A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings - M.R. James I already own most of the works of M. R. James in multiple books, and in ebook form as well (they're all free on Gutenberg). Why did I buy this collection then? Because having already read most of the easily accessible stories, I wanted anything more I could get. The additional (and new to me) essays, prefaces, etc. in this book were just too tempting, especially since tracking them down individually would mean buying multiple books. Of course I'm the kind of person that, while reading an essay James wrote about ghost stories he recommends, took notes so I could then look up and read all of his suggestions. Eventually, since it's a long list.I have to add here that I discovered this version of collected tales via the M. R. James podcast: A Podcast to the Curious. Well worth taking a look at, because the website itself often has links to various places with more information on each of the stories.I'm still in the process of reading A Pleasing Terror because I couldn't make myself skip over the stories I was familiar with and go on to read the new content. Instead I found myself reading through everything and enjoying the stories all over again. The new content was worth it to me - especially an essay about James written by one of his colleagues/former student. It almost makes up for not being able to read Michael Cox's James biography that's out of print. (It sells for ridiculous prices, someone really needs to reissue it.)Anyway, I'm still reading - 67% through so far. More when I finish, and a quote or two if I can remember where to look. (I'm bad about marking my place in ebooks.)Added 9/16/2012This is the kind of book I'd want to quote from to give a better idea of why I enjoy it. For instance, from Appendix IV: Ghosts in Medieval Yorkshire by Jacqueline Simpson:"...English country legends as recorded in the nineteenth century include spectres quote as odd as these, alongside the more 'normal' white ladies and headless horsemen. In Cheshire, there was a ghostly pig with its back stuck all over with lighted candles, and also a headless duck; at Bagbury in Shropshire, a wicked squire 'came again' as a huge, roaring, skinless bull; a road in Crowborough (Sussex) was haunted by a spectral bag of soot which chased people."I now want to track down more stories about that candle-studed pig. Not to mention the bag of soot.9/18/2012I think I should have been keeping a "parts to remember" list for this book all along, as I keep turning up fascinating little stories. In Appendix V: An M. R. James Letter, Introduced and Annotated by Jack Adrian, the essay begins with the discussion of book collecting, specifically by the essay's author and a friend of his, Nicholas Llewelyn Davies. The same Llewelyn Davies who, in a group of five brothers, provided J. M. Barrie with the inspiration for the Lost Boys and Peter Pan. The author happens to pick up a collectable copy of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, and then he mentions it to Davies, who "said he couldn't be sure exactly but he rather thought all of his MRJ ghost story volumes were signed by MRJ himself. As a conversation-stopper. book-lover to book-lover, this was hard to beat." And it turns out that several of the Llewelyn Davies brothers had gone to Eton, and that's where they'd met MRJ. "Somewhere, he said, he had letters from MRJ. I pressed him to dig them out." - and thus we get to the promised letter. But the story leading up to it is interesting in itself.Oh and the letter discusses H. P. Lovecraft and his essay Supernatural in Horror and Literature. This appendix is reminding me of a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, only with M. R. James as the figure that everything eventually leads to (or from).A bit later:Finished, and now the list of M. R. James' Suggested Reads is even more daunting than it was when I was only 10% through the book. All for the good, of course, especially since a great deal of what James felt were good ghost stories are still available, and in public domain. I did enjoy the early chapter, A Memoir of Montague Rhodes James, by S. G. Lubbock, who had known James from working with him at Eton, and had traveled with him abroad multiple times. This chapter allowed me a glimpse of James as he was known to colleagues and friends. A few quotes (% instead of page numbers because annoyingly that's all I have to work with) to leave you with:(4%) "....He himself used to say that at his first children's party he 'burst into tears and requested to be led from the apartment;' this indeed happened at Burton hall, Sir Charles Bunbury's, when he was six years old, and he was easily comforted by being taken to the library and left there."(4%) [In explaining M.R. James' "unshaken and unaltered" faith:]"...In 1899 Will Stone, one of two who went with him on his first tour in Denmark, died; and when James McBryde died five years later, and a little group of sorely stricken friends met at King's, Monty said as we were talking of McB. that it was a relief to feel that Will would be there to meet him; and he said it as simply and unaffectedly as if James had gone to stay at some country house with people unknown to him and Will, already there, would meet him and put him at his ease."(5%) "...But he would not merely impersonate particular individuals. ...Monty and his brother Herbert somehow transformed themselves into two village tradesmen. The characters, as they say at the beginning of novels, 'were purely fictitious;' Herbert was Johnson a butcher, and Monty was a grocer called Barker; and it must be understood that they were Barker and Johnson to each other and no one else. ...Barker would suggest to Johnson that he tampered with his weights, to be accused in turn of putting sand in his sugar. All this began in private school days, and was renewed whenever they met. ...[After the war has kept them apart:] They had not met for years, but they at once greeted each other as Barker and Johnson, as though they had never ceased to be neighbors and had not allowed their rivalry and mutual suspicions to slumber for a moment."