Saturday, November 19, 2016


Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale
by Charles Brockden Brown
read: 2016
Guardian 1000 Novels

At one point I thought that this might turn into a really interesting bit of psychological horror, with narrator Clara turning out to be the perpetrator of the gruesome murders, but Brown's narration downplays the mystery and suspense elements to the story. It doesn't quite come together, but given that it was published in 1798 it's easy to imagine the impact it had on horror writers to come. The beats and pacing of the genre had not been established yet.

One element I liked was the epilogue. She concludes the main narration by suggesting that she would die shortly after penning her tale, but she lives and is able to find happiness long after the harrowing events of the story. That's a phenomenon that is understood in modern psychology - I was first introduced to it in Stumbling on Happiness - and Brown's intuitive understanding of the effect more than a century earlier stands out:
Such is man. Time will obliterate the deepest impressions. Grief the most vehement and hopeless, will gradually decay and wear itself out.