Monday, March 23, 2009
The Castle of Otranto
According to Wikipedia, this book "is generally regarded as the first Gothic novel, and it was indeed the first novel to describe itself by that term. Castle is thus generally credited with initiating the Gothic literary genre, one that would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century."
At the time of it's original publication, this book would have come across as very mysterious and foreboding. It includes mysterious deaths, the reappearance of long-lost relatives, visions, superstitions, unrequited love, and lots more. Add that to the old-fashioned language and you end up with a story that would come across as a parody of Gothic lit if you didn't know that this was the tale that started it all.
I really enjoyed reading this brief story, but to be honest ... it made me laugh. I know it wasn't supposed to be funny but it was SO over-the-top that I just couldn't help myself. As I read the dialogue between the lord of the manor and the knights, I kept thinking of the Monty Python knights and especially this scene.
AND THEN! A new knight arrived, The Knight of the Gigantic Sabre, and I could only think of this scene from Robin Hood: Men in Tights (scroll ahead to time marker 1:23 and you'll see what I'm talking about). What was supposed to have been a serious confrontation was completely ruined by that image - but ruined in a fun way!
It may not seem like it, but I really did enjoy this book. It was an easy read, not spectacular but definitely enjoyable.
I chose this book from the 1,001 Books list for the 1% Well Read Challenge '09. If you are still looking for books for this challenge, you should try this one out. It is a quick read, and you will definitely get a better understanding of the origins of Gothic lit tropes (and you might even get a laugh out of it).