Contented Reader

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The Water Ghost, and Others

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The Water Ghost, and Others

John Kendrick Bangs

Project Gutenberg

I had never heard of John Kendrick Bangs when I downloaded this book from Project Gutenberg, and some googling indicates that he has slipped into obscurity.  He’s not, perhaps, profound enough to appeal to the scholars and teachers who keep the Western Canon alive and in print year after year.  But I found in it a book that’s funny, light, readable, and offers the dubious hipster pleasure of a book no one else seems to be reading.

Okay, I’m pretentious that way.  I enjoy a book so much more when I feel I’ve ‘discovered’ it.

The book is a collection of short stories.  They’re all ghost stories, and they are all humorous- not laugh-out-loud funny, but ‘smile quietly, then take another sip of tea’ funny.  Which was just what I wanted, reading on my lunch breaks at work.

“The Water Ghost” is the title story.  It’s about an estate haunted by a spirit that appears just before midnight on Christmas Eve, and soaks everything in the room with very real water, creating a deeply unpleasant situation for the homeowner.

“The Spectre Cook of Bangletop” has a homeowner with a similar problem: he is trying to rent a house, but the kitchen is haunted, making it impossible for anyone who lives there to keep a cook.  And of course, no one can live in a house with no cook.  I mean, I know I certainly can’t.

I think my favorite story in the collection is the last one, “The Literary Remains of Thomas Bragdon.”  Two close friends have a tradition of ‘spirit travel’ – they each choose an exotic destination, enjoy the pleasure of researching it thoroughly, and then invent a fictional vacation there- which they describe in great detail, while their real vacation is a more prosaic fishing trip.  The death of one of the friends (and the appearance of his ghost, which in this book is hardly a spoiler) opens up ideas that made me smile.  I also determined to make a ‘spirit vacation’ of my own.

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Written by Contented Reader

September 4, 2012 at 7:26 am

One Response

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  1. Well, this just sounds delightful!

    sam jones

    September 4, 2012 at 11:37 am


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