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Old 10-08-2010   #101
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Re: Robert Aickman

Glad to hear that, Ray! Are the story notes for some of the stories or all of them? Also, how can one tell the first edition of the Collected Strange Stories from the second? I believe it isn't stated in my copy.
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Old 10-08-2010   #102
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Re: Robert Aickman

Quote Originally Posted by Murony_Pyre View Post
Glad to hear that, Ray! Are the story notes for some of the stories or all of them?
Hi there!

The notes are for all the stories in Sub Rosa, and some are more interesting than others, inevitably. There are only three pages, but they're a nice addition to the book.

Quote Originally Posted by Murony_Pyre View Post
Also, how can one tell the first edition of the Collected Strange Stories from the second? I believe it isn't stated in my copy.
The second printing of The Collected Strange Stories is designated as such on the third line of the copyright page.
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Old 11-12-2010   #103
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Re: Robert Aickman

John Magwitch’s Thesis on Robert Aickman & Cannibalism


I would like to share a very exciting thesis presented by John Magwitch on the All Hallows internet discussion forum in the last few days. He has given me permission to use his words.

=================================

JM: I’ve reread some of Aickman’s short stories recently and am left with the impression that cannibalism–literally, as in people consuming human flesh (though in a delicately implied way, of course)–was something of a recurring motif, at least among those I revisited. First, there’s “Mark Ingestre, the Customer’s Tale” to consider, which piece suggests at least a strong interest on the author’s part in the “legend” of Sweeney Todd. Then two tales–”The Hospice” and “The Inner Room”–that seem to make explicit (well, explicit for Aickman, anyway) references to acts of cannibalism, as central features of each story; “The Hospice” in particular, read a certain way, could almost be a refashioning of the Sweeney Todd story, spiced up with a touch of Aickmanesque enigmatism.

Are there any other titles that come to mind? Maybe not. I certainly wouldn’t suggest, on this basis, that cannibalism has some broader significance in Aickman’s fiction. What’s worth noting here is the rare talent on display in these stories, which summon a powerful sense of horror from the merest intimations of this grisly act, this last taboo, without so much as the hint of a single spilled drop of blood.
===================================

DFL: I think I see what you mean. Not overt, but an undertaste.
From your post, I imagined him sitting on one of the thankfully dark Aickman Islands … around a campfire, the sounds and smells of roasting wafting…
Some of his stories are also about plastic surgery, I recall. The obvious after-effect?

===========================

DFL: “On the warm, wintry grass before them lay what was left of a human body. / The
boys had already eaten their way through most of it…”
from GROWING BOYS
“Also in the pantry were traces of proteinous foodstuffs which the hired staff
had withheld and taken home to sell.”
from LARGER THAN ONESELF

============================

DFL: At the end of THE INNER ROOM, there is a fingering of the protagonist’s clothes
repeatedly – almost like feeling a prime piece of meat??, and “the youngest was
passing her dry, pointed tongue over her lower lip.” And the sinister reference
to entertainment followed by ‘It is the room where we eat.’

===============================

JM: Yes. Thank you, Des. That hidden inner room… perhaps cannibalism represented to Aickman a kind of “ultimate horror” as being buried alive was for Poe. A horror so appalling to him (and perhaps, at the same time, a source of appalled fascination) he had to hide it away in that unseen room, and could only address it through the most oblique references. Or, of course, perhaps not.

Incidentally, maybe, I note that “The Cicerones” also features a similarly mysterious room which we are unable to see into, but in which, we can be sure, terrifying things occur. A story that deals (in a typically disturbingly oblique way) with the grisly horrors the history of Christianity (and perhaps, by extension, all religions) is so rife with. And wasn’t it Christianity that elevated cannibalism to a sacred ritual?
And, of course, how could I forget “Growing Boys”?

=========================

DFL: “No breakfast, no man,,” my father had always said.
–from MEETING MR MILLAR
That’s a bit *too* subtle, but Mr Millar (in a story that involves supposed
graveyard smells in the building) is found hanging from a hook….attenuated as
if the meat had been drained off his body??
Meanwhile, I daren’t explore THE SWORDS in this light!

===========================

DFL: In fact, there is an even stronger case for ‘cannibalism’ in THE INNER ROOM than
I made earlier, I feel. ‘Eat’ is changed to ‘feast’ with a dark undertone a few
lines later.

============================

DFL: From ‘The Attempted Rescue’ (RA’s autobiographical work):
“…my Father installed a costly and elaborate system of sewage disposal. The
guileless would be invited to drink from a crystal fountain at the far end of
the vast garden, and after they had confirmed the purity of the water, would be
told that it was straight from the bacteria beds.”
That’s too subtle!
As far as I can establish, however, in this RA autobiography, although there are no direct references to cannibal fantasy, there is evidence that Aickman was interested in Jean Genet’s approach to ‘phantasies’.
Genet’s work represented in turn (I understand) an expression, inter alia, of cannibalism.

===============

That’s as far as we have got to date (6.55 pm GMT 12 Nov 2010)
Anyone else with input?
des

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Old 11-12-2010   #104
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Re: Robert Aickman

Further to above...

One quotation that has haunted me ever since I started reading Aickman decades ago was this from THE CICERONES:

"Next to her hung a further small picture, showing a saint carrying his own skin."

This was essentially Aickman-like for me, deliciously impenetrable with a meaning beyond itself, until I read this TLO thread about St Bartholomew.

But now I wonder.........?

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Old 11-12-2010   #105
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Re: Robert Aickman

There is a long and fairly depressing post on this topic coming to this thread very soon (once I spell check it and find a certain link).

For the record I think the Aickman quote in relation to Genet was '' All fantasies are sexual'' rather than anything relating to human flesh.
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Old 11-12-2010   #106
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Re: Robert Aickman

Thanks, Evans. The paragraph in 'The Attempted Rescue' is evidence that RA was interested in Jean Genet sufficient to give him this prominent reference in RA's autobiography. One can perhaps surmise that all Genet's themes (including cannibalism?) would be known to him and influenced him, consciously or sub-consciously.

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Old 11-12-2010   #107
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Re: Robert Aickman

Quote Originally Posted by Evans View Post
There is a long and fairly depressing post on this topic coming to this thread very soon (once I spell check it and find a certain link).
Looking forward to this, Evans.

Simon Strantzas

http://www.strantzas.com
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Old 11-12-2010   #108
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Re: Robert Aickman

Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
[there is evidence that Aickman was interested in Jean Genet’s approach to ‘phantasies’.
Genet’s work represented in turn (I understand) an expression, inter alia, of cannibalism.
Like to hear more about that evidence. Is that what Genet was really all about? Complicated guy, but I hadn't heard that before.
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Old 11-12-2010   #109
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Re: Robert Aickman

Quote Originally Posted by Soukesian View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
[there is evidence that Aickman was interested in Jean Genet’s approach to ‘phantasies’.
Genet’s work represented in turn (I understand) an expression, inter alia, of cannibalism.
Like to hear more about that evidence. Is that what Genet was really all about? Complicated guy, but I hadn't heard that before.
I'm not an expert on Genet. I was hypothesising a connection as I have learnt that Genet's 'Pompes Funebres' features cannibalism.

Separate from this, RA wrote a remarkable paragraph in 'The Attempted Rescue' (page 132 in the Tartarus edition) about his 'phantasies' and mentions Jean Genet in this connection.

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Old 11-12-2010   #110
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Re: Robert Aickman

Interesting you should bring this here des. I saw it on the All Hallow group this morning and was just thinking about The Inner Room question while out walking through the woods

I would disagree with the image of overt cannibalism, as opposed to cannibalism to represent something, being a deeper theme running throughout Aickman's fiction. In some of the mentioned stories such as Meeting Mr Miller, The Cicerones or The Hospice there's the occasional ''flesh based'' image which isn't really close enough to connect with them with cannibalism.

What follows is extremely prentenius but I feel it has to be said. Because Aickman's stories are meant to deal with a degree of disturbing personal images, they are, by their very nature, things best understood and puzzled out by the reader themselves as they go along, so they can experience a sort of private shock. Having someone else attempt to overly explain them risking losing some of the enjoyment obtained from reading them yourself. Also, as they employ a fair deal of Freudian imagery, it can be slightly distasteful.


Spoilers!



In 'Growing Boys' you have the scene of ''The Rebel Sons Devouring the Dethroned Father'' a classically Freudian type image which is also used in context as a metaphor for inability to control the future* (Aickman disliked the idea of mechanisation, unwarranted destruction of tradition and depersonalising progress for progress's sake - see his analysis of The Blue Light in The Attempted Rescue for example). All the aspects of the twins father, Phineas, shown in the first half of the story; his finicky diet, physical appearance and Liberal Political views, are to represent innate ineffectually and unwillingness to act against the worsening situation. Her inability to rely on him for any support against her children - a metaphor for The Oncoming World - leads to what, on a Freudian level, would be a kind of emotional regression; suggestions of a father/daughter type taboo breaking with her uncle, and on a social level looking back to an outmoded militaristic power to provide order.

* A few similar themes are used in a fair more subtle and more ambiguous way in 'My Poor Friend'.

'Larger Than Oneself' makes fairly unsubtle use of the Freudian and mythological image of the Father Devouring His Own Offspring. On another level it's a story about you should not turn to religion if your sole reason for doing so is to console your own perceived insignificance and lack of power in the universe. The protagonist's name, Iblis, a title for the lord the of the fallen Angels in Islam, is a red herring.

One of what I would think of as being the more import Aickman stories were cannibalis plays a part that has yet to be mentioned would 'Niemandswasser'. I'm not going to go into the whole ''fundamental psychological difference between men and women'' motif or the lake as a metaphor for the subconscious* and its own lurking monsters externalised, but the
term ''Unheimlich'' quite a vital part of Freud's psychological schematics. An interest article on Freud, ''The Uncanny and Cannibalism can be found on the Dedalus website here.

* A theme explored to greater extent with the river in 'No Time Is Passing' and the bottomless pool in 'The Stains'.

(some musing on 'The Inner Room' follow; this may take a while so it may have to wait till tomorrow morning. I'll have a shot at cleaning this up and adding proper footnotes as well. If necessary quotes can be provided.)

I am conscious that I may have unnecessarily stressed Aickman's use of Freudian tropes to the detriments of his obvious talents in conveying a sense of suggestive and unplaceble malice. As an author he was far more than just a copycat of outdated and largely erroneous psychoanalytical systems: at his greatest his stories require a combination social, allegorical, metaphysical and psycosexual analysis to even begin to unlock their secrets.

Last edited by Evans; 11-13-2010 at 06:04 AM.. Reason: Sadly I can't link to the Amazon page to The Ucanny without it breaking the rest of the links
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