Spooky stories and barren winter go hand-in-hand. Humans of the 8th century passed the long, dark nights with the saga of Beowulf’s monster hunting. Trauma and tragedy run rampant in Shakespeare’s 1611 work A Winter’s Tale. Centuries later, the Victorians fused yules and ghouls via Christmas yarns like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Christmas-themed “The Body Snatcher,” Sir Walter Scott’s “The Tapestried Chamber” and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Keep the tradition alive this winter by immersing yourself in a narrative more timeless than any Christmas story, and more chilling: Caroline Hagood’s Ghosts of America: A Great American Novel (Hanging Loose Press).*
The central hauntee here – the Scrooge – is Herzog, a middle-aged, misogynistic author famous for his “biographical novels” of even more famous women. His first big hit was about Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol. Now he’s turned his pen toward Jackie Kennedy – and it’s not going well. Probably because Herzog’s too obsessed with his aging, drunken body, his faltering inspiration, and his incessant peeping on a young woman across the alley.
Herzog knows he’s objectifying this woman – just as he knows he objectifies the women he writes about. It’s all wrong and he’s disgusting – and yet he persists. He’s both aware of and ashamed of his flaws but only because that shame lets him maintain his flaws with less guilt.
He’s such a major pig that when a fortune teller warns his life will be visited by spirits who look like beautiful women, Herzog says, “I think I salivated a little hearing that one.” He soon changes his tune.Continue reading