What is the Gothic? Haunted houses? Strange families? Castles? Men on horseback? Maybe it is just wearing too much eye shadow…but the Gothic I want to talk about has a long wonderful history.
I have always loved Poe, I love Halloween and I love mystery so it wasn’t a stretch that I would love all things that Gothic literature had to offer, from the novels to short stories to poems. Even melodramas like The Miller and His Men or Rugantino which isn’t quite a melodrama but is soap opera-ish. It is an untapped world of intrigue, music and lyricism. What is so eye-catching about the Gothic is that there is so much description, so much beauty placed in juxtoposition to gruesome murder scenes. There are horrendous plots set in the serenity of nature. Truth is covered up, hidden, abandoned. All the while there may be music playing or a gypsy dancing or waves searching for shore.
A lot of modern writing lacks the wit and suspense of the Gothic. It lacks the trauma, the all-encompassing nature that the Gothic seems to have a firm grasp of. Every aspect of a Gothic novel has a purpose, there is no fluff, there is nothing extra. Homes are characters, that fortune you got on page four comes true on page two hundred and sixty. Nothing is taken for granted, it is as if the author leaves their soul on the page and asks you to take a piece of it. And as you careen down the mountain, running away from some unknown assassin, you can feel your pulse quicken. You can feel the sweat on the back of your neck and yet you know wiping it would do no good. You hide in a cave from the ghost of some long-lost relative, not knowing that the cave in which you seek shelter is the one in which they died, a horrifying death by the hand of one they loved. You squeal and rock, wondering what your future will hold, how long the suspense will last and that is part of the fun.
The weather turns dark, shadows long and there is not one person that you can trust. You shake, whether from nerves or the chill it does not matter, you shake. You tremble and wipe at the silent tears. Tears of fear. Tears of hate. Tears of anger. Tears of joy. Tears of sorrow. You cry.
And then the book is over. You parse through back matter and close the cover. You breathe, drink water to quench a thirst you didn’t know you had and you pick up another one. That’s what Gothic does. That’s what it is.
Who doesn’t love creepy houses, perverse monks, ruined women and dark family secrets? Don’t answer that, haha.
If you want to read a few Gothic tales here are some I suggest:
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
Manfred by Lord Byron
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Perfume: The Story of A Murderer by Patrick Süskind
The Italian by Ann Radcliffe
And if you have any recommendations for me, feel free to drop a comment here. I would love to know what you think.