Fearful Pleasures, which consists of twenty-two stories, opens with “Adam and Eve and Pinch Me,” the title story of A. E. Coppards first collection (1921), in which a writer who is certain that he is not dead nevertheless experiences unpleasant ghostly sensations. He encounters his charming third child, whose imminent birth is announced by the writer’s newly expectant wife immediately after he mysteriously reconnects with his body.
In “Clorinda Walks in Heaven,” the title story of a 1922 volume, a woman meets all of her husbands from past lives in an afterlife not very different from the ordinary world. The title character in “Old Martin” becomes obsessed, when his beloved niece dies, with the superstition that the last soul buried in the churchyard must slave for all of those who went before, because the churchyard is filled to capacity upon the nieces burial. “Polly Morgan” tells about a young girl who obstructs her aunts romance with a ghost, only to see the aunt subsequently wither and die of loneliness in a way that foretells the girls fate.
In folktale fashion, Coppard often explores the adventures of simple people who encounter supernatural forces. In “The Elixir of Youth,” Tom Toole keeps his bargain with a strange old man to search for eternal youth and is then cheated of his share. In “The Bogie Man,” Sheila becomes familiar with a tiny man who confers a seven-thousand-year life on her when she lets...
(The entire section is 532 words.)