The SFFaudio Podcast #181 – The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions, read by Julie Davis (of Forgotten Classics and A Good Story Is Hard To Find). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (2 Hours 40 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Scott, Jesse, and Julie Davis!
Talked about on today’s show: Yay!, Scott has another busy year, The Odyssey, Beowulf, length vs. content, is The Beckoning Fair One too long for it’s material?, modern colloquial terms (for 1910), Stephen King, The Forbidden Books Group Presents, Necronomipod: The Lair Of The Bookish Worm did a podcast discussion of The Beckoning Fair One, The Shining, writer protagonists, Bag Of Bones, The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, surprise endings, ambiguity, a writer’s point of view, Julie’s sister can see ghosts, now is the time in the podcast for a personal ghost story, the ghosts of Logan, Utah, troubled or troublesome nuns, are ghostly experiences possible during the daylight?, doppelgänger, an urban phenomena, a haunted hotel room, a vivid vision of a drowning, a disappearing maid, nightmares, a premonition, Christine, why are there no haunted beach?, haunted cars, gremlins, hiking, a haunted hiking trail, machete vs. axe, ‘there’s something wrong with that bedroom’, there’s something wrong with that, the ontological argument, House, M.D., between the ultraviolet and the infrared, a great title, the dripping of a faucet, The Sarah Bennett Quintet, suicide, Oleron is unconscious of the things that he’s conscious of, who’s sleeping in my bed?, a ghostly brushing, “he wakes up to himself”, a harp cover, Oléron is an island in France, and Romilly is a city in France, is the house playing him like a harp?, the final chapter, Jesse’s not super swift, a shut in, vegetable refuse, wig-stands, a large lumpy pudding, the recurring “triangle”, it has esoteric meaning to Freemasons, how did Elsie end up in the closet?, “you get to decide”, an alternative suspect, the tramp in the basement, the Hobo marks, “don’t push the religious angle”, firemarks (fire insurance marks), starving artists, why men have to get married, a Jonathan Swift shout-out, Elsie had a Brobdingnagian complexion, “I need you and I want you to marry me.”, sticking with the spooky, maybe Julie’s in an insane asylum?, Community, Red Dwarf is an excellent Science Fiction show, The Booth At The End, H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon, The Colour Out Of Space, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, The Dunwich Horror, amorphous horror, a gelatinous voice, Gregg Margarite, The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe, this podcast is making me hurry for rosewater pudding, The Sixth Sense, Signs, Joaquin Phoenix, The Master, Baron Münchhausen, The Takeaway Movie Date, The Big Book Of Ghost Stories edited by Otto Penzler, Donald E. Westlake, the ghost of the paperback, Jesse has a guardian angel?, Parker, Jason Statham is a modern action movie star like they had in the 1980s, The Bank Job, Anarchaos by Curt Clark (aka Donald E. Westlake), Smoke, Humans, Firebird by Jack McDevitt, Will Duquette, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde.
Professional narrator Xe Sands (Xe is pronounced “exy”) recorded a terrific sounding audiobook of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper back in June.
Originally, I wanted to record “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson. Sadly, it is not in the public domain. But then, for some reason, this wonderful, dark, gothic story of a woman’s descent into madness came to mind. Not sure whether to thrilled to have the perfect piece, or somewhat disturbed that a tale of neuroses run wild popped into my mind so easily, but I digress…
I think I’ve grown a bit angry.
Let me start with this – how the story is generally encapsulated:
“…a woman whose mental illness makes her a prisoner in her own home.”
“…a young wife and mother succumbing to madness ”
So why is this a problem? It’s true, right? She is unbalanced. She does descend into madness. But it’s all a question of why, WHY does she “succumb” to madness?
And this is where I grow a bit angry. Most of the dismissive language used in these summaries miss the point: that this story is a treatise on the attitudes toward women’s mental health during this period (written in 1899). The narrator, who we are supposed to believe is unreliable, is actually perfectly coherent and early on in the story, likely a far better judge about what would actually help her. It is the ignorance and arrogance of her husband that is the unreliable narrator, for his filter regarding her condition and what would help it, cannot be trusted to give the reader an accurate picture of what ails his wife.
Take a look at this bit from the author, “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper.” And tell me if attitudes are really all that different today? All I can say is that it is wonderful that she was able to save herself…and I think she put a hint of that in this story:
“He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.”
Luckily for Gilman, she was able to do what her narrator could not.