|Trade paperback, 239 pages|
Published 2009 (contents: 1831-1910)
Acquired November 2009
Read July 2013
edited by Susan J. Wolfson and Barry V. Qualls
This small anthology collects three stories from the "long nineteenth century" about doubles, along with some supporting materials (letter, contemporary reviews, other works by the same authors, related works by contemporary authors). The first story is "Transformation" by Mary Shelley, which begins like much of her work, with a dull life story before it finally gets to the meat-- which is over a bit too fast and a bit too simply. Some good ideas, but when I read a lot of early horror, I feel like later writers do it better. Frankenstein this isn't, nor even The Last Man.
"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," by good old Robert Louis Stevenson, is one of those stories you suspect might play out better if the whole thing wasn't completely embedded in contemporary popular culture already. Shock, horror-- they're the same guy! It's not the only book to have such an affliction, though, and I feel like Dracula has weathered that problem much better for some reason.
That leaves us, then, with the best of these stories: Conrad's "The Secret Sharer." I've read little Conrad before (basically just Lord Jim), but I come away with the impression that I must read more. What an odd, immersive story; you totally buy into the protagonist's perspective, and you feel every hit. The book is unsettling because its protagonist is unsettled, and in the end, I was genuinely fearful for the ship and its crew in a way I haven't been for a long time. A sharply written delight.