More Ghost Stories by M.R. James has been a bit of a grind. So much so, that I’ve put it down multiple times and went on about life thinking, “Do I really need to finish that? By this point, I know how things are going to go.” I’m just so intrigued by the settings and stories that I’m willing to read them even if I find some points a bit tedious.
I can respect the inspiration and foundational impact of M.R. James has provided. Perhaps if I were reading these at Christmas time with some roasted chestnuts and some mulled wine, I’d enjoy them a bit more. However, with 97% of a thirty page story focused on where the garden keys are or courtroom proceedings – not drama, proceedings – or any other mundane proclivities of the early 1900’s, there’s only a blip of a page’s worth of ghostly goodness.
I wrote this before I even finished reading the last story because, it doesn’t matter. They’re gonna find those keys. The MC Hammer Pants of a ghost of the valetudinarian uncle will show up. The characters will say they are spooked, but it’s really more of a good ole flummoxing. Everyone will be fine and unscarred, except the one and only character to be punished for his trespasses because he killed a woman, thus making her a ghost, and sentencing her to an afterlife of wearing three pairs of Hammer Pants at once and running on all fours.
Okay fine! There is one more character that was punished, but I do not recall the specifics. I’m not going back to find which one. I’ve taken a cursory glance at the table of contents, nothing rang a bell. Even though I could look at the first page of the story and remember, I don’t want to.
Taking into account that these tales were published well over one hundred years ago, I bet they sure were scary at the time. I can truly appreciate the setting, the ideas; pretty much the whole she-bang minus the execution. I feel like I’m being groomed into accepting the slightest bump on a floorboard to be satisfyingly spooky.
Which, it is. Each and every single time with previously heavy lidded eyes I say, “You did it again M.R!”. Though it’s fleeting, that’s the payoff. Which is the reason why I read the next story and that I’ll more than likely read the next collection of stories, A Thin Ghost and Others.