27 September 2009

Ghost Stories

Jeff Ford is looking for recommendations of ghost stories:
My students are presently writing ghost stories. I want to make a list of 10 of the greatest ghost stories for them to check out. What I'm looking for is your absolute favorite one (short story) -- what you believe to be the best ghost story ever written. If you have a suggestion, please post it. No need to mention "The Turn of the Screw" by James -- that's already on the list. For my very favorite, I'm torn between "The Return of Imray" by Kipling and "The Hell Screen" by Akutagawa.
I chimed in with various folks recommending the work of Robert Aickman, a writer I had encountered some years back when I first got a copy of The Dark Descent, but I wasn't a sophisticated enough reader yet to understand his tales, so thought they were pointless and boring. Returning to him this past year, I suddenly discovered he was much more fascinating than I had noticed before, and I dug through various old paperbacks and magazine back issues I had in search of his stories, then found inexpensive used copies of Cold Hand in Mine, Painted Devils, and Night Voices (the latter I got really lucky with after searching the Internet for months for a copy for under $30). Inevitably, some of the stories don't do anything for me, but when I manage to connect with one -- which is more often than not -- the effect is astounding. "The Stains" is my current favorite, one of the most disturbing stories I know, its power in some ways akin to the effect certain of Christopher Priest's novels have on me.

As Jeff says in one of his replies, it would be nice if a publisher in the U.S. would release a book or two of Aickman's work. (In the U.K., there are some Faber & Faber editions still in print.) Surely somebody at a U.S. small press thinks Aickman is worth keeping in print and introducing to a new generation...?

Oh, and if anybody out there is independently wealthy and wants to buy the Collected Strange Stories for me for my birthday, I won't complain...