The Norton Book Of Ghost Stories - Leithauser Brad I have Mr. Leithauser to thank for introducing me to M. R. James in one of his college courses, and so when (about six years later) I picked up this book in a store I thought he'd be the perfect editor. So I'm biased - especially since the collection has four M. R. James stories.Anyway, it's the proper season, so I decided it was time for a re-read. (Not that I don't have enough books that need a first time reading, but I can't resist ghost stories at Halloween.)Note that this book has one of those introductions that you should read after you read the stories, as some will be discussed in detail. It's a much more interesting read after you've read the story in question, and won't be tipped off by anything beforehand. Of course that all depends on how much you like to discuss your ghost stories - I'm a kind of junkie for that sort of thing.From the Introduction by Leithauser; the Henry is referring to Henry James (to differentiate him from M. R. James):p. 14 "...Henry's stratified narration...creates problems for two kinds of readers. In one camp are those (frequently undergraduates, my teaching experience tells me) who come to a ghost story looking for tangible spirits; they have little patience with the coy dancing of Henry's shades. In the other camp are those readers and critics for whom the ghostly is instantly reducible to psychological components. For them it is a truism that one's demons are always internal, that the "other" afloat out there only represents some form of ourselves. Neither type of reader is temperamentally adapted to a two-tiered tale - although, since the underpinnings of the entire ghost story genre are inherently primitive and superstitious, a naive undergraduate reader probably does less violence to henry's stories than an over sophisticated critic."Pity those scholars that have gone so far down the road of criticism that they can no longer just sit back and enjoy the tale on one level; instead always immediately scratching around for the deeper layer. Finding that other layer doesn't kill the enjoyment, but the ability to enjoy the story for itself and the style of the telling is something no one should ever give up willingly. (Yes, I've had a lot of grad school theory classes, which I often enjoyed. I can still enjoy that 'one layer read' first though. And understand why some folk really hate to pick apart/'solve' these sorts of tales.)Having said that, Henry James often drives me crazy. Probably because his ghosts are never comfortable, that there's not always something traditionally eerie about them but definitely disquieting. They're the sorts of stories that you have to stop and mull over, and you don't always get to gloat that "well, I disliked that character and they definitely got what they were asking for." Though Romance of Certain Old Clothes does have some of that satisfaction. Which is probably why I always forget it belongs to Henry James, because it never seems at all his style. (It's possibly one of the most often anthologized - is that even a word? - stories, but well worth the read.)I actually can't remember reading Sir Edmund Orme before, and I really enjoyed it. (Odd because I know I've read this book before - I must have skipped this story.) I'm either growing to like Henry James more or I've just not read enough of his stories. Apparently not all of them leave you feeling "now, wait, what the hell just happened?!?" (Turn of the Screw is sort of supposed to do that, but is still annoying. Doesn't help that the governess annoys the hell out of me as a character, which probably has a lot to do with it.)For some reason I often get The Romance of Certain Old Clothes mixed up with Hand in Glove. Odd. Though not really so odd in that both deal with two sisters, trying to catch a man, clothes, and mysterious, dangerous trunks.I really think I've managed to read The Beckoning Fair One before and have just blotted it out of my memory. Either that or the fact that I'm now in the same age range as the main (living) characters made it sooo damn depressing. And the fact that it's long didn't help. I understand the mood that it's trying to build, but the oppressive nature of the house really had me begging for the thing to end - because you could easily see some of what was coming. The "oh and your life is a waste" bit also was depressing - how could it not be? Oliver Onions has other good ghost stories - it's just that this one gets used in anthologies a lot.I think I'll be rereading Three Miles Up again and again, just to try and sort out what may or may not be going on. It's one of those "multiple layers" things. As well as "no set answer/end."The Cheever stories are brilliant - depressing in their own way, but I love the style of writing. I think my favorite quote is:p. 399 "...He wanted to smile, but on the wall above the piano there was a large sign that forbade this."--The Music Teacher, by John CheeverI've definitely read this story before (you really can't forget the scenes of the narrator's family life), but I'd forgotten that sign. Now I'd give anything to know the exact wording of that sign. I really do love that sentence.Now that I'm pondering the depressing nature of some of the stories, I'm aware that it's those stories that point out to their reader his/her own mortality. And selfishly I'd rather have my stories stick with the theme of someone else's mortality (or someone else's haunting) rather than be always reminded of my own, and then have the story also poke me in the ribs with "and what have you accomplished, since you too are soon to die, as these unhappy ones did?" Yes, I know, great lit reminds us of those things most hard to face, etc. etc., but when one gets that in multiple stories when is it not Learning a Life Lesson but instead just drowning yourself in thoughts of your own death? Because there's definitely a thing as too much of that later one.Last story Ancient Music was an odd one to end on. Ghost stories with sex can be done, this just wasn't a way I felt was - well, it didn't work for me. Also depressing and sad. Again, I'd have gone out with a more traditionally creepy story, but then that's me.Authors I immediately went to look up for more info/book recommendations after reading this: W. F. Harvey, Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Marghanita Laski, Ann Bridge, A. S. Byatt and Penelope Fitzgerald. (Confession, I already have books by the other authors.) And I downloaded 5 Henry James collections/short stories - but the free and "immediate access of ebooks" had a lot to do with that. (When I'll get around to reading is a whole other adventure.)Contains the following short stories, in this order:Henry James-The Romance of Certain Old Clothes-The Friends of Friends-Maud-Evelyn-Sir Edmund OrmeM.R. James-Casting the Runes-"Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad"-Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance-Count MagnusEdith Wharton-Miss Mary Pask-The Looking GlassElizabeth Taylor-Poor GirlOliver Onions-The Beckoning Fair OneSaki (H. H. Munro)-The Open WindowElizabeth Bowen-Hand in Glove-The Demon Lover-The Cat JumpsW. F. Harvey-The ClockShirley Jackson-The ToothV. S. Pritchett-A Story of Don JuanMuriel Spark-The Portobello RoadElizabeth Jane Howard-Three Miles UpMarghanita Laski-The TowerAnn Bridge-The Buick SaloonPenelope Fitzgerald-The AxeJohn Cheever-Torch Song-The Music TeacherA. S. Byatt-The July GhostPhilip Graham-Ancient Music