Tag Archives: horror

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

I read Dark Tales as part of a book club. It’s one of the first book clubs that I have participated in – ‘Women In Literature’ club, where we read one book per month by strong women authors. The club is hosted by two lovely women- Aritri and Mridula (@theliquidsunset and @ecstatic_yet_chaotic respectively, on Instagram). Dark Tales was the ‘Book Of The Month’ for July. Had it not been for this club, I don’t think I would ever have read it, looking at its title and the genre. But I’m glad that I did read it.

I have stayed away from watching horror for a very long time now. The last horror or paranormal movie that I remember watching is ‘ When a Stranger Calls’, when I was about 12. My entire teen was a story of ups and downs- except it was mostly downs. I had a really bad spell of low self-esteem, less-confidence, etc. for more than a decade. I only realized that I was suffering from it after I came out of this spell, feeling better than ever. I’ve never before touched a proper horror book in my life- except for some children-horror books. I found myself too weak for this genre. I hated it when horror and psychological thrillers in some way, triggered my worst fears and made me even more self-conscious. But currently, I am in a much peaceful mental space than I have been in the past many years, so i thought about giving this book a try.

Dark Tales is a collection of 17 short stories. Each story brings forth a different element. I won’t say that I really liked all these stories, in fact, I liked very few of these stories for their plot. But the fact that I was able to read this genre, after all, made all the difference for me. The book isn’t a regular spooky kind of horror, to be upfront, except a couple of stories. It’s a very subtle kind of horror- the kind which we see and observe in our everyday life, albeit a bit exaggerated with certain kinds of emotions and plot twists. My review could be biased based on three grounds: I’ve read very few classics, and liked even fewer; this is my first proper horror book; and also I don’t remember reading a collection of short stories like this before.

The author’s portrayal of emotions like fear, anger, etc. is so real that it haunts us even when the story isn’t spooky. It is said that Shirley Jackson, in reality, had lived a very sad and terrible marital life and these feelings did come spilling out very evidently through her stories. It’s as though she wrote a small part of her life in each of her small stories.

In some of the stories like ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘What a Thought’, the author plays with the mind of the reader till the very end and then drops a sudden plot twist. Making us believe in the flow of the plot initially, but ending in quite unexpected manner, like deceiving the reader itself!

Her style of writing changes twice or thrice by the time we reach the final story in the book. There was a case of Unreliable Narrator in the story ‘Paranoia’ wherein the protagonist was being stalked the entire time and we as readers, felt like walking in his shoes. The entire story was on uneven grounds, there was no firm narration to it – making us paranoid about which character to actually trust.

The foreword by Ottessa Moshfegh gives away some spoilers in the very beginning but it also perfectly summarizes and comments upon the stories and the writing style of the writer. This is one of those books where the foreword shouldn’t be missed at any cost. It was very necessary to set up the background, before the readers dive into the book.

My ratings: 4/5 ⭐

If you do decide to pick this book up sometime, it isn’t at all necessary to complete it in one shot. You can read the stories separately as they are completely independent of each other. If you are someone like me who has never ventured into this genre before, but would like to someday – this book is a good one to start with. It has just the right amount of darkness and spookiness for a beginner.

— Suri


Is there a genre that you always seem to run away from? What do you think about horror stories?

Dreaming

In the last couple of weeks, two of Luna’s closest people have texted her, asking her how she was doing, all of a sudden. After a bit of talking, both of them confessed to having seen her in their dreams – but it wasn’t a good one, in both the cases. Typically, Luna is not the kind of person who goes looking for answers – answers to whether these dreams were signs, that something terrible and tragic was to befall upon her! She believed in none of this nonsense.

These two dreams were seen and experienced by people who did not know each other at all, but both of them knew Luna pretty well individually. When Luna had heard the first dream (God was it sad!), all she did was assure the person who saw it, that she was doing well and there was nothing amiss. What else could she do? But when she heard the second dream, curiosity caught hold of her. “You were chased by a serial killer, with some kind of a weapon in a very lonely street, where everything looked dark; and I stood there helpless and crying” – she remembered her friend saying on call. What if these indeed are signs? What if someone is trying to give her hints via her loved ones, to safeguard herself? Suddenly, she wanted to know more.

Luna’s thoughts were interrupted by the loud volume blaring from the speakers of the television.  Since the past few days, the local news channels and newspapers are filled with news articles about a runaway psychopath. The eye witnesses claim that he always carries with him a very clean, sharp and jagged knife. He’s suspected to be responsible for multiple murders in a nearby locality, but the authorities have found no reliable proof yet. If it were in Luna’s hands, she would never have wasted her precious Sunday morning surfing news channels, but currently the remote was in her brother’s hands, so she didn’t complain. She had to unwilling listen to the psychopath’s tale for like the 200th time since it first started surfacing!

Having a bad dream is terrible, Luna was wondering, but waking up with a bad dream and then REMEMBERING it, is the worst! We have to carry that dream with us the entire day, slogging wearily to ward it off; but instead we rather unknowingly, analyse it and picturize it again and again, on a loop. Slowly, we tend to become so anxious that there’s a constant feeling of dread looming above us, like a silent, floating cloud, she concluded.

How I wish that I could tell the seers of such dreams, thought Luna, that dreams are nothing but fragments of our own anxiousness, forming images and stories in our subconcious mental space. But could I tell them that? she asked herself, No way! But why not? She pressed on, maybe, because, in a way, I too wanted to believe otherwise?

After having their breakfast, her brother turned off the television, finally! thought Luna, to have a late-Sunday bath. After he was gone, Luna turned back to reading her book, which she wanted to finish in time – for her online book club discussions. The doorbell rang. Luna wondered who it was – they had very few visitors ever since the lockdown started. She peered through the eyehole, he seems to be some stranger, maybe a new courier man? Luna wondered. She opened the main door. Standing before her was a man approx. 5 ft 4 inches tall. His beard was unshaven and moustache was unkempt. “How can I help you?”, Luna asked him. But he spoke no words. All he did was point downwards. As she couldn’t see what he was actually pointing at, Luna opened the safety-door to have a clear look. Turns out he was pointing at his right wrist, in which he was holding a clean, sharp and jagged knife, that was glistening with some drops of red on it.


— Suri