Classic, horror and youth tales entertaining


Here’s an old classic, from 1911, “Ethan Frome,” by Edith Wharton. It’s a perfectly believable love triangle problem. Poor Ethan has a poor property, a failing mill and a dying mother. When a relative, Zeena, moves in to nurse the mother, she makes herself so useful to Ethan that he thinks he can’t get along without her and he proposes.

Zeena becomes sickly and needs household help. Fortunately, a young relative, Mattie Silver, needs a home, her parents having lost everything and unable to help her.

Of course she’s beautiful and sweet, annoying Zeena, who finds her incompetent. Ethan becomes more and more infatuated till Zeena decides to send her away and hire another girl. Ethan can’t bear it; Mattie was free; he can’t afford to pay a girl. Zeena hints that gossips say bad things about Zeena, but she is making it up.

Ethan complains, but it doesn’t do any good, she will have her way. He can’t do the housework; he can hardly do the farm work.

Wharton describes the cold and the woods vividly. Since Mattie has to go, Ethan insists on driving her to the train. They remember they were going to have a sleighride, and Mattie has the miserable idea that they should intentionally run into the big elm and end their lives since they are so unhappy.

Read it and weep at the wonderfully ironic denouement.

If you don’t know the name H.P. Lovecraft (I didn’t till now), he is a successor to Poe with horror tales. “Tales,” a collection, has many examples to introduce him to us. Two of the tales are mysterious but not horrifying. “The Outsider” has a young boy who is stuck in a castle. He climbs endless stairs till he reaches a window, from which he plans to jump a frightening distance to the ground. No, it turns out he’s at ground level in spite of all that climbing.

In “He” the narrator takes rooms in Greenwich Village and is bitterly disappointed in the atmosphere, which is not as poetic and artistic as it used to be. He prowls around looking at old buildings, eventually meeting a man who professes to share his interest in antiquity. The stranger is dressed in clothes of the colonial era, but is trouble, luring the narrator into danger.

“Pickman’s Model” tells about a painter who paints such horrible subjects that the narrator doesn’t want to see but can’t resist. Pickman is avoided by his colleagues now and eventually disappears. “The Color Out of Space” is more interesting, about a surveyor who arrives at what the locals call “the blasted heath.” He doesn’t understand why they are so unhappy, but the cause is a meteorite, which has ruined everything, apparently the soil and the water especially. The fruit and even the flowers are coming up gray.

See what you think: It is an uneven collection, some more scary than others.

Raphael Fernandez is a dumpsite boy, living in a poor country, perhaps in Central America, along with his partner, Gardo. A mission school at the dumpsite urges them to attend classes, but they seldom do, though the priest befriends them. “Trash,” by Andy Mulligan, tells their story.

Raphael finds a bag in the trash with a wallet with 1,000 pesos and a key. He decides to keep it but share it with his partner. Police show up asking whether they have found anything good today, like a bag. It holds information and identification to reveal a crime. The boys guess that the policeman wants to cover up the crime because the criminal is an important politician.

Since the boys don’t really understand what they have found, they ask the priest to let them use the computer. They deceive him by pretending they will come to school. Now they know, they find out that the politician embezzled enough to send him to jail.

A third dumpsite friend recognizes the key as a locker key and even knows where such a locker is. When they manage to sneak around and open the locker without being caught they find a letter that reveals everything. Of course, they survive torture and interrogation and estrangement from Raphael’s worried aunt, but you will enjoy their eventual success.