Holiday Readings 2021

During the week of vacation I have just spent in Sardinia, I read five books.

“Husk” by Rachel Autumn Deering

“Husk” by Rachel Autumn Deering is a heart-striking love story wrapped in a heart-shredding horror tale. Both love and horror are explored and exposed with great empathy, skill, and effectiveness. By horror I mean post-traumatic stress disorder, loneliness, grief, addiction, all so powerful to become physical. Very sexy at times, this novelette touched me deeply and was gone too soon.

“Burials” by Jessica Drake-Thomas

I rarely read free verse poetry. My studies of the Ancient Greek, Latin, and Italian literature left a mark on me: poetry should use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or some kind of musicality and rhythm. Therefore, I usually approach free verse poetry as if it were prose with a redundancy of line breaks. I opened “Burials” by Jessica Drake-Thomas with Edgar Lee Masters’s “Spoon River Anthology” in mind, which is a book I loved, and my expectations were exceeded! Each poem drips with death, love, and witchery, and is permeated with a Gothic atmosphere that reaches the peaks of the classics, being incredibly modern at the same time. Deeply touching.

“Ovum of Risk” by L. A. Mason

I might pay my highest tribute to “Ovum of Risk” by L. A. Mason – which I (possibly being mistaken) assume is the pen name of Anton Makon – by comparing it to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” or James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”, if only I were able to grasp any sense out of such works. I love horror, but this is beyond comprehension. It is disturbingly sick. It is the negation of a celebration of life. My favorite passage: “I want to resurrect / my foetus which could have drowned the world / in diarrhoea”.

“Helena” by Claire L. Smith

“Helena” by Claire L. Smith is a classic Gothic tale, set in the Victorian era, in which characters are so effectively depicted that you cannot help falling in love with them, especially the extraordinary women. I rarely get so sympathetic with the characters of a book: I was genuinely worried about their fate during the unwinding of the events. Gently painted with a pleasant vein of feminism, male characters are either fiends or weak figures. Despite the supernatural, horrific, and macabre adventures of these outstanding women, first among them the gifted and cursed protagonist, this tale is dense with love, lyricism, and poetry. Funny side note: there is a redundancy of gawking and lip-biting.

“Crossroads” by Laurel Hightower

What a tense atmosphere! “Crossroads” by Laurel Hightower somehow reminded me of Henry James’s “The turn of the screw”, a masterpiece among supernatural tales. Well, how much of supernatural is there in it anyway? Is any evil force actually stalking the orphans? Is it not just the governess being affected by some form of obsessive, paranoid psychosis? Could not she be the only acting evil force? These very questions I asked myself through the pages of “Crossroads”. Is Chris sane or is her grief driving her crazy? You could ask yourself the same question about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”: is he a vampire at all? Given the novel is told in an epistolary format, every character expressing personal views, I like to think of it as the story of a poor Romanian nobleman, persecuted by a gang of crazy Englishmen, led by a Dutch mythomaniac. Anyway, I hope these comparisons somehow pay my highest tribute to Laurel Hightower. She is unbelievably able to render extreme emotions, such as grief, in a profoundly touching fashion. I deeply enjoyed “Crossroads”!


Fabio Scagliola,