Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions

"Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions (1911, 23 pages)

One of the wonderful benefits of having a book blog is learning about new to you authors from the great people who leave comments on our posts.   Fred of Fred's Place suggested I try one of the paranormal stories of  Oliver Onion (1973 to 1961-UK). Fred's blog has been a very consistent source of inspiration for me for a long time.   I have been having a lot of fun reading paranormal stories for Carl V's R I P reading challenge (Sept 1 to Oct 31-the simple rules for this fun event are on Carl's blog).   I read the  most famous story by Onions, "Beckoning Fair One" this morning and Fred was spot on as usual in his recommendation.   (There is a good article on Onions here.)

"Beckoning Fair One" can be read either as a haunted house story or the story of an author, very isolated from people with only one friend, working on a book he has been at for many years and now descending into madness.

The author in the story fears he has lost the ability to produce quality writing and he knows it.   He has only one friend, a lady.   It seems he has had a relationship, perhaps a romantic one, with her for a long time.   She seems to always come to him.   He decided maybe if he moves he will be jolted out of his creative doldrums.  He finds a place in a bad part of town, this does not matter to him and I am not sure he even knows it.   He speaks to someone about the property and tells him he wants to rent one of the floors.   He is referred to an attorney to close the matter. The attorney offers to sell him the whole house on very favorable terms so the man agrees to it and moves in.

The man, of course, begins to hear sounds others do not and begins to feel the presence of a perhaps malevolent but very feminine spirit.   His lady friend is given "the creeps" by the house and begins to tell him she will not keep coming there forever.   The mental state of the man begins to badly degenerate.  He ends up in a near coma like state, but not before something very terrible happens.  I will leave the rest of the plot unspoiled.

This story can be read as an examination of a mental breakdown brought on by creative exhaustion and isolation or it can be taken literally as a haunted house story.  The part of this story I think I liked best was a passing reference which suggests the author will one day be a haunting ghost himself.   This was a very subtly done story and I enjoyed read it a lot.

Here is a small sample of the prose of Onions:

" Formerly, Oleron had smiled at the fantastic thought that, by a merging and interplay of identities between himself and his beautiful room, he might be preparing a ghost for the future; it had not occurred to him that there might have been a similar merging and coalescence in the past. Yet with this staggering impossibility he was now face to face. Something did persist in the house; it had a tenant other than himself; and that tenant, whatsoever or whosoever, had appalled Oleron's soul by producing the sound of a woman brushing her hair."

Thanks again Fred.

You can read the story HERE.    It seems to be considered the master work of Onions, who did publish over forty novels and short story collections.

I am greatly appreciate and respect any reading suggestions from readers for additional older paranormal short stories that can be read online.

Mel u


CHE said...

I'd never heard of Oliver Onions before this but the story sounds exciting. I'm off to read it.

Fred said...

Mel u,

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Another excellent one by him is "Benlian," which is sort of a combination of "The Beckoning Fair One" and Pygmalion.

And, thank you for your kind words about my blog. What you said about mine is equally true of yours.

Mel u said...

Che-I hope you enjoy the story

Fred-thanks again