Gothic, strange & spooky personal essays and creative nonfiction?
December 15, 2016 3:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm putting together a syllabus for an introductory creative writing class. It's not themed, but my taste in fiction runs towards the dark and Gothic (Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates) and I'd like at least some of the personal essays I assign to fall into the same vein.

I'm leaning more towards the "personal essay" and less towards the "reportage" end of the spectrum.
posted by pretentious illiterate to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Luc Sante, My Lost City (and many other of his essays)
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:32 PM on December 15, 2016

Luc Sante, The Unknown Soldier
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:32 PM on December 15, 2016

I'm thinking of Nabokov's Speak, Memory, but I can't find my copy right now to see if any particular chapter could be excerpted.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:48 PM on December 15, 2016

Jeannie Vanasco, "What's in a Necronym?"
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:03 PM on December 15, 2016

Sylvia Townsend Warner's collection Scenes of Childhood has some nice pieces that sit somewhere between creepy and funny (particularly 'The Cheese' and 'How I Left the Navy').
posted by mdrew at 4:10 PM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Glittery Eyes, by Etgar Keret. Not spooky, really—more about the innate creepiness of children.
posted by she's not there at 5:05 PM on December 15, 2016

Oh man somewhere on here I first read Alan Garner's essay Valley of the Demon, about a small town in England where he researched and wrote a novel. I think it'll hit the spot for you.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:43 PM on December 15, 2016

There is a chapter of the Jennifer Finney Boylan book She's Not There about the author's ghostly experiences in her childhood home; it's mostly about growing up, but it has the kind of spooky vibe you might be going for. Structurally, it would work as an essay.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:44 PM on December 15, 2016

Oh, a chapter from Kier-La Janisse's House of Psychotic Women could work for this. The whole book is basically personal essays that blend autobiography with film criticism, but some may be too dark or too strange for your purposes. As one example, "Part 10: You Carry A Coffin Today" is a 4-page essay about the author's mother's death from cancer. It juxtaposes an account of her mother's last phone call with brief descriptions of two very strange horror films that have to do with cancer, a tiny bit of analysis based on Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor, and memories of her mother's funeral.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:30 PM on December 15, 2016

I just finished Laird Barron's The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All, which is a collection of gothic/weird tales horror stories. But the last story in the book is one of those meta-style, first-person "author inserting himself into a fictional story" situations, and it was really well done and quite spooky.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:08 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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