Dressing up for Halloween might not be for everyone, but the spirit of the evening is hard to resist. From classic monster movies to your favorite spooky music, there are plenty of options that don't include putting on a costume.
But let's not forget one of the greatest mediums for supernatural pleasures -- namely, books. Brookline Booksmith is hosting a pair of author readings just before Halloween which celebrate the release of two books fitting the spirit of the season.
On Thursday, bestselling author Mark Danielewski brings his novella, "The Fifty Year Sword" to the Booksmith, while on Monday, Karen Engelmann will enchant readers with her debut novel, "The Stockholm Octavo."
Both books have a foundation in mystery and expert storytelling that will draw readers in with strange relics and designs. Danielewski's story whisks us to a dreamlike Halloween party, where an old man's ghost story centers on an oversized metal box that he has set before his audience. Engelmann's tale focuses on a noble soothsayer and the mysterious pattern of eight playing cards (or octavo) which are slowly unfolded to conjure and guide the destiny of an aspiring young socialite.
Despite their similarities, the books use their strikingly different styles and formats to reveal their magic in different ways. Danielewski (who first gained acclaim in 2000 with his "House of Leaves") delivers his novella in a highly poetic style -- which includes words that are both archaic and made-up -- the use of multiple narrators (indicated with five different colors for quotation marks, each representing a different narrator) and a visually arresting style where words are often loosely scattered across pages.
"The box he carried," writes Danielewski of his foreboding old storyteller's possession. "A narrow thing with angles of black, six feet long, easy, with an ochre sash for a handle above the odd engraving -- T50YS."
His whimsy makes the dark aspects of the tale seem more curious and inviting.
Meanwhile, Engelmann's book opts for a straightforward foray into historical fiction (set in the late 18th century rule of Sweden's enlightened King Gustav III), which gives the reader the advantage of being immersed into a time where magical practices such as cartomancy (card reading) were very much a part of aristocratic life.
While "The Fifty Year Sword" was originally released in a limited run in the Netherlands in 2005, it appears here for the first time with illustrations (done with thread on a sewing machine) in its official major release -- all the more to feast your eyes on. So whether your pleasures lean more towards Danielewski's brand of suspense or Engelmann's mysticism, both certainly have plenty of magic to share.
Like many writers, Karen Engelmann started with just a detail and found a world within it. In her case it was a deck of 16th century German playing cards whose finely-wrought illustrations contained volumes for her weave into “The Stockholm Octavo.” “The drawings on them are so fantastic and evoke human character in such a wonderful way,” the writer tells Metro.
But in 2012 — more than 200 years since her book takes place — does Engelmann still believe in magic?
“Yes! I think that there is energy and forces in the universe that we don’t really understand,” she says.
If you go
'The Fifty Year Sword’
Thursday, 7 p.m.
‘The Stockholm Octavo’
Monday, 7 p.m.
279 Brookline Ave.
Brookline, $5, 617-566-6660