Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary: A Graphic Collection of Short Stories by M.R. James Adapted by Leah Moore and John Reppion (Self Made Hero)

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My collection of horror books has over the many years come and gone, expanded and contracted, yet somehow I have never been without at least one edition of M. R. James. I suspect that subconsciously I fear some whispering curse will descend if I rid myself of the volume found at the back of the wardrobe, or in a stack of titles I know did not contain him before. Or it could just be that he is the finest of his kind and we are forever bound. Mixed emotions, then, upon receiving for review Self Made Hero’s Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary (Volume 1), gathering the first four stories from James’s 1904 collection, adapted by Leah Moore and John Reppion, with various talents contributing the art. This isn’t SMH’s first excursion into such territory – they’ve already tackled Lovecraft – and with an introduction by Ramsey Campbell it is clearly a lovingly concocted release. And yet … and yet, to my mind at least, it becomes its own worst enemy, suffers, even, from a kind of inbuilt redundancy, because not only are these tales so well known that it would take something quite radical to justify their retelling in this form, but also that ultimately the form itself seems utterly unsuited to James’s world of half-glimpsed, shuffling, fluttering discomfort – somehow it does not sit well to see such supernatural ephemera fixed graphically on the page. All of that said, the four artists offer differing and not unappealing styles to their respective tales – Kit Buss is almost Studio Ghibli in her approach to Lost Hearts – so from that point of view it is far from not worth a look, just – cough – with A Warning To The Curious. Mike Wild

 

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One comment to “Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary: A Graphic Collection of Short Stories by M.R. James Adapted by Leah Moore and John Reppion (Self Made Hero)”
  1. James wasn’t against illustrations of his stories, but you’re right, an illustrator imposes an interpretation of James’s ephemeral creatures at his or her peril.
    Save for the inquisitive grotesque, looking at a blithely ignorant Dennistoun in Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook, James McBryde’s illustrations compliment, without adding to James’s imaginings.
    Also, James didn’t withhold graphic graphic images in his writing. He applies a brilliant broad brush to allow our imagination to fill in all the dark spaces, but, now and again, and to greater and lesser degrees, he draws out images: the hand in “A View from a Hill”; the carved images in “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral”.
    These are the seeds cast upon our fertile imaginations; the narrative nurtures them into shoots until they burst into horrible bloom at the moment of James’s choosing.
    I haven’t seen these new illustrations, but will look out for them.

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