Posted in Short Stories

M. R. James: The Uncommon Prayer Book

‘…it’s a funny thing to me I don’t, with the feeling I have as there’s someone settin’ here – no, it’s the other side, just within the screen – and lookin’ at me all the time I’m dustin’ in the gallery and pews. But I never yet see nothin’ worse than myself, as the sayin’ goes, and I kindly hope I never may.’

In M. R. James’ “The Uncommon Prayer Book”, he leads the story off by having Mr. Davidson take a leisurely vacation walk in the country. He makes this walk so pleasant and peaceful and engaging that I wanted to go out and just start walking – although I’d have to drive to get to the country. It’s amazing how James takes this walk and just gradually walks Mr. Davidson to an old unused chapel and its caretaker.

In the chapel, the caretaker shows Mr. Davidson the copies of The Book of Common Prayer which she keeps covered up though everyday when she enters the empty chapel, they are uncovered and all open to the 109th Psalm – a vengeful, angry, cursing Psalm.

Mr. Davidson finds some historical significance to these specific prayer books as he stumbles into a more conventional mystery surrounding the theft of the prayer books. As Mr. Davidson and the police attempt to catch the thief, the story moves back to the supernatural as we realize the prayer books can take care of themselves.

So far its been difficult to pick a favorite of the stories in this volume but this one is up there towards the top.

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