Today is July 31—both Harry Potter’s and J. K. Rowling’s birthday! The Harry Potter series truly sparked my love of reading as a child, and has continued to be important to me as I grow older. In fact, I’ve recently been getting more involved in the fandom and just started a reread of the series. Reading the books again as an adult, I find that I get something new out of them every time. This time, I started looking at them through the Gothic lens. While I would by no means suggest that “gothic” is the primary genre of the Harry Potter series, I did find a surprising amount of overlap and borrowed elements:
Miss Ella Rosenfeld has been committed to Auttenberg Asylum for her hallucinations of ghostly apparitions. But even more frightening than the idea of going mad is the possibility that the ghosts are real, and they are warning Ella about the fate that awaits her in the asylum. Ella’s first frightening night at Attenberg sets the scene for the rest of Ghost Machine: A Gothic Steampunk Novel by Kristen Brand. When the author first contacted me to request a review, I knew from the subtitle that this book would be right up my alley. Ghost Machine flawlessly blends various elements of both steampunk and the gothic in everything from the setting to the style and characters. With two genres that are both known for their melodrama and tendency to go over the top, Kristen Brand does a remarkable job of staying grounded and keeping the all too common campiness to a minimum. Ghost Machine is a gem among the many self-published ebooks of Amazon, and I am grateful to the author for bringing this one to my attention! Continue reading Review of Ghost Machine: A Gothic Steampunk Novel
What could tempt you to reenter a cursed house, where all that you loved had already been taken from you once before? For Clara, only the dismal prospects of being an unmarried Victorian woman without hope of employment could drive her back to Gravesend. This predicament opens the story of With This Curse by Amanda DeWees, a traditional-style Gothic novel which won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award. Amanda’s books were first recommended to me by an author I’ve talked about at length in many posts here, Leanna Renee Hieber. I knew I could trust such glowing praise from one of my favorite authors, and when With This Curse arrived in the mail and I saw its gorgeous and elegant cover, I was even more excited to read it. It took several months to make its way up my to-read list, but when I finally cracked the spine, I was not disappointed. Continue reading With This Curse Review–An Excellent Victorian Gothic
Just over a month ago, I discovered the lovely supplier of vintage and gothic finery, Wormwood & Gall, at a book launch of all places. You may recall from my review of Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber that I had planned on attending a launch event for the book at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in April. The event turned out to be even more amazing than I’d hoped for! The setting was well-chosen, with the house providing the perfect historic and haunted backdrop for Leanna’s reading. To top it all off, Wormwood & Gall contributed some delicious complementary absinthe and showcased their clothing line inspired by Leanna’s novel. Continue reading Gothic Lit Clothing Lines: An Interview with Wormwood & Gall
This coming Sunday, May 22, is World Goth Day. Yes, you read that right—there’s a whole international holiday all about goths! World Goth Day was created to celebrate the gothic subculture and promote visibility and acceptance of goths—a group who are often feared, maligned, and misunderstood by the general public. The event originated in the UK in 2009, but quickly grew into an international affair. On Sunday, groups all around the world will host local goth events under the World Goth Day banner. You can look around online for events near you, start your own, or just take the day to indulge your inner goth in solitude or with friends. Here at The Gothic Library, I’m celebrating World Goth Day by sharing some of my thoughts on what the subculture means to me and how I got into it.
I know on this blog I tend to mostly talk about Gothic (with a capital G) literature, or gothic works of derivative genres, but not so much about goths, themselves. However, I feel that all of these are intimately related. To me, goth is a mindset. It’s a philosophy and a way of looking at the world that involves seeing beauty in darkness and being fascinated by the taboo (especially the taboo of death). This dark and morbid mindset has existed throughout history, but was especially indulged and brought into the limelight by the Gothic writers of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Separate from, but related to, the gothic mindset is the gothic subculture. The gothic subculture is a music and fashion scene that arose out of punk in the late ’70s and ’80s. The defining feature of a subculture is that it is a community. You can have a gothic mindset all by yourself, but you’re not part of the gothic subculture until you engage with other goths in some way—whether that’s by consuming gothic media, wearing gothic clothing, going to goth clubs, or just sharing your spooky interests with some dark-minded friends. Though goth, in this sense, is expressed largely through music and fashion, even these elements have been heavily influenced by cinema and literature, including by the Gothic novels from which this subculture takes its name.
In my experience, one generally recognizes one’s own gothic mindset first, then discovers the gothic subculture when looking to find others with similar interests. For me, it started (as it always does) with books. I’d been reading horror and mystery for as long as I could read chapter books, but my life-changing moment came when I picked my first vampire romance novel up off the shelf in fifth grade. From that moment on, I was captivated by these creatures of the night and propelled along a path that led to me reading both Anne Rice and Stoker before graduating middle school. It was around the same time that I also began taking on a darker aesthetic (though I’m not sure the two are related). It took me a while to come around to the label of “goth,” but I’ve come to embrace it with open arms. So if you see me next Sunday, I’ll be flying my goth flag high!
What are you doing to celebrate World Goth day? Know of any good gothic events going on in New York City (I’ve actually been having trouble finding some)? What aspects of goth are you celebrating this week? Let me know in the comments!
St. Patrick’s Day is this week, and that means it’s time to celebrate all things Irish—like me! But your favorite gothic librarian aside, there are actually a whole bunch of Irish writers who have contributed significantly to the gothic genre. In fact, without Irish writers, we wouldn’t have Dracula, Carmilla, or Lestat. So you can thank the Irish for pretty much the entire vampire genre. Read on to find out more about how the Irish have impacted gothic literature!
Women have been pivotal influencers of the gothic genre from the very beginning. At a time when women’s opinions were largely dismissed and many doors were barred to them in other literary pursuits, writing Gothic novels was one of the few ways in which women could become prolific and popular writers. One reason for this was that the original Gothic genre was closely associated with women, as women made up the majority of its readers. Gothic novels were often regarded much like “chick lit” is today—as sentimental fluff good for entertaining women’s simple minds but completely lacking in literary value. Despite being devalued by critics (and by the members of the general public not yet under the genre’s sway), the works of these female authors have had a profound influence on our perception of the gothic today. Let’s take a moment to celebrate some of these awesome queens of terror! Continue reading Five Foundational Female Writers of Gothic Lit
Summer is winding down, but you’ve still got time to squeeze in a few more summer reads! The only question is what to choose. If you don’t already have a stack of TBRs piled next to your bed like I do, finding your next book can be a daunting task. But not to worry, that’s what librarians are for! As your virtual Gothic Librarian, I’ve compiled some tips for helping you find your next dark and decadent read: Continue reading Picking Your Next Gothic Read
One of the many stereotypes of the gothic subculture involves reading poetry and brooding in a corner. While the brooding isn’t entirely necessary, poetry is a great way to indulge in your daily dose of darkness. Here are just a few of my absolute favorite gothic poems:
1) “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
The works of Edgar Allan Poe were some of my first gateways into the realm of gothic literature. Poe is regarded as a leading patriarch in the American gothic tradition. He helped to popularize the genres of both horror and mystery with his numerous short stories. But for me, the true gothic beauty of Poe resides chiefly in his poetry. Now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with “The Raven,” so I figured I’d introduce you to one of my other favorite poems of his. “Annabel Lee” is a hauntingly beautiful poem about two of Poe’s favorite things: a beautiful woman and death. In fact, many of Poe’s poems and stories involve the death of a beautiful woman, perhaps influenced by the early death of his young wife, Virginia. “Annabel Lee” tells the story of a man and woman who were so in love that the angels in heaven grew jealous and took the woman away. The poem has an ethereal cadence that works beautifully put to music, as in this electro dance cover by one of my favorite musicians, Psyche Corporation:
You can also read it for yourself here.