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Old 07-21-2007   #31
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Re: Robert Aickman

Just re-read 'Ravissante' in my current re-read of Aickman marathon. This came up fresh. It's probably - with the vantage point of years of experience with RA - his best story. It is very powerful - and that black poodle...??!

Particularly inspired by this (edited) passage:

"My pictures are visionary and symbolical, and, from first to last, have seemed to be painted by someone other than myself. [...] I am thus entirely self-taught, or taught by that other within me. I am aware that my pictures lack serious technique(if there is a technique that can be distinguished from inspiration and invention). I should have given up painting them some time ago, were it not that a certain number of people seemed to find something remarkable in them, and have thus identified me with them, and made me feel mildly important."


And from another place, I believe the following is a brilliant summation of the Aickman experience as written by Richard Gavin:

"To me, that is the real power of Robert Aickman's strange stories --- they are bewildering, yet are so cunningly written and seductive that you sometimes do not realize just how frightening the heart of the story is until it's too late...by then the story has taken root inside of you and, in an odd way, *owns you*."

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Old 07-21-2007   #32
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Re: Robert Aickman

As long as we're on the subject (sort of), does anyone on here have any idea where one might find the Jeremy Dyson Aickman adaptations? I know there is a short of The Cicerones and a radio adaptation of Ringing the Changes. I can't think of anyone I'd rather see adapting any of Aickman's work than a member of The League of Gentlemen...
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Old 07-23-2007   #33
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Re: Robert Aickman

I have not read too much of Robert Aickman, but one story I read recently called 'The Break-through' (I think it was this name) was very disturbing to me. There did seem to be something in common with the writngs of Ligotti, but I'm not sure how much Ligotti himself would say he was influenced by Aickman since he does not seem to like his stories. Perhaps they just have a resemblance by coincidence, I don't know but even if so, I think I would agree that they have both without knowing tapped into the strangeness of the world and how this can be expressed lyrically.
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Old 07-24-2007   #34
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Re: Robert Aickman

I have just last night read another story I found in an anthology, 'The Inner Room', which has been mentioned in previous posts. I think this is a most clever piece of suggestion. There is a doll house which (it is implied) has an 'inner room' that apparently cannot be accessed (at least not by normal persons). The delivery of this suggestion is carried nicely by the girl's brother doing some sort of volumetric equation, after which he concludes there is more space inside than meets the eye.

Then there is the later (and I fel, more disturbing) implication that there is some kind of feasting happening in the inner room which you cannot partake (if that is the right use of the word?) in unless you are also a doll entity. I mentioned this story in specific detail because I think it is quite literally the scariest thing I have read (maybe because I used to own a doll house!)

Anyway, so I would be honestly surprised to find that Ligotti had read this story and not found its theme compelling. I think, having only read three or four Ligotti stories, that he has a particular sensitivity towards puppets, dolls etc.

I talk too much! Let me know what you guys think if you have read this

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Old 07-25-2007   #35
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Re: Robert Aickman

Sasha, 'The Inner Room' is one of my 'top five' most disturbing Aickman stories.

All the points you mentioned factored into my reading as well, except I would also have to add that one of the most worrying aspects of the story was the sheer contingency of the circumstances - the girl could never be seriously held to blame for 'neglecting' the dolls by parting with them; it was not her but her father who sold them, and even so, who could ever have recourse to think they might be mistreating living beings when they are only playing with what they assume to be toys?

For this reason, this story taps into a peculiar childhood fear of mine. I used to own dozens of stuffed animals, and I felt I had to kiss each one of them at least once before going to bed or I believed they would kill me while I slept (yea, dad let me watch horror movies). As a result of this pressing fear, if I suspected that even one toy might have been neglected during my rounds, I would go back and kiss them all again, just in case. But then who got one kiss and who got two kisses...?

I suppose that the fact that I'm still alive means they were satisfied customers.

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Old 07-25-2007   #36
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Re: Robert Aickman

Simon-I had the exact same habit and motivation when I was a child. I've often thought that this tendency to anthropomorphise my toys figured into my later literary/artistic preoccupations-off the top of my head I can come up with (besides Ligotti) Hoffman 'The Sandman', the works of Hans Bellmer and to a certain extent those of Joseph Cornell, the films of the Brothers Quay, Bruno Schulz. I'm not even digging here. Do you find that you to have a certain preoccupation with inanimate object becoming animate? Where do you think this comes from? Not to quiz you here or become invasive, these are just things I've been puzzling out myself and would be interested in your perspective.
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Old 07-26-2007   #37
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Re: Robert Aickman

Sasha - you're certainly correct to mention Ligotti's preoccupation with dummies, mannequins and puppets. There seems to be connection there with Aickman who I often percieve to have a similar sensitivity. I guess it really is quite a common 'horror' writer's theme though. I tend to think of things like dummies as a reversal of anthropomorphisation - there are superficial human characteristics, but no there is no essential resemblance - mind, soul or whatever. For particularly imaginative people, I also suspect there is a tendency to posit thoughts and intentions into empty vessels, and for those of a morbid tendency, the thoughts posited are often horrific.

Patrick - interesting to meet someone else who had this experience.

I have thought about this before, but not to a great extent. I was raised as a strict Catholic, and I have a suspicion that my tendency to treat toys/objects as observers came from fear of observation fuelled by the guilt I felt. I often entertained the thought that there was a god who would kill me out of spite if he didn't have so much else to worry about. Like Blackwood's story 'The Willows', perhaps it was only my insignificance that saved me!

Another telling fact is that I had an imaginary friend with no eyes. Maybe it was so that he couldn't judge me.

I've always had a strong drive to do artistic/creative stuff. And yes, a lot of this has been anthropomorphisation. In my teens I wrote and illustrated a pseudo-biblical text written by an skinny eyeless entity called 'The Toad'. I wish I still had it, that was some of my best artwork! (I remember having sketches of the Toad wearing a top hat and holding a bloated half-human grub on his lap, and another of him being crucified upside-down before a crowd of weeping skeletons).

I do see connections. I also have pretty bad anxiety problems which I often think originate in early neurotic thoughts about sin/guilt (Catholosis?) but anxiety has a major hereditary presence in my family too.

So there - I'm interested to hear some more of your thoughts on the topic.

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Old 07-27-2007   #38
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Re: Robert Aickman

Simon-I was also raised (partially at least) Catholic, but (aside from the standard ex-Catholic neuroses-the guilt/sin that you mention, plus a bit of excessive glorification of the female via the veneration of 'Blessed Virgin'-which I believe are largely behind me at this point) never really considered it to be much of an influence on my later development. This in itself strikes me as odd, since so many ex-Catholics seem to make ex-Catholicism their new religion. I just stopped attending as soon as I had the option to, prefering my Dad's explanation of God (lives in the woods and/or nature in general) to my Mom's (God is angry, Jesus suffered, Church on Sunday,etc.)So you've given me a bit of food for thought. Catholicism does seem to lend itself to all sorts of fetishism, and I suppose a fascination with dolls coming to life could easily fall into that category.
I was a solitary child, for the most part, and spent most of my play time taking things apart so that I could figure them out and attempt to rebuild them, often making improvements of various sorts. So this has obviously been with me for some time. I never really questioned it until my therapist started asking me questions about it. Suppose that is reason that one goes to therapy, but I'm not sure there's any one explanation. I certainly don't have one.
Too bad you lost that Toad material you mention. I'm not sure what your artwork is like, but from the descriptions you posted, I'm imagining something along the lines of Nick Blinko's work.
One more thing-there is a book called The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson which I would suggest reading. It is an academic book, but by no means turgid or weighted down with post-modernist blah blah blah-just an interesting long essay on puppets, their history and various uses in Western culture. Of course, Hoffman, Belmer and the Brothers Quay all come up in the course of the book.
-Patrick
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Old 07-27-2007   #39
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Re: Robert Aickman

Quote Originally Posted by DF Lewis View Post
And from another place, I believe the following is a brilliant summation of the Aickman experience as written by Richard Gavin:

"To me, that is the real power of Robert Aickman's strange stories --- they are bewildering, yet are so cunningly written and seductive that you sometimes do not realize just how frightening the heart of the story is until it's too late...by then the story has taken root inside of you and, in an odd way, *owns you*."
Des, I've just been thinking about this nice bit you posted, particularly about the respect in which the tales of RA have this capacity to 'own' the reader. If you've interpreted the meaning of this in the way I have, then what I am about to say might seem trivial, but here goes.

It seems to me that many, if not most, of these stories don't allow the reader to establish control, and I further suppose that such 'reader-control' normally takes place through comprehension.

Even in tales of vast cosmicism, like much of the fiction of Lovecraft, the reader is at least given some clue about the parameters involved in the 'supernaturalism' of the story - ancient things impinging on human affairs, vast alien power, etc.

RA's fiction really doesn't seem to relinquish control of this sort to the reader. From the beginning of an Aickman tale I feel like a floundering infant seeing the world for the first time unable to assign significance or structure to the flow of experiences that are making themselves available. The whole tale often feels like an anomalous juncture at which both the observer and the observed become identical. So this is the respect in which I personally feel 'owned' by RA's fiction.

I know this kind of phenomenological approach to fiction is vague, but I'm probably not alone in experiencing these strange impressions.

Simon

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Old 07-28-2007   #40
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Re: Robert Aickman

Spot on, as far as I am concened, Simon. Thanks.

That's why Richard's statement struck so many chords with me.

It also relates to my obsession with the Intentional Fallacy and Magic Fiction and Elizabeth Bowen and Marcel Proust and, of course, Thomas Ligotti.

I was also intrigued by the Catholic connection you and Patrick described on this Robert Aickman thread and how this relates to Fiction as religion.
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