Alan has been doing a right stellar job of recommending marvelous things to you every week. Honestly I haven’t had any desire to jump in because I’ve been enjoying getting new things handed to me the same as you. But it’s a lot to ask a man to continuously recommend things without being offered inspiration in return so to that end I have decided to chime in. I have opinions on a great many varied things (not all of which you want to hear, granted) so I can certainly delve into my Box of Favorite Things and share some with all of you.
My first Pick of the Week is a short story about large spiders.
Recoil in horror! Full disclosure: I am so desperately afraid of spiders that I have never yet watched the Shelob scene in LOTR: Return of the King despite having seen that film roughly a dozen times. I once woke my sister up in the middle of the night to climb into bed with her because there was an itsy bitsy spider in the corner of my room and the cold sweaty terror of the thought of it crawling on me was too much to bear. I’m dreadfully afraid of spiders. Most bugs, actually. If I were Willie and Indiana Jones were caught in a stone death trap and the only way to free him was to stick my hand in a bug-infested hole the trilogy would have been a lot shorter because he would have died in there. But spiders are the pinnacle of the bug tower of terror. The absolute tippy-top of fright.
Why am I recommending a story about spiders, then? Why in hell would I even read a story about spiders? That’s the fantastic thing about public school in the 80s, man. The story was one of several classic shorts we were made to read in grade school English or Language Arts or whatever they called it. Of the stories we read I remember every single one of them with crystal clarity because a) they were all classic, brilliantly-crafted tales, b) they were all, almost uniformly, vaguely inappropriate for kids by today’s sterile standards, and c) they were mostly horrific and thus memorable. Among them were ‘All Summer in a Day’ by Ray Bradbury, ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ by Richard Connell, and ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson. I heartily recommend every single one of them. I cannot say enough about how great these stories truly are and how they’ll burrow into your minds and never leave. But I’m not talking about those other brilliant stories today, I’m talking about the story about spiders that I read as a young girl deathly afraid of spiders who would go on to have nightmares about pits full of spiders for years to come and then one day in her [redacted] year would scour the internet for the exact title and author of the spider-pit story so she could morbidly read it again and marvel, again, at how terrifyingly great it is.
‘The Bamboo Trap’ by Robert S. Lemmon.
CURSE YOU ROBERT S. LEMMON YOU BRILLIANT SADIST YOU!
The story is about a man hired to travel into the depths of a jungle place to collect a rare spider for his employers. He suffers disappointments early in the trip when he can’t locate the spider and then suffers a very bad mishap in which he falls into a pit and becomes trapped underground. The good (??) news is that he’s actually landed in the precise pit where all the giant potentially deadly spiders seek shelter in the rain. So every night he is beset by the very spiders he’s hunting. Not just one or two spiders either, which would be bad enough. No, he survives an entire cavern’s worth of giant spiders crawling all over him and piling up around him and if this story sounds like a searing hellish nightmare it absolutely is and yet... and yet... it’s actually so good.
Thus my inaugural Pick of the Week is ‘The Bamboo Trap’ by Robert S. Lemmon. It’s hard to find copies of (I wonder why) but you can purchase the anthology ‘Great Tales of Action and Adventure’ on Amazon which contains ‘The Bamboo Trap’ and, as bonuses, also ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ by the unmatched Edgar Allan Poe which is another story indelibly stamped on my mind in my formative years. So buy a copy of this collection for your kids, obviously! It’s a kids book. And then understand that spiders are trying to kill you so don’t ever go to sleep again.
- Corinne Simpson