Saturday, September 26, 2015

More Scary Stories

This week's selection of scary stories which should be re-read is 1959's The Haunted Looking Glass. This is a collection of short horror stories from a variety of authors, each chosen by Edward Gorey when he was an editor at The Looking Glass Library. In addition to choosing the stories to be included, Mr. Gorey illustrated each tale with a book cover style design which appears before every story.

The spooky tales contained in this collection are often told in a first person narrative style and end with a chilling plot twist. The collection reflects Edward Gorey's omnivorous reading habits, and includes famous authors as well as stories by less well known writers. I own the original artwork from two of my favorite tales included in the book.

The Body Snatcher by Robert Lewis Stevenson is a tainted tale associated with early medical research. Mr. Gorey's expert use of line work creates just the right mood through his mastery of light and shadow. I particularly like the composition of this piece with the hanging skeleton presiding over the evil proceedings. At this point in the story, a decision hangs in the balance that will haunt the participants forever.

The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs is a cautionary tale, encouraging the reader to be careful what you wish for, because it just might be what you get. Using only pen and ink on white paper, the variety in the line work on this beautiful illustration provides a tense, moody backdrop for the scene. The theatrical effect of the shriveled monkey's paw on the table is accentuated by the glow on the faces and the darkening of the chairs around the circle of onlookers. This subtle use of light and shadow makes the tiny dreaded object the center of attention. This is my favorite illustration in the book.

In later interviews, Mr. Gorey stated that The Haunted Looking Glass was a particularly difficult project because he did not want to give away the plot with his illustrations. This, of course, is the challenge for all great illustrators - to enhance and embrace the writing, luring the reader into the story, but not spoiling the experience for the reader by telling too much.

No comments: