1. Letters to Malcolm by C S Lewis
2. Speaking of Love by Angela Young
3. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
4. Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott
5. Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
6. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
7. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
8. The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Black Cat from Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe
I finished reading a good mixture of books in September. First in the month was Letters to Malcolm by C S Lewis, which was our book group meeting’s choice. For this group we usually read religious non-fiction, both older and more recent books. Letters to Malcolm was published in 1963, not long before Lewis’s death. It takes the form of letters on prayer written to an fictitious correspondent called Malcolm in a similar vein to The Screwtape Letters, but nowhere nearly as amusing or as confrontational. He has some interesting comments on different aspects of prayer: petitionary prayer, prayers of praise, corporate prayer, and whether it is right to pray for the dead.
There are some questions he poses that he doesn’t answer directly, which made me ponder further. Such an example is how can we account for the embarrassing promises made in the Bible that what we pray for with faith we shall receive. I’ve always found this statement puzzling. So did Lewis:’Every war, every famine or plague, almost every death-bed, is the monument to a petition that was not granted.‘ The difficulty is not why prayer isn’t answered, but why it is promised and Lewis can only offer guesses. He asks, as I do too: ‘Are we only talking to ourselves in an empty universe?‘
Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories are very short and I’ve discovered that I don’t really like such short stories. These are most grizzly and so horrific that they turn my stomach, particularly The Black Cat, in which the narrator kills his wife with an axe and then bricks her up in the cellar. When the police arrive and search the premises they hear the cat howling and wailing and lo and behold when the wall is opened there is the corpse, ‘greatly decayed and clotted with gore‘ and standing on its head is the cat ‘with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire.‘
I had built up in my mind this picture of Poe’s tales as being really spooky and scary, but reading them proved to be disappointing. The Fall of the House of Usher is a bit better, but it still didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s a story of the decay of a family into madness and this time the lady of the House of Usher is buried alive.
I’ve written about The Murders in the Rue Morgue here. This story too has gory details and is interesting as the forerunner of the modern detective story. I’m not sure I’m going to read all of Poe’s tales, but I am going to see if reading The Pit and The Pendulum is as terrifying as watching Vincent Price in the movie.