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Author Topic: PC299: The Little Room  (Read 2902 times)
Talia
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« on: February 21, 2014, 07:35:40 AM »

PodCastle 299: The Little Room

by Madeline Yale Wynne

Read by Eric Luke (Author and Narrator of Interference)

Originally published in Harper’s in 1895. Read it here!

“When Mamma was about ten years old they sent her to cousins in Brooklyn, who had children of their own, and knew more about bringing them up. She staid there till she was married: she didn’t go to Vermont in all that time, and of course hadn’t seen her sisters, for they never would leave home for a day. They couldn’t even be induced to go to Brooklyn to her wedding so she and father took their wedding trip up there.”

 ”And that’s why we are going up there on our own?”

 ”Don’t, Roger; you have no idea how loud you speak.”

 ”You never say so except when I am going to say that one little word.”

 ”Well, don’t say it, then or say it very, very quietly.”

 ”Well, what was the queer thing?”

 ”When they got to the house, mother wanted to take father right off into the little room; she had been telling him about it, just as I am going to tell you and she had said that of all the rooms that one was the only one that seemed pleasant to her. She described the furniture and the books and paper and everything, and said it was on the north side, between the front and back room. Well, when they went to look for it, there was no little room there; there was only a shallow china-closet. She asked her sisters when the house had been altered and a closet made of the room that used to be there. They both said the house was exactly as it had been built–that they had never made any changes, except to tear down the old wood-shed and build a smaller one.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 08:33:51 AM by Talia » Logged
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2014, 07:12:12 PM »

Whoa, whoa, whoa, I haven't finished listening to the story yet, but is that Gerard Armbruster!?  Good to hear your voice again, buddy.  Smiley
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2014, 12:30:00 AM »

Fantastic reading, but in the end the story let me down. I need some resolution, not of the mystery, but in the characters. This one left me hanging.

ETA: I listened to this one in the early morning, working solo in a haunted building, prepping it for the day. This is my usual time to listen to EA podcasts. The intro on this one gave me chills, something only two Pseudopod episodes have managed to do.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2014, 11:35:47 AM by Just Jeff » Logged
Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2014, 10:17:45 PM »

I just screamed a swear word beginning with "F" at the top of my lungs in the car when this story ended.  

That was a quite enjoyable if frustrating story.    The ending did feel like some Twilight Zone stuff.

And we can't even ask the author what the truth was, she died in 1918


Being of a more sci fi bent myself I began to feel a sort of parallel universe explanation.      Each visit would take the visitor to a different house in the same location.    This is why the Aunts never had a memory of any change, because from their point of view, nothing had ever changed.   
« Last Edit: February 22, 2014, 10:31:24 PM by dream6601 » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2014, 11:37:52 PM »

Dare I mention.... the story has a sequel....
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2014, 06:38:15 AM »

Dare I mention.... the story has a sequel....
A sequel, or an extension?  Wink
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slic
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2014, 05:16:47 PM »

Hmmm - 0 for 2 Podcastle though I did stay to the end of the story this week.
When the Mom saw it again, I was expecting some kind of nifty other-dimension or alternate earth, somebody makes the off hand reference to President Al Gore instead of President Bush (sorry my historical knowledge of American president runners-up is really poor).  Or maybe her daughter was now a son.  But c'mon Occam's Razor was around even way back then....hmmm massive warping of space-time or two old women with a really odd sense of humour.
When I heard the ending all I kept thinking was ...years before TV was invented two stone-eyed spinsters came up with the idea for the show Candid Camera, but took it just a bit too far when they burnt down their house to prevent anyone from catching them out.

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Procyon
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2014, 09:21:48 PM »

I have to say I kind of liked how this story seemed committed to ambiguity, when it got to the end I wanted to yell "CHEAT!"

In general, when I consider my position on the scale between "mysterious occurrences wandering through the fog of the unexplained" and "illuminate every surface with the floodlights of coherency and logic" I find I lean towards mystery. This story did a great job of setting up a bizarre situation, and it seemed like it was leading towards an equally bizarre conclusion that, I hoped, would raise even more questions than it answered. Instead, the author totally skipped town. I wanted that bizarre conclusion!
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fractaloon
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2014, 09:42:30 AM »

Fantastic story. I really enjoyed it and loved the ending. I wanted an answer but this was even better.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2014, 10:22:01 AM »

Okay, have now listened to the story.  I quite enjoyed it, and its commitment to ambiguity.  I wondered at the beginning whether  it was just two old ladies with a sense of humor, but I believed the protagonist's claims about the place, so I think that there was something fishy going on. 

If I had to explain what exactly was happening, I would guess that the house has a trickster spirit that can swap things around from very similar parallel dimensions, and that the aunts truly have no clue.

I figured that the mystery would be maintained by the ending, but I was thinking that they would arrive together and find a third room so that they would both have been wrong--a smoking parlor or a bowling alley or something.  That would have made the mystery explicit, so I think that the burned house did better to maintain the ambiguity.  Again with the trickster spirit theory, the spirit isn't malicious per se but does delight in making people argue with each other.  Near the end of the story it reached a point where the only way to maintain the ambiguity was to burn the house down or at least to swap in a house that had been burned down (if one of them comes back in a week I bet the house would be there again with the aunts once again disavowing)
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2014, 10:27:49 AM »

Whoa, whoa, whoa, I haven't finished listening to the story yet, but is that Gerard Armbruster!?  Good to hear your voice again, buddy.  Smiley

Btw, for anyone who didn't get the Armbruster reference, Eric Luke was the voice of the podcast host Gerard Armbruster on the show Extruding America.  It's a show that was ostensibly a show along the same lines as Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, a kind of slice of American life show, based around Gerard's phone conversations with author Stetson Tudd.  But the show is just a little off of what's expected in almost every respect  and is quite funny.  I just listened to their whole backlog last year and enjoyed it greatly.  (Sadly the show hasn't had new episodes for a few years, but it's a great listen)

I didn't realize that Eric Luke was the guy right away, but the voice of Roger was hauntingly familiar and after about half the story I realized why.
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Blukatgrl
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« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2014, 02:51:44 PM »

This is one of my favorite podcastle stories yet.  I love especially the little details that let us peer into the characters' emotional inner lives.

"Mamma said she remembered, or thought she remembered, having been sick once, and she had to lie quietly for some days on the lounge; then was the time she had become so familiar with everything in the room, and she had been allowed to have the shell to play with all the time. She had had her toast brought to her in there, with make-believe tea. It was one of her pleasant memories of her childhood; it was the first time she had been of any importance to anybody, even herself."

This story was written at a time when childhood illnesses were very common, and I wonder if survivors from this period looked back on their sickness with a little fondness, only because it gave them some attention they otherwise would not be granted.  The anecdote illustrates how lonely the mother's childhood must have been.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2014, 04:45:16 PM »

I feel quite conflicted about this one. I was really loving the story, the mystery, the style, the ambiance. I thought the narrator was adorable and her husband seemed like quite a nice guy. And the ending was great too, with the cousins and the bermuda triangle of the aunts' house basically imploding when a bit too much stress was put on its paradox...

But, this story also relies on one of my least favorite tropes: when a woman sees something no one else does, she clearly must be mad. It reminds me of movies like Gaslight and all the unpleasant stories I read in my literature class entitled "Women and Madness". It really frustrates me that a seemingly nice and loving husband will suddenly and irrevocably lose faith in his wife and build a wall between them, even though he was completely forewarned that something strange may happen. It also frustrates me that as a result of her husband's reaction, in that moment the narrator loses all of her courage, and self-confidence. And apparently her mother fared even worse, to the point of losing her health and will to live. Sorry for the soapbox, I know that this is an older story, but this sort of characterization still really upsets me even when I try to put it in its context.
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Spindaddy
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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2014, 08:19:17 PM »

I gotta say... this one wasnt for me. The whole Gaslight thing irritated the heck out of me, but then again, mostly b/c it brought back bad memories.

I was also irritated that her husband turned on her over something that stupid.
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Varda
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« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2014, 08:48:02 PM »

But, this story also relies on one of my least favorite tropes: when a woman sees something no one else does, she clearly must be mad. It reminds me of movies like Gaslight and all the unpleasant stories I read in my literature class entitled "Women and Madness". It really frustrates me that a seemingly nice and loving husband will suddenly and irrevocably lose faith in his wife and build a wall between them, even though he was completely forewarned that something strange may happen. It also frustrates me that as a result of her husband's reaction, in that moment the narrator loses all of her courage, and self-confidence. And apparently her mother fared even worse, to the point of losing her health and will to live. Sorry for the soapbox, I know that this is an older story, but this sort of characterization still really upsets me even when I try to put it in its context.

See, for me, the Gaslight vibe was a plus, but perhaps it's because I think playing tricks on someone's sanity is one of the scariest damn things you can do, which means I like stories that explore crazy-making behavior. I think it worked for me in this story because it's clear that the woman isn't mad and isn't making anything up, and that the other people are either lying, or something supernatural is playing a trick, or some combination of both. She isn't the one to blame, although we all have to witness what she goes through and the way people treat her (and her mother) as a result. I saw it through a feminist lens as commentary on the unfair ways people treat these two and not an endorsement of women as prone to insanity.

I was also disappointed in the husband for failing to believe his wife, but it struck me as period-appropriate, a la "The Yellow Wallpaper" and general stereotypes of the "hysterical" woman and such.

Given that, I completely get being just fed up with a certain trope from time to time, even if well-handled, so I can see why this one may have been a turnoff for other listeners for the same reasons I liked it.
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« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2014, 06:24:27 AM »

Fantastic reading, but in the end the story let me down. I need some resolution, not of the mystery, but in the characters. This one left me hanging.


Me too. The ending was period-appropriate, but I was still frustrated. Classics are usually a hard sell for me but I gave this one a chance and I enjoyed most of it. And I didn't even want to know WHAT the room was; I was more curious as to WHY certain people saw it and others didn't.
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« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2014, 10:35:11 AM »

NOOOOOOO *rage* I NEED TO KNOW
ambiguity is fine when it isn't RUINING LIVES.
that being said I don't understand why the husband and the two girls where getting so bitter about it.
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ChairmanDances
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« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2014, 12:07:57 AM »

A neat little story.  The introduction of a fantastic element to something so grounded in the mundane worked great and added the right amount of creepiness. The existence/disappearance of the room itself wasn't particularly scary, but it draws back the curtain a little and leaves you free to imagine what else might be possible in a world where this can happen.
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« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2014, 11:01:02 AM »

I was right there with this story up until the stopping point.

I wouldn't call it an end. I'm SO frustrated at this point. I don't need to *know* but I felt like there was zero resolution. We were presented this little bit of something fantastic and oh, now it's time for dinner. Bye.


WHAT?!?!? ARGH!
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« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2014, 02:13:04 PM »

How odd. The ending seemed perfectly clear to me, as well as tied everything up. Maybe I'm the odd one full of wonder who can go in and find the shell.

What is behind the door requires belief plus an imminent visit. The Little Room in this case manifests for innocence and belief and wonder. The china cabinet manifests for Proper Things in Their Place as they Should Be. I think this is supported by the brighter backstory of the Little Room and its contents, while the china closet supports heirlooms and traditions. While little, The Little Room (representing wonder) is larger than the china closet (representing tradition). There's probably a few more layers here worth considering.

The husband at the beginning never believed but instead was indulging a fantasy of his new bride's so we see the china closet. The mother invests her belief in her daughter and they both see The Little Room. Of the cousins at the end, one was a believer and was was a skeptic. Their disagreement and heartfelt belief warped the house to conform to both views. As it could not sustain both, the house was destroyed by their conflicting worldviews. This would be a good spot for someone more clever than I to insert a metaphor.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 02:16:36 PM by Fenrix » Logged

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”
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