Canadian Gothic - who knew?!

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Canadian Gothic - who knew?!

Editat: març 13, 2018, 3:48pm

Set up this separate thread to conveniently track my research, per "So-whatcha-readin'-now-kids?" post #50 ... (continued)


The Castle of Otranto (new to me)
The Purloined Letter (reread)
The Fall of the House of Usher (reread)
The Romance of the Forest: A Gothic Novel (new to me)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (reread)
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (new to me, CanLit, unsure if Gothic but weird, set in remote castle)
Mrs. Poe (by Lynn Cullen; new to me, part historical fiction/romance/mystery/etc.)
The Imp of the Perverse (reread)
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (reread)

Villette by Charlotte Bronte (new to me, final Bronte sisters book)

The Italian, A Sicilian Romance, The Mysteries of Udolpho (by Ann Radcliffe; new to me)
a dose of American Southern Gothic (Faulkner?)


Researching Canadian Gothic, which is not just Canadian authors pumping out Gothic novels, but actually using local landscape as a backdrop. Excited to pursue this vein, as we have our share of bleak, isolated, supernatural, violence (not sure about mansions). Just never thought about classifying it as such! Wuhoo =D



>50 frahealee:

If you think there's distinctively Canadian school of Gothic literature I'm quite eager to explore it. I find the idea quite enticing - I've been aware for some years of a deliciously weird thread in Canadian screen culture and I'll be intrigued to see if there is any kinship.

Editat: març 13, 2018, 5:03pm

My interest was piqued back in 2011 when I selected several CanLit books, to write reviews for use by an online publication. The one published was THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick deWitt (made the shortlist but did not win). However, the longlist for the Giller Prize that year included; TOUCH, SOLITARIA, INTO THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY, A WORLD ELSEWHERE, HALF-BLOOD BLUES (winner), THE ANTAGONIST (shortlist), etc. I read and sorted them, picked my favs, moved on. With 17 that year, I still hope to get to the others someday.

Touch by Alexi Zentner was disturbing and delightful. It stayed with me. There is a supernatural element that I couldn't put my finger on, begging to be reread. Mysterious, remote (forest setting in British Columbia), etc. made me wonder at the time if it qualified to be a Gothic novel. I didn't have time then for research, but it has haunted me, popping into random thoughts, seemingly unconnected, but perhaps edging me along a new path of discovery.

Last month, I finished reading Undermajordomo Minor also by Patrick deWitt. It was a quick and quirky read, as were his earlier efforts. 'The Sisters Brothers' played off the California Gold Rush and was terrific; original plot, witty smart savvy writing, memorable fullbodied characters, etc. UM was a satirical fable set at a remote castle, and also made the 2015 Giller longlist. 'Touch' crept into my thoughts as I blazed through this CanLit offering. Not sure why, but I had just finished Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese, a soulful trek from an estranged son's perspective, who is attempting reconciliation with his dying father. I was looking for comic relief from deWitt after Wagamese's heart-wrenching sojourn. Maybe the 3 merged in my mind, to make me question if Gothic literature could be funny, or must it always be ominous?

Editat: març 13, 2018, 4:38pm

A list of 8 Canadian Gothic (female) authors was gathered by ROOM magazine (BC);

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
We So Seldom Look on Love by Barbara Gowdy
The Double Hook by Sheila Watson
Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson (Giller Prize shortlist, 2000)
The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter
Hopeful Monsters by Hiromi Goto
Invasive Species by Claire Caldwell
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

FYI: Honorable gothic Can Lit mentions include selected works by Margaret Atwood, Jane Urquhart, Shani Mootoo, Gwendolyn MacEwan, Dionne Brand, and Ann-Marie MacDonald. Tell us about some of your favourite Canadian gothic works by tweeting us @RoomMagazine. Leah Golob is a full-time reporter, freelance book critic, and member of the Growing Room Collective. She will be editing our Canadian Gothic issue, 39.3.

I have not read/heard of any of these, but list them for future research/reference purposes.


More sources;

One masters thesis was prepared for McMaster University (Hamilton) ...


Another author cropping up frequently; Mr. Robertson Davies ...

Robertson Davies (1913–1995) was born and raised in Ontario, and was educated at a variety of schools, including Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He had three successive careers: as an actor with the Old Vic Company in England; as publisher of the Peterborough Examiner; and as university professor and first Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, from which he retired in 1981 with the title of Master Emeritus. He was one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with several volumes of plays and collections of essays, speeches, and belles lettres to his credit. As a novelist, he gained worldwide fame for his three trilogies: The Salterton Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy, and The Cornish Trilogy, and for later novels Murther & Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man. His career was marked by many honours: He was the first Canadian to be made an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and he received honorary degrees from twenty-six American, Canadian, and British universities.

Fifth Business: Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross and destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood, he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious, influence on those around him. His apparently innocent involvement in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy in the end prove neither innocent nor innocuous. Fifth Business stands alone as a remarkable story told by a rational man who discovers that the marvelous is only another aspect of the real.

The Manticore: Around a mysterious death is woven a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived trilogy of novels. Luring the reader down labyrinthine tunnels of myth, history and magic, THE DEPTFORD TRILOGY provides an exhilarating antidote to a world from where 'the fear and dread and splendour of wonder have been banished'.

World of Wonders: This is the third novel in Davies's major work, The Deptford Trilogy. This novel tells the life story of the unfortunate boy introduced in The Fifth Business, who was spirited away from his Canadian home by one of the members of a traveling side show, the Wanless World of Wonders.

(lifted from Chapters/Indigo online shopping website)


Here is the "who knew?" segment (my neck of the woods thus all terrain is familiar);

Southern Ontario Gothic is a subgenre of the Gothic novel genre and a feature of Canadian literature that comes from Southern Ontario. This region includes Toronto, Southern Ontario's major industrial cities (Windsor, London, Hamilton, St. Thomas, Oshawa, St. Catharines), and the surrounding countryside. While the genre may also feature other areas of Ontario, Canada, and the world as narrative locales, this region provides the core settings.

The term was first used in Graeme Gibson's Eleven Canadian Novelists (1972) to recognize an existing tendency to apply aspects of the Gothic novel to writing based in and around Southern Ontario. In an interview with Timothy Findley, Gibson commented that Findley's novel The Last of the Crazy People shared similarities with the American Southern Gothic genre, to which Findley replied, "...sure, it's Southern Gothic: Southern Ontario Gothic."

Notable writers of this subgenre include; Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Jane Urquhart, Marian Engel, James Reaney and Barbara Gowdy.

Like the Southern Gothic of American writers such as William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty, Southern Ontario Gothic analyzes and critiques social conditions such as race, gender, religion and politics, but in a Southern Ontario context. Southern Ontario Gothic is generally characterized by a stern realism set against the dour small-town Protestant morality stereotypical of the region, and often has underlying themes of moral hypocrisy. Actions and people that act against humanity, logic, and morality all are portrayed unfavourably, and one or more characters may be suffering from some form of mental illness. In a review of Alice Munro's Dear Life for Quill & Quire, literary critic James Grainger writes that "Violence, illness, and reputations ruined by a single indiscretion are accepted in Munro’s secretive, repressed communities as a kind of leveling mechanism, rough justice for those who dare to strive for something finer."

The Gothic novel has traditionally examined the role of evil in the human soul, and has incorporated dark or horrific imagery to create the desired setting. Some (but not all) writers of Southern Ontario Gothic use supernatural or magic realist elements; a few deviate from realism entirely, in the manner of the fantastical Gothic novel. Virtually all dwell to a certain extent upon the grotesque.

Notable works of the genre include; Davies' Deptford Trilogy, Findley's Headhunter, Atwood's Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin, and Munro's Selected Stories.

The genre has been criticised as having "little or nothing to distinguish it from everyday, garden-variety type realism."

(transplanted from Wikipedia for convenience)

març 13, 2018, 12:55pm

Keep in mind, all of this is completely fascinating and new to me. Even trying to understand the difference between Harry Potter and the Twilight series, as in this link, is a stretch for me.

Yes, I read each Harry Potter book alongside my son when he was 11 (10yrs ago) and was thrilled when our local library chose him to daytrip to Toronto to meet JKR and get her autograph, etc. No, I have not read or seen any of Twilight (whether I stayed away due to inflated popularity, with my perpetual penchant for the underdog, or if it was just not my style, is still unknown even to me).

This simple comparison appealed to me, to better understand what constitutes Gothic literature, not just from a reader's perspective, but from a writer's. I have no university accolades, and any reading done is self-generated, not because there is a research paper waiting. My opinion and my skills are raw and perhaps under-educated, but they are sincere and one craving leads to the next. Spending a dozen years in Toronto's Tourism industry (bringing offshore incentives inbound) seals my preference for place. The setting is always the highlight, which is why Gothic perhaps is so juicy a dish for me. Characters and plot matter too, but not until my bones are nestled into a livid landscape. Like live theatre, set the stage and arrange the props, then bring out the characters to tell me a story. =)

març 13, 2018, 7:38pm

The novel thought to be the first ever piece of Gothic writing by a person born in Canada (or before the 1867 stamp of official approval) was written by Mr. John Richardson;

Wacousta; Or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas

Wacousta; Or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas, novel by John Richardson, was published in London and Edinburgh in 1832; and in Montréal in 1868, as Wacousta; Or the Prophecy.

Wacousta; Or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas, novel by John Richardson, was published in London and Edinburgh in 1832; and in Montréal in 1868, as Wacousta; Or the Prophecy. An Indian Tale. Numerous editions appeared under various titles. Many of them were pirated (eg, Waldie's Select Circulating Library edition, Philadelphia, 1833), and many were abridged. Richardson frames his novel within Pontiac's 1763 siege of forts Detroit and Michilimackinac, but at the story's centre is the gory and protracted development of Wacousta's revenge upon the British commander, Colonel De Haldimar, who had betrayed Wacousta by marrying his fiancée years earlier in Scotland. Wacousta (formerly a fellow soldier and friend of De Haldimar) is a Herculean savage, made monstrous by his bitterness, who advises Pontiac in his plans to capture the forts. The novel is at once a Gothic romance and a blood-soaked tragedy. Wacousta's complex publishing and editing history, and the story of Richardson's tortured life as well, have interested as many critics and bibliographers as the novel itself has. Wacousta was translated into German in 1858.

John Richardson, literature / per The Canadian Encyclopedia (online)

març 25, 2018, 10:15am

This summer, I hope to get into some Faulkner, and alternate them with Atwood. Not all of her books are Gothic, but many of them are, and I have been avoiding them for decades because the term feminist scares me off. Took the plunge a few years ago with Surfacing (short and sweet) followed by Alias Grace (magnificent page-turner start to finish). There are some on the 1001 btrbyd list, like The Robber Bride and Cat's Eye and The Blind Assassin, that I plan to start with. Up to this point, I have focused more on her poetry than her novels. She is so smart, so accomplished, so versatile, with such gritty wit that I felt unworthy. Enough of that! Time to dive in, and after reading this summary, feel that there is no better time.

Editat: gen. 8, 2019, 3:56pm

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Trying to carve out time to access these tempting morsels.

The Salterton Trilogy:
Tempest-Tost = 288p. (his first novel)
Leaven of Malice = 256p.
A Mixture of Frailties = 368p.

The Salterton Trilogy is comprised of the novels Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties, Robertson Davies’ first forays into fiction in the 1950s.

In the small university town of Salterton, Ontario, dreams are quietly taking shape . . . or falling apart. In Tempest-Tost, Valentine Rich, professional director of the Salterton Little Theatre Company, is tormented by the amateurish efforts of his actors. The families Vambrace and Bridgetower almost go to war over a fake notice of engagement in the local paper in Leaven of Malice. And in A Mixture of Frailties, the fortune of the late Louisa Bridgetower is lavished on an aspiring singer because there is no male heir to claim it.

Tracing the lives and incidents of a small community, The Salterton Trilogy peels off the public veneer of geniality and respectability to reveal the private passions simmering beneath.

(per Chapters/Indigo online description, of ebook available on Kobo)

The Deptford Trilogy:
Fifth Business = 272p.
The Manticore = 272p.
World of Wonders = 336p.
All three in one book = 832p. paperback

The Cornish Trilogy:
The Rebel Angels = 336p.
What's Bred in the Bone = 448p.
The Lyre of Orpheus = 432p.
All three in one book = 1152p. paperback

High Spirits = 240p. (25th Anniversary Edition, 2007)

Robertson Davies first hit upon the notion of writing ghost stories when he joined the University of Toronto’s Massey College as a master. A tradition quickly became established and, for 18 years, Davies delighted and amused the college’s annual Gaudy Night guests with his tales of the supernatural. Here, in a handsome 25th Anniversary Edition, are those 18 stories, just as Davies first read them.

set. 1, 2018, 5:44am

>7 frahealee:

Rather tempting story - a sort of latter-day M. R. James. Writing for a physically-present audience all those years must be some sort of guarantee of quality.

Editat: set. 1, 2018, 12:12pm

>8 alaudacorax: Good point! I have not read MRJames or the other James, but will make a concerted effort in 2019.

This is a stretch but I cannot overlook the fact that lovely and talented Yvonne De Carlo was born on this day in 1922. The tv show, The Munsters, began in 1964 and I recall owning the board game. We are not talking Cdn Gothic lit here, but YDC projects an image of Canadian Gothic oddball sassy humour that I adore. From a documentary online, it seems the two male leads did not want her cast in the series (a different gal in original pilot) because they did not want to work with a 'star' thinking that she'd never fit a comic role. They later admitted their mistake, after learning her origins. She started out from BC as plain ole Margaret Middleton whose father disappeared and whose mother was a waitress. Bless those big dreams when they work out so well. Only 71 episodes, really?! Charmed to see Harvard grad Fred Gwynne went on to write children's books.

The Munsters (CBS) vs. Addams Family. Any takers? Favourite character?

Lily Munster (vampire, bride) = Yvonne De Carlo (1922-2007)
Herman Munster (Frankenstein) = Ed Gwynne (1926-1993)
Grandpa/Sam Dracula (vampire) = Al Lewis (1923-2006)
Eddie Munster (werewolf) = Butch Patrick (1953)
Marilyn (niece) = Pat Priest (1936)

The Addams Family
Gomez / Morticia / Granny / Uncle Fester / Lurch / Wednesday / Pugsley / etc.

Editat: set. 1, 2018, 5:43pm

I'd love to know the story of how the two series came to be made at the same time and released within days of each other. I assume someone pinched somebody's idea and there was a race to production - but which was the original and which the rip-off? Until looking on IMDb a few minutes ago, I'd always thought that The Munsters was a rip-off of The Addams Family, but I suspect the latter came to British telly first and thus gave me that idea. Having written that, I have a vague memory that The Addams Family was based on a cartoon strip, which would make it the original - IMDb doesn't mention that, though.

ETA - As a teenager I watched both, avidly.

Editat: set. 1, 2018, 8:41pm

>10 alaudacorax: Details unknown, but the docu I watched today stated that producers wanted De Carlo for the series, rather than the gal who made the original Musters pilot, because that gal resembled Morticia too much (expressionless etc.) so they wanted to spice it up, add humour, create the 'happy family' façade that mirrored other sitcoms of the day. This allowed Gwynne to get increasingly more goofy, with his little boy eye roll and the superb comic timing he had with Grandpa.

It did say The Addams Family (ABC network) copied the comic strip, as you mention, and that Yvonne was brought in because, in part, she was already a hit in the UK. It appears they cobbled the pilot together quickly, although the script had been dormant for years. Something in the 40s spawned the idea, writer put pen to paper but it was rejected, then resurfaced in the early 60s, never expecting it to proceed. Everyone was shocked when CBS gave it the go-ahead, with a few cast revisions, a tone shift, and on the air it went. (Munsters documentary) (unaired CBS pilot)

Universal had sold their monster films to tv in the 50s, which drew attention to the genre. Munsters was the CBS retaliatory move. Funny to learn that 'Grandpa' lied about his age, saying he was older than Yvonne, when in fact he was one year younger, and still played her father so convincingly! She was brought in later, to replace Joan Marshall who was much younger, but still.

My memories of Munsters are wrapped up with Bewitched (also ABC) and I Dream of Jeannie. I don't remember the timelines exactly. Much like the chicken and the egg??

Editat: set. 4, 2018, 11:32pm

>10 alaudacorax: I apologize for this off-topic post but I just had to give Charles (or Chas, as he signed his work) Addams, the cartoonist who inspired The Addams Family, his due. I loved his stuff growing up. Much of his work was published in The New Yorker, beginning, I think, in the 1940s, and he also had a comic strip called Out of This World. It's possible his series of cartoons about a ghoulish family was given a kickstart by an illustration he did of a Ray Bradbury story, "Homecoming," that was published in Mademoiselle.

set. 6, 2018, 8:33am

>12 robertajl: Wonderful! I had never seen the original print version, only the show.

Editat: oct. 2, 2018, 7:00pm

>8 alaudacorax: Now that I've flown through a dozen by M.R. James, I am better prepared to step into Davies' world. High Spirits followed me home on Sunday (it finally was shipped last week) so I am thrilled to be able to start it this weekend. No idea what's in store!

oct. 4, 2018, 1:08am

Oh wow. I don't have the time to read through all of this but Gothic Lit is something I'm interested in and I've never thought about Gothic with a Canadian element to it. My first thought is the general lack of impressive castles and old mansions, primarily because they aren't what we really have over here (west coast Native, live in BC). Instead, we have dark forests, massive trees, rivers, and old, decrepit homesteads. Grand, stony architecture is something more urban than the bulk of what is still mostly underpopulated land.

I am something of a horror buff, and I know that Canada does have something of a reputation for horror in film circles, with movies like Ginger Snaps, Slither (original), Black Christmas, etc., and David Kronenberg's contributions, naturally. ;) Canadian horror is apparently more likely than American horror to display things like moral ambiguity, internal conflict, man versus nature or man versus himself rather than man versus monster.

On the literary end, (though I've only got on college course and some basic reading behind me) we tend to have a rather fatalistic streak, and when it comes to man vs. nature, nature tends to win. These seem like decent ingredients for a Canadian Gothic spin.

I know of Room magazine, but I don't think I've read or encountered any of the books and authors you mentioned in your early posts.

I still think about what makes a work "Gothic" and I think that an element of supernatural is a given, and that there needs to be at least some ominous element to it, or something dark, but it doesn't necessarily have to be actual horror. Atmosphere is more important than visuals, I would say.

Editat: oct. 4, 2018, 10:42am

>15 WeeTurtle: Happy to see you here, WeeTurtle! My interest in Gothic offerings is likely due more to the 'romantic' in me, the aspiring poet and lover of all things natural and desolate and underdog-ish. But also because I am a lightweight when it comes to graphic horror. Even last night, after reading The Yellow Wall-Paper by Ms.Charlotte, the branches hitting my window and the sound of the relentless wind woke me a dozen times. Not a piece of wallpaper in my home, but moving shadows were everywhere. I am only just immersing myself into Lovecraft, after visiting works by Blackwood and Machen (thanks to members of the GothicLit and The Weird Tradition groups). Reading it first makes all the difference for me. Then I seem to be able to handle the visuals better, because I know the story from the ground up. The ending for Wallpaper was not what I was expecting, and it thoroughly creeped me out! Now I can see what all the fuss is about. I wish you well on your meandering Gothic path. =D I hope to have the majority of Robertson Davies completed within the next six months. Then on to Eden Robinson. As you mention, the perceived menace is key for me. The terror vs. horror element.

-ps- I can only watch something like The Fly due to Jeff Goldblum, but I do want to see other Cronenberg films after studying the material first, like with Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone. I saw Scanners at a drive-in during high school and it blew my mind, literally!

oct. 5, 2018, 5:14am

I know of those but haven't really seen them. Cronenberg took some getting used to. I think it took me a couple tries to get through Videodrome, and now I want to see some of his other stuff.

I like b-grade and slasher horror films, so I did venture into Hellraiser, four of the films and the two books. Less Goth, and more gory though. Barker is much more the toss the corpse in your face style rather than caress you with a dead hand. I LOVED reading my Lovecraft collection, and am utterly saddened by the fact that there won't be any more coming! I actually read it because I wanted to understand what "Lovecraftian" really meant, and I find now I see a number of people getting it wrong. Interestingly, I was less fond of his Cthullu stuff than I was of his Dream Quest writings (can't recall the character's name). My favourite work of his is "The Shadow out of Time."

Reading some things first is the way to go in some cases. I was drawn less into Shadow over Insmouth, because I had already seen the film Dagon, as well as played a video game level that was entirely based on the story though I didn't really know it at the time. Unintentional spoilers! Alas!

Editat: oct. 6, 2018, 7:40am

>17 WeeTurtle: Might have to uncover some of those golden oldies in upcoming months. The older I get, the more desensitized I am to gore and can cut through to the artistic merit of the scene or the director's intent. I still watch Hitchcock with one eye closed, curses.

One of my funniest days ever was watching my twins play Lego Harry Potter... sat beside them (refused to play, only to watch) and we were there for hours! I would not let them stop, grabbing at this and that magical item for extra points, so I could see how they reached different levels. We were in hysterical tears laughing by the end of it, all three exhausted. Quite different from Mario bros. golf. ; )

Btw, my comment about preferring setting to story and character, is because I live within an hour of the Stratford Festival, and seeing King Lear in grade 10 absolutely changed my life. I lived away from the region for 20yrs and really missed that most of all. Teachers described books as live theatre; first you set the stage, create the scene with props and background … then comes the story to be told (Shakespeare used a narrator or fool) … then come the players, the characters to convey the audience through the story, which can be interchangeable from actor to actor, according to interpretation. This has always stuck with me. My kids are forced to humour my reflex, and we are actually headed to Festival Theatre today to see the 2pm showing of The Tempest starring the sublime Martha Henry as Prospero. Gives me shivers to think she played Miranda (the daughter) to William Hutt in 1962. Full circle career and I want all 4 of my kids to see this.

So, Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all, and I hope it finds you doing what you love with those you love to do it with! The food feast comes Sunday/Monday! =D

ETA: For the record, I have never passed through a 'goth' phase of dress or behaviour. I am as plain and conservative as it gets, since my folks were born in the 1930s and would have hung me up to dry if I'd ever tried to leave the house in those getups. Italian guy raises four daughters … you can imagine how protective he was. Mum was mired in propriety with her British roots so we honoured her etiquette rules flawlessly. My mind can go where my body can't ; ) and I blame Poe and Vincent Price for it all.

oct. 7, 2018, 4:23am

>15 WeeTurtle: - My first thought is the general lack of impressive castles and old mansions, primarily because they aren't what we really have over here (west coast Native, live in BC). Instead, we have dark forests, massive trees, rivers, and old, decrepit homesteads. Grand, stony architecture is something more urban than the bulk of what is still mostly underpopulated land.

There's the start of a great story right there! WeeTurtle goes on a hiking trip way out in untouched forest, comes across a totally unsuspected, unmarked-on-any-map, decaying, European-style fortified mansion someone must have built way back in the 1700s ...

Welcome to the group.

oct. 8, 2018, 6:36am

>19 alaudacorax:

That is a neat thought, though I suspect it might find it's way into one of my DnD campaigns. ;)

Just thinking about it now, there might be something to that term "concrete jungle." The setting I made for my gothic short story was basically worked around the idea of a hidden piece of "old" among modern skyscrapers, plus the usual dark and stormy night. ;)

Perhaps it came from driving through downtown Vancouver when I lived closer to that area. There are old heritage buildings like churches that are still made of old stone sitting right next to fancy, glassed paneled skyscrapers and such. Things like this:
) or GFDL (, from Wikimedia Commons" href="">

Editat: gen. 9, 2019, 8:22am

For anyone in the Gothic Literature group who might be interested, I have somehow embroiled myself in a group read of Robertson Davies later this year. The form and matter will be decided in due course, but the timeline seems to be Oct/Nov2019. It will take place in the Canadian Literature group, with about five interested parties thus far.

You don't have to be Canadian to participate in the Canadian Literature group, nor do you have to be a member, since it is more about the author/writer than the reader. Robertson Davies seems to have built up quite a cult (?) following, with his prolific and diverse subject matter, some of which is in the gothic strain.

I am posting this now, so I don't forget. I know it seems a way off, but might be fun to do an international group read of his works, to see how perspectives vary. You can read more about him and his non-fiction books/plays/novels/etc. in the above posts, and if I find more detailed 'intimate' morsels about his life, I will follow up in the Canadian Literature thread for Robertson Davies there. If it pertains specifically to the gothic, then I will copy it here.

>20 WeeTurtle: - ps - Great photo WeeTurtle … I wonder if there are similar structures in Toronto that inspired Robertson Davies' work specifically, like with the ghost stories? I lived there for 12yrs in the 80s/90s but had no cause to visit UofT or Massey College.

Editat: març 19, 2019, 4:50am

I found this link while looking for something else (of course) and have posted it for future reference. A lot of the detail discussed has been covered in the earlier posts on this thread, but with two writers and two teachers of Gothic Literature in London and Kingston, many elements of the genre are revealed and expanded into exciting definitions of the past and present, with future 'stretching' of classic gothic boundaries.

There is discussion as to whether the genre is place-based, or a tone or a style. The four panel members are quizzed on the importance of animals, rural vs. urban subtleties, the impact of the north and of the settlers bringing their 'ghosts' to new soil, the significance of the Underground Railway, the duplicity/depravity of past and current fiends within our borders. (38 minutes)

Those mentioned;
Alice Munro (Lives of Girls and Women, The Love of a Good Woman, Friend of My Youth, etc.)
"caves lined with linoleum" and "the other side of otherness'
Graeme Gibson (Perpetual Motion, 1982)
Margaret Atwood
Jane Urquhart
James Reaney (The Donnellys)
Shani Mootoo (Cereus Blooms at Night)
Marian Engel
Robertson Davies (Fifth Business)
John Richardson (Wacousta, 1832)
Ann-Marie MacDonald (As The Crow Flies)

Where non-realism (the gothic) meets realism (the façade of Puritanical expectation to gloss over terror). The repressed unconscious of Ontario breaks the surface in many ways, at many times, in a disguised altered fashion. First Nations, French, English, American overlap forces typical Canadiana underground and it boils up in often bizarre and unexpected ways. To capture that silent simmer, that hidden agenda, is the key.

març 19, 2019, 5:26am

Another unexpected find, be it as unsophisticated as some might consider it to be, was a Sherlock Holmes film called The Scarlet Claw (1944). It takes place in Quebec, which brought one of Algernon Blackwood's short stories to mind, A Haunted Island. The claw idea also came from Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar (1997) so I was intrigued to see how the claw and Sherlock might intersect. Judge for yourself but I thought it was charming, in that exaggerated fear of the unknown element. Whether the claw is supernatural or not, is not as important as the inhabitants automatically assuming that it is, with no one but the 'outsider' interested in getting to the root of the mystique behind the crime(s). The ending makes me laugh, but the rest is a wide-eyed nod to Hound of the Baskervilles.

març 19, 2019, 6:28am

>22 frahealee: - I found this link while looking for something else (of course) ...

I had to give a rueful laugh at your parenthesis--you pretty much summed up the internet for me. I've just lost an hour--started out to check on the progress of an Amazon order and somehow found myself reading up on Whistler and Ruskin's court case and hunting up images of numerous paintings. The internet--a blessing and a curse!

I love that last paragraph of yours, by the way--a gorgeous piece of writing.

I still haven't made even a start on Canadian Gothic, though, so I really have nothing pertinent to say. Margaret Atwood seems to have been in my sights for years and I really should get round to her at least.

març 19, 2019, 6:38am

>24 alaudacorax:

What? Ruskin had a court case?


març 19, 2019, 6:40am

>23 frahealee:

Is that the one where Watson gets angry when a man slaps a young girl and then Holmes sticks up for the man? It's stuck in my mind because it made me uncomfortable--couldn't quite get my head around what the director was trying to say, there--or what he was inadvertently saying ...

Editat: des. 14, 2019, 8:49pm

>24 alaudacorax: Thank you for that, very kind. =) Poetry month is approaching and I tend to buckle going in, knowing a daily masterpiece is required. Last year I chose 30 different types of poems to craft, which nearly killed me, but I learned a lot. This year, pressure is off, free form themed observations only. You just braced me right up!

The CanLit group will do an autumn read of Robertson Davies, book tba. You're more than welcome to join in the fun.

>26 alaudacorax: That's the one! A father cuffs his daughter for volunteering info to Holmes/Watson and they catch him in the act, and criticize his approach to parental 'rights'. Watson is incensed, and Holmes steels himself to defend her, you can tell, and the father tells him to mind his own business. The girl then leaves. They end up helping the father later, but they are suspicious of him throughout. I think it was meant as a red herring to indicate that if he could hit his daughter, he could kill an enemy. It did make me cringe also, in memory as much as in empathy. There are a few twists in this film, which I think is why many liked it. I backtracked a bit to watch 'plants' that meant nothing at the time but were humourous misfires or deadends.

Editat: març 21, 2019, 1:00pm

It turns out Robertson Davies' family history stretches back to Wales. I watched an old interview online in which he stated that his father had left his Welsh roots behind after a family business had failed, in order to get a new start in Canada. He rose to be successful with newspapers and the Senate. Davies first worked as a journalist because it was the family business, and treated it like a summer job, then went on to study at Oxford, until the war sent him back home. Drama was his first love, which explains why his first novel, Tempest-Tost, is about Shakespeare and the stage. It's on my tbr list. He began work in 1960 toward the Massey College establishment and was the first Master of the College from 1962-1980. His responsibilities allowed him to write fiction in his spare time, and plays, critiques, etc.

What I found important to note from the earlier interview on Southern Ontario Gothic, was that authors simply wrote their story, without an existing genre. The label was applied after the work was done. Jane Urquhart was correct to point out that although these writers have novels/short stories that fit this genre description, that their entire body of work does not necessarily suit the definition. Alice Munro was born in Ontario but lived in BC many years with her first husband and children, until returning to Ontario. Some of her stories are set in BC but not many, so her sense of place was very much wrapped up in her youth. The same goes for Davies, who was born about an hour from me, small town agricultural mindset, and yet he carried it with him into his written work, as he moved on in status and reputation. He attended Upper Canada College (UCC/Toronto/Avenue Rd. between St.Clair&Eglinton, west of Yonge St.) and Queens University (Kingston), before settling in Toronto after the war. I agree that the rural/urban overlap is almost a non-issue.

Incidentally, rural Tillsonburg would be a great place for a gothic story. It was the hub of the tobacco industry (alongside Delhi) which has fallen to ruin with new health standards. I am about half an hour away, just far enough to escape a cloud of decay.

Reference, The Canadian Encyclopedia:

març 21, 2019, 11:54am

>28 frahealee: - ... after a family business had failed ...

There could be a lot of weight to that phrase. I don't pretend to understand the mentality, but business was strongly tied up with the Nonconformist chapels. Bankrupty was a great disgrace. My mother's family originally came from another valley, but her grandfather was a shopkeeper who went bankrupt and such was the shame of it that he moved his family from that valley to ours (a pretty thorough uprooting in those days). This would have been roughly about the same time Davies senior's family business failed. We can surmise it was a spectacular failure to move him all the way to Canada; probably material for a novel, there ...

Editat: març 21, 2019, 1:00pm

>29 alaudacorax: Whenever I think of a tailor, I think of the adorable man in Fiddler on the Roof. I saw it live at the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto back in the day, with the original Tevye (Topol) but cannot for the life of me recall the rest of the cast. I have only seen a few live productions, so should remember them better than I do! Anyway, the failure of the tailor business, led the father to send his son to Canada to start anew, but likely so he'd have fewer children to care for at the time. Not uncommon, in Wales or elsewhere. There is an exciting aspect to that sense of adventure of the unknown, combined with the pressure of proving yourself to your father, not that I have experience with that concept. ; )

I found a charming little interview by Neil Gaiman of Margaret Atwood on the occasion of her 75th birthday, filmed at the Y something in New York. He even sang to her. I will have to read his contribution eventually, but as with King, I have been avoiding it. Atwood cunningly swerves around certain topics, but now and again she lets loose a zinger that illuminates the rest she has purposely disguised in shadow. There is nothing she cannot do, but it sounds like Gaiman can match her project for project. I like those mutual admiration societies! Too cute.

ETA: found it! (43min)

març 21, 2019, 9:36pm

>30 frahealee: I don't know the life show but I know the film, and Topol is apparently in that as well. Took me a minute to remember who the tailor was. Took me about three run throughs to figure out the fiddler and the whole tradition angle, but I think I get it now. It's the fiddler that I like, but he plays off Tevye nicely.

I just started reading Gaiman with Coraline. I have The Graveyard Book as well and want to pick up American Gods. The upcoming movie looks really cool, visually. I read a little of Anansi Boys. Didn't really catch my interest at the time, but the writing was really good.

Editat: març 22, 2019, 10:00am

>31 WeeTurtle: I thought of you yesterday, and your Canadian kids lit request, when I saw Margaret Atwood's book on Chapters/Indigo online, one I'd not heard of before. I'll try to find it again... it had three in the title.

Aha! A Trio of Tolerable Tales
"Wordplay and outrageous adventures rule the day in these three humorous stories from Margaret Atwood, with illustrations by Dusan Petricic. Now published together in a chapter book for the first time! In Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes, Ramsay runs away from his revolting relatives and makes a new friend with more refined tastes. The second tale, Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda, features Bob, who was raised by dogs, and Dorinda, who does housework for relatives who don't like her. It is only when they become friends that they realize they can change their lives for the better. And finally, to get her parents back, Wenda and her woodchuck companion have to outsmart Widow Wallop in Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop's Wunderground Washery. Young readers will become lifelong fans of Margaret Atwood's work and the kind of wordplay that makes these tales such rich fare, whether they are read aloud or enjoyed independently. Reminiscent of Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, these compelling tales are a lively introduction to alliteration."

Also, I acquired The Graveyard School: An Anthology which contains 33 authors of pre-Gothic poetry, hoping to sort out influences and consequences of their work (might tackle it during poetry month). It could've indirectly inspired Gaiman, I'm not sure. Here is its summary:
"The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th-century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no critical anthology of their works. The Graveyard School: An Anthology features works by thirty-three authors and provides a broad and comprehensive examination of the phenomenon of Graveyard poetry. Included are seminal works, such as Robert Blair's "The Grave", Thomas Parnell's "A Night Piece on Death", and excerpts from Edward Young's Night Thoughts, as well as once-popular but now little-remembered poems by authors like Mark Akenside, James Beattie, and James Hervey. Of particular interest in this collection is its inclusion and discussion of authors not normally associated with the Graveyard School, such as Alexander Pope and Washington Irving, as well as a number of female poets, among them Susanna Blamire and Charlotte Smith. Edited by Prof. Jack G. Voller, who provides an introduction and extensive annotations throughout, this volume of melancholy and macabre verse is certain to be welcomed by scholars and students of 18th-century and Gothic literature, as well as those readers interested in the darker side of literature."

Sounds wonderful. I am sure there will be tie-ins with Canada, I simply have to sleuth them out!

Editat: des. 17, 2019, 11:05am

My kids don't know it yet, but they are giving me Eden Robinson (and Flannery O'Connor) for Christmas this year. Bypassed Monkey Beach for now, with Son of a Trickster (another of her Giller nom short list offerings). It's already wrapped and I will stick it under the tree when they're not looking. My eldest will be in Nova Scotia for the holidays so he has no say in the matter! Her plot appears to be very discouraging but as with Wagamese, the intensity is likely elevated by superb writing styles.

Also tucked in for good measure are books of poetry by Margaret Atwood and Jane Urquhart. Their titles/settings of a burned house and an overgrown garden seem ripe for gothic tropes.

des. 17, 2019, 11:20pm

>32 frahealee: I think I may have heard the title in passing but haven't looked at it. I'm not doing my kid's program anymore but I'm still poking around the younger end of literature. It's fun. :)

I've been more into Weird fiction than Gothic lately, and flat out horror.

Editat: juny 7, 2020, 8:00am

Canada Reads chose Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson as one of their five debate topics earlier this year, but I got the paperback for Christmas by request, so had planned to include it my gothic TBR fix regardless. It was okay. I did not enjoy it enough to read another by her immediately but I imagine I'll get to Monkey Beach eventually. I didn't watch or listen to the debates but they might help endear me to the material. The characters were fine, but the plot and setting were so heartbreaking that it was tough to keep focused. Undecided about he next Trickster book. One might be sufficient.

>33 frahealee: I enjoyed both poetry collections, Some Other Garden and Morning in the Burned House. Urquhart chose to write about Versailles, which is not something that interests me, but the imagery and brevity is hypnotic. Atwood's reached my core more. Both contained plenty of gothic elements. When I reread them again after letting the dust settle, I'll post my thoughts in the Gothic Poetry section.

Davies remains on my list. Maybe some non-fiction and plays alongside the masterful fiction?!

I like to picture Robertson Davies in a room with Farley Mowat. Both powerhouses likely unwilling to back down. Both mischievous in eye and manner. Both insanely prolific. Both devoted to the land of their birth (both Ontarians). Southwest (Chatham area) versus Eastern (Belleville). Well travelled, long richly experienced lives. There would never be an end to the discourse unless an explosion of some kind resulted. Literary fireworks, colourful and deadly! Fun stuff.