Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Post: Robert Dunbar ~ November Chills


Guest post by Robert Dunbar ~ November Chills.

We have one of my favorite “living authors”, Robert Dunbar, sharing some enlightenment on what we could be reading after all the Halloween drama has ended and we are still looking for something of a thrill.

Do not let the quaint sounding title “November Chills” fool you. It coaxes a post Halloween reader (suffering from a loss of what to read next) into a deeper choice. Here Rob recommends literary classics to read this fall season with his usual satirist’s bent.

Let’s welcome Robert Dunbar. It’s always a pleasure to have him share his thoughts.

November Chillswood

Do you suffer from post-holiday depression? Same here. It’s a long way from Samhain to Beltane, and I never know what to do with myself after Halloween. Of course, Thanksgiving is coming, but somehow I can never get enthusiastic about commemorating the subjugation of indigenous peoples.

Must be me. I have the same problem with Columbus Day.

And this time of year holidays don’t improve in a hurry. There’s nothing but tediously pious “celebrations” from now till spring. Not that I even get invited to good Walpurgis Eve parties anymore. Not since that incident with the goat a few years ago. (The less said about that the better.) So drab. Does it have to be this way?

I mean, where are we on the calendar now? Winter is coming, fall well advanced. The colors in the wind excite your senses, even as the damp chill in the air seems to shut them down: contradictions are an integral part of life. So what is this time of year good for?

There’s something about being curled up with a book while the world is drizzly and gray that feels like the height of luxury. Anything this pleasurable probably ought to be illegal.

Someday it probably will be.


So what’s everybody reading? Let’s think of this blog as Fifty Shades of Drop that Drivel and Open a Real Book. My literary affections have always run to the – shall we say – weird. I’ve recently fallen back in love with James Purdy and – as so often happens in situations like this – can’t remember why we ever broke up in the first place. Anyone who can read NARROW ROOMS without being emotionally stirred is probably already dead … as is one of the major characters. (It’s a rare book that gives me nightmares. This one is harrowing.) I’ve also recently treated myself to THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ELIZABETH BOWEN, a massive tome, replete with some of the treasures of postwar British supernatural fiction. Actually, many of Bowen’s tales take place during the war, and the atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve encountered before. Outside, bombs are falling. Inside, phantoms whisper. (See? Contradictions again. Powerful stuff.) There’s quite a contrast between Bowen’s lucid intensity and Purdy’s passionate frenzy, but the authors have genius in common. That’s a requirement. It’s always been difficult for me to read down. Lately, it’s become almost physically painful. Only about ten percent of Bowen’s short fiction contains any specifically ghostly content, but all her tales boast a dreamlike, otherworldly quality, a sort of hallucinogenic hyper-consciousness reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. If you don’t know Bowen’s work, I can’t recommend her stories enthusiastically enough. Just dive in. You’ll find the mood intensely dismal, like the season.

NOTE: Reading her book by candlelight for the several nights we were without power, thanks to the recent hurricane, only enhanced the experience.

There are gothic novels where it never stops raining, where the wind never stops blowing. If you’re looking for a guide to the best of these, check out THE GOTHIC TRADITION IN FICTION by Elizabeth MacAndrew, a pretty comprehensive list of the better known titles. Also GHOSTS OF THE GOTHIC, a book of essays by Judith Wilt, out of print but still widely available, illuminates many of the more obscure works.

Immerse yourself.

In case you’re having difficulties finding the books Robert Dunbar has suggested in this guest post - try this classic collection:shadows

SHADOWS: Supernatural Tales by Masters of Modern Literature, edited and with an introduction by Robert Dunbar

It features terrifying explorations of the dark by D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Willa Cather and many of the other great writers who revolutionized dark fiction.

It’s available from a variety of the “big online book sellers” in ebook and paper format.

292 pages, Published October 18th 2010 by Uninvited Books

Robert Dunbar is a writer, editor, and playwright. He has written for radio, television and theater and is the author of The Pines, The Shore, Martyrs & Monsters, Willy, and Wood.

Find him at:

For an interview with Robert Dunbar, and more about his other books please see our post from 2011.

I loved the two books by Robert Dunbar that I’ve read. I reviewed Robert’s book WILLY in 2011  and it also made our 2011 best of the year list . Also, earlier this year I reviewed WOOD, his recent darkly funny novella.

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