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Search tags: i-dont-believe-in-omens
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review 2018-07-10 03:26
Ghostland - where we all live
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

Disclosure:  I accessed this book through my local public library's digital collection.  I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of romance fiction and assorted non-fiction.



I truly enjoyed this book, and found the author's perspective both interesting and ultimately respectful of believers and skeptics alike.


It would be impossible, of course, for a single volume to catalogue all the thousands, perhaps millions, of alleged hauntings in this country.  Dickey can probably be accused with some justification of cherry-picking the examples he used to best illustrate his theories: among them that whether ghosts -- as the more or less embodied spirits of the dead -- are real or not, we need them.  And so we would have created them anyway even if they weren't real.


The aspect of the book that fascinated me the most was the way he deconstructed some of the most well-known and even well-documented hauntings, as evidence that it's in the creation of a ghostly narrative that fits what we collectively as a culture want the haunting to be that it comes alive, pun of course intended.


Because I'm not a fan of horror fiction -- it's all I can do to get through the least horrific Lovecraft for Halloween Bingo -- I can't say if the creation of a fictional haunting narrative follows that theory.  I do, however, think it applies to the gothic romance.  The haunting, the ghostly presence, has to integrate with the living characters in an organic way for the two stories to work with each other.





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text 2018-07-09 22:05
Reading progress update: I've read 253 out of 401 pages.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

This is proving to be one of those books that brings together a lot of old friends.  There are references to James W. Loewen and Frederic Jameson and Walter Benjamin.


Loewen, of course, is contemporary and accessible.  I can't recommend enough his Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America.


Jameson is less accessible, but then he is a theorist more than a commentator, imho.


Even before Dickey mentioned Walter Benjamin, I distinctly felt his influence -- his spirit? -- from The Arcades Project, a good portion of which I read in grad school.  I still have his Reflections, one of the texts for that particular (and particularly annoying) class, because the texts were far better than the instructor.  (Yes, I'm lookin' at you, Arthur Sabatini.)


I've reached the part in Ghostland that deals with haunted cities, and it's almost impossible not to have a slideshow of abandoned Detroit buildings running through my imagination.




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text 2018-03-04 00:41
Buried Treasure
Copsi Castle - Norah Lofts
Penhallow - Georgette Heyer

My house is a mess.  My studio (sometimes called "the little house," because that's what it is) is a disaster.  The workshop is worse than both of the others combined.


I have five weeks until the spring Studio Tour, which is the last show event of the season.  Scheduling conflicts forced me to cancel participation in two other shows, which wasn't good for my bottom line.  This spring Tour is a new event for our artists group, and I'm very excited about it.


Today was the first opportunity I've had to really plunge into work for it, however.  We've either had weather too cold to work in either the shop or the studio, or I've had other events going on.  And to tell the truth, I just haven't had the energy.  Part of that may have been due to the vitamin D deficiency diagnosed last month; after a month's worth of supplements, maybe that's been turned around, too.  At any rate, I was up by 6:00 this morning, threw in a load of laundry and dashed to the grocery store for a few essentials while the washer was running.  I was home before the final rinse.


And then it was out to the studio to start cleaning some of the mess.  I actually made some progress, and when it got warm enough outside, I even ventured over to the workshop.


I have to confess I almost turned around and walked back out, but I gathered up some determination and headed for the storage racks where the 80+ plastic shoeboxes of rocks are stored.



Over the years, some of those plastic boxes have rotted from the sun and started to disintegrate, making a horrible mess.  That had to be today's first chore, and it involved sorting out the rocks in those boxes.  As almost always happens when I dig into boxes of rocks that I've had for a long time, I discover things I didn't know I had, either because I just plain forgot about them or because I didn't know what they were in the first place. 


One of those sun-rotted boxes had a whole bunch of Oregon beach agates, some already polished and some not.  I sorted out a batch for the tumbler and got them started; they should be finished just in time for the Studio Tour.


Feeling proud of myself for having actually accomplished something, I began rearranging some other things in the workshop.  Most of the boxes of (uninventoried) books are at least labeled by genre, but there are other boxes containing . . . . heaven only knows what.  One of them happened to be in the way of the area I was cleaning, so I opened it to see if the contents were even worth messing around with.


I laughed out loud.


A whole box of gothic romances.  At least 50, maybe 75, maybe more.  I grabbed the Norah Lofts and Georgette Heyer from the top layer, but there's a whole lot more.  Willo Davis Roberts.  Dorothy Eden.  Now I can't even remember who all else.


I've already added my edition of Penhallow to the database.  I'll add Copsi Castle in a few minutes.  If only I didn't have to take time out to cook supper!

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text 2018-03-03 03:05
It doesn't have to be a mansion

When I wrote The Looking-Glass Portrait, I knew exactly what the inspiration was: the house.  I detailed the background here via a link to my blog here.  The story kind of came to me separately -- and remember, it started 20+ years before it ended -- but the house was the focus when I structured the plot.


This certainly is no great revelation: the gothic genre began with The Castle of Otranto, so the tradition has been there from the beginning.  As we've seen here on BookLikes with buddy reads of Jamaica Inn and Ammie, Come Home, houses and other dwelling places continue to be integral to the genre.  There are ghosts, but they are connected to houses. 


Sometimes the houses end up destroyed, as happened to Manderley, in Rebecca.  But even then, even in its destruction, Manderley exercised its power over the second Mrs. de Winter.


The house in Edison Park, Illinois that served as the model for LGP, is still there.  Another house I'd love to put into a gothic romance is long gone.  I was told it, like Manderley, burned to the ground 25 or more years ago.


My paternal grandparents also lived in Edison Park, but they moved from there to Roselle, Illinois, a western suburb in DuPage County, in the very early 1950s.  So early in the 1950s that I have no real memories of their home on Owen Avenue at all.  They lived in Roselle until 1966, however, so I have clear recollections of that house.


The original house was small, just one bedroom, one bath, kitchen, and a big living/dining room.  The latter had an open, beamed ceiling.   



There was a big open covered porch, and another closed-in porch that led to the dining room.  French doors opened from the single bedroom onto the porch, too.


I don't remember the front door at all.



Shortly after moving into the house, my grandparents began installing a fireplace, a mammoth fieldstone structure that replaced the front door.  My dad, my grandfather, and my dad's cousin Bob built the fireplace, cementing stones from the yard of the 2-acre property in place.


When the fireplace was finished, my grandmother hung Bells of Sarna from the huge wooden mantel.  I loved those bells; I would be allowed to jingle them once or twice each time we visited.  I have no idea what happened to them, but years ago I purchased a strand of my own.  They hang in my living room now.


I don't have many photos of the interior of the house, and the few I have of the exterior are from my grandparents' earliest occupancy.  Along with the fireplace, they built a larger addition on the east end of the house with two large bedrooms, a shower bath, basement and attic.  I "borrowed" the pull-down stairs to the attic for LGP, since the Edison Park house didn't have any.




The house sat at the top of a low hill, with a long, winding gravel driveway down to the road, Forest Avenue.



I loved the trees, mostly oaks and shagbark hickories.  There was one crabapple tree.  The old horse-drawn plow was rusted and stuck in the hard clay ground, but I thought it was fabulous, a romantic relic.


Though I can't find it in these photos, there was a huge pink granite boulder somewhere in the yard.  It was absolutely enormous, to my two- or three-year-old self.  Best of all, however, it had a "saddle" on the top, a naturally broken out dip that was perfect for a little girl of the suburbs to imagine, there in that big open yard, that she had a horse.


There were other people in the neighborhood who did have horses, though I didn't see them often.  Years later, when I was in high school and bored with being around the family members, I'd go for long walks to catch a glimpse of a horse here or there, or to visit the dogs at the two collie kennels a street or two over.  One of the fences keeping the dogs in bore a sign identifying the owners as The Pettigrews.  Yeah, I stole the name, too.


But that big pink rock was so special.  As I grew up, I was eventually able to climb onto it myself, and then even jump over it.  Yet in my memory it remained gigantic.


I'm not sure when it was, but I was visiting the family years ago and decided to take a drive out to Roselle to see the place.  My dad had told me the house had burned down, but I still wanted to go out there.  It was winter; there was snow on the ground, I remember that much.  And there was a new house at the top of the hill. But at the bottom of the driveway, half covered by snow plowed off the road, was the big pink rock.


And it was so, so, so much smaller than I remembered!


A couple of years ago, while I was doing the online research of old family houses, I swooped down on a Google Maps street view and went digitally driving down Forest Avenue to see what I could see.



Is that the big pink rock?  Or what's left of it?  I don't know.  But I like to think it is.



P.S.  When my grandparents sold the house in 1966, the following ad appeared in the local newspaper:


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text 2017-12-13 16:45
Reading progress update: I've read 530 out of 766 pages.
The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

Ah, yes, about those omen thingies . . . . .


Last night's fortune cookie fortune at the Asian buffet


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