“Don’t you want to hear me speak my piece?”
And I am so very grateful that I was persuaded to hear this piece spoken by itself, coming into my life, as it were, not as a he or she, but as a transcendental ‘it’, as the narrator herself learns to call the boy. Another prophecy (here in 1890) for our fluid times that often seem unpredictably repressed and liberal, by turns… It is a major work, no question, and once you get used to the woman narrator’s elided speech rhythms, it flows steadily through to your soul from her soul, about her own backstory, the loss of her three boys by drowning (brothers she seems to have mothered) and then her teaching in a boys school, and here in this narration looking after a house in New York, where she is struck that it is lonely inside where she lives but lively and busy outside in contrast to the vice versa whence she came. Then, through her words, we experience the recurring visitation by the ‘boy’ ghost to this lonely house, an experience of her listening as if he speaks or as if she speaks for him, him or her, or a single ‘it’ of rhapsody or rapture, a relearning (‘learn’ used colloquially by the naive narrator in this text as meaning ‘teach’), a deployment of the Christian religion by her catechising the ghost, up to the point in time when it is Christmas…. There are some remarkable passages in mammoth monologue (cf James Joyce’s Molly’s Monologue here used for Christian purposes rather than a woman’s sex life), a work that I am astounded has not been discovered before. It is seriously powerful and constructively ambivalent beneath its religious certainties. This is a ghost story where the ghost truly exists, beyond any ghost story I have ever read, as a sort of gestalt of naive haunter and naive haunted. Naive, but essentially full of wisdom by being cast from speaking its piece from piece to piece, time and time again, pieces of the eventual absolute or whole. I cannot do full justice to it here. Needs to be read by any serious lover of ghost stories, and of literature in general, I think.