Yes, yes, I'm dreadful. I've been neglecting the bloggery aspect of the One Last Story podcast - but in my defense, things have gotten a bit exciting over these past few weeks. Suffice it to say that this old dog has learned a new trick, and is now able to get up and down stairs more or less at will. The result has been an orgy of petty thievery in service of this little sanctuary that I'm building in the Lumber Room. I don't suppose A and J will mind awfully, if they even notice - it's not as if anything's leaving the house. This place is such a museum anyhow, I could probably net a respectable seven figures on eBay and vanish into the night before they missed anything.
I don't believe they read this blog, but just in case: I joke, I joke.
Anyhow, if you'd like to read the last few stories for yourself, here's where you can read The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft
. You can find Poe's stories all over the place; here's a collection of the big hits.
And do stay tuned for what I hope will be rather an exciting announcement. Exciting to me, at least - you're free to think what you like.
You know, M.R. James really was an inconsiderate fellow as far as writing for audioliterary production is concerned. His stories are all very well on the printed page, but what's a fellow supposed to do when he sets out to reading a story aloud only to find that it's set in the year 190_? Pronounce that, I dare you. Then, just as you think you've got back into the swing of things, you learn that the letter you've just read was written by a Mr. ______, and there's nothing you can do about it. Worst of all, this literally unspeakable coyness is all for naught in any case, because he goes and tells you the fellow's name a few pages later anyhow.
Shameful. Especially since James thought up these stories of his to tell aloud to his Chit Chat Club on Christmas Eve. No doubt the old don conveyed these little redactions with a meaningful glance and an expressive gesture, but of course those things don't translate well to the podcast medium. Consequently, I have had to improvise. Anyhow, in this episode I strive to overcome them with the help of two spoons and a candelabrum. If you've a better idea, you can read it for yourself here: Casting the Runes, by M.R. James
How thin, how fragile the veil between madness and sanity. How poorly marked, how laxly guarded the border between the visionary and the dreamer. And let us never forget that the man who calls himself an emperor is no lunatic as long as the people bow to him.
My diary remains in the Kingwood. There it shall remain; I don't need any reminders just at present. Last night I dreamed of Aldergate. Today I am so very, very tired.
But! Never mind my troubles - great and terrible deeds are a-doing. "The Repairer of Reputations" is a story well before its time. It comes from a collection called "The King in Yellow," published by Robert W. Chambers in 1895, and has been immensely influential; the spreading tendrils of this story may be seen squirming their way through almost all of the weird fiction and cosmic horror of the past century. Old H.P. Lovecraft certainly enjoyed it, and for all he may have written slightingly of Chambers he wasn't shy about lifting some of his most beloved tropes from this and other of his stories.
Have you read "The King in Yellow?" I should hope not, for your sake. However, in the immortal words of Mark Twain: Now you've asked for it, and I'll give it to you, because there ain't anything mean about me - but if you find you don't like having your sanity ripped from you by an exquisite tide of horrifying truth, you won't have anyone to blame for it but your own self. The Repairer of Reputations, by Robert W. Chambers.
I am a fraud, and a coward.
Let’s get that out of the way right at the start . Having made my bold declaration of intent to grab a spade and start digging up my past, I have failed utterly to do so. I could make excuses; in fact, I shall
- I was dreadfully tired after I recorded this episode. That’s not unusual – pretty typical, actually – only this time I fought the demon Morpheus, because I wanted to read more Saki. I’d never really dug into him before, because my prison library only includes this one story, Sredni Vashtar, as part of a collection. Now I’ve found the whole lot available online, and I gorged myself until the darkness claimed me. Then, of course, I was utterly useless for days and days, and had a pretty nasty crick in my neck from passing out in an armchair.
- My diary smells odd. It's a musty, ashy sort of smell, and I don’t like it. Petty? Obviously. All the same, I don’t like touching it, don’t even like being near it. And yes, I’m well aware that it’s all Psychology 101 stuff, bad associations with traumatic experiences and so forth. I’m sure it’s very weak and contemptible of me to have shut the thing up in the Kingwood, but that’s a compromise we’ll both just have to live with for the moment. I can look at it through the glass; it can look at me, if it likes. We’ll be ready for each other one day. Or not. I am not a prophet.
Anyhow, if I can’t bring myself to read my own diary I can at least read that of Maupassant’s distinguished spade-wielding assassin. I do hope you enjoy it. And, as an added bonus, I’ve stuck Sredni Vashtar into this episode as well! All praise be to the hutch god, and may we never forget the power of positive thinking.
Care to read them for yourself? Here's The Diary of a Madman, by Guy de Maupassant
. And here's a link for Sredni Vashtar, by Saki
- while you're there, you may as well read the whole book. It's got an introduction by A.A. Milne, who must have had rather a different perspective on the relationship between imaginative small boys and the animals they love.
There’s a poem I recall reading ages ago. It goes something like:
Tumpty-tumpty cannot rest
Because every mother's son
Travails with a skeleton.
And truer words were never spoken! It’s a fearful bore, having always to be wrestling our immortal bits hither and thither, knowing that they’re bound to get the best of us in the end. As if that weren’t bad enough, the poor fellow in this story – ‘The Cold Embrace - finds himself loaded down below the Plimsoll mark with more than the usual cargo of mementi mori.
I’m not sure if he’s to be pitied, exactly. He’s hardly the most sympathetic protagonist. Pity me instead: I’ve got precisely the opposite problem. We’ve all got a past of one sort or another, and I find myself irresistibly drawn to the long-shut door of a closet which I’ve no doubt is full-to-bursting with skeletons. A wiser Adrian might leave well enough alone. The thing is, I’ve been such a hermit for so long – so utterly removed from my old life – that the contents of my personal ossuary may all have crumbled to dust by now. In that case, I’d quite like to get inside and do a bit of spring cleaning.
Ah, well. Another problem for another day.
Oh, and you can read the story for yourself here: The Cold Embrace, by Mary E. Braddon
This whole thing was a ridiculous idea.
Yes, hallo parasites. Hallo you clever, frightened pillars of civilization. My, what long arms you have.
You'll not right this leaky ship, not this time. It all burst out from a central point a thousand thousand years ago, and at last the horizon has outpaced you, and I'm glad. Avant, pendant, après moi - toujours le déluge! If you've got something to say, say it and be done. But you'll have to speak up, you know. Ha!
Anyhow, in case I'm just digging cloud-graves, here's another story. My, isn't life a funny old thing?
Read it yourself here: The Torture of Hope, by Villiers de L'Isle-Adam
Whoever said sunlight was the best medicine? Someone, probably - sounds like the sort of thing somebody might say. Anyhow, whoever they are, they're a fool and I hope they choke. Sunlight is awful, and something ought to be done about it.
I may feel differently in a few days, but right now the daystar and I are not on speaking terms. For the first time in a long. long time I got up the energy to venture out of my room, laptop and microphone in tow, and made a nice little recording nest for myself by the window. Twenty-six minutes and thirty-two seconds later I realized that I had nearly baked myself to death, and barely managed to drag myself back under cover of darkness. Cue three full days of nonexistence and several more of miserable lethargy. In fine: I'm later about uploading than I intended. The best laid mouse-plans, etc.
Anyhow, this installment is a charming little number from 1818. Extracts From Gosschen's Diary, No. 1 - there are no further extracts, at least not that I've been able to turn up, but perhaps they're being released on a bicentennial basis. If so, stay tuned for the next installment in August year-after-next. This one ought to be a special treat for fans of both knife-wielding maniacs and Robert Browning; it was only after recording that I realized this gory gem must have been the inspiration for 'Porphyria's Lover
'. As to whether the unhappy protagonist also inspired Bobby B's bit about opening hearts and looking inside them, I am not scholar enough to judge.
Read it for yourself here: Extracts from Gosschen's Diary No. 1
If you'd told me a month ago that I would muster the energy to do not one, but multiple
podcasts, I should not have believed you.
Well, I suppose it's one podcast, two episodes thereof - but that's hardly the point, is it? The point is that I'm tremendously impressed with myself. I've been doing other things, too; I have now dipped my toe properly in the social media cesspool. Which is a dreadful metaphor, but anyhow, I've got a Twitter: https://twitter.com/therealadrianw
Say hello, won't you?
Best of all, the détente with my hosts continues to improve. Tentative status upgrade from Not Actively Hostile to Cautiously Chummy. I had a lovely conversation with J about what does and what does not properly qualify as an "atrocity," and my mini-fridge privileges have been restored. All in all, it has been a tremendously promising few days. And what better way to celebrate than with a tale of anguish and terror, eh? This one is from the musty pages of Blackwood's Magazine - one of the transitional fossils in horror literature's evolution. Edgar Allen Poe thought it was quite good; who am I to argue, eh?
If you'd like to read it for yourself, I'd strongly suggest you find an original bound copy - feels better in the hand, and smells fantastic. This one's a bit obscure, but I did find what looks to be a faithful reproduction: The Man in the Bell, by William Maginn
. It's an Angelfire page, so you know it's built to last.
Behold! Mirabile dictu, I have done a thing!
It's terribly unfair that a dying man should be saddled with all the travails and irritants of a living man into the bargain, but no matter. I have conquered. The idea came to me quite suddenly, and I thought ... well, why not? I've got nothing but books and time, and I've been positively pining for some sort of project or other to sink my teeth into. Besides which, frankly, I'm bored. And lonely. I'd like to ... share something, give something. Do something. So I did this. And, if anybody likes it, I may do more. Let me know, won't you?
I'm calling it One Last Story. It may be, you know - they all are, until they're not. I've decided to start with my personal favorite: “The Outsider,” by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. May it bother you, as it has bothered me.
P.S. - I taught myself to play the candelabrum! You'd be amazed at what can be done with a little ingenuity and a pair of silver teaspoons!
Read it for yourself: The Outsider, by H.P. Lovecraft
Welcome to my shiny new blog. Isn't it nice?
While we're at it, welcome to my shiny new life. Isn't it dreadful? No, that's not fair, and it's certainly not helpful, but ... ah, well. Once upon a time, of course, my life used to be quite interesting. All the usual stuff - business of my own, name on the building, nice little condo with a view of the Park. Then life got a bit too interesting, and I chucked it all in to go take the top job back at my old alma mater.
Then life got more interesting still. And, well, here we are.
I'm lucky to be alive. Lucky, but not entirely grateful. My health is problematic to say the least, and rarely permits me to leave the house. I am not exactly unemployed - technically speaking, I am still the 51st Vice Chancellor of Aldergate University. That counts for little, however, and at present I am entirely dependent upon the kindness of strangers, a fact which irritates both me and them in approximately equal measure.
I am getting better. Not every day, and certainly not in every way, but better nonetheless. I am not yet well enough to work, but I have developed a truly magnificent capacity for boredom. In consequence, rather than lose what little mind remains to me, I have resolved to take up a hobby.
Welcome to my blog.