Sunday, September 22, 2013

"'And He Shall Sing...'"

"'And He Shall Sing...'"
from They Return at Evening
by H.R. Wakefield

They Return at Evening is a collection of ghost stories by H.R. Wakefield.  It's his first such collection, published in 1928.  I'll be posting reactions to stories individually.


A publisher decides to publish a collection of poetry presented to him by a Japanese man.  Immediately, strange things begin to happen, and he finally (finally) has to admit to himself that Something is Wrong Here.

My Reaction:
I read the last three or four stories in the collection without pausing to write reviews, so my memory may be a bit fuzzy-- but I think this was one of the ones I liked best in the bunch.

--  It seems that the publisher was being either very thick-headed or willfully blind, because it was obvious early on that the man who presented the poems had not written them himself.  Of course, the publisher had a lot to gain through real or pretended ignorance, so it's not surprising that he might take a while to admit it to himself.

--  "'If poets are determined to inflict on a patient public the dreams they dream and visions they see, it is only fair that they should foot the bill...'" Poetry inflicted on a patient public... Yes, that's about right. ;o)

--  "Indignation brushed the poppies from his eyes..."  Never heard that expression before...

--  Don't be surprised if you come across a few things that would be deemed "offensive"-- if not outright racist-- by modern readers.

--  "'...I have always understood that even the shortest experience of publishers sharply stimulates a suicidal neurosis.'"  I'm sure the author had fun getting that little jab in.

--  The body hidden under the floorboards reminded me of "The Tell-Tale Heart".

--  The decomposing body creeping up out of the floor and taking its revenge on the murderer and plagiarist, on the other hand, reminded me of something you'd see in a modern horror movie.

--  "Distressed and nauseated, he made no attempt to go to sleep again, but read Pickwick for the rest of the night."  It wouldn't be my first choice, but I understand the impulse!

--  The ending was very tidy.  Possibly too tidy for some, but I approve.

--  I wonder what finally made up the publisher's mind to stop the publication of the book of poetry.  I can see how he might be afraid of retribution if he published it under the wrong name-- not to mention that it would be morally wrong... But why not publish it under the name supplied in the ghostly revisions?  Because he didn't know to whom to send the profits?  Or because of the violence surrounding the manuscript?  It seems a shame to keep a real work of genius in the shadows. I'd probably be too scared and superstitious to publish it, myself, if I were in his place-- but if you attributed it to the right person and donated the proceeds to a charity of some sort, it seems likely you'd be "safe".  ...Well, enough of that...