IN THE pantheon of Guyanese Literature, you could find a whole lot of good writing alongside some poor-quality writing.
Of course, you could also find writings on subjects that are delightful, and on subjects that are gruesome; both types could have you thirsting for more, depending on your particular taste or mood at a particular time. (Books could suit your varied tastes and varying inclinations.)
A recently acquired book, ‘True True Story’, written by Stephanie Bowry, set me to thinking about Halloween, a time for the telling of scary tales, among other features associated with the event. For related reading, I unearthed in my library, ‘Tales of the Spirits’, by Tony Kissoon.
Both books are retelling stories already published and of credit to both writers; both books lure the reader in a manner that the reader gets the feeling that the stories are true.
Not even the ‘Foreword’ of Bowry’s book could dismantle that feeling of reality:
“This book is designed for those who are curious, who like surprises and suspense as well as those who wish to relive the experience and delight of stories told to them by their grandparents and parents during moonlight nights sitting on the stairs.”
There are seventeen stories in ‘True True Story’, mostly set in the County of Berbice, the birthplace of the book’s author who confesses ‘From the writer’s desk’ that “…the stories are true! All of them are the experiences of real people in real places.’
The ‘real places’ in the stories are historical backdrops like the sugar plantation where the inhuman treatment of workers had left a stain upon the atmosphere; humble homes where horror visits with explosive consequences; and innocuous shortcuts where pacts with the devil are sealed.
The book, ‘Tales of the Spirits’, as retold by Tony Kissoon, is written with Alfred Hitchcock flair. It is a collection of seven stories with ominous footnotes, a tone set by the introduction, wherein Kissoon quotes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
“The boundary between life and death is so narrow, for no-one knows where one ends and the other begins.”
‘Tales of the Spirits’ is the retelling of tales from the rich and varied folklore of Guyana, including the Massacuraman, the Water Baby, Ole Higue, Bacoo, the Moongazer, the Living Dead and the White Man.
“First, the Amerindian speaks of the Massacuraman and the Water Baby. Secondly, the Afro-Guyanese describes the Old Higue and the Bacoo. Thirdly, the Indo-Guyanese talks of the Moon Gazer and the Living Dead. Fourthly, the old sugar plantation owners and managers relate tales of past dead European managers who would return to overlook the sugar domain.”
After the retelling of each gruesome tale, there is a comment like this one, following the Massacuraman: “Careful! You may wish to take a journey into the jungle with a porkknocker sometime. You may be ‘fortunate’ to see for yourself one of these creatures. Or you may be unfortunate. Remember, curiosity killed the cat, but it may be that a massacuraman may kill you. One thing is certain: You will not be able to confirm its existence. You will be either dead or deemed crazy. Either way, you lose!”
Both writers seem well-read in this particular area of the macabre, drawing on qualified authorities like Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Safe reading!
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• The current issue of The Guyana Annual magazine is dedicated to E.R .Braithwaite, author of ‘To Sir with Love’. Tributes, reviews of his publications, and related articles are invited for possible inclusion in the magazine. You may also submit poems, short stories and articles of interest. For further information, please contact me at the above telephone number or/and email address.
• My book, ‘The Balgobin Saga’, was used in the production of a fourteen-minute docudrama, ‘The Legend of Balgobin’. This docudrama was produced by the Centre for Communication Studies, University of Guyana. Copies of the film are available at the Centre; copies of the book can be had at Austin’s Book Service.
• Two new volumes of CLEO are out; this periodical is a publication of the Guyana Institute of Historical Research.