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Many Gothics not Gothic enough?
#1
Some like milk chocolate, others dark. For myself, if Gothic were chocolate, I'd take the richest flourless truffle or devil's food dripping with fudge buttercream, groaning under turrets of piped ganache and chocolate shavings . . .

Pardon my "metaphorrhea". The point being that I've picked up many a Gothic, enticed by the atmospheric cover art, only to find that the novel within, while good, didn't really resound with Gothic overtones the way I wished it would.

Know what I mean? I often feel that authors could do more of what they're doing, pile on the Gothic with a more liberal hand. By this I mean atmosphere heaped upon mood upon ambience upon eerie suggestive melancholy flavor.

Sometimes you come across an author that does this and you wish they'd written five hundred more books. Evelyn Berckman's The Evil of Time is like that -- one of those novels that envelopes you in its atmosphere and sense of historicity while propelling you through the story all the way to the end. Such an underrated author!

I'm always on the lookout for the "ideal Gothic experience". I suppose we all have our own definition of what that is, but for me it has to do with an author's ability to create an immersive and convincing environment that makes me feel as if I've walked into the cover art. I enjoy most of the Gothics I read, but rarely do I feel this sense of immersion. That takes a special kind of writer with the chops to sustain a mood through an entire novel, not an easy task.

Am I too picky? Anybody else relate to what I'm attempting to describe?
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#2
You are quite correct in saying that the "ideal gothic experience" can be different from reader to reader. There is plenty of discernible variety on this forum. I know what that experience is for me, and the gothic touches you speak of are crucial to the pleasure a story gives, but I also truly appreciate well-drawn characters and good dialogue (sparkling, if possible, between hero and heroine). I intensely dislike poorly written, trite dialogue. I don't imagine anyone does like it. But I find it is rife in too many gothic novels. This has weeded out many gothic authors for me. In fact, there are some I should really add to the Gothics to Avoid list soon. By the way, the chocolate sounds delicious!
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#3
(07-20-2010, 02:29 PM)AliceChell Wrote: . . . but I also truly appreciate well-drawn characters and good dialogue (sparkling, if possible, between hero and heroine). I intensely dislike poorly written, trite dialogue. I don't imagine anyone does like it. But I find it is rife in too many gothic novels.

I couldn't agree more. In mediocre Gothics, the characters lack complexity (especially the male lead) and the dialogue can be stagy. I don't require the dialogue to be realistic (real people don't always speak in beautiful, mellifluous sentences, even educated people in the 19th Century), but I do ask that it at least not ring false.

I'm currently reading a novella by Paula Minton, Portrait of Terror (terrible title!). The author is not without certain strengths, but these are sabotaged by a tendency to overdescribe minutiae (each scene begins with a list of set pieces that reads like a Sotheby's catalogue), coupled with some eye-rollingly twee dialogue (the pompous autocrat of the breakfast table who constantly puffs lines of the "Capital! Right-o, old chap! Pip-pip, carry on!" sort).

It seems that one of the pitfalls of writing any kind of period fiction is that it's easy for the characters to become stock comic book figures. The best writers in the field manage to avoid this problem. The dialogue in Holt and Stewart is elegant without being mannered or affected.
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#4
It occurred to me, Penfeather, that if you haven't already read it, you might enjoy Moura by Virginia Coffman. It is heavy with gothic atmosphere, and is well-written. There are two sort of "sequels" to it that are good as well---The Beckoning and The Dark Gondola. I haven't read any others that she wrote (there are quite a few).
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#5
(08-01-2010, 11:14 PM)AliceChell Wrote: It occurred to me, Penfeather, that if you haven't already read it, you might enjoy Moura by Virginia Coffman. It is heavy with gothic atmosphere, and is well-written. There are two sort of "sequels" to it that are good as well---The Beckoning and The Dark Gondola. I haven't read any others that she wrote (there are quite a few).

Thank you for the recommendation. I've enjoyed books by Coffman before, with one exception: The Devil Vicar, which started out nicely but became so tiresome that I returned it to the shelf without finishing it. But I will definitely give Moura a try.
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#6
Ohhh yes, Moura is a favorite of mine.. do try it penfeather and let us know how you like it..
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