Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J.S. Le Fanu
Jim Rockhill, Brian J. Showers [editors]
[Swan River Press]
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu famously wrote the gothic horror story Green Tea, in which a man goes insane through excess consumption of the titular fluid, seeing visions of a red-faced monkey who has his worst interests at heart. As a confirmed fellow addict of this thought-enhancing and hangover-defying substance, this miraculous confluence of leaves and water barely boiled, one cannot help but warm to this man, feeling an affection nearly fraternal or even paternal. As this collection proves amply, one is not alone; the ten macabre tales here were written specifically to celebrate Le Fanu’s bicentenary. Angela Slatter’s Let The Words Take You evokes the feverish insomniac quality of Le Fanu’s nighttime productivity, producing mountains of caffeinated pages to chill and move, ‘a subtle stiletto to the heart’. In the ravishing array of words, one does feel taken.
On the whole, this literary parlour game in Sheridan’s honour yields happy fruits – his shade would smile. It’s a relief to see no fear of what drier shites call ‘floweriness’. The long sentences are lithely living, with nocturne’s mist hanging on every comma: Chapelizod is stamped with his ghost haunting the house by the churchyard; Aungier Street will see more séances. Personal favourite? Could only be Mark Valentine’s Seaweed Tea – as Valentine points out, the addictive beverage of the original has since been happily coerced into the mainstream. Long may the tea and the book remain on the shelves.
Words: Sam Coll