I approached Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook without a forensic eye, I wanted to be entertained and to see what a good short ghost story could do. Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book has ratings and 20 reviews. Bill said: My first reading of “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook” will always hold a special place i. Ruth Rendell doesn’t believe in ghosts, of course, but MR James’s stories, like ‘ Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’, frighten her nonetheless.
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Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Second thoughts – I’ll put this bit in the ‘gossip’ thread. I can copy albeeric stuff over to my own files and change the font to my liking, can’t I? Is anyone else reading this? I have some thoughts – for what they’re alberlc – but I don’t want to post any spoilers and it’s a bit difficult vanon to with this one. I’ve read it too, but still mulling it over in my brain. Jun 26,5: Well – I haven’t got a lot out of it. I found it rather low on the ‘creep’ factor. Even when the one with the hair made an appearance Algeric didn’t find it particularly strong.
What interest there was for me was in trying to ‘read between the lines’, as it were, to work out the exact inter-relations sdrapbook Alberic, the one with the hair, the scrapbook, the sacristan and the church, assuming they were there below the surface; but they didn’t seem to make much sense. For instance, if the trouble was tied to the book and its ownership, why was the sacristan afraid to leave Dennistoun alone in the church? It’s James’ first ghost story, and it canom its weaknesses.
I think there are some holes in the narrative, which you brought up, rank. We should read something creepier like ‘Rats’ or ‘The Mezzotint’ or ‘Casting the Runes’ sometime, too, but this is a good place to start. Not bad, precisely, but not thrillingly entertaining. That said I do quite like this one His first, eh – not quite into his stride, yet.
I know I’ve read and been impressed by some of his albefic in the past. One thing I thought I detected here was a certain confusion of tone – just a touch of ‘English gentleman dealing with the funny foreigners’, humorous style at odds with content and genre. Rank, I’m glad you said it first. I wasn’t too enthralled by it either. But I was not aware it was his first story, so that would explain a bit.
Since I have not read any other of James’s stories, I wonder if I read some of his best work, how I would see Alberic on a re-read.
I do like James’s typical tropes, so I am looking forward to reading more of him. I have the two volume penguin classic edition, edited by S T Joshi. Oh, well if you can track down the Folio, it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made this year. The illustrations are phenomenal, which sometimes just isn’t the case with, er, ‘genre’ stuff Yea, I would love to grab the FS edition, just waiting for a reprint or a good price on eBay.
Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book – Wikipedia
One thing that has always puzzled me about that story is why Dennistoun doesn’t seem to be as plagued by the creature as the sacristan was.
Clearly the creature scrzpbook with the book, but the tone of the story after D. B-de-C makes it seem as though the creature were left behind. Presumably the creature was somehow tied to the illustration Dennistoun burned. To me, the story doesn’t satisfyingly ‘add up’ – if you see what I mean. The thing about Solomon was that he was supposed to have controlled demons to work for his ends. James wrote a piece about it, online here – http: But the story doesn’t seem to satisfactorily tie it all together – to me, at any rate.
More on that doesn’t tie together thing: I think a lot can often be added to the creepiness of such a story by leaving things unsaid and xcrapbook untied. I think what James does here is to unbalance the story by overdoing that. That said, I’ve been half-hoping one of you would come back at me with, “You’re missing half of it – this happens because of that, and that because of the other”!
Yes, that thing about the picture-bond occurred to me after I’d gone to bed last night. I also wondered whether the demon was the party with whom Canon Scrapbook. That and the picture-bond are interesting insofar as why the demon would still be plaguing anyone two centuries later. Perhaps the sacristan is supposed to be a descendant of Canon A. Although it is curious that the demon seems to haunt whoever holds ‘title’ to the book suggested by the selling rather than simple giving-away of the book.
That also makes me wonder what the treasure was that Canon A.
Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book (a.k.a. The Scrap-book of Canon Alberic) (Full Text)
B-de-C had a hidden treasury: And after all it’s curious that the sacristan didn’t just burn it himself. Even so, I find this story satisfying enough, certainly more so than “Two Doctors”. I rather like the incompleteness because it makes it seem all the more plausible, especially considering the accuracy of the place-descriptions.
In a way “C.
And, now that I think about it, there are some similarities with “An Episode of Cathedral History”, too. I agree with drbubbles that the more fragmentary, incomplete style of the story adds to its plausibility. And it’s certainly more Gothic for it. That said, James also has a tendency to end his stories on rather, for lack of a better word, dry notes; after the climax or the horror is fully relevant, dealt with, etc, he often goes in for a sort of blase wind down that includes either needless exposition or, paradoxically, a veiling or explaining-away of the story as something his narrator almost all of his stories are told in the first-person, though sometimes many times removed heard but doesn’t put much faith in, which is sort of But of course I’m a big fan, and these low points don’t take away very much of the stories’ power for me.
It scraphook a pity, though, that they happen, usually, at the last slberic of the story, as that’s what I consider the most important part. I’m a sucker for a great last sentence or two.
Jun 29,7: Though with no great depth to it, I found it quite well-shaped and, though not very high on the ‘creepy’ factor, it had a certain amount of building menace.
I thought it simpler but more polished. Or, perhaps, not ‘simpler’ so much as tied together more neatly. I’m probably going to get a decent edition of his stories sfrapbook some point and, in the light of veil’s comment in 8, it will be quite interesting to look at the chronological order of the stories.
A gothic story from a gothic book, as it were, providing another connection to the atmosphere of the work. I’ve found a lot of Dover editions over the years, and while they’re all pbk, a lot of them are basically reproductions scrapnook older hbks so one gets the older typefaces and often Dover uses thicker paper, too.
Then there’s the ghost-story novel I received as a gift some years ago, with paper texture, page layout, and typeface that all remind me of tedious academic works: Does this kind of thing happen to anyone else? Jul 1,6: I think you’ve just summed-up one of the attractions of second-hand bookshops. There are none left around here, now, but your words perfectly conjured up the atmosphere of a couple I used to know. And that combination of being visibly aged but still in good enough condition to buy goes perfectly with the Gothic.
ETA – Come to think of it – though I can’t think of one off-hand – there must be any number of spooky stories based on someone finding a rare old book in a second-hand bookshop. This prompts a question: I cznon don’t know the answer to this, but, in future, I’ll make a conscious effort to turn off the ‘Gothic group’ bit of my brain for the first reading. Happy alberix Independence Day to my fellow Americans, and hello everyone! If everyone’s mostly ready to move on, I’d like to. One last post before I comment on I actually attempted this post in the early hours this morning, but it wouldn’t behave itself so I never posted it – let’s see if I can beat it into submission this time: I’ve taken to thinking svrapbook the kind of stories we’ve been dealing with as lying on a line.
One extreme of the line being the pure ‘chiller’: The other end of the line I see as the ‘curiosity’ in the sense you’d use it of some odd conversation piece you found in some junk or antique shop: Wells’s ‘The Crystal Egg’ – a story with a fantastical premise but pretty much devoid of tension and chill as I remember it, anyway.
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, by M. R. James : Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book
My idea for a really top-notch story would be one that straddles the whole line – imaginative and inventive and tension-making and creepy. I’d put ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’ as covering a length round the middle of the line, reaching slightly further on the ‘curiosity’ side than the other.
There’s an interesting bit of curiosity value in the references to Solomon’s demon-doings in the Apocrypha or wherever, and in the unanswered questions the story throws up; a bit less on the tension and creep side. It occurred to me that James could have made a much better story from the sacristan’s point of view. Am I overlooking important stuff? Jul 5, ,