Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Happy birthday, Monty!

150 years ago Montague Rhodes James was born. Thanks to him, I'm writing this and you're reading it. Without MRJ there would still be supernatural fiction, but he had a profound influence on the field. He shunned the overdone, unconvincing occultism of Victorian/Edwardian authors. He pioneered a 'detective story' format that set a good template for ghost story authors (and of course for horror authors, via H.P. Lovecraft). He also adopted a chatty, informal style and injected humour into stories that are often extremely horrific in their implications. And of course MRJ's very success has generated critical reactions and spurred creative attempts to 'get round' his approach to the ghost story.

And, above all, he brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. So...

3 comments:

Oscar Solis said...

I will forever be grateful to my friend who handed me his copy of "The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James" and said something to the effect "This is the guy who inspired Stephen King."

I'm not sure about the inspiration part, but that collection just about scared the heck out of me. I'll never forget reading Lost Hearts and Wailing Well late one night in my room which was set apart from the main house and thinking to myself that I sure wish I was anywhere but in that room by myself.

Happy Birthday Mr. James. I shall read one of your works to mark the occasion. Maybe Count Magnus.

valdemar said...

Thanks for that, Oscar. I think MRJ is a lot more horrific that he's sometimes given credit for. I first read 'Ghost Stories of an Antiquary' during a very dark period in my own life, and - as sometimes happens - they provided me with some sense of escape and release. A pleasant terror, in fact.

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