Sunday, 30 September 2012

'And No Bird Sings ...'

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Woman, December 1926
Collected in Spook Stories (1928)
5,225 words
(First read 30/09/2012) 

Our roving Unnamed Narrator goes to visit his old pal Hugh Granger, his dogs and his wife (yes, in that order).  In a stroke of typically Bensonian good fortune, the cove Hughie has just inherited a delightful little Queen Anne manor-with-estate in Surrey¹.  Within the bounds of his demesne stands a (pardon the terminology) doughnut-shaped wood which, we soon discover, harbours something live, vile and evil which, so as to put his dogs' and wife's (in that order) minds at rest, Hugh resolves to destroy with the aid of the trusty if somewhat lily-livered U.N.  So they do.  The End.
Even the inclusion of Granger's theory² about what the beast actually is³ doesn't do much to dispel the story's essential humdrummery.
It's available online here.





¹ Current [2014] estimated market value £35bn.
² He does like his theories, does Hughie.  See also (e.g.) The Bus-Conductor.
³ As usual, H.G. is far more clued-up on this kind of twaddle than U.N.  It should really have been him writing the spook stories.



THE CRITICS
[Benson's ghost] stories are extremely varied in content, ranging from the horror of vampires, homicidal ghosts and monstrous spectral worms and slugs (in the classic Negotium Perambulans and 'And No Bird Sings') to the satire of humorous tales which poke fun at charlatan mediums and fake seances (Spinach and Mr Tilly's Seance). 
~Richard Dalby in introduction to The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson, 1992

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Home, Sweet Home

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Woman, June 1927
Collected in Spook Stories, 1928
5,605 words
(First read 23/09/2012) 

Really the only interesting thing about this story is that the unnamed narrator actually turns out to have a name ~ he's called Ted.  He goes to visit his sister Margery and her husband Walter¹ at their rented house on an isolated stretch of coast in Sussex².  Walter is convalescing after a near nervous breakdown.  There are ghostly things going on in their music room, and a fishy gardener.  In the end the mystery is solved neatly, to this reader's infinite boredom.
The story's available online here.


¹ Absolutely no relation to the hero and heroine of Juggernaut (1911).  See my forthcoming essay* "Hi Jack, this is Jack, how's little Jack and your wife Jack?": On the Curious Lack of Imagination in E. F. Benson's Character Names.
² Well, one assumes it's Sussex ~ the nearest town is 'Hastings' ~ though I find it difficult to imagine any part of that coast being isolated, even in 1927.

*Not reeely.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Expiation

Fiction ~ short story
Published November 1923
6,850 words
(First read 09/09/2012)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Naboth's Vineyard

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine,  December 1923
Collected in Spook Stories, 1928
5,935 words
(First read 02/09/2012) 

Seven years after failing to acquit a client of embezzlement, solicitor Ralph Hatchard retires to Scarling*.  He hankers after a particular house there but the female occupant isn't interested in selling, or even talking to anyone.  Shortly afterwards her husband returns from 'India'; Hatchard goes to see if he'd be willing to sell up; discovers that the old chap is none other than his embittered embezzler newly released from prison; and extorts the house out of him; the old chap drops dead of a heart attack the same day and Hatchard promptly moves into his new home ...
If you can't guess what happens next, you've obviously never read a ghost story by E F Benson.  This is humdrum beyond your wildest imaginings, and the whole thing could've been told in 2,000 words max, and been the better for it.
It's available online here


*I've absolutely no idea where this place is based on ~ it could be pretty much any coastal town in the south of England.

P.S. The title relates to an Old Testament story which appears to have been something of a favourite with EFB as I've come across it several times in his writings.  I should warn you, though ~ as Bible stories go, it's pretty dull.