Archive for Literature

I Need to Remind Everyone that Gothic Fiction is Badass

Posted in Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

Man, I sure haven’t been keeping my promise to update once weekly, but, as anyone who has ever called themselves my significant other knows all too well, I take my own promises about as seriously as I do Insane Clown Posse– that is to say, not very seriously at all. I break my solemn word like Crash Bandicoot broke crates, or like e.e. cummings broke from conventions regarding the composition of poetry. Nevertheless, I continue to update OMGABAT sufficiently frequently that the last time I did so might be said to have been ‘a week ago’ for convenience in a colloquial context, so I’m content. Purport that I’m rationalizing my irresponsibility if you so wish, but I’m content.

In this post, I’d like to address a disconcerting tendency I’ve perceived in individuals of an age roughly equal to my own, namely a liability to believe that Gothic Fiction is ‘lame’, ‘shit’, ‘lame shit’, or of some other, similar nature that renders the genre unworthy of attention. What misguided individual originated this at once horrifying and laughable idea I cannot guess, though I suspect Chuck Palahniuk on the grounds that the besmirchment of quality literature and the advancement of its opposite is in his interest, that information is irrelevant, for this mysterious propagandist and his disciples have no evidence in which to ground their slander, whereas I am prepared to weave a virtually impregnable defense of overwrought Victorian melodramas.     

If you’re a regular reader of OMGABAT, or have happened to notice that more of my posts fall into the category titled ‘Dracula’ than do into that titled ‘Music’, you may be anticipating the mention of a certain work of Bram Stoker’s, but indeed in this you are mistaken, as the tirade into which I am about to boldly forge concerns an entirely different macabre tale of ancient, decaying edifices and dead who yet tread the earth, one which, unlike the forementioned vampire yarn, never spawned a decent movie– Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. 

I hear you scoff even as I write this, youth of today. “Have you finally forfeited every iota of reason you once possessed?” You’d ask, perhaps not so eloquently, “surely this 19th century romance cannot contend with the work of edgy Gen X scribes and their terse musings on such provocative subjects as booze, drugs, and whores?” In response to this challenge, I turn your attention to Chapter 13 of the book in question, constituted by Isabella’s letter to Nelly Dean imploring to be rescued from the tyranny of marriage to Heathcliff. An exchange between Isabella and Heathcliff’s adoptive brother Hindley, in which the latter articulates his desire to see Heathcliff killed, proceeds as follows:

‘Look here!’ he replied, pulling from his waistcoat a curiously- constructed pistol, having a double-edged spring knife attached to the barrel.

This book features a handgun with a knife on top of the barrel. This isn’t a musket or any sort of firearm for which a bayonet might be an appropriate accoutrement, it’s a pistol, secured to which is a knife that I imagine is at least as large as it is itself. A knife-gun, or a gun-knife if you prefer. Can a mortal intelligence conceive of a more badass machine?  “I know what you’re thinking, punk. Did I fire six shots, or only five? Doesn’t fucking matter, I’m going to cut your throat open!” Though her imagination was tempered by the level of technology extant during her lifetime, Bronte prefigured this: 

Moreover, while I doubt Mr. Palahniuk could hold his own in a Fight Club, Emily Bronte, having lived during a turbulent age in an area frequently beset by riots, was a fucking sharpshooter, and was more than capable, should the need arise, of knifegunning a foe into oblivion. My befuddlement as to why I can’t find a hard-boiled gunslinging poetess with whom to settle down is a diatribe for another day.

Perhaps I’ll fortify my argument with examples drawn from other staples of the Gothic genre at a later date, but, in the meanwhile, I challenge all who remain unconvinced of Wuthering Heights’ hardcore nature to produce a piece of prose which more effectively elicits from its reader the interjection ‘oh shit, you’re so fucked’ than does the inquiry posed by the young Linton as he travels to meet his father for the first time: “Is Wuthering Heights as pleasant a place as Thrushcross Grange?” The poor little shit has no idea what he’s getting himself into, they’ve got knifeguns up there.

— Gothicus Maximus