Cornell Woolrich: Grave for the Living

The man behind Alfred Hithcock’s Rear Window.  This guy was a weird one.  He liked men.  He had an amputated leg, apparently from an untreated shoe that was too tight on his foot.  He lived with his mother, a recluse from the world, but his stories reek from an underworld, both physical and mental.

From this collection of Cornell shorts comes Grave for the Living.  It plays like a 1930’s Edgar Allan Poe tale and sets up a sort of paranoia that has since become common throughout major pop culture works like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Fight Club.

Let me catch you up a bit.  The story’s about a guy who’s afraid of being buried alive.  He’s this way because of his father, see?  His dad was buried alive and it kind’ve shook him up if you know what I mean.  So he’s afraid and he goes around to funerals and disrupts them to make sure no one’s being buried alive.

At one of these funerals, he meets a nice girl.  She shows him how to live normal.  He tries it on for size but chance steps in when he discovers on a casual trip through the country a farm where a secret society buries people alive.  He’s saved only from these lunatics when they discover his strange connection to this practice through his father’s death.  He’s threatened to keep quiet and of course he can’t.

When he tries to go to the cops, well, they’re a part of this secret society too.  Turns out there’s someone everywhere he goes who is and soon enough he’s fighting with no hope for he and his girl’s lives.

That’s what I mean about paranoia.  A little far fetched?  Sure.  So is a black cat and a pit with a pendulum comin’ to get you and the red death and that sort of thing, but hell if it’s not good writing.

This is a cover for the kind of magazine Woolrich was published in.

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One Response to “Cornell Woolrich: Grave for the Living”

  1. Jeez, this one sounds both totally ludicrous and totally awesome. Rightly played, you can imagine a whole feast of ideas in the funeral trolling thing. And the untreated shoe –> amputation backstory is an A+ writer biography.

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