It was a dark and stormy night on October 23rd, and India Palace provided a dry, low-lit haven for our discussion of Henry James' novella. The food was expensive, but tasty, and Natalie was right, the cherry naan bread was fantastic. Megan's mango ice cream was also deliciously spiced with cardamom. Jonathan, our latest guest, ordered his curry to the maximum level of spicy, but he seemed to regret going that high. Medium-spicy was just right for my chicken tikka masala.
Let's start with Poe. I hate to say it, but E.A.P. does not hold up to my 9th grade memories. "A Descent into the Maelström" and "MS. Found in a Bottle" were both very similar sea-storm stories, and it was hard not to drift off during them. Poe's prose is so cumbersome with pseudoscience and framing devices, and when it comes time to deliver his "monster," the revelation is always disappointing. "The Facts of the Case of M. Valdemar" got close to giving us some fun, but Poe's zombie can't manage to say anything devilish or interesting. "The Raven," however, is still about as fun as it ever was.
I admit, I was not excited to read James' The Turn of the Screw again. Though I had forgotten nearly all of the story from sophomore college English, I remember being incredibly disappointed by the novel's "ghosts." However, this one improved with my reading it again. James' writing style lends nicely to a ghost story. He cultivates such an irresistible aura of menace and mystery in the ambiguities of his lines and the inconsistencies of his governess narrator that I almost feel like one of the members of the party at the start of the book--eager to be scared. I was not scared, and I doubt any modern reader would be, but I was transfixed by the cunning turns James takes to make us question the reliability and sanity of the "sensible" governess. Ultimately, I'm glad I revisited this book.
"My acquaintance with sheets of water was small...." -- The Turn of the Screw
"I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little see-saw of the right throbs and the wrong." -- The Turn of the Screw