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What to Read this Week: Timeless horror

What to read this week

In “What To Read This Week,” CHALK contributor Faith Maddox and CHALK editor Taylor Worden suggest novels, poetry, articles and other forms of writing, often centering around a timely topic or theme.

This week, Maddox and Worden collaborate to suggest classic works that are timeless horror favorites for the Halloween season.

Approaching classic literature in 2020 is often a daunting task.

Thankfully, the Halloween season boasts some of the most enthralling and accessible stories to get you started. Mary Shelley, John Polidori and Oscar Wilde invite us to peer into their pre-20th-century visions of horror with characters that we know and love (or fear). 

“Frankenstein: The 1818 Text” by Mary Shelley

“Frankenstein” details the life of scientist Victor Frankenstein as he hunts the creature he assembled and reanimated, following the death of his mother.

Told from the perspectives of both monster and creator, Shelley questions who has the right to hold either title, and whether intentions matter when experimenting with the balance between life and death.

Written in 1816, the “year without a summer,” this is often considered to be the first true work of science fiction, and its impact on modern storytelling remains unrivaled. Shelley was only 20 when she wrote the novel, and it was initially to be published under her husband’s name.

The 1818 edition of  “Frankenstein” is groundbreaking in its portrayal of moral ambiguity and the distinct manner in which it challenges gender roles of the early 19th century.

“The Vampyre” by John Polidori

Dracula is commonly referred to as the first vampire, but Polidori’s short story “The Vampyre” predates Stoker’s classic by almost 80 years.

A synthesis of horror and romance, this story follows a man named Aubrey as he befriends the mysterious Lord Ruthven. Aubrey is quickly surrounded by death, finding himself unable to pinpoint its cause or escape its grip.

Polidori and Shelley both came up with the ideas for their individual works during a competition at the poet Lord Byron’s house, and both were published within a year of each other.

While Polidori would not live to see “The Vampyre” reach acclaim, it would live on as the precedent for the romantic vampire story arc into the modern era. 

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

Another classic to send shivers up your spine this season, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a timeless work by Oscar Wilde.

The novel centers around the title character Dorian, a wealthy and attractive young man who sells his soul to remain young and beautiful forever. Instead of his own body aging, Dorian barters to have a portrait of himself take on the damage to his looks, age and soul. 

However, as the story continues, Dorian finds himself falling deeper into a life focused on solely himself and his pleasure, as he remains beautiful while his portrait grows more ghastly and frightening by the day. 

Although not full of ghosts or monsters, Wilde’s novel might make you think twice about your own vanity.

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.


 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.


Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 


Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*


Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.


Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.


Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.


Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.


Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 


Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?


Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.


Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 


Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!


Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?


Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?


Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?


Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.


Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.


Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.


Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing


Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.


Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know


Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.


Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.


Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.


Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat


Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?


Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.


Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.


Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?


Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.


Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad