[ModLib] a question

Roger Lathbury lathbury at gmu.edu
Fri Feb 22 04:52:59 EST 2013

I remember buying _The Short Stories of Saki_ from The Town Bookstore in Westfield $1.95—no New Jersey sales tax in 1959. I had read "The Open Window" in _Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural_ from my parents' bookshelf and thought, aetat. 13, I wanted more Saki.

"The Open Window" isn't in itself terrifying or supernatural. It's rather that two characters are manipulated by the girl into feeling terror at what they have been led into believing is supernatural.

Looking back, I see that acquiring this book represented a step forward in my reading sophistication. Previous to _The Short Stories of Saki,_ my literary fare had consisted (3rd to 5th grade)_ of The Hardy Boys (I owned and had read them all, from _The Tower Treasure_ to _The Yellow Feather Mystery_) and then (6th and 7th grade) endless Perry Masons. For 12 and 13 year old Roger, _The Case of the Terrified Typist_ etc. was the adult world: lawyers, financial skullduggery, sexy scheming women, suspense.

"The Open Window" lacks the first three of these. More importantly, it leaves the reader to deduce from the last sentence exactly what has occurred. This was adult in manner rather than in trappings; I saw the difference. At thirteen I missed its humor, so airily gentle, though I saw that clearly enough—as who wouldn't?—in "Tobermory," "The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope," "The Schwarz-Metterklume Method," and the tales about Clovis Sangrail, a name that makes me laugh again now even as I type it.

I still have that copy of _The Short Stories of Saki_ and a Viking edition of the same whose plates the Modern Library used to print it.


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