Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (Feminist Press edition, 1973)
One of the best things about this small volume is that there's good deal of biographical and context information in the back. The story itself, already creepy enough on its own, takes on added weight when tied in to various minor details in Gilman's life. The biographer notes at one point that of Gilman's many writings, the only ones to survive in print at the time were this story and a textbook, Women and Economics. While this is certainly an above-average piece of work, there are a number of things about it that make it easy to see why less gripping tales in Gilman's corpus might have fallen by the wayside.
The main annoyance of Gilman's writing style is the constant paragraph breaks, a longstanding (and, one wonders, is there any reason behind it besides tradition?) affectation of what we'll call euphemistically erotic novelists. Really, subtlety is a good thing. While we're at it, the story would be more effective with half, or less, the number of existing exclamation points. The only parallel I can think of these days, stylewise, is the chatter of vacuous fourteen-year-old girls mooning over the Backstreet Boys. It gets painful after a while.
Annoyances of grammar aside, the story itself is quite a work. It purports to be the diary of a woman descending into madness thanks to, in essence, being treated like a woman in nineteenth-century America (the story itself dates from 1899). One wonders if H. P. Lovecraft didn't lift some of his descriptions of raw chaos from Gilman's descriptions of the wallpaper in the title, which is about the closest thing to raw chaos one is likely to find outside a straight horror story.
There is nothing here to suspend disbelief; there is nothing here that requires it. By the time the last few sentences roll around, the author's state is entirely plausible, and that, more than anything, is what makes this such a fine piece of work. Should be, and in many places is, required reading. ****