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October 31, 2008

CAAF: 5 x 5 More Books For A Spooky Halloween by Kelly Link

5 x 5 Books ... is a recommendation of five books that appears regularly in this space. Last Halloween, author Kelly Link and husband Gavin Grant, publishers of Small Beer Press, were kind enough to share spooky and not-so-spooky tales for Halloween reading. (If you missed it, here's Kelly's list and here's Gavin's.) If you've ever been to one of Kelly's readings, or met her, you'll know she's a generous booster of other people's work -- and that her book recommendations are always the best. So it's great to have her return with another 5 x 5 of Halloween reading for About Last Night. Kelly's the author of three short-story collections, the most recent of which is the YA collection Pretty Monsters, itself an excellent choice to bring home this Halloween weekend.

1. Painted Devils by Robert Aickman. This collection is worth picking up for the short story "Ringing the Changes" alone, but I've never read an Aickman story that didn't leave me unnerved and afraid of the dark.

2. Be My Guest by Rachel Ingalls. Like Aickman, Ingalls' short stories will simultaneously unsettle and satisfy. For this list, I've picked her pair of novellas published as Be My Guest, but the collections The Pearl Killers and I See a Long Journey would also be great starting places.

3. Yoshitoshi's Thirty-Six Ghosts by John Stevenson. This book collects a series of Taiso Yoshitoshi's ukiyo-e (woodblock prints). There are monsters, creatures from Japanese folklore, and some really terrifying ghosts. The text accompanying each print gives provides background on the folklore that Yoshitoshi drew on.

4. Resume With Monsters by William Browning Spenser. This isn't just one of the best Lovecraft pastiches I've ever read, it's also one of my favorite comic novels. Spencer's protagonist is a would-be novelist working in Lovecraftian territory. He also has a temp job at the Pelidyne Corporation, where devolved office workers living in crawl spaces and ducts pass alarming office memos about cannibalism back and forth, and true believers use Xerox machines to send their consciousnesses into outer darkness where the elder gods lurk, waiting to rise again.

5. Strange Toys by Patricia Geary. Geary's novel encompasses childhood games, toy poodles, black magic, and sibling rivalry. Like Lynda Barry's Cruddy, I read it every few years in order to remind myself of the strange and dangerous territory childhood can represent.

I'll finish by recommending three short stories you can find online. At LitGothic, you'll find some M. R. James as well as Edith Wharton's "Afterward," one of the one of the best ghost stories I've ever read. Google Books has the text of Michael Shea's powerful and graphic story about a mining disaster and a small-town doctor, "The Autopsy." Lastly, there's Lucy Lane Clifford's extraordinary fairytale "The New Mother".

Posted October 31, 2008 12:14 AM

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