1968 - NIGHTSHADE & DAMNATIONS by Gerald Kersh

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

Moderators: Moderator, Jan, Duane

User avatar
Jan
Posts: 1817
Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:25 pm
Location: Köln

1968 - NIGHTSHADE & DAMNATIONS by Gerald Kersh

Postby Jan » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:39 am

Image

NIGHTSHADE & DAMNATIONS


Stories by Gerald Kersh

Image

Edited by Harlan Ellison

"I've selected what I consider to be the very finest, most memorable pieces Kersh's endlessly inventive mind has let escape."
"He is the real successor of Kipling; not a successor by imitation, but a successor by temperament." -- Frank O'Connor
"Gerald Kersh is my favorite writer. I have long aspired to write at something like his level of excellence and originality."
-- Harlan Ellison in 1997

Editions: Gold Medal R1887 (US) January 1968, pbk | Coronet 0839 (UK) March 1969, pbk

Gerald Kersh was a British writer, born in 1911. | This book reviewed by Stephen Studach with biographical information | The Nights And Cities Of Gerald Kersh on Webderland including a biography by Paul Duncan | New introduction to NIGHT AND THE CITY by John King | Return of the East End novel - Guardian article about NIGHT AND THE CITY | Review of NIGHT AND THE CITY by Stuart Blackwood | Article on JEWS WITHOUT JEHOVAH, a rare book, at BOOKRIDE.

Feel free to post opinions about stories from all of Kersh's books as well as his novels.
Last edited by Jan on Sat Dec 20, 2008 11:54 am, edited 9 times in total.

User avatar
Jan
Posts: 1817
Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:25 pm
Location: Köln

Postby Jan » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:23 am

THE QUEEN OF PIG ISLAND (1957) - The story of human remains that were found on an island. Four members of a circus freak show, led by a limbless woman named Lalouette, were the only survivors of a shipwreck.

The backbone of this story is the need of the four survivors to establish a new life on a small island populated by boars. Given Lalouette's intelligence and Gargantua's stupid strength as well as several items they have at their disposal, their chances aren't bad. Yet we are told from the beginning that they didn't make it, and it soon becomes obvious what must lead to the catastrophe - human nature. You see, Lalouette, despite her defects, is a pretty woman and, since she's the brains of the group, she's also the queen, in a way, of Pig Island. It is bad luck that the other three are all men - none of them can permit another to have her. No equal distribution of what really matters to them is possible. There's a point to the story, but it's also touching and alarming. (And no, this is not a story featuring tears, screams, and fistfights.)

Kersh's prose is splendid, and so are the characterizations of just about everyone who appears, beginning with that explorer, Captain Oxford, who thinks he's made a big discovery. There is a dialogue section of Lalouette basically giving orders which is funny and sad and true and many other things, like the whole story. One smiles and is sad at the same time. "Pig Island" is about as good as a simple yarn can get. :| :| :| :oops:

Image

Read online at http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/classic ... rsh21.html
Last edited by Jan on Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

Richard Keeney
Posts: 174
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 9:22 pm

Postby Richard Keeney » Sat Nov 15, 2008 10:30 pm

Thanks for posting this, Jan.

I'd like to point out THE WORLD, THE FLESH, & THE DEVIL 2006 Ash-Tree Press; a splendid addition to your library that contains my most cherished Kersh story, "Crooked Bone." It's the first story I read by him, and one that justifies every positive comment you've ever heard about this underappreciated, masterly writer.

peace,
Rick

User avatar
Jan
Posts: 1817
Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:25 pm
Location: Köln

Postby Jan » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:44 am

THE BRIGHTON MONSTER (1948) - In the mid-18th century, fishermen discover a human creature in the sea off the coast of Brighton. A Reverend purchases the man and writes a pamphlet about him that the narrator finds.

Like in "Queen of Pig Island", written later, Kersh presents us a number of unbelievable facts and then slowly reveals how it can all be possible, specifically which people and events were behind results that we can't make much sense of. Like, how can a man live in the sea? Why is he sick? The questions were too difficult for the Brighton people to answer with what little they knew, but a 20th century writer, who turns out to be Kersh himself, is able to draw the interesting conclusions with some help.

The story is engaging and well told but lacks the fascinating characters of the opening story. This is about regular people and one very unusual man whose point of view is not revealed until late, for storytelling reasons. Everybody mostly does the expected and I'm at a loss to find anything standing out except a few passages about wrestlers and the art of fighting. This aside is understandable since Kersh had wrestled for a brief period. The best writing is on the first pages. "I shall not waste your time or strain your patience with Reverend Arthur Titty's turgid, high-falutin' prose or his references to De rerum--this that and the other."

Image
Chain Pier, Brighton (John Constable)

The solution to the mystery is not convincing but, once more, acceptable on the level of a yarn. If one can accept the science as well as the man's behavior in the story, it works well. Some stories gain from good explanations, but here, when Kersh shows all his cards, they're neither bad nor spectacular. Sort of like the whole story which did become the title story of one of his collections. The anti-war comment included in the ending is very slight, and I mention it only because it seems to have impressed Harlan, according to the introduction. I see this as an entertainment without an edge, and as old-fashioned to a degree that makes earlier writers look modern. :| :|

User avatar
Jan
Posts: 1817
Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:25 pm
Location: Köln

Postby Jan » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:53 am

MEN WITHOUT BONES (1954) - Somewhere in Latin America desperate, sick man reaches a port and tries to get a passage on a ship. He is the only surviving member of an expedition deep into the jungle and eager to pass on what he saw.

This is another story of strange discoveries explained. Kersh sets up a major surprise for the ending while making sure you keep turning those pages. It's well done as entertainment. Unfortunately, none of it holds up to a second's scrutiny, and it feels a bit too old-fashioned even for 1954. :| :|

THE APE AND THE MYSTERY (1948) - A conversation between an Italian duke and Leonardo da Vinci in the inventor's workshop that touches on the mystery of Mona Lisa's smile.

An interesting dialogue piece that brings to life Leonardo da Vinci as an inventive genius and a human being. The best thing in it actually happens on the first few pages in which da Vinci describes a water purifier to the duke, whose community suffers from drinking polluted water. Kersh also offers some fictionalized insight into the circumstances behind the Mona Lisa painting with a speculative twist. More importantly, Kersh seems to tell us that mysteries can have a simple and obvious explanation. :| :|

NOTE ON DANGER B (1947) - from The Brighton Monster - After the war, Doctor Sant and Major Mayo conducts experiments with high speed planes. Kersh reprints Sant's suppressed report about a major finding.

Both these stories reveal Kersh's interest in science and technology. This latter one, which I found more enjoyable, deals with possible peacetime benefits of technological advances made during the war. Kersh handles his far-out idea with a sense of reality, although he must have known this scientific fantasy would be out of date a few years after its release. :| :| :oops:

Tony Rabig
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed May 28, 2003 4:44 pm
Location: Parsons, KS

Kersh online

Postby Tony Rabig » Wed Apr 08, 2009 8:54 pm

If you'd like a nice sample of Kersh, check out the earlier short story collection MEN WITHOUT BONES at

http://www.munseys.com/detail/mode/author/kersh

It's available for free download in various formats. Includes:
Men without Bones, The Shady Life of Annibal, The Ape and the Mystery, the Oxoxoco Bottle, Thicker Than Water, The Madwoman, The Terrible Ride of Colonel Tessier, The Dancing Doll, The Hack, Ladies or Clothes, In a Room without Walls, Clock without Hands, and The Epistle of Simple Simon.

Also available at Munsey's is Kersh's novel THE SECRET MASTERS.

At http://www.booksonboard.com you should still be able to buy an ebook of NIGHT AND THE CITY, and once they get a few issues straightened out with a supplier's servers an ebook of FOWLERS END as well.

If you can score a copy of the book Jan's been discussing, NIGHTSHADES AND DAMNATIONS, you'll find one of Kersh's finest included: Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo? It is by itself worth the price of admission, not only to this collection, but to the pricier THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL. Believe it was also included in the Fred Pohl anthology STAR OF STARS, which if memory serves was where I first encountered Kersh, when I was in high school. I think Kersh stories used to show up fairly regularly in Judith Merril's Year's Best SF anthologies and in some of the Alfred Hitchcock collections. Well worth tracking down.

Bests,

--tr


Return to “Literary Symposium”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest