Friday, October 31, 2008

The Man In The Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

A truly chilling tale, The Man In The Picture haunted me as I read it. A story within a story and yet within another story -- quite apropos, frame story for a story about painting -- the overall tale is about a painting of a Venetian carnival and the characters within it, one of whom makes eye contact with viewers. As we get deeper into the scene and eventually deeper into the dark history of the painting and its subjects, we become drawn into a dark world of dread.

The telling of such a tale is supposed to relieve the teller of the secret burden of such supernatural occurrences. Yet when a tale is passed on, the hearer bears the burden and can become consumed with the horrific, inexplicable details. One knows that the tale is true, but also knows that it must not be true. For were it true, the truth would be too terrifying. Paintings are not supposed to change, especially after the oil has been dry for decades. The old saw tells us that life imitates art. The Man In The Picture explores that notion and scares us with its implications of mortifying mimesis.

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