Usually I’m not one for ghost stories. If something goes bump in the night, I don’t want to read or watch it (although I caved and watched Poltergeist last Halloween). The one exception is when the scary bits are so campy that they aren’t scary at all. Enter Oscar Wilde’s short story, The Canterville Ghost.
I needed to take a break from the nonfiction reading I’d been doing. Just a little break; a just-shy-of-70-page-short-story break. While The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favorite novels of all time, I hadn’t read much of Wilde’s other work. The Canterville Ghost did a great job of getting me back into it. Wilde’s “ghost” story is less of a venture in the paranormal than it is a statement about old English stereotypes versus more “modern” American attitudes. While a single ghost has haunted Canterville and its stuffy English visitors for centuries, it only takes a few days for the new American residents to tire of his tricks and offer him lubricant oil to quiet his chains.
“WD-40, Mother…costs, like, a nickel.” — Sterling Archer, not Oscar Wilde
There isn’t much more than can be said without giving away the plot, but it is a really wonderful story. I hesitate to the use the word “charming” to describe things because it makes me thing of fairy tale princes, but The Canterville Ghost is indeed charming. The characters are well-established in a short period, and the ghost is a good mix of both. The dialogue and prose crackle with wit and humor…would you expect any less from Oscar Wilde? It is one of those books that I think I’ll need to read through at least once more to pick up on all the wonderful one-liners and snappy retorts.
If you find yourself with an upcoming train ride or doctor’s appointment, take The Canterville Ghost along with you. It will be better than any of the tiresome magazines available for you to read through, which given a week’s time will be filled with Kim Kardashian’s baby anyway. Kanye West may prefer you read about his new offspring, but he’s biased. Read Wilde instead.
But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy.
All those pertinent details:
- Title: The Canterville Ghost
- Author: Oscar Wilde
- Length: 69 pages (Kindle)
- Genre: Classics, short stories, paranormal
- Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5