Thursday, 13 December 2012

Gost [sic] Stories for Christmas

This week I took delivery of a combined paperback volume (printed in the US) of ghost stories in the M R James style that I'd seen recommended in an old essay in the sadly defunct Book and Magazine Collector.  Written by contemporaries of James they seemed the perfect accompaniment to long dark evenings and a stint in front of a crackling log fire.  The two collections are The Stoneground Ghost Tales by E G Swain and Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye by Arthur Gray - I'd previously read a couple of these tales in anthologies.

I started reading with great expectations and was pleased by the atmospheric settings and archaic language, but after a while some of the language seemed a bit too strange to a modern eye and I suspected an incorrect word here and there.  Then the obvious typos started appearing:  'he gave up oven trying to sleep'; 'closing his hail door'; 'he sat down to road'; 'family relies' [I worked out this should have been 'relics'] and the irritating absurdity of 'Christmas Eye'.  It's good that long-out-of-print books get a new lease of life but the practice of scanning in text and then failing to proof-read the resulting file can lead to some extremely embarrassing errors - something the long-dead authors would no doubt abhor.  I suppose you could put a positive Borgesian spin on it by theorising that entirely new texts could ultimately be created, completely divorced from their authors' intentions, but I for one get very upset when I discover a typo in one of my printed books, and let's face it there are one or two in there (though not as many as in this current ghost story collection).  It also disrupts my reading and the pleasure of the text until I start searching for typos rather than absorbing the story and doubting some of the more arcane expressions.  It's definitely something that's getting worse.  I had a look to see if I could buy an original copy of E G Swain's book but discovered that it might be rather expensive - see here.

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