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Old 06-03-2007   #21
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Re: Robert Aickman

I've just read (or re-read?) RAISING THE WIND and note that it depicts the church-door through-the-keyhole-kiss that is prevalent in the area where I live in Essex, UK. Unknown elsewhere. The story even mentions Marks Tey which is quite close by.

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Old 06-10-2007   #22
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Re: Robert Aickman

Who agrees with me that 'Residents Only' is possibly Aickman's masterpiece?

It is one of his longest stories. Which is sort of relevant. When I started reading it, the glanced-at length seemed about average for Aickman - but as I continued reading it, and looking, from time to time, at the pages still to read, it seemed bodily to grow, as if the act of reading made it longer. A bit like the very British committee system embodied in its plot, the cemetery committee itself that is the centrepiece, reminding me of Jarndyce & Jarndyce or of a meal at Aickman's own Hospice. I mean this quite seriously ... and this seemed to be confirmed by the story's coda with these words: "Everyone perceived that the past should be allowed to merge into the future, with no official recognition given to an interregnum."

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Old 06-15-2007   #23
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Re: Robert Aickman

Just for the record on this thread, during my current re-read of Aickman, it has occurred to me that 'Wood' is the most Ligotti-ish of his stories.

(To be differentiated from another RA story entitled 'In The Wood').

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Old 06-15-2007   #24
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Re: Robert Aickman

I haven't managed to track down 'Wood', despite my huge stack of anthologies, but I've heard similar comments about it.

I recently read 'The Swords' which struck me as being thematically Ligottian, but probably only because the freakish ending left me with the impression that the female character was some kind of corpse-puppet.

'Stains' was a nice piece - I've been pleasantly left with lingering image of an eyeless old man snuffling about a dark cottage on all fours. It seems to me that suggestion in weird horror (or whatever you might call Aickman's work) is a form of psychological Judo, where a writer succeeds in conveying the appropriate mood of a tale by bringing the reader's own imaginative strength to bear against him.

I nominate Aickman for a posthumous honorary black-belt!

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Old 07-12-2007   #25
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Re: Robert Aickman

"I have often noticed in life that we never really learn anything - learn for the first time, I mean. We know everything already, everything that we, as individuals, are capable of knowing, or fit to know; all that other people do for us, at the best, is to remind us, to give our brains a little twist from one set of preoccupations to a slightly different set."
Robert Aickman (from 'The Clock Watcher')

That certainly gave my brain a little twist! I don't yet know why, but I feel that helps to 'explain' RA's stories, if explanation is seen to be needed.
des

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Old 07-12-2007   #26
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Re: Robert Aickman

Interesting, Des - the aforementioned Aickman quotation from 'Clock Watcher' (which I have yet to read) is a perfect summary of Socrates' so-called 'theory of recollection' found in Plato's dialogue Meno.

I think this really does reveal a 'unified theory' of Aickman's strange tales. One of the major components of the Aickman tale is symbolism, which never seems conventional, and yet I always feel when reading his fiction as though my thoughts and emotions have become puppets in his hands. Perhaps Aickman aimed towards conveying a deeper symbolism that precedes experience, and is also perhaps universal to human psychology?

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Old 07-12-2007   #27
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Re: Robert Aickman

Fascinating, indeed. Thanks, Simon, for the teamwork of thoughts...
All very Jungian, too.

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Old 07-12-2007   #28
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Re: Robert Aickman

Interesting-there was just a long discussion of Aickman on the All Hallows board, mostly centering around 'The Trains.' I'm about half through Cold Hand In Mine and the main thing I've noticed is the extreme subtlety of the stories-'The Swords' aside, most of them initially strike me as being odd and it is only after finishing them and putting down the book that any kind of horror comes about. 'The Hospice' especially fits this scenario, I had to run back home (literally) and read it again due to the feeling that I'd overlooked something very very important. Some of the stories in Teatro Grottesco seem to function in a similar way-it is only after finishing them and attempting to return to 'normal life' that the horror becomes apparent.
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Old 07-12-2007   #29
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Re: Robert Aickman

Patrick - 'The Hospice' evoked a very similar response in me.

One other critical thing I've noticed about Aickman's tales (and this is particularly true of 'The Hospice) is that Aickman will suggest details which the reader expects to tie into the plot, as if they will later contribute to some kind of revelation. In 'The Hospice' examples of such details are the cat scratching the protagonist's leg, his seeing the manacaled foot, and the unfinished business with the lady he speaks to. The brain seems to put each of these various details 'on hold' as if in expectation that they will confirm a pattern, and by the end of the story we are left really quite unsettled due to these little insertions. Interestingly, I've never found re-reading an Aickman story to clear anything up for me - perhaps it has confused me more, in a good way, of course.

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Old 07-12-2007   #30
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Re: Robert Aickman

Quote Originally Posted by simon p. murphy View Post
The brain seems to put each of these various details 'on hold' as if in expectation that they will confirm a pattern, and by the end of the story we are left really quite unsettled due to these little insertions. Interestingly, I've never found re-reading an Aickman story to clear anything up for me - perhaps it has confused me more, in a good way, of course.
Exactly. I've read some of the stories more than once and have never felt like anything was particularly cleared up. If anything, new possibilities are suggested. The Swords for example-the sailor/sideshow announcer/pimp's insistence on a handshake after collecting his ten pounds certainly seems significant, doesn't it? But how?
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