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#FestiveFive: American Gothic

6th November 2017 - Adele Twohig

Festive Five: American Gothic

#FestiveFive: American Gothic

While Christmas is the perfect time for gifting handsome tomes to one's nearest and/or dearest, credit should also be given to winter itself for providing days so cold and miserable that you are obliged to curl up under a very large blanket and read something reflective, dramatic, spooky even. Here are my top choices for dark, lonely winter days when you are simply not in the mood for baubled and tinselled festivities, and would much rather consider your own mortality and the desperation of humanity, possibly listening to Radiohead and wearing all black.

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
O'Connor's fascinating views on faith are explored here in her first novel, following a preacher who establishes the 'Holy Church of Christ Without Christ'. The classically unsettling tropes of American Gothic are hard at work throughout the head-spinning plot, which involves seduction, death, a stolen mummy and a gorilla costume.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Arguably Faulkner's finest work, and with good reason. Never before has a novel forced me so lyrically to consider the gruesome physicality of death and poverty, and the unspoken ties between family members. Grisly, distressing and hilarious in equal parts, this is a singular novel that sounds like it should have been impossible to write, let alone read.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Another female great of American Gothic, praised by Stephen King, master of horror. Jackson's writing will grip you with every tense page, insisting that you listen to the creaks and unexplained, monstrous activities of the castle as the characters do. A short and incredibly rewarding novel, perhaps our greatest haunted house story.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
I found an ancient, worn copy of this miraculous book in a flea market when I was 22 - perhaps too young to appreciate its tale of loss and unrequited love, or so I thought at the time. That overwhelming sense of isolation that visits us all at some point is examined with an almost magical skill, made all the more astounding when I discovered McCullers crafted these admirable, rich, characters aged just 23. The most essential post-breakup novel, if there is such a thing.

Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth
We may wonder why a photographer's biography belongs in this collection, however, we again see a highly skilled artist drawing beauty and self-reflection by giving us some of the most neglected places and supposedly unsavoury characters. The power of an artist to present us with something superficially horrifying but that also invokes a sense of beauty and delightful sadness is one I admire.



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Diane Arbus
Patricia Bosworth
Wise Blood
Flannery O'Connor
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Shirley Jackson
As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers; Kasia Boddy
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