When I say Gothic, what do you immediately think of? Is it the new connotation of pale youths dressed in black? Or is your thought more literary, of windswept moorlands and sinister castle turrets and foreshadowing laced with foreboding and dread? If it's the latter, this is the post for you. (If it's the former, email me and we can talk about industrial music. Also, keep reading. Okay? Okay.) Gothic fiction, also often referred to as Gothic horror, is a literary style that incorporates both horror and romance and first came into fashion in the 1760s. However, the Gothic fiction of the Victorian era tends to be what many people think of when talking about the genre, and this is the perfect time of year to test those waters. In fact, if you've read Bram Stoker's Dracula, you're already well acquainted. If you'd like to move beyond Stoker, though, I have three titles to get you started.
The Pit and the Pendulum and Other Stories, by Edgar Allen Poe. Villainy, death and madness are all themes which make frequent appearances in Poe's works of short fiction, in addition to romance, obsession and longing. The combination results in a melancholy brand of terror for which Poe, author and literary critic, is best known. In addition to the title story of this collection, you might also try The Oval Portrait, a slightly lesser-known story of Poe's. Dark and dreary, perfect for a late October evening.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. A shrewd tale of moral corruption, The Picture of Dorian Gray caused a scandal when it was originally published in 1890. Young and handsome, Dorian Gray sells his soul for eternal youth, and while his portrait shows the wear and tear of the dissolute life he chooses to lead, Gray carries on without care. This remains a relevant cautionary tale even today, and the battle between good and evil still chilling.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you've never read this, but think you know how the story goes, then you might want to think again. It's actually about a London lawyer who investigates strange occurrences and coincidences concerning his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde. Often considered one of the first tales describing split personality disorder, it is also a great tale of the dark and light of human characters as well as simply a fascinating mystery.
I hope you consider picking up one of these, or another in the genre, especially if you're a fan of modern horror or mysteries. I'll be back next week with a wrap-up of what I've been reading this month, so in the meantime, happy reading!