A Pale View of Hills is a short novel — arguably a novella — that centres around a woman named Etsuko who was born in Japan but has ended up in the UK after leaving a marriage behind. Set partially in the present and partially in the past, Etsuko reflects on a friendship she had with a woman named Sachiko.
When I start reading something like Bukowski (or Hunter S Thompson or Irvine Welsh), my lovely spouse always listens so patiently while I tell her about the book I’m currently in the middle of. Then she looks at me with that beautiful, quizzical smile and asks me why I torture myself this way.
Technically, the publication date on David Foster Wallace’s Something to Do with Paying Attention is 2022, because it is an extract from Wallace’s unfinished novel, The Pale King — specifically a monologue from one character that stands on its own as a novella.
There’s no doubt that when I think of spooky stories, I think of Ray Bradbury. His narratives are referenced time and time again and have influenced countless writers in turn.
One minute you’re reading an extended metaphor about moths, and the next you’re musing about the function of legs along with the narrator before being pleasantly plopped back into the story.
Any anthology usually ends up being a mixed bag in terms of content. There will be things you like and things you don’t. When a famous artist, writer, or illustrator that you admire is asked to select stories for an anthology it can be an extra special experience.
Randi writes in a way that is accessible to the un-academic reader but is also like a cosy sweater for readers who have experience in academia and the sciences. Reading this book was a joy and a perfect meeting of my interest in the supernatural and my scholarly pursuits.
There’s a moment in Sunset Boulevard where William Holden’s character Joe Gillis takes Norma Desmond’s (played by Gloria Swanson) script in his hand. That’s what I was reminded of reading these two novellas.
I’ve gleefully noticed that for the last two or three years there’s been an emphasis on the forgotten women writers of weird fiction. It soothes a sore spot in my child-self.
There’s nothing quite comparable to the experience of reading transcripts and re-printings of primary documents. To read a trial transcript from two hundred years ago and hear the echoes of words spoken so long ago by innocent women accused of crimes that are literally impossible to commit is something powerful and weighty.