John Gaskin

Life
Philosophy don at TCD; author of as The Dark Companion: Ghost Stories (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2001), 224pp.

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Commentary
Jon Barnes, review of The Dark Companion: Ghost Stories (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2002), in Times Literary Supplement, 29 March 2002, p.22. Sees Gaskin as adopting the formula of M. R. James which ‘eschew[s] the visceral, pulpy approach of Poe or Lovecraft’ in favour of ‘a protagonist who is invariably a scholar, often elderly, who through curiosity and intellectual pride tampers with dark forces and emerges - if he survives at all - chastened and with a new awareness of his own mortality.’ Barnes finds the prose ‘crisp and readable’ though occasionally overreaching in pursuit of apt metaphor ( tree roots ‘grope out of the ground like arthritic bones’); entertaining and undemanding; the best stories genuinely unsettling; remarks that the period seems confused in the title story where, for instance, Victorian Oxford is carefully invoked while references to Private Eye and computers place it in the twentieth century. Barnes considers the best of these stories to be ‘genuinely unsettling’.

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