Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Journal

20th Century Ghosts

As I did last year, I’m making notes on my reading as the weeks pass by, to post as a summary at the end of December. My intention was not to bother you with reviews as I go along, but to save them up for those interested. However, I’ve just read Joe Hill’s short fiction collection 20th Century Ghosts (my fourth book of 2008). My heart is pounding a little too fast, and I keep shaking my head in wonderment. As such, I thought I’d break my self-imposed ruling, and cut and paste my notes here, because I think that you might feel the same way if you were to read it, and think that this is something worth sharing.

20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill This book contains what are now some of my favourite short stories in any genre, and it’s because Joe Hill understands particularly well that good stories are not about the things that happen, be they horrific, fantastical, strange, quirky or unsettling (all these things apply to tales in this book). Good stories are about the people they happen to. It shouldn’t be possible that a tale about a boy who wakes up as a six foot grasshopper is uniquely dangerous, or that another about an inflatable boy is among the sweetest, most mournful things I’ve read, yet they are. Special mention goes to My Father’s Mask, which is so surreal and off-key that it left me feeling nauseous and upset for reasons I can’t even put my finger on, the remarkably uplifting Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead (not a genre story at all), and the mind blowing novella that caps the book, Voluntary Committal, which took my breath away.

All I can say is give it a try, and let me know what you think. For me, this book is even better than his novel Heart-Shaped Box, which I read and loved last year. As a reader, it takes a lot to knock me sideways with short fiction – I am very demanding of it – but this book has everything it takes, and more.

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