I think much of the bleakness perceived in the 1960s or 70s has to do with an increasingly confident mass media reporting on and communicating the evil of acts of child murder. I remember when I was 10, the prevalence of the story of the murder of James Bulger in Liverpool. You couldn’t be shielded, maybe shouldn’t be from the facts of evil being done. This story by Elizabeth Taylor, born two decades before her more famous namesake, seems a precursor to the 1970s wave of public information films in Britain which used shocking narratives to jolt and petrify children into learning important lessons to make them safe. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (1973) and Apaches (1977) will remain ingrained in the minds of most British people who are now in their fifties.
As explained by Joanne Kingham in her introduction to Taylor’s Complete Short Stories, she submitted the story to the New Yorker, but William Maxwell didn’t like it and told her to consider altering the ending. Listen, now, to my reading of a horrifying tale that the New Yorker refused to publish.
Broadcast on YouTube on Tuesday 7 July 2020:
Analysis and thoughts to be added later.