceit and obsession that still rings true in our modern media-obsessed society. Simply put: an unnamed narrator is attempting to acquire the love letters sent by poet Jeffrey Aspern to Juliana Borderou, a woman near death residing in a decaying Venician home with her daughter, Miss Tina. By lodging with the mother and daughter, the narrator hopes to gain their trust and acquire the letters for his own academic windfall. No one has ever gotten in touch with someone who interacted so closely with Jeffrey Aspern; Miss Juliana is the Holy Grail of Aspern scholars. Just look at the prose about obsession:

I had made a point of spending as much time as possible in the garden, to justify the picture I had originally given of my horticultural passion. And I not only spent time, but (hang it! as I said) spent precious money. As soon as I had got my rooms arranged and could give the question proper thought I surveyed the place with a clever expert and made terms for having it put in order...I would batter the old woman with lilies - I would bombard their citadel with roses...

Gorgeous. And disturbing, too. All for some crusty old letters that may or may not exist. The beauty of the story is in the manipulation. Everyone is plotting and scheming against everyone else, to the point that no one knows who is controlling the situation any longer. It's worth a shot, though it's not as readily available as most of his other works. The Dover Thrift addition is riddle with unedited copy errors from the second printing, where the only correction was changing "Miss Titi" to "Miss Tina." I recommend finding another edition that may not loko liek tihs randomnly thruoghout the manumanuscript. Book Rec: A Good H.P. Lovecraft Anthology Really, any edition that is actually his work will do. But you must be careful: far too many publishers try to squeeze out extra income by labelling a collection something like "Dreams of Beyond: The Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft" where maybe two of the stories were actually written by him. What Lovecraft provides in every story is pure psychological terror. You are given a glimpse into an unstable mind being pushed over the edge. And that's just perfect for Halloween. While an unpopular opinion, my personal favorite story of his is Beyond the Wall of Sleep. It's science fiction and fantasy and horror all rolled up into one tight, possibly unfinished ball that will stick with you. I'm also close to positive that this is, in fact, the inspiration for Exorcist II: The Heretic, which uses a similar mind joining device to gaze into a crumbling mind and travel great distances without every physically leaving the room. Really, any edition will do. I wish I could remember the publisher, but a few local Borders have a beautiful, massive complete collection of all of his prose that has to stand on the top shelf because it's too big for the regular shelves. It was also available for under 20 dollars. Thank goodness for mostly public domain works and affordable editions.

Labels: book rec