Monday, October 10, 2016

MMRM: "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James

'Tis the season for the unearthly, the undead, and the downright macabre. Not everyone can read an entire book in time for Halloween- some of us are too busy with other books, or even other things (gasp). For those poor souls, I offer these reviews: I will be writing my thoughts on some of my favorite short stories for this spooky season, either one at a time or in pairs.

This Year's Mini Macabre Review Mondays:
#9: "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft

Both of the stories below deal with objects that are not what they seem at first glance.

"Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Great)
Content: Disturbing monstrous imagery (Ages 12+)
Page Count: 12 pages
Year Published: 1894

I was tempted to rate this one four stars, but the beginning felt a bit unnecessary, even though it has a sense foreshadowing and setting. Although to some extent, my love for classic books is mired in the fact that they can be simultaneously more detailed and somehow more concise with words, I found this little story wandered too far towards the detailed end of the spectrum.

The Plot: A tourist buys an ancient manuscript, and is forced to pay the full price.

This tale actually reminds me more of horror movies than it does any other horror story I can think of off of the top of my head. An object is infused with a curse, and whoever happens to own the object is forced to deal with it. Unfortunately, with horror movies, the story is often overlong, and although I did find find this a bit long for my tastes, some of the imagery made it worth it, as seen below:
One remark is universally made by those whom I have shown the picture: 'It was drawn from life.'
            ~"Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" by M.R. James

The takeaway from this short story is: if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don't buy cursed objects. Don't bring them home. Don't think about buying cursed objects. 

"The Mezzotint" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3 Stars (Good)
Content: Ages 9+ for general spookiness
Page Count: 18 pages
Year Published: Approximately 1904

This story is similar to "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book", but different enough to be worth a read. I didn't find myself as repelled by the beginning of "The Mezzotint" as I had the other story, but there seemed to be a more cohesive storyline, despite the extra pages. I was more engaged by the progression of this story, but by the end, I wasn't as impressed with "The Mezzotint".

The Plot: A mezzotint (think a more advanced form of an etching) is brought to an academic's attention when the picture appears to change over time.

"The Mezzotint" isn't nearly as scary as "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book", nor did I find it quite as good. The author linked these stories through a mention of the above story's protagonist at the beginning of "The Mezzotint", and I can see why, as both deal with objects that aren't as they seem. However, the two stories end much differently, and if one appeals to you, it's likely you'll find the other appealing as well.

Keep it spooky,


  1. I need to sit doiwn on Sunday and wander through all of your MMRM posts and read the stories. I will link this one on my The Sunday Post. :)

    1. Thanks! I have tagged all my Mini Macabre reviews with the label/title of the feature, so if you click on that, you shouldn't have to hop around so much (as my archive is sadly out of date).
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


Feel Free to Express Yourself:
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...