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Old 04-14-2013   #1
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Walter de la Mare Strangers and Pilgrims

This is a slightly cleaned-up version of a review of Walter de la Mare’s Strangers and Pilgrims that I posted at Amazon. (My Amazon reviews are always “quick and dirty”, they’re all about Information, not literary polish). After purchasing the book, a pricey volume, I just found myself really annoyed that one of de la Mare’s best tales, “The Tree” was MIA. Now, in my opinion, that’s an indefensible omission…utterly. Why would a first rate horror story be a casualty for replacement by, say, a non-horror 'literary' delving in Obscurantism? I may be wrong about the reasons why so many of de la Mare’s books seem to shy away from fully advertising the author’s allegiance to the Weird, so feel free to tear into any of my assumptions. Only Indifference is an Insult, never honest passion in discussing something you really value! The following is the ‘revised’ review. It’s still quick and dirty, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m more interested in hearing the ‘logic’ behind this …ah…oversight.

Walter de la Mare wrote one of the finest ghost story I've ever read, the chilling and atmospheric "Out of the Deep". This story (I feel) is what "The Turn of the Screw" should be but isn't…not quite. We also have that little masterpiece "A:B:O.", a grim, ghastly and darkly humorous ghost story that rivals the very best stories of that other James (M. R.). This hefty volume contains some of the finest supernatural tales of terror ever penned but it also contains large amounts of weaker work and that puzzles me because many of de la Mare's best stories, "A Mote", "Missing", "The Wharf" and the wonderful "The Tree" (a story that's always reminded me of Lovecraft's "The Colour out of Space") are inexplicably not included.
I'll give it 5 stars anyway just on the strength of a dozen or so stories. But, hey, while I'm at it, let me air a pet peeve: When will serious critics FINALLY realize "Seaton's Aunt" is a fine but nonetheless overrated horror story when compared to tales like "Mr. Kempe" and "All Hallows"? That story has appeared in so many anthologies that might have used the space better by introducing readers to less overly familiar material and reprinting some lesser known tales equally good or even superior.

Personally, I would have preferred a far slimmer volume that contained all of de la Mare's best tales of ghosts and subtle Horrors. I just don't care for the lighter whimsical fantasy stuff at all.

It's apparent from these selections that those who `guard' de la Mare's literary legacy don't want him remembered primarily for his supernatural tales. That's a pity and a real mistake: in general only lovers of spectral tales read de la Mare these days. Literary snobbishness will only insure his reputation to dwindle even more in the future.
BTW, I hate an off-white DW. If you read the book (like I do) it gets dirty in no time at all. If you remove it, there's a chance it may get misplaced or damaged. Having said that, let me add the book is quite attractive looking albeit a real bug squasher.
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bendk (08-26-2013), Doctor Dugald Eldritch (03-21-2015), Murony_Pyre (08-26-2013), njhorror (04-14-2013)


mare, pilgrims, strangers, walter

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