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Old 02-20-2014   #31
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Kyngathin, I agree with you completely that the woman (when she appears for the first time in the carriage) doesn't seem particularly spectral but I've always remembered a quote by de la Mare that appears in Ramsey Campbell's Uncanny Banquet: “the ghostliness of the ghost doesn’t much matter.” His description of the carriage, the "almost sinister amber lamplight" and then a comparison of reality to the almost ghostly perfume of flowers, all this seems to set the stage for a supernatural entrance. But I could be wrong.
I reread the story in Strangers and Pilgrims last night and, while well written, I can't say my enthusiasm was appreciably greater than when I first read it. A good story, but not, in my opinion, superior to the stories I mentioned in my previous post that didn't make the cut; or even to fine stories like "The Trumpet," "In The Forest" or "An Ideal Craftsman".

Just my subjective opinion. It's not going to shake the world...



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Old 02-20-2014   #32
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Druidic, I agree pretty much about the level of enthusiasm. I enjoyed musing over it nevertheless.

Yes, the stage is set there for a supernatural entrance. At the same time, Walter de la Mare has nothing invested in being a ghost story writer, with delivery of "satisfactory" formulas. He does his own thing, precisely as he means to. He creates a mood, adds touches of the ethereal and supernatural. But he has no obligations to any of his readers to follow through with it. He sees both the material and spiritual aspects of life, their blending, and wants to present that impression. That is his art. Or so I believe.
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Old 02-21-2014   #33
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Quote
Druidic, I agree pretty much about the level of enthusiasm. I enjoyed musing over it nevertheless.
And that, my friend, is one of the great pleasures of a de la Mare story, even his minor ones. "Out of the Deep" has afforded me many, many pleasurable hours of reflection; and it is my favorite de la Mare tale! “A:B:O,” “The Tree,” “Mr. Kempe,” “All Hallows,” “Missing” and "A Recluse" are all runners up.
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Old 02-17-2015   #34
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

lThe latest issue of The Walter de la Mare Society Magazine (No 16) includes 'The Idealists', his previously unpublished continuation of the story 'A Beginning', edited from the original manuscript by Giles de la Mare. Plus other rare de la Mare items, and commentary on his work. More info on Wormwoodiana.
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Old 03-20-2015   #35
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Druidic:

I enjoyed your Amazon review, and replied to it there.

Sand:

I am very happy with Strangers & Pilgrims, and your introduction to that volume is first rate. It both informs and stimulates the imagination; rare qualities in an introduction.

I disagree with you, however, regarding the merits of "Seaton's Aunt" versus "All Hallows". I do not consider the latter to be "conventional" , at all, and, even if it were, that does not seem to me a relevant criterion of evaluation. I am curious to read your interpretation of "Seaton's Aunt", though. Identifying Seaton as the source of the supernatural in the story does not seem plausible to me, but I find the idea intriguing, and look forward to your argument.
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Old 03-20-2015   #36
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Greetings, Al de Baran!
It's always good to welcome a new member, especially a de la Mare enthusiast. Also good to see posts related to weird fiction. Not quite as many of those these days as I'd like.
I intend to shuffle over to Amazon and read your comments. Thanks in advance. I still stand by my review though these days it would be less vehement. Sand is a gentleman of integrity and taste, as well as being a good writer; we apparently just failed to agree on the merits of a small handful of stories. (Am I the only one to feel" Seaton's Aunt" is a good but overrated work while other fine tales like "Out of the Deep" and "The Tree" are sadly neglected?) Bill Harris (who asked me to write the review) was as disappointed as I by the absence of certain de la Mare tales--tales that we considered "essential". A fine volume nonetheless even if it initially brought out my cranky side!
Interestingly enough, William Harris is a name that should be familiar to readers of Lovecraft's Shunned House...

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Old 03-21-2015   #37
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

To Al de Baron--

Your comments were excellent.

I agree with you that "All Hallows" is a magnificent work. Until I read "Out of the Deep" it was my favorite de la Mare tale.

Yes, I agree with both Sand and yourself: I should have referred to "lighter" or "less substantial" tales than whimsical ones.
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Old 03-21-2015   #38
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Druidic,

You and I are on the same side of the barricade regarding "Seaton's Aunt", but I am also interested in Sand's arguments and perspective. Sand might find my view simplistic, but my interpretation is that the aunt is some sort of witch or medium (not really a "vampire", except maybe as a psychic sort, per Dion Fortune), and that at the end her blindness makes it impossible for her to distinguish between the living and the dead, the spiritual and the material. It's a great tale, but I think that de la Mare has done better ones.

And yes, "All Hallows", to me, is one of the better ones. As an aside, it's interesting that that story is the one mainly responsible for raising de la Mare in Clark Ashton Smith's estimation. Smith singles out the tale for effusive praise in a letter to Lovecraft, I believe. Smith had earlier dismissed de la Mare (unfairly and prematurely) as lacking a "cosmic" sense, and as being interested mainly in psychology and nuances of character.

I haven't read "Out of the Deep" in some time, and should re-read it. It proves that good Jamesian tales exist, so long as James isn't the one writing them.

At any rate, yes, de la Mare is, for me, an underrated titan as a writer, one of the very finest prose stylists (and poets, however unfashionable and heretical it may be to suggest such a thing) of the 20th Century. He is long overdue for critical reappraisal, and especially one outside the superficial critical canons of "High Modernism".

Finally, I found this forum because of this thread. Full disclosure: I am actually not a huge Ligotti fan (*ducks the eggs and rotten vegetables thrown at my head*), as I have problems with his both his style and his perspective, although "The Mystics of Muelenburg" is one of my all-time favorite tales, period (and likely not one that many Ligotti enthusiasts would rate very highly, I'm guessing). So, I hope my presence here isn't considered as being under false pretenses.

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Old 03-21-2015   #39
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

Thanks for your reply, Hell-Ghost.

With respect to the "highest imaginative horror", I think that what Lovecraft meant when he wrote that "de la Mare can be exceedingly powerful when he chooses, and I only wish he'd choose oftener!" is that de la Mare is at his best when he de-emphasizes character and psychology in his tales, and accentuates the weirdness. For my taste, I would certainly agree, but I think de la Mare was powerful "oftener" than Lovecraft would allow. To compare de la Mare and his putative disciple Robert Aickman for a moment, I think that de la Mare is a far better stylist, but Aickman more often than not better integrates character studies with the weird.

So, I would suggest that, just as the Achilles heel of de la Mare's verse is his reluctance to modify conventional forms (a charge that applies a fortiori to Ashton Smith's poetry), the Achilles heel of his stories stems from his immoderate fondness for Henry James. That said, I think that Knygathin is correct in stating (if I am reading him correctly) that de la Mare is not a "genre" writer. He is merely "doing his thing", and is not interested in thematic or formal limits, in his prose, at least. So, I suppose we have to respect de la Mare's choice to emphasize more than weirdness and horror, and, for our tastes, relish those moments when they do come to the forefront.
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Old 03-21-2015   #40
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Re: Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

I agree that James came to be a negative influence on de la Mare. In an early story like A:B:O. we find a wildness that only a handful of later works even approach. James was a fastidious writer and de la Mare may well have grown to admire that...
I suspect Sand wouldn't mind a pm from you Al de Baron. I'm curious myself about his theory since I, too, see problems with it. (I've always thought Chesterton's reading of "Seaton's Aunt" was right on).
Still, it's an interesting one.
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