Sometimes life brings you to a standstill. A complete, terrible standstill. You eat, to survive and not because you love to. You try to read and write and draw because you want to come of the loop. The thinking loop that you are continually stuck onto, like it’s the only song on your playlist that plays on repeat. Slowly, your heart starts pounding, faster than usual. Closing your eyes at night is a task in itself, for when those eyes shut – your thoughts amplify, speaking louder than it does during the day. Someone sneezes mid sleep and you wake up wide eyed. Someone else gets up for a little pee in the middle of night, and you rush to them, asking if everything is fine.
That is what anxiety does to you. It creeps up to you without you knowing how far up it has reached already. By the time the realization finally dawns on you, panic has hijacked your mind. It has crept up to the point wherein you do not feel in control of your own body or thoughts. You start to feel helpless, like the world around you is crumbling, along with your hopes and dreams. Your first urge is to give up, and why wouldn’t it be? Isn’t that the easier option? But that is your real test, it is at that exact moment when you need to take a step back and focus on the feeble voice far off towards the end of your vision that tells you to keep going. Well, it might sound unreal at first. For a while let’s just pretend it is real, and take some deep breaths. Those deep breaths wouldn’t make any difference immediately, but it will help you pause, few minutes at a time. It’ll allow you to reconsider your thoughts and help you in breaking their flow. One deep breath at a time.
Heyyaa people! How are you all doing? I’ve missed you loads and I have missed blogging. Hopefully I am back here now. I don’t have a plan yet on what my future posts would be about, but I am happy to be back. It’s much more peaceful than the buzz on other social media platforms.
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.
Is there a genre that you always seem to run away from? What do you think about horror stories?