Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spirit Cheesecloth

It turns out that Marina Warner did write that book on ectoplasm after all - in 2006. I just hadn't heard about it, which is the way of things, I mean I didn't realise there was a fourth book in J.M Auel's 'Clan of the Cave Bear' series until it had already been out for ages (and yes I have read it, and the fifth one too - but hey, is she ever going to write any more? I'm waiting!). Actually, Warner's book, which is called Phantasmagoria, is not just on ectoplasm, but explores angels, ghosts, fairies, revenants, and zombies as well. Not that I have actually read it, I have not - as yet - seeing as I only discovered its existence half an hour ago. Here, by the way, is a fascinating little essay by Warner in Cabinet Magazine about looking at Helen Duncan's (see picture above) ectoplasm, although now I'm confused because at the bottom it says "Marina Warner's most recent book is Signs & Wonders: Essays on Literature and Culture (2003). She is currently finishing a study of spirit images, Figuring the Soul about waxworks, fata morgana, and ectoplasm." - maybe that's an entirely different book from the Phantasmagoria one. Whatever. I can't keep up and [come closer, while I whisper] frankly, while I do own about four or so Marina Warner books, and have all good intentions of reading them, last time I tried I found her too difficult to actually read. However, I haven't tried them for several years, I may find that I can read them now. Anyway, I like the types of topics she covers, and I admire her obvious braininess. But regarding Spiritualism, perhaps it is easier to actually read Alex Owen's 'The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England'. Janet Oppenheim's 'The Otherworld: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914.' is the most famous book on Spiritualism, possibly being eclipsed now by more recent publications. (A quick Google search turns up that Oppenheim died in 1994! I see... another thing I didn't know - can't know everything, I suppose). Other interesting books on the topic of Spiritualism and the history of Psychical Research are Deborah Blum's 'Ghost Hunters', Mary Roach's 'Spook' - which is quite humorous - and for a specifically Melbourne flavour: Alfred Gabay's 'Messages from Beyond: Spiritualism and Spiritualists in Melbourne's Golden Age.'

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