WHEN RECENTLY interviewed by Fangoria magazine about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of his novel The Shining, Stephen King recalled an early conversation wherein the late filmmaker had posited that all ghost stories were at their heart optimistic tales. After all, undead apparitions suggest a life beyond the grave we so fear. “What about Hell?” King asked, playing Devil’s Advocate, to which Kubrick responded icily, “I don’t believe in Hell.”
Many, including myself, find King’s criticism that Kubrick’s final cut wasn’t terrifying enough dead wrong. (Although whether the film was faithful enough to King’s story is entirely open to debate.) But King’s point is well taken: If ghost stories are optimistic expressions about our ability to transcend flesh and blood, then why do they have the power to instill such dread?
Such is the enigma the late Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind (1953) and the man widely regarded as the father of modern conservatism, attempted to explore with a series of gothic-yet-morally-sound horror tales. These short yarns, published steadily from the early 1950s until Kirk’s death in 1994, have now been conveniently collected in Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales.
Kirk has undeniable skill as a writer, and his tales showcase trace elements of gothic works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and even, in a stylistic if not thematic sense, H.P. Lovecraft. Kirk’s crafting of character and scene can be quite enjoyable reading, and his ability to interject philosophical ideas about the nature of the afterlife into his stories is delightful food for thought. For example, in “Saviourgate” the great beyond is described as a place where spirits can pass the time until Judgment Day reliving and properly savoring the best moments of their former lives.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?