Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Sinister Spider

I'm not holding up a placard, it is
actually a menu!
We have just had an absolutely scorching Gold Coast day, funny how the weather improves now the holidays are over!  Mind you it was our Australia Day public holiday today so I shouldn't complain.  It was quite nice seeing cars with their Australian flags fluttering, the supermarket had flags flying throughout and the Casino (where we went for lunch) was also in the spirit of things. I actually think the Aussie Spirit has increased ten-fold since the floods, there is a real feeling of mateship in the air.

It's great to be reading in earnest again, routine is a wonderful thing!  I've read a fair bit just in the past few days since going back to work; I picked up 'old faithful' (Stephen King) and started the final story A Good Marriage from Full Dark No Stars.  This story explores a question I have often pondered - how do the families of serial killers feel when they know the truth - how long have they known the truth, and how did they not pick up on the truth?

The protagonist of this story says that she has 'a good marriage'.  She has a loving husband, they have been together a long time, he is a scout leader, a coin collector and they have two great children together. But, everything changes one day when she goes into the garage to find some batteries for the TV remote control whilst her husband is away from  home for a few days.  She inadvertently finds a secret hiding place and in there a drivers licence, library card and a red cross card belong to a woman whose name she recognises.  On Googling this name, it transpires that she had been the latest victim of a serial killer dubbed 'Beadie'.  She is horrified and sickened to say the least, but how is she going to deal with this knowledge?!

I've also read a nice sinister short horror story by Hanns Heinz Ewers called The Spider.  At the beginning the premise reminded me a little of the Roman Polanski movie The Tenant.  Basically there is a room in a hotel where the past three occupants have hung themselves with the curtain cord. Bizarrely their legs are dragging on the ground which would have made it very difficult to keep strangling themselves.

A  young poor medical student is convinced that he can solve the mystery and with the aid of the local police commissioner he is able to stay in the room, complete with meals, free of charge; along with a hotline to the police station.  The story is then told in diary format written by the medical student.  We learn that there is a woman who lives across the road in a room directly opposite the hotel.  She dresses the same every day, in a black dress with purple spots, and sits spinning a very fine thread.

The student plays games with 'Clarimonde' (which he has named her) by using various movements in the window which she copies.  Hysteria sets in when he decides to use a set of movements in quick succession to see how fast she can copy him.  When he finishes the game he realises that he didn't use any of the sets he had planned.  He wasn't playing with Clarimonde, SHE was playing with him.  At one point she picks up a telephone and cuts the cord, and despite fighting the urge to do the same the student finally succumbs and breaks his link with safety.  It has quite a nasty little ending and was very eerie.  I liked it.

I'm about half way through Around The World in Eighty Days.  Isn't memory a funny thing?  I was sure that I had seen the  movie and that they did the whole thing in a hot air balloon.  Well, it's not like that at all, so far it's been by steamer, train, elephant etc with the odd adventure thrown in along the way.  There is also a subplot whereby Phileas Fogg bears an uncanny resemblance to the description of a bank robber who has stolen 55, 000 pounds from the Bank of England.  This results in Fogg being tracked across the globe by an assidous Inspector Fix who has a warrant for his arrest.  It's quite amazing to learn that Verne never travelled, and this book was the result of careful research.  It's very light hearted with the comic relief being in the form of Fogg's French manservant Passepartout.  I like it.

I've also started Melmoth The Wander but it's a little hard going :)  Basically the family of Melmoth have a dark history and the latest descendant who has inherited the family estate from his recently deceased uncle learns of it via a manuscript which has been hidden away with a painting of one of his ancestors.  The servants claim that the man depicted in the 17th Century painting is still alive and has not aged.  This is interesting when you consider Oscar Wilde is Maturin's great nephew and he wrote a story about a painting and ageing (The Picture of Dorian Gray).

So now the sun is beginning to set and the temperature is slowly dropping by degrees, I might curl up with Stephen King for another hour with a cuppa.

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