Return of the Gothic Livetweet: Special Double Feature Edition!


Yes, you read that right – I’m back at this Gothic fiction game!  Well, sort of – I’m at the Denver Publishing Institute until August 8, so that’s occupying a lot of my time, but I managed to cross both “Roger Malvin’s Burial” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” off my checklist last night.  Terrible jokes about the Bourne trilogy and lots of entirely-too-appropriate Spotify tracks ensued.

First up, let’s tackle Malvin:

  • so this is a bit of a departure from Victorian Gothic, actually – it’s Hawthorne, so maybe Puritan Gothic?
  • “Puritan Gothic” is actually a really good description of stories like “Young Goodman Brown”
  • anyway, SCENE: 1725, some sort of battle “for the defence of the frontiers”
  • oh and apparently like everybody died in this battle. cool. way to start a story, Nate
  • oh oh, and apparently it’s all okay because this bloodbath “broke the strength of a tribe.”
  • I’m not familiar enough with Hawthorne to know if he’ll really fly in the face of colonization tropes… tbh I’m not too hopeful
  • so basically Nate is making the next inspirational war movie with a “based on a true story” subtitle
  • first stage directions: it’s a sunny day, the birds are chirping, and a couple guys have just rebandaged their wounds. y’know, standard.
  • our characters in this drama include an old guy who’s, like, really wounded. guessing this is Roger Malvin.
  • “Languor and exhaustion now sat upon his haggard features” – believe it or not, Nate, I would have gotten the point with just one of those
  • and the younger one is having PTSD dreams. poor kid.
  • or wait, I guess the battle has already happened?
  • UPDATE: Kiddo’s name is Reuben. and darn it, now I’m hungry
  • the weird part is I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually had a reuben sandwich in my life
  • Roger has totally achieved Zen Master status in re: his imminent death. Lil Reuben Sandwich is having NONE of it.
  • I can’t decide whether I’m glad or disappointed that we skipped right to the equivalent of the scene in Cap 1 where Dr. Erskine dies
  • when does this get creepy
  • Roger: FLY, YOU FOOL
    Reuben: lol nice try
  • Roger’s dying wishes: “literally just leave my corpse here to rot, it’ll be fine”
  • “when friends stand round the bed, even women may die composedly” – thanks, Mr. Sandwich, for your words of wisdom
  • omg his full name is Reuben Bourne
  • still going to call him Sandwich, probably
  • oooooohhhhhhhh boy, turns out Roger is Sandwich’s father-in-law
  • basically all that’s going on here is a lot of manpain
  • Roger: lol maybe I’ll recover
    Sandwich: AHHHH MAYBE OMG!!!!!!!!!!
    Roger: dude I was kidding, I’m totally going to die
  • and of course Roger’s backstory involves being captured by some indigenous tribe in Canada, of *course*
  • wow, Roger. planting false hope in poor little Sandwich’s heart to get him to go away. dang.
  • oop, Roger just modified his dying wishes – he wants Sandwich to come back and bury him after all
  • ~follow for more soft Native American superstition~
    Screen shot 2015-07-23 at 10.22.16 PM
  • so Sandwich leaves but then sneaks back again to spy on Roger’s communion with nature or whatever
  • everything goes wrong on his journey home. our boy Sandwich has all the luck.
  • seriously, this is some Odyssey-style ish
  • but like Odysseus, Sandwich Boy eventually manages to wash up on his own doorstep, where his wife is waiting.
  • “They conveyed him to the nearest settlement, which chanced to be that of his own residence.” – how convenient
  • *insert Sandwich being in a coma for several days*
  • Dorcas (the wife): Honey, what happened to my dad?
  • or wait, never mind, I guess Sandwich and Dorcas aren’t married yet
  • Sandwich told Dorcas that he’d buried Roger, which was only sorta kinda halfway true.
  • and now it’s eating at him. as these things do.
  • *insert years of secret guilt and manpain here, like literal years*
  • Sandwich’s guilty conscience means he sucks at being a farmer, apparently
  • here’s a thought, Sandwich: maybe you literally just suck at farming, and it’s nothing to do with your deep dark secret
  • oh, and Reuben Sandwich Bourne now has a kid, whose Bourne Identity is Cyrus.
  • sorry, I had to
  • Cyrus is a total Gary Stu, and everybody in their lil hick town talks about his Bourne Supremacy.
  • so the Three Bourne Bears are moving away from their hick town, finally
  • basically how it goes…
    Papa Bourne: I hate everybody
    Mama Bourne: I love everybody
    Baby Bourne: *single-tears* this will be just right
  • Cyrus fancies himself some sort of Abrahamic figure. sighhhhhhhhhh
  • yay, time for an awkward road trip with the Bourne-stain Bears!
  • …………that was terrible
  • and whaddaya know, good ol’ Sandwich is taking a different course than the one they need. three guesses as to where they’re headed
  • Cyrus: Uh, Dad? The GPS said to turn here.
    Reuben: I know what I’m about, son.
    Cyrus: …………….ok sure
  • Dorcas brought an almanac on this trip. Sandwich, you married yourself one practical lady.
  • Dorcas: oh btw it’s nearly the anniversary of Dad’s death Reuben: *internally screaming* Dorcas: yeah that was pretty sad
  • now Sandwich is taking a pouty late-night walk around the woods
  • as a reminder, it’s strongly implied that they’re near Roger’s mouldering corpse.
  • Sandwich thinks he hears an animal and shoots it. three guesses as to what he actually shot.
  • surprise surprise, Sandwich is back at the gravesite.
  • a bunch of bushes have grown up where Roger last was. so I guess there’s no jump scare here.
  • interestingly, the tree to which Sandwich bound his kerchief as an SOS flag has grown into an oak with a major bald spot on top.
  • aaaaaaaaand all of a sudden, we cut to Dorcas, who is doing everything you’d expect of a housewife and still has no depth.
  • OH WAIT NVM, she’s singing a really crass song. I like her.
  • wait, I take that back. I misinterpreted the word “rude.” gosh diddly darn it.
  • oh NO
  • Dorcas just heard a shot and surmised that her little Gary Stu killed a deer.
  • three guesses as to what ACTUALLY happened
  • so Dorcas wandered through the woods to find Cyrus, but instead found Reuben looking even more horrified than usual.
  • okay but how can Dorcas not actually see what’s at Reuben’s feet
  • is she nearsighted as well as horrifically underdeveloped
  • yep, sure enough, Cyrus Bourne is dead.
  • right on his granddad’s grave, too.
  • but on the bright side, Sandwich is no longer cursed!
  • I guess in order to lift the curse, the ghost of Roger Malvin issued him a………….. Bourne Ultimatum?
  • “His sin was expiated, the curse was gone from him” – and with that, Reuben solidifies his………… Bourne Legacy
  • anyway, terrible jokes aside, Reuben Sandwich Bourne prays for the first time in years, and that’s the end of the story.

Now for The Yellow Wallpaper:

  • the song that just came on Spotify is “Evil Woman”……. from what I’ve heard about this one, that’s reasonably accurate
  • also, I managed to find a PDF of the original story, which is cool
  • with this story we get a return of the first-person narrator, typical for Victorian Gothic.
  • anyway, our MC and her hubby John have just rented some sweet new digs for the summer.
  • MC wishes this were a haunted house. be careful what you wish for, sunshine…
  • “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects this in marriage.” – uh-oh
  • “John is a physician, and /perhaps/… that is one reason I do not get well faster.” – oh MAN, Sunshine is holding nothing back.
  • “there’s nothing wrong with my wife, she’s just being a *woman,* you know” – John, basically
  • okay, now Spotify is playing “I Wanna Be Sedated”… what is going on here
  • tbh the words “a slight hysterical tendency” were a dead giveaway that John is a jerk
  • calling him Dr. Jerkface from now on, k? k
  • now playing: “My Life,” Billy Joel. y’all, this is getting freaky.
  • Sunshine’s prescription list:
    -phosphates or phosphites, “whichever it is”
    ………..and Dr. Jerkface still insists she isn’t sick?
  • oh, and the last item on Sunshine’s extensive prescription list is being “absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again.”
  • complete with scare quotes.
  • “Personally, I disagree with their ideas.” YES SUNSHINE GO OFF
  • Sunshine has to be “sly” about writing this little journal, and I want to punch Dr. Jerkface.
  • “John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition” – wtf, Sunshine, you JUST SAID he didn’t think you were sick
  • so the house they’re in seems really gorgeous until she mentions the fact that the greenhouses are all broken.
  • Sunshine has a creepy feeling about this whole setup, and what does Mr. Sunshine aka Dr. Jerkface say? She’s imagining things.
  • Dr. Jerkface is literally every suburban white dad in a horror movie about moving to a new house
  • “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes.” – oh, Sunshine, it’s perfectly reasonable.
  • they rented a gorgeous house and live in the ugliest room. this is going to turn out well.
  • “[Dr. Jerkface] is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.”
  • oh my god. oh my god, y’all, Sunshine has to take prescriptions EVERY HOUR
  • Dr. Jerkface might as well put her on an IV drip at this stage, good god
  • update: they’re sleeping in the nursery. I feel like there’s some deeper connection to the idea of hysteria.
  • am I the only who can’t help but think the windows in the nursery are barred for a reason other than to keep kids falling out the windows?
  • oooohhhhhhh, and here we get the titular wallpaper.
  • to be fair, from the way Sunshine describes it, the wallpaper truly is hideous.
  • now [in part 2] we have a time jump of two weeks. poor Sunny is so tired she hasn’t been able to write.
  • “John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious” – now hold up now
  • what happened to him being all hovering and stuff?
  • so first Sunny says her case is “not serious,” but then she says “John does not know how much I really suffer.”
  • “It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby” – oH.
  • I’m not a doctor like Dr. Jerkface, but I’ll go ahead and diagnose Sunny with postpartum depression and Dr. Jerkface with being a jerk.
  • oh my god
    Sunny: can’t we at least get rid of this wallpaper
    John: no
    John: it’ll build character
  • Dr. Jerkface uses a slippery slope argument! It’s a fallacy, but it’s still effective!
  • at least Sunny has some pretty good views from her room… still not enough to compensate for the wallpaper, apparently
  • ah yes, nothing like telling your spouse they’re imagining literally everything. how romantic
  • yet another highly appropriate song: “Breakeven,” The Script
  • “There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down”:
  • this is so much creepier than Roger Malvin’s Burial and I’m loving it
  • now Sunny’s talking about the “kindly wink” of her old bureau and of a chair that was her “strong friend.”
  • this is all I can think about right now:
  • sorry for the brief break, folks – I had to actually watch Be Our Guest, of course.
  • alright, where was I?… oh yeah, Sunny fancies herself a regular Belle. of course.
  • unfortunately, there is no such harmony among the furnishings of this nasty little nursery.
  • omg they have COMPANY! yeah so maybe it’s just Dr. Jerkface’s sister, but whatever
  • oh goodness, now Sunny thinks she sees a whole person in the wallpaper. what a great note on which to end this section.
  • Part 3 has begun, and I don’t know how much time has passed, except the Fourth of July has come and gone.
  • they had more company, but it was apparently very boring. I would expect no less of Dr. Jerkface
  • Dr. Jerkface has basically threatened to send Sunny to Weir Mitchell, who’s like Dr. Jerkface 2.0
  • poor Sunny is getting worse.
  • at least Dr. Jerkface lets Sunny walk around the garden now
  • still, Sunny’s so bored that she’s taken to staring at the wallpaper, trying to figure out where the pattern goes.
  • has any artist ever tried to recreate this?
    Screen shot 2015-07-24 at 12.27.48 AM
  • the wallpaper, in short, makes no sense, and that’s the end of this section.
  • now we’re on Part 4, and Sunny’s energies are *really* failing her.
  • in response, Dr. Jerkface is having her take cod liver oil, among other “tonics.”
  • I looked it up, and apparently cod liver oil might actually help with depression. score one for Dr. Jerkface, I guess?
  • god, just tweeting that made me uncomfortable
  • and I mean, he’s plying her with “ale and wine” too. don’t drink and take meds, kiddos.
  • ahahahaha so Sunny tries to have ONE reasonable conversation with Dr. Jerkface, and of COURSE he shuts her down
  • blah blah blah, Dr. Jerkface is an infantilizing sad sack human being
  • Sunny just pointed out that at least the baby doesn’t have to use this nursery and put up with this wallpaper.
  • which……. is a really good point, probably
  • so apparently her wallpaper is haunted by a bunch of silhouettes of women who are crawling around and stuff. AWESOME.
  • that is exactly the image I needed in my head. sweet dreams, me.
  • Part 5 ahoy! in which Sunny tries to stand up for herself again and the attempt, naturally, fails
  • “‘What is it, little girl?’ [Dr. Jerkface] said” – omg please go back to your home on Condescending Sexist Island
  • Dr. Jerkface: trust me, you’re getting better
    Sunny: I’m actually not, though
    Dr. Jerkface: yah but I’m a doctor lol
  • “‘Bless her little heart!’ said he” – oh mY GOD
  • “‘Really, dear, you are better!’ ‘Better in body, perhaps-‘” OH. OHHHHHHHHHHHH GURL.
  • Dr. Jerkface uses Death Glare! It’s super effective!
  • and on that lovely note, this section ends.
  • Part 6, aka Sunny Obsesses Over the Wallpaper Pattern Some More
  • okay but this is actually a fantastic description:
    Screen shot 2015-07-24 at 12.51.48 AM
  • and the best part? now Sunny sees a woman behind bars in the pattern.
  • projection much?
  • “The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.” – a sensible reaction, considering he’s a terrible doctor and husband
  • now Sunny is theorizing that the paper is messing with Dr. Jerkface’s mind, and also that of his sister/housekeeper.
  • so the paper apparently “stained everything it touched,” but Sunny has made no mention of actually touching the paper.
  • I hope I find like six articles about this when I search JSTOR later
  • what could those “yellow smooches” on their clothes really be from? who knows, honestly
  • now Sunny is paranoid that the others will discover the secret of the pattern before her. end section.
  • Part 7 is a really short section.
  • Sunny’s quest for the secret wallpaper pattern has reinvigorated her.
  • and that’s literally all that happens in this section.
  • Part 8, ahoy!
  • somehow Sunny has managed to almost completely reverse her sleep schedule, and I’m mildly jealous
  • oh, and NOW Sunny thinks to mention that the wallpaper smells weird. thanks, hon.
  • now Sunny’s trying to go all CSI on a weird mark on the wallpaper, and she’s meeting with limited success
  • end section.
  • Part 9 happenings: the woman in the wallpaper moves, apparently. shakes the bars. thanks for the nightmares, Sunny.
  • on to part 10.
  • the woman in the wallpaper is totally a Real Person(TM) who creeps on the house during the day.
  • stellar investigative work, Sunny. you should be a journalist:
    Screen shot 2015-07-24 at 1.08.07 AM
  • “I always lock the door when I creep by daylight” – oohhh is it just me or did this open things up to a multiple-personality interpretation?
  • end section. on to part 11. (just a couple more pages left, I think.)
  • “If only the top pattern could be gotten off from the under one!” Um, Sunny, I don’t think that’s how wallpaper works.
  • Dr. Jerkface and his sister (who, by the way, is named Jennie) are getting suspicious. about time.
  • part 12 is here, and it’s the last day they have to spend in the house with this wretched wallpaper.
  • Sunny’s latest bright idea is that she’ll free the woman by tearing down the wallpaper.
  • the rest of their things have been moved out of the bedroom. now it’s just Sunny and the bed and that wallpaper.
  • I wonder what interpretations scholars have assigned to the gnawed furniture……… I mean, I have my own ideas, but……………..
  • so now Sunny’s going all HGTV on this wallpaper.
  • aaaaaaand it’s only partly working. our heroic home improver is getting a LITTLE frustrated.
  • for context, she just entertained the notion of jumping from one of her top-floor windows.
    Screen shot 2015-07-24 at 1.18.47 AM
  • what just happened
  • I’m going to need a minute to process this, hang on
  • oh my god. I think I need to annotate this one on my phone. give me a few minutes.
  • Alright, here are my annotations (finally):
  • so basically I think there are two possibilities for what happened in this ending bit. they’re both terrifying and I love them.
  • option 1: the woman in the wallpaper is real. once Sunny tears out the wallpaper, she possesses Sunny and they both inhabit one head.
  • option 2: Sunny has been projecting her own subconscious state onto the wallpaper pattern, and when she tears out the wallpaper… (cont.)
  • (cont.) she officially, bona-fide goes into multiple personality mode.
  • and I mean, to a degree it doesn’t really matter whether either of those options is true (or if they’re even true).
  • Sunny has certifiably lost her marbles and may or may not have killed Dr. Jerkface.
  • gosh golly gee, I’m going to sleep well tonight.
  • side note, while I’m thinking about it, am I the only one who imagines this as another webseries? a secret vlog?
  • also, the slippage of referring to Jennie as “Jane” in the second-to-last paragraph makes me wonder if that was a Jane Eyre reference
  • so, in that light, this could kind of be a story told from Bertha Rochester’s point of view.

There you have it!  I’ll return to Twitter around August 8 to finish livetweeting Dracula.  Till then…

Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 10.45.35 PM


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