Sunday, August 5, 2012

"The Rival Ghosts"

"The Rival Ghosts", by Brander Matthews
Read in Humorous Ghost Stories

It's been a while since I read anything in this Humorous Ghost Stories anthology.  Partly, that's the fault of this very story.  I started by reading it aloud to Donald while we drove somewhere, but stopped when we reached our destination.  The story felt so slow starting that I've put off picking up the book again!

So, that gives you an idea of my impression.  It was not a compelling read, even for a humorous ghost story.   Rather long and wordy and rambling for a short story.  A tiny bit amusing in a few particulars (see below), but nothing amazing.  Then again, if I'd read it all in one sitting, maybe I'd have a more favorable view.  If you're interested, the whole collection of short stories is available for free (in e-book format) from Amazon.  For this individual story alone, look here

SPOILERY Comments:

--  I think some of the humor requires that you be somewhat familiar with history and the locale.  For instance, there's one joke about the (historic?) rivalry between NYC and Boston.  I'm a Southerner with no ties to either place, so... I got the joke, but it might've been funnier if an awareness of the rivalry had been part of my youth.  Then again, maybe that kind of humor just isn't laugh-out-loud funny to me, no matter where I live.

--  All the rest aside, the idea of the two ghosts being forced to occupy one space and not getting along is amusing. 

--  This was funny, too:  "'...he could not hear them-- at least, not distinctly.  There were inarticulate murmurs and stifled rumblings.  But the impression produced on him was that they were swearing.  If they had only sworn right out, he would not have minded it so much, because he would have known the worst.  But the feeling that the air was full of suppressed profanity was very wearing...'"

--  The solution of having the ghosts marry?  Funny, but you can't think much about it or it makes no sense (even for a humorous ghost story).  For one thing, when did marriage ever prevent quarreling?!  (Especially in a couple that was prone to quarreling even before marrying.)  For another, where will they "live"?  I thought one ghost was tied to a property and the other to a man who doesn't live in that property... Long-distance marriage?  How sad.

--  Very abrupt ending-- probably to avoid having to explain how that whole "living situation" thing was going to work out... ;o)