31/31 Day 11 "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James
This is a favorite by a favorite, M.R. James, whose stories I discovered in the English section of the bookstore beneath the Louvre. It was the genre and the price, at the time 14 francs, that helped make the decision, but it’s one of the better chance encounters in my life. James has a way of creating images that burn themselves onto your eyelids, and stay with you when you’re trying to sleep. His use of architectural detail and historical background provide just the right amount of realism to suspend disbelief.
James’ stories play on psychogeography, the impact of emotion and event unable to extricated from a place regardless of time or effort. This is the big difference between the “traditional” English ghost story and J-horror phenomenon. With J-horror there are no ancient ruins, the average lifespan of a Japanese house being estimated at under three decades, ghosts must record themselves into technology, an exception being Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Eureka with its monstrous tree. James’ ghosts are definitely those that must be reached through the actual traversal of historical space whose psychic shocks remain present, recorded in stone and wood. In this way these stories are reassuring, patting down our eco anxiety while they provide that “pleasing terror” James set as a foremost demand of a workable tale.
The Mezzotint by M.R. James, brought care of The Literary Gothic where you can find more information on the writer and his ghostly Christmas tradition.