Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Man in the Picture

Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, c2008.

This is a tiny book, really a novella or perhaps a long short story! It's a delightful, old-fashioned British ghost story; very predictable but still full of mysterious menace and odd, apparently inexplicable occurrences. Oliver is our primary narrator, who is visiting one of his old university dons -- and is told a strange story, one featuring a painting bought at auction years before. It is a painting of a Venetian revel, but there are strange figures in it who seem to be gazing out at the room, appearing to plead for assistance or to glare out with malign intent. Before this tale can be concluded, a strange accident befalls the professor and Oliver inherits the picture as a wedding gift.

The final section of the story is told by Oliver's new wife, and her distance from the original tale-teller gives her words a shading of verisimilitude necessary for the conclusion. You may guess the conclusion early on -- as I said, this story does not set out to challenge the conventions of a ghost story. But it remains a good read, eerie rather than terrifying. Recommended for the Anglophile traditionalist! Take a look at the trailer for a good sense of the book's atmosphere:


  1. Thanks for the trailer. You have introduced me to yet another of the technological innovations of the 21st century. I knew movies had trailers, and trucks had trailers, but until know I truly did not know books had trailers. This is a neat way to get the "feel" of a book visually. Are these common, or is this one of the few?

    Enjoy your site.

  2. muley - I think this is a fairly new development in the bookish world. I know that HarperCollins has been a real leader in this area (as in many online ventures, thanks here in Canada to their fabulous digital marketing manager, Deanna McFadden) There's an interesting article about this phenomenon over on CBC.ca, and I think you can find a lot of examples on YouTube. Have fun.

  3. Fun! I can't wait to read it now. I'm reviewing a book for Bibliobuffet this coming week that actually has a trailer. It's one of the few I've seen, but it's a great way to draw in potential readers.


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