Thursday, January 03, 2008

Short Stoy #2: "20th Century Ghost" by Joe Hill

I'm continuing with the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, and the second story ("20th Century Ghost") was as brilliant as the first story, "Best New Horror."

In "20th Century Ghost," Alec is the elderly owner of an old-school movie house. The movie house is, of course, haunted. The ghost is a young woman who died of an anurysm in the theater during the last few minutes of The Wizard of Oz during its inaugural showing. Alec has seen the ghost and knows when others are telling the truth about whether or not they've seen her. The story is being told at the current moment because Alec is on his last working legs and the fate of his movie house is in the balance.

Typical ghost story, right? Yeah, pretty much. Except, like with "Best New Horror," Hill adds his special touch to the traditional stories we've all grown up with and managed to turn "20th Century Ghost" into a beautiful, sensitive, original story. Certain passages in his work simply take my breath away.

Then in one shot he has turned sideways to face the seat to his left. He has been joined by a woman in blue. He is leaning over her. They are unmistakably kissing. No one around them pays them any mind. The Wizard of Oz is ending. We know this because we can hear Judy Garland, reciting the same five words over and over in a soft, yearning voice, saying--well, you know what she is saying. They are only the loveliest five words ever said in all of film.

I mean, are you kidding me? A collection that has me shaking and, literally, throwing the book in the freezer in one story has me sighing wistfully with tears in my eyes in the next...Joe Hill, if you're not careful the address for I Am What I Am may change to joehillsgirl.

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