Sunday, April 13, 2014


MRS. GOD by Peter Straub has been waiting for me for a long time. I bought HOUSES WITHOUT DOORS in the original Dutton hardcover when it came out in 1990, and was already aware of MRS. GOD anyway because it had previously been published in a limited edition by Donald M. Grant. But I don't ever like to read collections of short fiction all the way through in a gulp, and at some point I set aside HOUSES WITHOUT DOORS leaving MRS. GOD (the final tale) for a rainy day. That day finally came 24 years later, and I've thoroughly enjoyed myself. Some stories are best left for when we are older and better able to appreciate them. I'm not sure I would have praised MRS. GOD so highly if I'd read it when I was 23. Now, at 47, it hit me just right. By coincidence, I have recently been catching up as well with my Robert Aickman (who inspired MRS. GOD, according to Straub) and also with E. F. Benson's strange stories -- both of which I see strongly reflected/warped in the mirror here. Apparently, the Grant edition of MRS. GOD is longer and is rumoured by some to be the far superior incarnation. Perhaps I would like it even better, but I don't own the Grant edition, so unless I track down a copy I'm unlikely ever to find out. At any rate, I enjoyed the present version immensely. As a strange story it succeeds wickedly well. Echoes, as I've said, of Aickman and E. F. Benson, but also echoes of the oddness of Ramsey Campbell, and of course successful allusions to THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson and THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James. (Readers on Amazon or Goodreads who have rated this only one or two stars must be out of their minds.)