Reading Group #6: 'Green Tea'

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Reading Group #6: 'Green Tea'

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Editat: maig 27, 2011, 10:39am

By J. Sheridan Le Fanu, for anyone who's just getting started.

(And oh s***, I just realized this should be #7 not #6...oh well, I think I'd like to erase all traces of that miserable Hawthorne story from my brain anyway...)

maig 29, 2011, 7:43am

Hah! Dreamed about that damn' monkey, last night!

Some of the versions online seem to be rather poorly edited. Wasted a lot of time, last night, comparing one to another. Not finished it yet.

maig 30, 2011, 3:37pm

I've read it before, but I want to give it a reread. I'll do that tonight and be back tomorrow, hopefully, with comments!

maig 30, 2011, 11:31pm

I feel that I should apologize for my lack of participation lately. I really enjoy the discussions in the group, but the past week has just been crazy busy. Still haven't got around to reading the Hawthorne piece, and I probably won't get around to reading Green Tea. Hopefully in the next week I'll pick up a little slack. Just wanted to let you all know I really appreciate all your fine comments - gives me much food for thought throughout the day.

maig 31, 2011, 12:03am

Hey, Sal, it's not homework or anything (in other words, no apology needed!), but I'm glad you enjoy yourself as much as I do! This little reading group has meant a lot to me lately, and the comments I read here, like you said, give me a lot to think about during the day. Thanks again everybody for the participation! When I started the group, I didn't have very high expectations, but it's really filled a void in my intellectual life! :D

After 'Green Tea' we'll do 'Young Goodman Brown,' so let me know when you have some time, as I believe you really wanted to read that one, and I don't want to have you out of the loop when we read it...

As for 'Green Tea' itself, I still haven't given it a reread. I'm doing so tonight, though, before bed.

Rank, did you ever find a good version?? This is a complete e-text of In a Glass Darkly. 'Green Tea' starts it off. It looks to be the same as my copy...

maig 31, 2011, 12:04am

Oh, Salvatore, this was a PERFECT occasion to call you Dallas, and I totally forgot to! I've been DYING to call you by your (ultra-fabulous) real name for some time now!


maig 31, 2011, 6:54am

Green Tea has not reached the top of my tbr pile just yet. However, if you are interested in Le Fanu you may be interested in the pictures linked to in this thread.

The house is from Le Fanu's story, The House by the Churchyard, and yes, the church in the background is the church in question.

maig 31, 2011, 7:44am

hey veil, no one has ever called my name 'ultra-fabulous.' you've made my day.

>7 pgmcc:

interesting pics. now i'll have to read that story also!

maig 31, 2011, 8:58am


juny 1, 2011, 10:04pm

#7 - Bleak-looking house - it looks like it's surfaced with a skim of concrete and I wonder if it was there in Le Fanu's day or whether there was exposed, good stone or brick.

#5 - Yes, I settled on this version - . The one I started on had some quite disruptive typos - or, at least, it did once I'd printed it off.

For one reason or another I haven't, so far, managed to sit down and read this right through; so my first reading has been rather disjointed - piecemeal over several days. So the next bit should probably be read with that in mind. The thing is, I haven't felt myself really involved with this story and I'm tentatively thinking it's because of the author's device of giving us the story third-hand (fourth-hand?). I mean, Hesselius is only getting the story second-hand - the monkey not being attendant on Jennings when he is telling Hesselius about it. Then we are getting the story from Hesselius via the narrator. It seems to me that all this distance is robbing the story of immediacy and 'chill'.

I shall give it another go in the next day or two, though - and might quite possibly change my mind.

juny 2, 2011, 3:12am

I rather like the distance. It's got a Maturin spin to it.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed that almost every story we've read deals with narrators/characters who may or may not be crazy (and often seem to be a little of both)? 'Green Tea' seems to fry in the same pan as 'The Horla,' 'The Listener,' and to some extent even 'The Death of Halpin Frayser.' I'm not sure any of us intended to read stories that cross-referenced each other's motifs this much, but it's fascinating to see just how much they've wound up doing so...

After a reread, I realize I like this story more than I thought I did. The first time I read it, like rank, I sort of gave it a piecemeal approach. I also read it utterly exhausted, and usually forgot what was going on by the time I closed my book. This time I tackled it in one go, as a short story deserves to be tackled, and I found it eerie and even a little witty.

By the by, since most of you have developed an online aquaintance with me, I thought I'd let you know that a poem of mine was just short-listed for publication in a certain magazine! It's likely to make print, though nothing's entirely firm yet, and I'm just thrilled beyond words!!!

Back to Le Fanu, though, and pgmcc's link...has anyone here actually read The House by the Churchyard? I hear M. R. James fancied it even more than Uncle Silas. I've also read somewhere that it's got a sort of...gossipy wit to it that is less than charming in large doses. Anyone want to challenge that? After looking at those photos, I'd really like to give it a read...

juny 2, 2011, 7:35am

#10 I'm not sure about the concrete skim. I would suggest you are correct about it being bare stone in Le Fanu's day.

#11 I am ashamed to admit I have not yet read The House by the Churchyard although I pass the house everyday on my way home from work. I must correct this over the next two weeks. I have loaded Le Fanu's complete works onto my Sony e-reader and am off to France for two weeks. No excuse this time. I'll have to read it. :-)

Have any of you read Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin? Well worth a read if your interested in the Dublin of Maturin, Le Fanu and Stoker.

Editat: juny 2, 2011, 7:58am

Ah, Maturin is an author that I'm still looking forward to, so I don't understand the comment.

On the theme of madness ... on second thoughts, I won't write what I was going to - I have a number of questions that are demanding a re-read. I'll give it another go this evening.

On the poem, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you - best of luck -

juny 2, 2011, 5:39pm

Thanks, rankamateur! :D

As for Maturin, I'm referring to his embedding of narratives. At one point in Melmoth the Wanderer one is literally reading a story within a story within a story within a story within a story(!).

juny 3, 2011, 7:28pm

How did Hesselius know that Jennings had been writing a book but had stopped?

Editat: juny 3, 2011, 9:11pm

What's everybody doing? Am I allowed to risk a few spoilers yet?

Okay, I'll try to avoid spoilers by amalgamating my questions into one general one. Is Hesselius a culpable, pompous prat who cravenly tries to deny all responsibility at the end; or am I misreading?

ETA - I don't think that's a spoiler.

juny 3, 2011, 9:22pm

And what the hell is with the green tea? Is it some kind of private joke? It seems to me a whopping great incongruity - rather undermining the mood of the story.

juny 3, 2011, 10:52pm

As for the green tea, the idea is supposed to be that it acts as a sort of mental 'stimulant' that opens Jennings' mind to the 'other side' or whatever you want to call it during his late night meditations, eventually triggering his 'hallucination.' I remember reading somewhere that Le Fanu, too, drank green tea to stimulate his thoughts while writing, but I'm almost positive that's apocryphal...

Hesselius reminds me a bit of Blackwood's John Silence. Both of them seem to believe in the supernatural, at least on an elemental level, and yet spend most of their time trying to explain it away. I don't particularly care for the company of either one of them.

Editat: juny 3, 2011, 11:41pm

But his behaviour is weird. He tells poor Jennings that if the monkey returns he should send for him immediately; he knows that Jennings's 'guarantied monkey-free period' has just expired; but then he deliberately goes incommunicado by leaving his lodgings and booking into an inn without telling anyone where he is going.

Then, in the Conclusion, he does a weaselish 'belt and braces' job. He more or less says that Jennings's death is okay because it was from another reason altogether and not from what he was treating him for, and that, anyway, he wasn't really his patient as he hadn't actually started the treatment - so he's still got his claimed hundred per cent success rate.

If Le Fanu actually intended us to see him as a right ratbag it adds an extra dimension to the horror, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to believe that. If Le Fanu didn't intend that, then I'd say he (Le Fanu) made a bit of a mess of the ending - but I'm not sure I believe that, either ...

juny 3, 2011, 11:37pm

One thing about trying to figure out Hesselius's behaviour - I can no longer say the story is leaving me uninvolved.

Editat: juny 4, 2011, 5:28am

#18 - The trouble is, for me at least, green tea seems such an incongrous thing for Le Fanu to choose as his mind-opener. Now, if he'd called it 'Reading Too Much Swedenborg' - I could believe that might have unpredictable effects (especially as Jennings is habitually sleep-deprived).

juny 4, 2011, 6:04am

#12 - Have any of you read Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin? Well worth a read if your interested in the Dublin of Maturin, Le Fanu and Stoker.

Oh dear! LibraryThing is like being locked in a sweetshop. Every day, it seems, I discover more books that I'd really love to read. I can just imagine sitting down here with Google Maps on screen and reading that.

Editat: juny 4, 2011, 6:15am

One more point. Silence is repeatedly mentioned in connection with Jennings. I assume a significance but I can't work it out.

Editat: juny 7, 2011, 4:45am

Anybody ready to move on? I can't think of much else to say about this story...

I suggest:

'Young Goodman Brown' by Nathaniel Hawthorne
'Canon Alberic's Scrapbook' by M. R. James
'The Pit and the Pendulum' by Edgar Allan Poe

All three are famous, very well-known stories. The Hawthorne should wash the bad taste out of some of our mouths: at least, those of us who didn't exactly, er, 'love' 'The Minister's Black Veil.' The James is a fun, spooky story without any real 'deeper meaning,' so we might not have much to chat about, but it is quite entertaining. The Poe is, of course, a classic, and one of the half-dozen or so of his stories we should work through eventually...

Comments? Choices?

Editat: juny 7, 2011, 6:50am

I've been meaning to give this another read (... or two ...) as I suspect that I haven't really got to grips with it. As it stands at the moment, it doesn't really work for me. This is a disappointment as, though I don't think I'd read any Le Fanu for decades, I remember being very impressed. There was one novel, which I think may have been Uncle Silas, which was easily the most tension-inducing thing I've ever read. And I forgot Carmilla, which I have in an anthology here somewhere, and which I've always found impressive (I didn't say 'sexy' - I didn't! Honest!). So I half-suspect I'm missing something here.

Err ... I've just realised I have a cup of green tea beside the keyboard ... and it's gone cold ...

That's the problem, you see. Why such a mundane thing as green tea? It just doesn't ...

Anyway, back to the point: I'll carry on with this for a while, in my own time, but I'm quite happy to have a go at another. I'll give a vote for the Hawthorne because I'm curious to compare it to 'The Black Veil; but, as usual, whatever you decide. I know 'The Pit and the Pendulum' of old and Vincent Price is popping into mind again but fortunately, if I remember right, the film is quite irrelevant this time - and it's Poe, so that's recommendation enough. I think I remember reading some excellent M. R. James short stories but not that one, so I'm quite looking forward to that, too.

I'm just rambling here, aren't I? Putting off getting on with some work.

ETA - It was lousy green tea - I think it's been here too long.

juny 7, 2011, 8:14am

For the next story, I'm up for whatever. Just barely got my hands on Green Tea, so I hope to read it in the near future soon.

juny 7, 2011, 5:36pm

I know Salvatore also wanted to take a hack at 'Young Goodman Brown,' so we'll do that.

I drink a really potent jasmine green tea, and it always brings to mind Le Fanu. Maybe you just need a more exotic cuppa, rankamateur! :D

New thread is up.

juny 7, 2011, 7:20pm

Oh, it just occured to me, too, that in the 19th Century green tea was still an extremely uncommon commodity in the West, and so would have seemed quite exotic to Victorian readers...

juny 8, 2011, 10:19am

#28 - I was wondering about that and I've been meaning to see what I could find online about it. I'm actually a bit of at tea fanatic, and, of course, a book fanatic, so you'd think I'd have a book or two on tea here - but, no.

And #27 has reminded me that I have a little sample tin of jasmine tea here. I've never tasted the stuff so it's time I opened it. I think I've been put off by thinking of 'Control' in Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - shut up, paranoid and dying, in his little room and drinking pot after pot of what one of the other characters calls 'that filthy jasmine tea'.

juny 8, 2011, 4:53pm

I make perfume, and the odor of jasmine essence in its most intense state (I think my half-ounce bottle of jasmine absolute contains something like the fragrance of 250,000 not a typo flowers and ran me about $130) put me off for many, many moons, and only started to tickle my fancy in food and drink. I like the tea a lot. It is a little 'filthy,' come to think of it, but in a kind of muddy, tea-like way. I enjoy it.

I think real tea fanatics don't own books on the subject. Same with spice people. And fans of a particular musician, etc. (I don't have a single sentence on David Bowie, for example...)

jul. 1, 2011, 6:41am

I have been tardy in my reading, but reading the last five posts reminded me of a couple of things.

#28 Veilofisis: Your coments on green tea being somewhat exocit in the 19th century made me think of the Hitchcock film, It Takes a Thief starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. It was made in 1954 and in one scene the Cary Grant character is treating an insurance investigator to tea (the meal, as opposed to the beverage) and is introducing him to Quiche Lorraine. I remember in the late 1960s and 1970s it was very chic to have Quiche Lorraine. Another exoctic dish in those days was chilli con carne.

A tea related story involves my brother and his wife. When there was a mass exodus by boat of refugees from Vietnam in the late 1970s many countries provided a home to the refugees. My brother volunteered to look after three Vietnamese brothers who were settled in his town in Northern Ireland. He assisted them in various ways to ensure they were able to settle into life in their new country.

They invited him and his wife to dinner as a thank you. Now, in 1970s, Northern Ireland was not very sophisticated, consequently my sister-in-law was not aware of how the three brothers preferred their tea. As it happens, they would make a large pot of heavily perfumed tea in the morning and pour cups of tea from it throughout the day, even when it was cold. My sister preferred her tea hot, standard UK/Irish type tea, with milk.

At the end of dinner one of the hosts asked, "Would you like some tea?"

My sister-in-law was about to respond when, to her surprise, my brother very rudely cut across her and said, "I'll have coffee."

She was most indignant but ignored his rudeness for a moment and requested a cup of tea.

When she received her cup of cold, highly perfumed tea, not something she was expecting or used to, she understood her husbands attempts to avoid tea. (Northern Irish people were not the most adventurous in trying new things in those days.)

Having tried a few sips of tea she was regretting her choice and was wondering how to finish the tea when she saw an opportunity to pour the tea into a flower pot without being seen.

She emptied her cup into the soil in the flower pot and returned her cup to her saucer and felt quite smug at her success. As she congratulated herself on how clever she'd been one of the brothers noticed her empty cup and asked, "Did you enjoy your tea?"

"Yes, it was lovely thank you," she replied.

"Have some more."

This time she did not have an opportunity to get rid of the tea and had to drink it all down with a polite smile of enjoyment on her face.


jul. 1, 2011, 7:14am

#31 - You had me laughing out loud with that one.

I wonder what your s-i-l would have though of the Vietnamese Imperial Oolong I have here at the moment. -

jul. 1, 2011, 7:18am

If you excuse the pun, I would suggest Vienamese Imperial Oolong would not be her cup of tea.

jul. 1, 2011, 7:19am

Ouch! Laughing again.

ag. 12, 2011, 3:58am

If necromancy be excused (it's reasonably gothic after all), I too was puzzled by where le Fanu was going with Hesselius as I read In a Glass Darkly this winter. Despite the narrator's fawning, he comes across as unsuccessful and only too ready to disclaim responsibility in "Green Tea", and in the other stories he's basically irrelevant. If he was meant to be impressive, he fails. If he's meant to come across as conceited, what's the point?

That said, overall I liked the collection, esp. "Green Tea" and "Carmilla".

ag. 12, 2011, 4:04pm

It's a little difficult to get my head around the fact that 'Carmilla' and 'Green Tea' are by the same man.

Editat: feb. 15, 2012, 12:35pm

#18 - ... Blackwood's John Silence ... I don't particularly care for the company ...

I've just bumped into John Silence - for the first time as far as I remember - and I'm a bit disgruntled about the matter.

I've probably mentioned elsewhere that I've become a big fan of Blackwood. I've been reading Secret Worship [SPOILERS AHEAD] and, right up till the point where the 'damsel' is rescued, he really justifies my fanhood (fandom? fanishness?). The story is creepy, suspenseful and powerful.

The trouble is, after the rescue, instead of a brisk dénouement, he has six, whole pages - which really lets the power of the tale bleed away. They are actually rather boring after the grip the earlier pages had on one; and the depiction of John Silence contained in them really didn't convince me - it quite put me in mind of some adolescent's first attempts at creating a hero-figure - over the top.

In fact, thinking on it some more, I don't know why the 'damsel' (in this case a chap named Harris) needed rescuing at all. It shouldn't have been difficult to write in some way for him to extricate himself; then cut out all the John Silence stuff and write in half a page or so where he's back in safety and finding out the background to the events and Blackwood would have had a much more focussed and economic story.

ETA - Actually, talking about an adolescent creating a hero-figure, I thought there was a slight air there of adolescent same-sex crush. As I said, just too over the top.

feb. 15, 2012, 2:32pm

I haven't read the John Silence stories yet (I've read one in a collection, I think). I do remember having similar doubts about Carnacki the Ghost Finder, and wondering if Hodgson was struggling with the format of an adventure series with a regular hero. This was 20 years ago, though, and the example of Sherlock Holmes was fresh in my mind as I'd only recently finished reading "the canon". Plus, I was probably not attuned to the rhythms of Edwardian prose - that apparent awkwardness in dialogue, for example. I need to find the time to reread those stories (!) and see what my feelings would be now.

oct. 26, 2014, 10:08am

As 'Green Tea' was serialised in 4 parts in Dickens' widely read periodical 'All The Year Round', I wonder whether it had any effect on the consumption of green tea at the time?!

I thought Mr Jennings might have been schizophrenic (e.g. hearing the monkey's voice inside his head)?

I liked how Dr Hesselius blamed Mr Jennings' symptoms on the consumption of green tea! I find it unsettling to think that innocuous everyday actions might have far reaching and unexpected consequences, and perhaps it is that fear that Le Fanu was tapping into?

oct. 26, 2014, 1:28pm

On Wednesday, 15th October I attended a radio play performance of Green Tea. It was part of a symposium on the work of Le Fanu to commemorate his 200th birthday. Several of his relatives attended the event.

The production company was excellent. They performers created a great atmosphere with overlapping voices creating the impression of a descent into despair and madness. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Editat: oct. 25, 2018, 7:44pm

One more old soul for the shuffle. Trying to bump each of them to the top for consistency of intent. They work well as online midnight morsels to enjoy when insomnia kicks in. Better than wandering a quiet loft where every other step squeaks. Something to show for my dark and dreary old 'toad' moments. Not fond of the beverage, so will read my Green Tea with a mug of dark roast. =D

des. 31, 2018, 6:40pm

I've started In A Glass Darkly, and have completed Green Tea and The Familiar, with the third remaining short story soon to follow. The two novellas I hope to have finished by mid-January. Also juggling The Italian and The Monk and The Beetle, in no particular order, depending on my mood and which room I'm in and who else is around. No rush, but I was happy to get this one finished. I think I liked The Familiar better due to its 'owl' and the menace of the villain appearing on the scene only when one particular event occurred. With Green Tea, it was a reflection on decades old events, in print. I was glad to have read Uncle Silas first. Looking forward to the rest...