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Old 11-21-2014   #1
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Topic Nominated Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

Whatever is your favourite to flow from the dancing pen of that mighty Welsh wizard, mystic, and visionary Arthur Machen? That Inverness-caped, pipe-puffing, faery-seer. He is very much an idol of mine and without he (and numerous other fantaisistes) I would very likely have been not long for this world. Machen wrote an infinite number of works, many of them anathema to me, yet it is arguably the rich phantasies of horror and ecstasy that hold an enduring readership to-day. Here are my favourites:

The Great God Pan: A powerful and shocking story of the grave consequences of a foolish experiment upon a young woman to enable her to see ''the great god Pan'' and the daemoniacal horror that ensues. The book that made Machen's name as a ''decadent''- though I believe he would have rejected that label, despite tenuous associations with Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley- of the 1890s. The monstrous Evil that pervades this pagan product of unholy nightmare is one of the most sustained in horror-fiction; an unseen maelstrom of carnal horror at its most intense. Though it feels a little mechanical and seems, to me, to lack the emotion of his subsequent work, The Great God Pan is, without question, a prominent classic in the fields of the dark and the fantastic.

The Inmost Light: A less horrific, but no less chilling, companion piece to The Great God Pan. Like Pan, The Inmost Light shews the misfortune that befalls a scientist when he removes the soul of his wife and places it in a shining jewel and allows a nameless presence to enter the empty husk of his wife. This aura of awesomeness and fear is investigated, if memory serves, by Mr Dyson and Mr Phillips; two duelling men on the mysteries and nature of existence.

The Novel of the White Powder: A noxious and grotesque tale that fuses the flaws of science with the ancient menace of the Sabbath. A bookish young man swallows a pill that allows him to wallow in life to its fullest. But the pill, procured by the aforementioned Sabbath, takes its gruesome effect upon him as he shelters himself within his room, causing alarm for his servants and his sister. Eventually the man is reduced to a primal and putrid mass of liquid flesh that seeps through the floorboards.

The Novel of the Black Seal: A forerunner of Lovecraft in its skilful delineation of malefic horrors and forces that pre-date man and lurk outside the known world. These ''Little People'' are not the charming faeries and nymphs of commonplace myth, but charnel, monstrous ghouls that swap their own hideous offspring in exchange for a ripe young human babe. The narrator of this superb tale, a beleaguered Professor Gregg, has a terrible encounter with one such offspring, grown into an idiot boy, and witnesses a horror that goes beyond all mortal comprehension.

The White People: Considered by many to be the second greatest tale of the supernatural ever written (just behind Blackwood's The Willows, though sometimes, for me, Machen's tale worms it way to the front) and it is difficult to argue with such a claim. A London eccentric on esoteric matters reveals to another man and to the reader the ''Green Book''; the diary of a young girl who once lived in the wilds of Wales and her enthralling and intoxicating initiation into the alluring and forbidden world of the faeries. The horror is disguised in the harmless and charming prose of a little girl, thus giving credence to such an awful intercourse betwixt human and non-human entities. As E.F. Bleiler, perhaps the greatest authority on the literature of the Imagination, put it: ''perhaps the finest single supernatural story of the century, perhaps in the literature.''

The Hill of Dreams: The titanic, autobiographical masterpiece of Arthur Machen. A harrowing and epic observation into the aesthetic and interesting world of Lucian Taylor; native of Caermaen, Wales, and aspiring writer of exquisite and beauteous literature. Shunned by the uncaring city of a sepulchral London, and ridiculed by the townspeople of his native land, young Lucian becomes irritated with humanity and seeks solstice within his imagination that is saturated with wild and pagan phantasies, if phantasies they be, that threaten to overtake his life. As a serious and acute study of despair and creativity, Machen's singing and screaming book, the result of his desperation to expound a new style after being previously criticised by many as a mere second-rate imitation of his idol Robert Louis Stevenson, stands proudly atop the eponymous Hill of Dreams, whence phantasy and reality wed together and fulfil all the repressed dreams of common life. Such majestic lines as ''Literature, he re-enunciated in his mind, is the sensuous art of causing exquisite impressions by means of words.'' and ''It was in this winter after his coming to the grey street that Lucian first experienced the pains of desolation.'' proclaim that this is a work of art that deserves to rank with the greatest of general literature; I would very much like to see this published by Penguin Classics. It is, however, to my belief, to be reprinted by Tartarus Press in early 2015 with illustrations by Sidney Sime and introductions by Mark Valentine, Lord Dunsany, and Machen himself. I have read this book two times, and shall it read again many times over so long as Time permits me.

I also like the non-fiction book Hieroglyphics, which I am currently reading and am finding charming and interesting.

Now, what is everyone else's favourite Arthur Machen piece?

Let us admit...the hallucinatory nature of the world. Let us...seek unrealities which confirm that nature.
-- Jorge Luis Borges

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rc...FBrqgtg6hy-w0w

Last edited by The Alchemist; 11-21-2014 at 02:22 PM..
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Old 11-21-2014   #2
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

I got to go with The Great God Pan and The White People. But I think I really need to do a in depth read of more of his works.
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Old 11-21-2014   #3
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

Unquestionably, The Fragment of Life.

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Old 11-21-2014   #4
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

The Three Imposters. I like the whole 'novel'. Sue me.
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Old 11-21-2014   #5
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

I have only read The Novel of the Black Seal, and need to read more of his stories because Machen is one of the linchpins of weird literature, and his writing is the epitome of wonder and terror. To correct this lack in my reading, I purchased recently the Penguin edition of his stories, which has a foreword by Guillermo del Toro and an introduction by S.T. Joshi.
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Old 11-21-2014   #6
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

If you mean "A Fragment of Life" then I agree with you. Though the first half is hard going.
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Old 11-21-2014   #7
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

Quote Originally Posted by Souphead View Post
If you mean "A Fragment of Life" then I agree with you. Though the first half is hard going.
Yes, sorry, *A* Fragment of Life.

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Old 11-21-2014   #8
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

I've always enjoyed "Out of the Picture," a fine Jekyll/Hyde reworking that all too often is ignored by readers and critics alike.
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Old 11-21-2014   #9
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

Slightly Off-Topic but maybe not: In the final pages of Durrenmatt's The Execution of Justice we get a partial glimpse into the nature of the type of Horrors Machen is often hinting at. A hideous dwarf--with her gigantic and sadistic body guards, no less--pursues a young girl through a nightmarish landscape...complete with frightening statues and a dream slipping into nightmare atmosphere...
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Old 11-21-2014   #10
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Re: Whatever be your favourite Arthur Machen work(s)?

- First and foremost, I would have to go with 'The White People', which, if it isn't the greatest piece of weird fiction ever produced certainly represents a high-water mark of the genre; it terms of craftsmanship and subtlety I think only Sarban's Ringstones approaches it. Second, I have great love for The Three Impostors in its entirety, even if some individual portions are stronger than the whole. After those two key texts, there are a number of his short stories I love; I have a weakness for his tales of the 'little people' in particular: 'The Shining Pyramid', 'Out of the Earth', 'The Red Hand', etc. The prose pieces in Ornaments in Jade are also quite excellent, and somewhat under-read, as well.
(I do enjoy 'Great God Pan' too, but personally I tend to see it as a sort of dry-run for the more powerful 'WP'.)

"When a man is born. . .there are nets flung at (his being) to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets." - James Joyce
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