Sunday, October 12, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #14, Carmilla

  • Title: Carmilla
  • Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873)
  • Cover illustrator: Not credited
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: First printing, May 1971
  • Excerpt:
    "Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardor of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, 'You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one forever.'"
  • Notes: This edition of Carmilla didn't make it to #14 because of the quality of the cover. It's a fairly pedestrian and boring design. And the yellow sale sticker doesn't help matters, aesthetically speaking. ... No. I'm featuring this book today (1) to kick off a stretch of four straight supernatural-themed titles and (2) because, frankly, I am (happily) stunned that there was a Scholastic Book Services edition of this influential horror novella. (Well, it was the early 1970s.) It wasn't edited or rewritten in modern language geared toward a school-aged audience. Le Fanu's story, which heavily influenced Bram Stoker's Dracula, is about a female vampire named Carmilla who preys on a young woman. And while it was written in the 19th century, Le Fanu was fairly overt with his overtones of sexuality and lesbianism. The above excerpt is straight from this Scholastic edition. And, in fact, that passage is used in Wikipedia's entry on lesbian vampires, a whole book and movie subgenre that Le Fanu is essentially responsible for. (Though if he hadn't invented it, I'm sure someone else would have.) ... I wrote about Best Ghost Stories of J.S. Le Fanu back in March, and the cover of that book features an original illustration from Carmilla. ... Stay tuned for some witchy women in the next three days.

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