From amid the ever-changing right before the eyes and endless rows at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon I pulled free an aged and yet clean, crisp and slightly musty copy of George Lanning’s The Pedestal. I’d never heard of the author, but I have an affinity for older horrors. It seems these often focus on smaller pictures, little details of normalcy blown apart by the slow dip into terror.
What I got with The Pedestal was not that.
There were terrors, oh yes. Great terrors.
Presented as reasonable and normal by the story’s narrator, old money misogamy offered a naked glimpse into wrongs socially accepted, by some anyway.
“He talked about putting it right between the bitch’s legs and seeing what she had to say then- which was very unlike him… I suddenly remember the talk that was, or probably was, going around about Alma, but raping another man’s wife didn’t seem to me a particularly sensible response to a scandal about you own wife, and Ray is sensible even in his cups.”
The He, Ray, in the above section is the local priest.
“I could have rutted anything. I understood the deep necessity of rape, and for the time it seemed to me better that a woman should be roughly violated than that a man should endure that kind of mental as well as physical hell…”
The I in the above is the narrator, he sees his wife quietly talking to the priest and assumes she is cheating.
This horrid tone rings throughout in different shades, perpetrated by both sexes. The shock rises more from the eloquence and quality of the writing than from the words. Or rather, while grouped together it is that one surprises more than the other. If nothing else, these vintage tomes, ones often written bluntly, can reveal things mostly brushed aside when looking back at the gold ole days for the taste they leave.
As for the rest, this is a psychological terror, built on a framework not so different from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Lonely torment that no others see, or they might see if they cared to look harder and yet, perhaps not. The mind is a shaky place.
The pedestal, purchased at auction for five bucks, is haunted and quietly torments a man with a known mental illness, or it doesn’t. That aspect really doesn’t matter as little goes on concerning the great pillar and the intended horror is as limited as possible to fit within the horror genre.
It’s quick, entertaining, well written, brutal in its moral suggestions and paints a portrait that seems mostly realistic, then again my experience around old money pricks is quite limited.
Worth a read, if only to gape in disgust, if the price is right.