Reading Recommendation: “The Price of Salt,” Patricia Highsmith

Today I read:

“Therese ate nervously, with the “Welcome to Frankenberg” booklet propped up in front of her against a sugar container. She had read the thick booklet through last week, in the first day of training, but she had nothing else with her to read, and in the coworkers’ cafeteria, she felt it necessary to concentrate on something. So she read again about vacation benefits, the three weeks’ vacation given to people who had worked fifteen years at Frankenberg’s, she ate the hot plate special of the day–a grayish slice of roast beef with a ball of mashed potatoes covered with brown gravy, a heap of peas, a tiny paper cup of horseradish. She tried to image what it would be like to have worked fifteen years in Frankenberg’s department store, and she found she was unable to. “Twenty-five Yearers” got four weeks’ vacation, the booklet said. Frankenberg’s also provided a camp fro summer and winter vacationers. They should have a church, too, she thought, and a hospital for the birth of babies. The store was organized so much like a prison, it frightened her now and then to realize she was a part of it.”

— Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt

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Reading Recommendation: “The Lady and the Dragon,” Lydia Millet

Today I read:

“Sharon Stone wondered what else to say. Until now she had thought the billionaire highly eccentric, true; but she had not worried too much about it, for extreme wealth was known to distort. The fact that he wore an unsheathed dagger tucked into his trousers at all times, the fact that he allowed no plants, vegetables or fruit to touch his skin and bathed in a solution of isopropyl alcohol, the fact that he kissed a laminated picture of Roy Orbison every night before bed and liked to pretend to be a mewling infant during sexual intercourse–all these had struck her as essentially harmless. She saw now that she had misjudged.”

— Lydia Millet, “The Lady and the Dragon”

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Sunday Six

Six five sentences for Sunday, November 3:

Years from now, she will remember him as nothing more than a childhood fancy, a spirit dreamed up by a restless, willful, lonely little girl. On the occasions that she is called upon to reminisce on the subject—which will be more frequent than she would like—she will tell people he came to her in a dream. Indeed, it must have seemed so: his long shadow cutting the ground before her, more like the idea of a shadow than a shadow itself. She will say there was a beam of light through the window and, caught in its gaze, she invented him. This explanation is easier than the truth, which even she herself does not believe.

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My Top Five Classic Horror Films

After watching The Innocents the other night, I was trying to figure out what my top five classic horror films would be. The list I came up with is not terribly surprising, and I feel like I must be leaving something out (no Vincent Price, how can this be?!), but here it is:

5. The Bride of Frankenstein
There’s no denying that The Bride of Frankenstein is a wonderfully campy monster movie in its own right, but what really puts this one on the list for me is the amazing double-casting in the prologue, with Elsa Lanchester as Mary Shelley.

4. Black Sunday
This one is pure absurdity from Mario Bava, but it features a lot of my favorite gothic tropes–spooky old castles, witches returning from the grave to wreak havoc, and double casting in which the gorgeous love interest in the present day mysteriously looks identical to some long-dead malevolent ancestor.

3. Night of the Demon (Curse of the Demon)
Pretty much everyone (including director Jacques Tourneur) seems to agree that this one is undermined a bit by its ending, but if you just pretend the last, like, five minutes of the film don’t exist, it’s very much a horror story of suggestion, rather than explicit scares. Plus, its shout-out in the Kate Bush song “Hounds of Love” will always endear it to me. (Close second is another Jacques Tourneur/Val Lewton production, I Walked With a Zombie.)

2. The Innocents
As I mentioned the other day, The Innocents is chilling and atmospheric and wonderfully English. The Victorian trappings of this Henry James adaptation are gorgeous, and Deborah Kerr is both sympathetic and creepy–though no one could possibly be as creepy as Peter Quint and Miss Jessel.

1. The Haunting
My absolute favorite, now and forever. Such a fantastic mix of wit and absolute terror. The Haunting is a resolutely slow movie, and it succeeds primarily by suggesting the source of its horror. In fact, Hill House may be one of the most unconventional haunted house I’ve encountered on film; while the movie relies on some familiar ghost tropes (cold spots, for instance), most of the really scary bits come from very unexpected places. I also love all four of the principal actors, but especially Julie Harris and Claire Bloom as Eleanor and Theodora, who have terrific chemistry. And of course, who can forget Mrs. Dudley’s  immortal speech . . . “In the night. In the dark.”

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The Innocents

The Criterion Collection’s 3 reasons for watching The Innocents. I rewatched it the other evening, and it’s just as gorgeous and creepy as I remember. It’s right up there with The Haunting amongst my favorite vintage horror films–not outright terrifying in the way The Haunting can be, but highly unsettling and highly atmospheric in very similar ways.

 

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Halloween 2013 Mix

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 3.02.00 AM

Listen on 8tracks

“I Wanna Be Evil” — Eartha Kitt
“My Body’s a Zombie For You” — Dead Man’s Bones
“The Words That Maketh Murder” — PJ Harvey
“Vampire” — Kimya Dawson & Antsy Pants
“I Died So I Could Haunt You” — Stars
“Reaching Through to the Other Side” – My Brightest Diamond
“A Light So Dim” — The Black Heart Procession
“Hole in the Middle” — Emily Jane White
“Vampire Blues” — Neil Young
“Little Ghost” — The White Stripes
“Riboflavin” — Grave 45
“Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” — Tracy Morgan
“The World is a Very Scary Place” — The Gothic Archies
“Til the Casket Drops” — ZZ Ward
“Haunted” — Poe
“Ghost Girl” — Telepopmusik
“Nightmare” — Artie Shaw
“This Is Halloween” — The Nightmare Before Christmas
“Dracula” — Gorillaz

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Sunday Six

Six sentences for Sunday, October 26:

The boy wakes in the night with a sharp shout. She throws back the covers, crosses the cold landing, and turns on his lamp, a flare of light.

He says there is someone in his room: a tall figure standing in the doorway. A man, he says. A voice he recognizes, but he won’t say whose. He says it said “Hello.”

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