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Old 08-06-2015   #31
Robert Adam Gilmour
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Re: Arthur Machen

Found it kind of funny how in "Novel Of The White Powder" the chemist starts getting carried away and describes windswept bare hills in the letter, when everything else he writes is getting across his understanding of the history.

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Old 10-15-2015   #32
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Re: Arthur Machen

SPOILER ALERT!

Why does the protagonist of "The Bright Boy" hate the mother just from secretly listening to her before he flees? At that point her crimes had not yet been revealed.

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Old 10-22-2015   #33
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Re: Arthur Machen

My memory is swiss cheese. That story is due a reread for me.

I'm in the mood for more Machen. The White People, The Hill of Dreams, The Three Impostors, Ornaments in Jade and A Fragment of Life are among my very favourite things to reread, but this seems a trifle amount compared to the number of masterful Aickman, Ligotti or Campbell works. Thankfully, as with Walter de la Mare also, Machen's best stories are so luminously wonderful, mysterious and unique that I can never tire of them. Each reading is as if it were my first. Such eerie odes to mystery.

I've decided on a whim to read The Secret Glory. I'm aware of its middling reputation, but Machen writing about the Grail worked so well in The Great Return that I'm sure I should be able to find some merit.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 10-22-2015   #34
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Re: Arthur Machen

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post

I've decided on a whim to read The Secret Glory. I'm aware of its middling reputation, but Machen writing about the Grail worked so well in The Great Return that I'm sure I should be able to find some merit.
It contains some of his best writing actually (most of the core passages like the Grail procession or the wedding scene were culled from notes made in the late '90s at the time he was working on Ornaments and The White People/Fragment so that's a good indication of the quality) - it just happens to be blended with a lot of rather heavy-handed Dickinson satire of the public school system and Protestant Work-Ethic, something which is not ineffective given the contrast he wants to flag up but get's far too much print space allotted to it.

The true reason for the novel's bad reputation is: *Spoilers* It has no proper ending - Machen was interrupted whilst writing it, lost the thread and just threw in a couple of hurried additional pages to conclude the protagonist's story *Spoilers*

If you haven't read them yet the first two autobiographies are well worth checking out. They're just not very autobiographical.
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Old 10-22-2015   #35
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Re: Arthur Machen

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
I've decided on a whim to read The Secret Glory.
I trust you've got the complete six-chapter version.
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Old 10-23-2015   #36
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Re: Arthur Machen

This is somewhat embarrassing, but what is the correct way of pronouncing Machen's name? Is the a more of an ae sound? Is the ch more k or more h? This has troubled me for years. Online resources are not very helpful; in interviews, documentaries, youtube, etc., I have heard it pronounced in at least three different ways.

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Old 10-23-2015   #37
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Re: Arthur Machen

I'm pretty sure it's 'Macken' like bracken. I have heard experts say his name in online documentaries or panels and that is how they do it, so I assume they're right. Due to Neil Gaiman's mistake in that Fear of the Unknown documentary, I pronounced Dunsany wrong for ages. Then again, I also pronounced Gaiman wrong for ages too, so I can't be too hard on him.

I enjoyed The Children of the Pool. Its core idea reminded me of the Aickman story Niemandswasser, despite the exposition. I hope to discover more later Machen gems like N and The Great Return (Aickman's favourite Machen of all!) scattered through his less discussed periods. 1890s Machen was almost untouchably consistent, but I'm finding exploration of his more obscure stuff rewarding in its way, despite my frustrations.

I just ordered Far Off Things. I'm curious how Machen compares to The Hill of Dreams' Lucian.

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

Last edited by James; 12-24-2015 at 09:28 PM..
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Old 10-23-2015   #38
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Re: Arthur Machen

Most of what is good in Machen's ouvre derives from late 1890's early 1900's material. Fragment of Life, The White People, The Ornaments pieces and I'm willing to bet the Graal scenes were all original planned as part of a single great work which 'fell apart in his hands' as he said. In one of his letters written towards the end of his life (late 30s?) he admits with bitterness that everything which came after as an attempt to salvage ideas from there - that's got to be an exaggeration but it sheds rare light on how he thought of his own work.

*It's interesting - the original ending chapter of Fragment presents the account as being given by a narrator to another party rather after the manner of The White People - it makes me wonder if his proposed great work was a set of stories within a larger over-arching narrative like The Three Impostors.

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
I'm pretty sure it's 'Macken' like bracken.
It is indeed!

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
I'm becoming quite the fan of The Children of the Pool. Its core idea reminds me of the Aickman story Niemandswasser, despite the exposition. I hope to discover more later Machen gems like this, N and The Great Return (Aickman's favourite Machen of all!) scattered through his less discussed periods. 1890s Machen was almost untouchably consistent, but I'm finding exploration of his more obscure stuff rewarding in its way, despite my frustrations.
'Change' and 'Out of the Picture' are worth looking at (I'd assume they are available online somewhere); they're both late period attempts to recapture the diabolical themes of his early works, a move which meet with mixed success - having said that the closing lines to 'Change' are my favorites out of practically any horror story.

Last edited by Evans; 10-23-2015 at 04:13 PM..
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Old 10-24-2015   #39
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Re: Arthur Machen

Even though it didn't come together as well as Change did for me in terms of unifying effect, I did enjoy Out of the Picture. I was pleased with some of Machen's philosophical musings, such as:

'After all, there is something eminently human in the desire for impossible things. To seek for possibilities is rather the business of the lower animals than man.'

I find Machen's character so endearing that it elevates even lesser tales. What even these later tales lack in style they make up for in substance. It's just a shame he managed both style and substance so well in the 1890s with The White People, The Three Impostors, etc. He lived in the shadow of his own best work. Practically all weird writers live in the shadow of Machen's best work, mind.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 10-24-2015   #40
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Re: Arthur Machen

No, Out of the Picture is more unfinished isn't it? I have the feeling though that it had the potential to be a much stronger piece* than Change had he been able to complete both to the same standard of his early stories. It too, I seem to recall, comes from an idea in one of his 1890s note-books (it's mentioned in The London Adventure?)

*The Blakean, Kabalistic elements work well too.

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
I find Machen's character so endearing that it elevates even lesser tales. What even these later tales lack in style they make up for in substance. It's just a shame he managed both style and substance so well in the 1890s with The White People, The Three Impostors, etc. He lived in the shadow of his own best work.
I think he thought the same re that last remark. He swore off writing any more sensationalist 'horrors' after The Three Impostors (it's telling that he didn't consider The White People a story of that type) and almost certainly wrote those last stories solely because he and his family needed the money.

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
... I have all his other stories from the Children of the Pool collection somewhere, so will be posting my thoughts as I go...
Thanks, that'll be interesting.

Thinking about it you might also like 'Opening the Door'. It's very oblique and has a de la Mare-ish quality to it - it is, to its misfortune, told in that very abstracted journalistic style though.
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