Monday, 18 June 2012

Christopher Comes Back

Actually William Dean Howells, another favourite author of mine
Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, May 1929
Collected in More Spook Stories (1934)
4,385 words
(First read 18/06/2012) 

This spook story has the same basic premise as the novel Alan (1924): the young and youthful wife of an elderly writer is rotting her life away serving as his amanuensis.  The writer (Christopher) in fact:
was not yet fifty [but] appeared an old man; his mouth had a senile droop, his eyes an unfocused watery vagueness, his hands were creased with wrinkled skin.  Fresh from her April thoughts, Nellie suddenly shuddered with a qualm of horror and repulsion at the sight of him ...
Having finished his magnum opus, Christopher promptly falls seriously ill and, rather than face a lifetime of dreary nursing, Nellie helps him on his way to the other side ... where, obviously, he doesn't want to go: he determinedly comes back to wreck his widow's life in toto.  Her lover (Chris' ex-doctor) dumps her, so she tops herself, 'ironically' by exactly the same method she used to bump off her better half.  The End.
A very daft story.  The message ~ if we can call it that ~ is: "Even wives who deserve to be free don't deserve to be free."  It can be read online here.

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