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Author Topic: Pseudopod 76: Tales of the White Street Society  (Read 16671 times)

Bdoomed

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on: February 08, 2008, 10:43:45 PM
Pseudopod 76: Tales of the White Street Society

By Grady Hendrix

Read by Alasdair Stuart

A creak of the flooring caught my attention and I turned sharply, expecting to find my guide creeping up behind me with a jackblack in her hand and murder in her Irish eyes. Instead, I beheld a waif with a waxen pallor, protruding bones and papery skin, crouching just inside the doorway. Her furtive creeping was arrested when she saw me. Rising up to her full height she fixed her watery eyes on me and said:

“Harry don’t like you.”

Just as I was about to strike her for her insolence, her face slackened and she swooned. I stepped forward to catch her, then noticed spittle running from her mouth, and stepped back so as to avoid soiling my clothes.



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goatkeeper

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Reply #1 on: February 11, 2008, 01:52:53 AM
Meh, story didn't do much for me.  It's just not possible to pull off a scary leprechaun story, sorry.  I'm more interested to see if anyone else thought this story was excessively racist.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #2 on: February 11, 2008, 06:53:32 AM
Meh, story didn't do much for me.  It's just not possible to pull off a scary leprechaun story, sorry.  I'm more interested to see if anyone else thought this story was excessively racist.

I got the opposite -- I felt like it did a great job of lampooning a highly racist unreliable narrator.



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Reply #3 on: February 11, 2008, 02:43:54 PM
See, I couldn't tell if the story was taking itself serious or not.  If it wasn't, then I see your point.



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Reply #4 on: February 11, 2008, 09:12:21 PM
I wasn't sure if it was tongue-in-cheek until he addressed the 'hag' as "Oh, Hag?".  Cracked me up.  I think this story takes a great poke at the victorian horror style (which I happen to enjoy very much).



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Reply #5 on: February 12, 2008, 02:36:05 AM
I thought he said "old hag"- I listened again, maybe it was the reading, I still can't tell if its lampooning or not.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #6 on: February 12, 2008, 07:34:22 AM
Come on, the offhanded comments about "So I shot him again" and all?  I really can't imagine this being anything but satire.



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Reply #7 on: February 12, 2008, 09:12:55 AM
This story was brilliant. That's really all I can say about it. Reminded me of playing Call of Cthulhu with some of my more... colorful friends.

What I took away from this story was, well, how much nicer it would have been to live in the 1800's. I mean, who hasn't wanted to shoot someone and then throw money at them to make it better while mumbling racist epithets?

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Reply #8 on: February 12, 2008, 12:58:55 PM
You're right, it's "Old Hag".  This was really hilarious.
I have a collection of short stories somewhere called "The Lovecraft Diaries."  I can't even remember who wrote it, but the (very) short book is split between "Lovecraftian" adventures, starring Lovecraft himself, and stories written in the Wodehouse style.  In particular, I remember "Scream for Jeeves," which totally panned the incompenant foppery of the "Victorian Gentleman as Metaphysical Adventurer" angle.  Great read, if you can find it.



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Reply #9 on: February 12, 2008, 01:26:08 PM
See, I couldn't tell if the story was taking itself serious or not.  If it wasn't, then I see your point.

I don't think there's any way this story could be taking itself seriously. There were too many parts that looked right out of a Monty Python sketch - the nonchalant shootings and people's reactions to them, the part in the beginning where he lists the lucky charms the doctor was missing, adding a new one whenever an objection was raised, and so forth.

I'm not entirely sure the story was fully successful at what it was trying to do, but I am sure it had its tongue firmly in cheek the entire time.



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Reply #10 on: February 15, 2008, 06:43:47 AM
A houseful of Irish immigrants beplagued by an invisible perverted bacon grease licking leprechaun with overtures of  a whole race of these creatures taking over the world.

I doubt this was taking itself seriously.

I HAVE however, had Call of Cthulhu games that ran just like this.  ;D

I swear, I thought I was listening to a game journal.  I loved it,  couldn't stop laughing.



gelee

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Reply #11 on: February 15, 2008, 04:09:12 PM
It took me a while to dredge it up from the depths of murky memory, but I think this story was inspired by "The Horror at Red Hook."  If you aren't familiar with it, I would recommend picking up a collection of Lovecraft's short fiction.



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Reply #12 on: February 15, 2008, 04:40:26 PM
It took me a while to dredge it up from the depths of murky memory, but I think this story was inspired by "The Horror at Red Hook."  If you aren't familiar with it, I would recommend picking up a collection of Lovecraft's short fiction.

Ah yes- hadn't thought of that.  You're totally right.



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Reply #13 on: February 16, 2008, 01:07:27 AM
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I enjoyed this story to a point and even understood it.

The Irish Thing:  At that time, that's how many people saw the Irish -- as an underclass.  If the story is to be considered historically-understandable and somewhat accurate (see Steve's intro in EP145 for more on this), then the narrator's view of the Irish makes sense.

The Violence Thing:  I was amused by the narrator's deadpan way he saw the violence he committed.  It actually made him out to be a bit more sociopathic than some readers might have seen.  He accepted violence -- shooting people nonfatally, beating Cathy, knocking out the guy the leprechaun was trying to menace to get away from the narrator -- in such a way that it was actually scary.  In fact, it was played that he became MORE dispassionate when committing violence.

I accept that the story was seen as somewhat satirical by some, but I didn't really see it that way.

The constant interruptions from the White Street Society during the narration, I felt, took away from the story.

The names of the people in the society were hard for me to follow as well.  And some of the imagery was pretty disgusting -- needlessly so.  We didn't need the kids dipping their cups into the bucket or the excrement oozing up around the narrator's shoe.  It was disgusting in there.  We get it.  Honestly.

I did like the way the story treated the leprechaun idea -- that they're not little cartoonish dudes who try to steal your cereal.  Toward the end, I felt the influence of "American Gods" -- how the Irish brought the leprechauns to America with them.

Alasdair did an excellent job of doing the narration of the guy who went to Weeping House.  I didn't care for the framing portions quite so much.

Overall, a pretty good PP.

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Reply #14 on: February 17, 2008, 10:49:58 PM
I didn't like the character. I'm sure I wasn't supposed to like him... Yes it was funny-ish, but my disgust at the racism outweighed my enjoyment of the story (even though the violence didn't bother me because that was kind of funny in, as eytanz said, a "Monty Pythonesque" way)... until the leprechaun showed up, cause what's funnier than horny leprechauns? HAHAH!

Alasdair Stuart is awesome though. I love his readings.

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Reply #15 on: February 18, 2008, 03:49:33 AM
I tried to post earlier that this was the most ridiculous story I've ever heard, but I guess it didn't go through.

I don't really know what else to say. If you take the story at face value, it's absolutely disgusting and frightening. If you can't take it seriously, it's still awful but you can laugh at lines like "So I shot him" and "So I beat her anyway" and "I am a man of science!" and "I will employ him as my coachman for three dollars a day."

When was the story written? It seems unlikely that a modern author would write such an effective evocation of a certain period of (horror) literature and intend for it to be taken seriously. It's like Renaissance Festivals; perhaps 10% is historically accurate, if that, and the rest is fun and frippery.

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Reply #16 on: February 20, 2008, 01:50:09 AM
I thought the story was very well written; definitely and deftly applying a satirical spin to the narrative being told by a wholly self-important narrator. A writer is taking a risk when portraying characters for laughs, especially when the character isn't in on the joke -- readers might not be willing to get invested in the story or the character. But I think in this case the risk paid off, and I really enjoyed the story as both horror and comedy.

I think the setting (Victorian era) carves out space for the comedy to play out. I just watched the first season of Life on Mars (a fun BBC cop dramedy), which is set in 1973, and it's amazing how a shift in time can settle the urge to disbelieve; plot devices that would be implausible in a contemporary setting can pass muster in simpler times.



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Reply #17 on: February 20, 2008, 05:48:56 PM
Yeah, I enjoyed this one, too.  I thought the tone was pretty much perfect (loved the line about how fast he was with dance steps), tongue-in-cheek and at the same time, completely horrifying.  I liked that the protagonist wasn't just played as an idiotic everyman like Bruce Campbell but despite all his laughs, was really quite a bastard (him beating Cathy "just to be certain" was also pretty chilling).  The image of him burning down the house at the end because he cares for these poor Irish immigrants so much was horrible to behold.  And the final, parting scene of the actual narrator praying and buying a pair of pistols to defend himself from the Irish Leprechauns invading seemed rather poignant for all the Monty Python antics. 

Overall, the more I think about this story, the more impressed I am.  Great story from Grady Hendrix and Alasdair did a fantastic delivery of the deadpan narration.


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Reply #18 on: February 20, 2008, 10:22:20 PM
I am both immensely relieved and a little surprised that people largely dug the reading:)  Thanks guys.

The little things; burning down the house, beating Cathy just to be sure, the casual violence.  That's where the horror lies for me in this, and I think Grady did an amazing job of hiding a knife in a smile, as it were.  I'm just glad I didn't get in the way:)



Loz

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Reply #19 on: February 24, 2008, 09:11:01 PM
Alasdair's narration was definitely an improvement on that Lodger story, but shouldn't his main voice have been an American one? Wasn't the narrator American?

Sadly I don't really care for these sort of period stories chock full of hilarious 'realistic' racism, sexism, homophobia etc. There really should be some sort of literature police going round stopping people from writing these in first-person.



goatkeeper

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Reply #20 on: February 24, 2008, 10:54:26 PM
There really should be some sort of literature police going round stopping people from writing these in first-person.

"Literature police"  ...subject matter truly appropriate in the horror genre.



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Reply #21 on: March 09, 2008, 07:15:22 AM
It's like someone put Lovecraft, Monty Python and bits of Leprechan in Da Hood and mixed them into one delish, horrific, hilarious dish. ;D



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Reply #22 on: April 04, 2008, 05:21:49 PM
I wonder, did the Dr. kill himself because the leprechaun was after his lucky charms?

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Reply #23 on: April 04, 2008, 07:46:44 PM

"Literature police"  ...subject matter truly appropriate in the horror genre.

I second that .



JoeFitz

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Reply #24 on: April 05, 2008, 07:41:07 PM
Sadly I don't really care for these sort of period stories chock full of hilarious 'realistic' racism, sexism, homophobia etc. There really should be some sort of literature police going round stopping people from writing these in first-person.
[/quote]

The sheer volume of the racist vitriol in this piece concerns me. From the drinking out of the chamber pot to the alcohol to the squalor, I'm not quite sure this type of Jonathan Swift satire hits the mark anymore. In fact, it seems kind of bland. I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't offend me, but it bothers me that it doesn't, since the piece is so full of degenerate images that, if it were directed at enumerable other groups it would offend me.

Perhaps because Swift was centuries ago and the images presented here are now little more than caricatures of once ardent racist beliefs held by a powerful established orthodoxy it doesn't sting.

I grant that most satire would fall flat compared to masters of the style, and maybe only students of Jonathan Swift immediately think of his works when a period piece attempts to pillory the Irish but I think the author went overboard here and that a more subtle approach would have been just as, or even more effective.

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Reply #25 on: April 05, 2008, 08:26:05 PM
I think this one falls into the same lines as "Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe".  It's the narrator's perspective on the Irish being drunks and living in squalor, not the author's.

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JoeFitz

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Reply #26 on: April 05, 2008, 08:47:50 PM
I think this one falls into the same lines as "Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe".  It's the narrator's perspective on the Irish being drunks and living in squalor, not the author's.

To be clear: I don't mean to suggest the author holds these beliefs, but rather that I disagree in letting the narrator to express the racism so explicitly.

To my recollection, in Borderlands, while there was a racist narrator, I do not remember any graphic, scatological and sexually gross images. That story was okay for me, but not particularly interesting mostly because I find alternate history is generally not my cup of tea.



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Reply #27 on: April 10, 2008, 12:27:53 AM
I found this story delightful.  I kept thinking of Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, an intellectual and buffoon at the same time.  The writing was fun and Alasdair's reading was great.  Maybe an American accent would have been more appropriate, but somehow, as an American, I've gotten used to an English accent as an intellectual accent, especially from this period. 


The racism didn't bother me, but I find the criticism interesting.  I think it would have been more racist if it had been less over the top, but it was extreme enough to be laughable.  Then again, if the target had been Blacks instead of Irish, it would have been completely inappropriate.  And if Americans had been the butt of the joke, no one would have blinked an eye.   

Also, Lovecraft's writings were pretty racist.  So when doing a Lovecraftian piece, is this something we want to imitate, or is it a part of history we prefer to erase?



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Reply #28 on: April 10, 2008, 10:23:25 AM
The racism didn't bother me, but I find the criticism interesting.  I think it would have been more racist if it had been less over the top, but it was extreme enough to be laughable.  Then again, if the target had been Blacks instead of Irish, it would have been completely inappropriate.  And if Americans had been the butt of the joke, no one would have blinked an eye.   

I think the difference is that the Irish aren't the target of racism in the US anymore.  Maybe sometimes as Catholics, but that's pretty much gone too.  When we finally reach the point where blacks no longer are targets, our decendants can probably look at racism against them in a lighter way.  I'm not talking about slavery.  That's a whole other ballgame.



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Reply #29 on: May 02, 2008, 04:47:42 PM
I really enjoyed the story. I'm genuinely surprised to see people A - offended at the depiction of racism and B - questioning whether it's intended in a tongue in cheek manner.

For the record, I'm of Irish descent myself.

I would compare the main character ("protagonist" just seems inappropriate in this circumstance) to the townspeople in Blazing Saddles. His attitude and casual disregard for those outside of his immediate social circle serve to identify him as a figure of fun. I'd say that he is much more the "target" of the piece than any of the supporting cast.



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Reply #30 on: May 03, 2008, 04:13:03 AM
I really enjoyed the story. I'm genuinely surprised to see people A - offended at the depiction of racism and B - questioning whether it's intended in a tongue in cheek manner.

For the record, I'm of Irish descent myself.

I would compare the main character ("protagonist" just seems inappropriate in this circumstance) to the townspeople in Blazing Saddles. His attitude and casual disregard for those outside of his immediate social circle serve to identify him as a figure of fun. I'd say that he is much more the "target" of the piece than any of the supporting cast.

I can certainly see that POV.  I've also learned, at the cost of a friendship, that you can't assume that the bigoted crap someone spews is meant to make fun of bigots.  When I laugh at Archie Bunker, I'm laughing at the stupidity of his beliefs; when some folks laugh at him, they are laughing because they think he's right.  If you assume your friend (or an author) is laughing for the same reasons you are, you may both be in for a shock down the road.

In the case of this story, I think the description of the main character certainly made him unsympathetic - he a manipulative moral vacuum with no respect for himself, and less for others.  It tells me that the author and I are probably on the same page (pun intended)... but I didn't like the story well enough to finish it, so I don't really know.

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Reply #31 on: September 24, 2009, 06:58:29 PM
Oh my goodness, this was hilarious.

"A den of Wanton buggery"

This was excellent, for it's sheer humor, but I think the satire is very, very pertinent today.  No-one has a real problem with the Irish in America anymore, but plenty of people have problems with plenty of other groups.  I also think that tales like these are a nice counter-balance to the natural tendency of humans to turn the past into "the good old days".

Still, I think the satire is back seat to the humor, and rightly so.  Humor is hard to write  and this piece had just the right tone and timing.  Well done.



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Reply #32 on: October 14, 2009, 04:36:03 PM
I listened to the sequel to this one more than a month before listening to this one.  That one I found boring and couldn't finish it, so I expected this one to be the same.  I gave it a shot nonetheless.

And this one really hit my funny bone.  The narrator is so unreliable as to wonder if any of these events happened in any form whatsoever.  If part of it did happen, this man is downright scary, burning down a building full of people and, rather than hiding it, he makes up a story and BRAGS about it. 

His POV is just so so so skewed, that each over-the-top description and event just serves to reveal his own ignorance that much more.  The part that particularly tickled my funny bone is when he kept on referring to the woman as "Old hag" long after he knew her name.  Who in their right mind would do that?  That reminded me a bit of King Arthur's meeting of Dennis in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  :)



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Reply #33 on: July 28, 2010, 05:25:12 PM
I tried to get into this one, I really did, but I found I just couldn't stay with it.  I enjoyed it's tongue-in-cheek attitude and some of its over-the-top imagery, but I there was a lack of vigor in the narration and a lack of period accuracy in some of the language that kept me from really getting into it.

First, I thought the framing did little to help the story.  I know the "White Street Society" (har har - a little racist pun, perhaps?) is used to frame a series of these stories, I just don't felt it added anything.  If anything, it slowed the narration down.

(1) As "pulpy" as this story may have been, I would have preferred to see even more "front-loading" in it.  The framework describing the "hairy ghost" did not draw me in.  Contrast this with the intro to "Horror at Red Hook" where we are told quite clearly that a once proud man was reduced to an insane wreck.  In a story like this, where it's being told clearly after it had happened, I would have liked a little more teasing about the horror at the end - and a little less drawing room chatter.

(2) I actually felt this wasn't over-the-top enough to be truthful.  Not that I had a problem with all the "-isms" in this piece (racism, sexism etc.), but I think playing the humor even harder would have softened the blow.  I really wanted the narrator to say "Yes gentlemen, it was even more ghastly than the floating head of Kraka-duzm!" and someone to shout "Preposterous!" as their monocle pops out.

(3) I didn't note them all, but the language grew dangerously modern in some areas.  "revealing her gross anatomy" is not as period as "her grotesque anatomy."

Finally, everyone who thought this was too "racist" (or whatever) needs to relax.  It's a period satire and leaving that sort of stuff out would weaken it immensely.  They are not likeable characters and their racism serves to make them look foolish, not actually encourage discrimination.  I actually happen to be of Scotch-Irish descent and I laughed the whole time.

I was really very, very disappointed to see calls for censorship here of all places.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2010, 06:32:26 PM by Millenium_King »

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Reply #34 on: July 28, 2010, 05:28:05 PM
(3) I didn't note them all, but the language grew dangerously modern in some areas.  "revealing her gross anatomy" is not as period as "her grotesque anatomy."

"Gross anatomy" meaning "the entire body," not "the disgusting body."

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Reply #35 on: December 22, 2011, 02:50:42 PM
I'm not sure how I failed to comment on this story. However, Unblinking manages to say everything I would want to, but better. One would get the impression he has a particular skill at wordsmithing.

And this one really hit my funny bone.  The narrator is so unreliable as to wonder if any of these events happened in any form whatsoever.  If part of it did happen, this man is downright scary, burning down a building full of people and, rather than hiding it, he makes up a story and BRAGS about it. 

His POV is just so so so skewed, that each over-the-top description and event just serves to reveal his own ignorance that much more.  The part that particularly tickled my funny bone is when he kept on referring to the woman as "Old hag" long after he knew her name.  Who in their right mind would do that?  That reminded me a bit of King Arthur's meeting of Dennis in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  :)


In closing, I do feel it necessary to highlight "her oleaginous chore". Great choice of words.

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Reply #36 on: December 27, 2011, 03:54:30 PM
One would get the impression he has a particular skill at wordsmithing.

I try.  :)




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Reply #37 on: September 05, 2014, 06:41:35 PM
Anyone read this from the author? http://boingboing.net/2014/09/05/a-horror-novel-that-looks-like.html

It looks fascinating, and I already know I like Mr. Hendrix's twisted brand of satire.

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