Jesse Teller’s series review of Penny Dreadfuls: Part Three

The following is Part Three of a five-part series of Jesse Teller’s reviews for the modern classic, Penny Dreadfuls.

Sometimes it is not what you learn, but where you learn it that has the greatest effect. Learn to paint from a friend, you can make a picture. Learn to paint from a master, you can make a work of art.

Well, a lot of my friends are masters. A lot of the people in my life are fantastic writers. But I am trying, with my work, to create something different, so I have chosen a different teacher. I most often do not read my contemporaries. Most times I do not read modern fantasy because I do not wish to sound like others you will read. I could reach into so many modern novels and pull out quality, but I choose to seek knowledge in another place. I read classics, attempt to improve my work by reading the old masters. And this has brought me to the book Penny Dreadfuls.

There are five installments in this review series. This book is filled with so many great works of art that to try to fit the full picture in one review cannot really be done. So here I will look at the collection and focus on the third installment, a story called The Diary of a Madman by Guy De Maupassant. I will rate this story five stars.

If I am being honest, I will say that this story is the reason I bought this book. The title was known to me, but I had never read it, and when I picked this book up and saw it could be found here, I just couldn’t resist. The book was on sale. So many people no longer admire the old tales that what could have easily been a thirty-dollar book was selling for eight.

A voice within me begged me to jump ahead and read this story first, but in times like these, I believe in anticipation. So I waited and worked my way through the book to get to The Diary of a Madman, hoping it would not disappoint. I enjoyed it so much and learned so much from it that I was not disappointed.

The story is about a judge who dies of old age. He is one of the pillars of his community, and is respected and loved by almost everyone. When he dies, his office is being packed up, and they find his diary. They never could have been ready for what they read.

The diary told of his fascination with murder and how it had become an obsession. He detailed his killing of a man near a lake asleep beside a shovel. The judge beat the man with the shovel and left no evidence. Later, the one accused of the crime was brought to the judge and, knowing him innocent, he sentenced the man to death. The thrill he received from killing a man for his own crime was divine.

The diary goes on to tell of other killings, and they come to a natural head. The only issue I had with the story at all was that it was far too short for my need. See, I became entrenched in this tale, digging my way in to study the nuance of the inner dialogue.

In the diary, he is talking to himself. He has a way of talking to himself that I found very intriguing. Here is a very educated man, and yet the words he used to discuss his crimes were not well thought out. They seemed to come as a swirling of ideas with no care given to exact wording, no focus on higher speech at all. I found that within myself there was nestled the same thing.

When we talk to others, we have a tendency to use complicated words to show our intelligence, yet here was a well-educated man speaking to himself plainly. Inner dialogue, I realized, was always simple. We have no one to impress when we talk to ourselves. No one to show off for. When I speak within my own head, I do not use my upper vocabulary. I keep things simple and short. So too, this judge did not speak in any but the most common of wording.

I found this to be a revelation. It changed the way I saw inner dialogue forever. It made me think of the way I talk to myself, and really admit that when I am only speaking to myself, I am plain and brief. Immediately, the way I wrote inner dialogue changed. No more fancy prose when my character was in their head. And by reading this magnificent story, I had once again improved my writing forever.

Author Bio
Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to understanding the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.

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