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Old 05-14-2017   #81
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

In fact, James and Robert, my posts were not intended to serve any particular agenda. The first was mostly for information - to make known Doug's work on 'Panacea', with some interesting tasters. The second was a call for nuance - Aickman's thinking is complex. I'd add that his literary practice is quite sly.

In my 'Haunted By Books', the first essay is ‘Studies of Strange Beauty – Robert Aickman, Philip Steegman & Arthington Worsley’. I mention here the ‘five facts’ rule: often only a handful of ‘facts’ survive about anyone. Look at them more closely and we may often find; (a) they are not facts, but impressions; (b) they are not necessarily representative; ( c ) – no surprise here – it’s usually more complicated than that.

I then look at two minor figures Aickman mentions in his autobiography. None of the facts Aickman gives about them is strictly untrue, but his portraits are very partial, and misleading. He has carved them for artistic effect. His quick sketches of them make great reading – that’s why I took the time to look at them closely. But they are really a sort of creative non-fiction. I infer from this that the picture Aickman gives us of himself may be no less partial.
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Old 05-14-2017   #82
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

As I said in the Lovecraft/Butler thread, it's difficult for me to square Aickman being so conservative when he wrote novellas like The Late Breakfasters - with the exception of the (implicitly) closeted Mrs. Hatch, homosexuals are not only portrayed sympathetically but constitute the major protagonists, the Tories are mostly portrayed as shallow and hypocritical, the whole institution of marriage is skewered, and despite Griselda's gains and loses often being due to tricks of fate, she consciously takes risks to preserve her independence and does succeed in turning around the book store's business through her own acumen. The radical left of the era is reduced to gag-level Communist agitators, but there are ready parallels here between Aickman's sentiments and the current Anti-Corbyn and Anti-Sanders wings of Labour and the Democrats - whom, as much as I disagree with personally, are not anywhere close to actual conservatives in either country.

The only example of Aickman's rightward bias in his fiction I've seen mentioned is Growing Boys - and even though the husband is portrayed as
a narcissistic, avaricious party hack, I don't recall anything marking him as representative of Labour as a whole. On the other hand, it's difficult for me to see an isolated housewife being overwhelmed by monstrous children while her career obsessed husband remains willfully ignorant as providing for anything other than a feminist reading.

Now, since I know next to nothing about Aickman personally, I have no room to judge where he actually stood politically - but given that I would have guessed he was socially liberal and economically centrist (neither of which is incompatible with the anti-consumerism and anti-industrialization that is apparent in his fiction) his fiction doesn't need "sanitization" or political apologies.
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Old 05-14-2017   #83
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Quote Originally Posted by Hidden X View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Hidden X and Durandal are really the same person
Really?
For one, if that was true, I wouldn't be posting here now. Moderators have acted pretty fast in such cases in the past (see WithStrenghtIBurn's legion of speedily banned alts), so my humble self certainly wouldn't be tolerated.
I'd prefer you left in the "If" at the start of my quote, because I never would have guessed it myself but that idea was thrown out there.

Strength's case is completely different. His different accounts were made one after another, after each was banned and you've never been banned as far as I know.

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Old 05-14-2017   #84
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Quote Originally Posted by Speaking Mute View Post
The only example of Aickman's rightward bias in his fiction I've seen mentioned is Growing Boys - and even though the husband is portrayed as
a narcissistic, avaricious party hack, I don't recall anything marking him as representative of Labour as a whole. On the other hand, it's difficult for me to see an isolated housewife being overwhelmed by monstrous children while her career obsessed husband remains willfully ignorant as providing for anything other than a feminist reading.
Same here. As I mentioned in that horror & far right thread, I could never have guessed that Aickman was conservative based on his fiction alone. That is one issue I had with some folks in that thread, because they claimed how his conservative biases are evident in his stories.
Nope, they most certainly aren't.
Now, IF I was introduced to some bits about his politics before reading any of his stories, I couldn't help but project some of it into his stories. I am not deceiving myself either about my flaws & limitations as a reader or about the way our minds work in general. But, in the same way, if someone has told me that he was pretty progressive in his politics, I would've also projected that in his stories and would think them (even more) liberal.
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Old 09-09-2017   #85
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Robert was right-wing, no question of it. For instance, he was very suspicious of trade unions, feeling that any claims they made to care for the public masked their machinations on behalf of their members. He passionately defended Leni Reifenstahl to the end and admired Oswald Mosley as an orator.
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Old 09-09-2017   #86
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Aickman's politics shouldn't affect any critical judgement of his stories unless you're a Philistine. The same is true of Russel Kirk. Kirk wrote only a very small number of exquisite spectral tales but works like "Behind the Stumps" and the novel, "Lord of the Hollow Dark" are first rate. I suspect Ramsey delighted in the final pages of the former.
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Old 09-10-2017   #87
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
Aickman's politics shouldn't affect any critical judgement of his stories unless you're a Philistine. The same is true of Russel Kirk. Kirk wrote only a very small number of exquisite spectral tales but works like "Behind the Stumps" and the novel, "Lord of the Hollow Dark" are first rate. I suspect Ramsey delighted in the final pages of the former.
More than delighted in that tale - I anthologised it!
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Old 09-10-2017   #88
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
Aickman's politics shouldn't affect any critical judgement of his stories unless you're a Philistine.
In my opinion, Aickman's politics are fundamental to a critical understanding of his stories, and it is inevitable that this plays a part in one's judgement of them.

But disagreeing with Aickman's politics doesn't preclude being in awe of his writing. In the same way, Machen's religious views underpin much of his work, but one doesn't have to be a Christian to admire his writing and even sympathise with his view of the world. The most topical example of this is Lovecraft--his racism is one part of what makes certain of his stories powerful, but it doesn't mean that his writing isn't endlessly fascinating.

But we all have different tastes and interests. Readers have every right to find an author's politics or religious views or prejudices objectionable, and to therefore find reading them unpalatable. It is the mark of great writers that we find much to enjoy and admire in their work even when we disagree with the views that shaped it.
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Old 09-10-2017   #89
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

I agree the understanding of an artist's political views can affect the understanding of his work in general. But it shouldn't affect the critical judgement of his work unless there's complete artistic failure ending in crude propaganda, not art.
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Old 09-10-2017   #90
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Re: Aickman's Philosophy

Aickman was himself a wonderful critic. His non-fiction writings about the ghost story are even better than Lovecraft or Joshi's.

Sat here laughing and cringing at how wound up I let myself get in this thread a while back. I still think everything I said was correct, but sometimes I could stand to be more calm and measured.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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