August 23rd, 2009

there!, Hello

"But all these were But figyres and shadowes Of things to come"

61) Come Fygures Come Shadowes by Richard Matheson (Gauntlet Press, 2003, 144 pages)

A curious remnant of an ambitious novel project undertaken when Matheson (author of I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man, and plenty more) was still a young author. Alas, the project was deemed too long for publication, so all that remains is this opening section, which is a mostly complete novel in its own right.

The book deals with a dysfunctional family of spiritualists during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Claire is the daughter with great talent, and though her mother (whose talent is on the wane) is grooming her to become a Great Spiritualist, Claire is absolutely terrified of the spirit world. Of what it does to her, how it feels, and just about everything associated. Her younger sister Vera is driven by jealousy, and her brother Ranald is pretty much untouched by the spirits. Mother and Father are separated. Essentially, we get part of Claire's coming of age, and though her ultimate fate remains unresolved, by novel's end there is little doubt that her destiny is a dark one.

Matheson writes well and here we find bits that will return in his later works like Hell House, A Stir of Echoes and other horror tales. His apparent affinity with lore of the paranormal is echoed in his literary descendants as well. It's intriguing to see Stephen King's Carrie and divers psychic characters as inspired by Matheson's work . . . But that is neither here nor there.

The book is at once intriguing and frustrating (there was obviously a wealth of additional material that remains untapped, though the contents are hinted at in the author's apologetic afterward), but I'm glad to have found a copy in the SA Public Library system.