Cardiff BookTalk is delighted to invite you to our first event of the 2020–21 semester, on Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Following the dreadful and sensational poisoning that killed the rest of the Blackwood family, Merricat lives with her beloved sister … Continue reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Due to the current circumstances regarding COVID-19, Cardiff BookTalk is planning to run as an online series of events for the 2020-21 academic year. We hope this will allow us to maintain social distancing and still provide the book group with a difference: discussing expert … Continue reading BookTalk 2020-21: Octavia Butler, Jane Austen and Shirley Jackson
“The link between this book and another subversive fairy tale, Orwell’s Animal Farm, might not be apparent, but in fact Orwell’s is simply a politicized treatment of the theme Jackson confronts on a social level: ignorance is bliss. But it’s rarely accidental. In an ironic … Continue reading “My Mother’s Grave Is Yellow.”
Radio 4 interviewed Shirley Jackson’s son, Laurence Jackson Hyman, for Haunted Women, an exploration of how women have used the form the ghost story as a lens to portray their experiences. Hyman reads from the opening chapter of The Haunting of Hill House and discusses … Continue reading Shirley Jackson featured on Radio 4’s Haunted Women
BookTalk 2020-21 – updated schedule We’re very excited to be able to share further details of our 2020-21 programme. We will be hosting readings with audience Q&A with Richard Gwyn talking about his novel The Blue Tent (3 February 2021), to be followed by Tyler … Continue reading BookTalk 2020-21 – More names and dates added
‘Virginia Woolf believed that the creative mind is androgynous. She was an expert in Elizabethan literature. She loved both the scope and the certainty of the Renaissance mind. Shakespeare, writing his sonnets to boys and women with equal passion, understanding the manliness of a soldier, … Continue reading ‘Nothing to be avoided, everything to be claimed.’
Join us tonight where after the discussion we will be presenting a special screening of Sally Potter’s sumptuous 1992 adaptation of Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane and Quentin Crisp. Please join us and our co-hosts, Cardiff University’s Assuming Gender, in the John Percival Building … Continue reading ‘Do not fade. Do not wither. Do not grow old.’
‘Orlando smashed up literary categories. Woolf called it a biography – in fact it is a novel. This was a direct hit at her dead father, Sir Leslie Stephen, the Victorian patriarch who had been the editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, a dead … Continue reading ‘Different sex. Same person’ – Jeanette Winterson on Orlando
Talks and discussion of Woolf’s Orlando, followed by a screening of Sally Potter’s 1992 Orlando film starring Tilda Swinton. About this Event Cardiff BookTalk is pleased to invite you to a special big event on Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’ (1928). Inspired by Woolf’s friend and … Continue reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf
A Rookie’s Experience of Vampire Fiction:
Going into a book knowing that it arguably canonised vampire fiction (or Gothic horror) – written in 1872 (thus 26 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula) – makes for an intimidating first impression. Yet, at no point did I feel overwhelmed by Irish author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. I relaxed into an easy-going reading of the vampire novella, as if finally tasting chocolate after only ever having chocolate-flavoured things.
That said, it’s time for a confession: my regard for vampire fiction until quite recently was The Twilight Saga, The Vampire Diaries, and a cartoon adaptation of Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler. So, what I’m saying is: I knew very little about it. I have always understood that part of the package with genre-fiction and thus vampire fiction are tropes, but until reading Carmilla, I didn’t realise that tropes can be employed delicately and masterfully (not to mention the fact that Carmilla practically invented a lot of them).
Now, I’ll move on to a short review of the book, separating it from a discussion of genre tropes because I believe this is absolutely critical to being a broad-reader. In the same way no romance novelist dreams of having his/her book shoved to the back of a pastel-coloured corner of Waterstone’s where women are forced to justify their preferences with the phrases “guilty pleasure”, “chick lit” or “holiday read” (in a way no man is ever forced to describe his preference for spy-novels, but I will save that rant for another time), no “vampire” book deserves to be considered only through the lens of “vampire lit.”
Le Fanu’s Carmilla is mysterious and energetic, two vital elements of a novella. Carmilla is narrated by a young girl we come to know as Laura. From the beginning, we learn that she has a story to tell, one that she hardly understands herself: “I am now going to tell you something so strange that it will require all your faith in my veracity to believe my story. It is not only true, nevertheless, but truth of which I have been an eyewitness.” Laura’s story is, in fact, a thing of mystery: a strange guest comes to stay with the girl and her father in their rural schloss (German for château, palace or manor house). The girl’s name is Carmilla. She’s beautiful, electric, intense. But, she refuses to reveal where she’s from or even her last name. The longer the guest stays with the family, the weaker Laura becomes. She begins to have (what she thinks are) vivid nightmares of Carmilla in her room, covered in blood. Even in the day, Carmilla seems to prey on Laura like a wanton lover. All the while, girls in neighboring villages begin to turn weak and die of a mysterous disease. Only after a family friend – the General – reveals a similar tale do Laura and her father learn that they’ve been housing a vampire. In the end, the father, the General, and the daughter must figure out how to rid the villages of the fiend.
Carmilla. Mircalla. Millarca. Countess of the Undead. Whatever name she may choose to go by, it’s for certain that she’s a vampire with a predilection for preying on her own gender, her words in their ears revealing her strange, unsettling nature: “You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish; the more ardent the more selfish. How jealous I am you cannot know. You must come with me, loving me, to death; or else hate me, and still come with me, and hating me through death and after. There is no such word as indifference in my apathetic nature.”
Despite its age, Carmilla is still a fascinating read. It’s vibrant, well-paced, and the perfect combination of mystery and horror.