Sunday, 25 October 2015

M.R. James in The New Yorker

'The name of Montague Rhodes James is not widely recognized in America, and there will be little fellow-feeling for the world he chose to inhabit.'

So begins an essay by Anthony Lane, which sums up the appeal of the Jamesian ghost story rather neatly. He offers New Yorker readers a decent potted biography of MRJ and extracts from some of the most famous stories. And Robert Lloyd Parry's performances get a mention - can transatlantic fame be far behind?

I like Lane's way with words:

'What truly provoked him, and what filtered into the underground strata of the stories, was not so much misogyny as a more basic, mortal panic at gazing into the face—or, heaven preserve him, below the waist—of the unknown.'

2 comments:

Aonghus Fallon said...

Surprising (if not astonishing) that he isn't well-known on the other side of the pond, especially given the popularity of Lovecraft (although I'd rate James over Lovecraft any day as a stylist). I only discovered recently that Iain Banks is also relatively unknown in the US, while Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones (the children's book author) are popular. Go figure.

valdemar said...

I think much of this is sheer dumb luck. Some British writers - such as Wodehouse - understood the US and to some extent produced fiction that would have transatlantic appeal. I think MRJ is just the sort of British author a lot of Americans would like, but I could be wrong. Iain Banks is arguably very British in his mainstream fiction, but his sf ought to be better known Stateside. As you say, go figure.