Posted in Short Stories

M. R. James: An Evening’s Entertainment

‘What I was going to say was that the people in other places round about believed that some sort of meetings went on at night-time on that hill where the man is, and that those who went there were up to no good. But don’t you interrupt me now, for it’s getting late.’

These stories are so good! M. R. James’ “An Evening’s Entertainment” combines scary story-telling in a hilarious situation.

A grandmother promises to make blackberry jam for her two young grandchildren. Her grandson tells her exactly where he saw berries to pick. Alarmed, the grandmother tells him never to go to that specific place. She then proceeds to tell the children the scariest, goriest story one could imagine. It’s a story that was handed down to her from her father.

As I’m reading the grandmother’s retelling, I don’t know whether to cringe in fright or laugh out loud. I kind of did both because what grandmother in her right mind would tell this kind of story to her grandchildren. And then there’s the story’s title, again: difficult to tell whether the kids were entertained listening or the grandmother was entertained telling. At least based on this story, one can’t say that horror stories (movies, TV shows, etc.) have somehow gotten scarier and gorier in recent decades.

Then to cap it all off, the granddaughter asks for a light in her room when she’s told to go to bed after the story. The grandmother’s response is “A light in your room? The idea of such a thing!”

So enjoyable!

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