This week’s weird fiction discussed over at LibraryThing is something fairly unique.
Review: “The Book”, Margie Irwin, 1930.
This story mixes a lot of things together. Part ghost story, part tale of demonic possession, and definitely a contaminated text story though of a different sort than Mark Samuels’ “A Contaminated Text” or Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “Ex Libris”.
The story opens one November night with protagonist Corbett looking for something to read after stopping his reading of an unsatisfactory detective novel. In the dining-room bookcase are some books, mostly “dull and obscure old theological books” inherited from his late uncle’s library. They are mixed in with cheap novels bought at railway stalls by Corbett’s wife and “respectable nineteenth century works of culture” that Corbett bought in his Oxford days, and children’s books. The uncle’s books have an “air of scorn that belongs to a private and concealed knowledge”.
A fancy takes Corbett (in his “vaporous and fog-ridden” Kensington living room?) that a “dank and poisonous breath” is exhaled by some of the volumes. He grabs a Dickens’ work then goes back for a Walter Pater book. He notices a gap left by the Dickens The Old Curiosity Shop which seems too large. That seems strange. Corbett hurriedly leaves to return to his bedroom. He almost feels like his house is haunted.
But the old pleasures of Dickens aren’t there this time. It seems sentimental, to take pleasure in cruelty and suffering. The humorous is now diabolic. The peculiar thought comes to him that there is “something evil in the austere worship of beauty for its own sake”.
I think I got this one free in a giveaway from Meikle’s newsletter.
It’s way cheaper than Meikle’s novels on kindle which, I suppose, means my preference for short stories over novels is not shared. It serves as a good sample of a major strain in his work.
Review: Home From the Sea, William Meikle, 2017.
Unlike Meikle’s collection Samurai and Other Stories, this story has only one type of story: entities and creatures that don’t know their place. There’s boundary breeching, lockpicking, and mangled spacetime membranes. Things are roused that shouldn’t be and invade our earth from the ether, the briny depths, and the spaces between atoms.
Surprisingly, for such a tightly focused collection, none of it was stale or boring when reading it straight through. There was only one story I had a very minor gripe about.
“The Doom That Came to Dunfeld” is the one original tale here and quite an effective horror story. Its narrator tells us what happens when the British government tries to repeat the legendary Philadelphia Experiment off the coast of Newfoundland post-WWII. They want to make a warship invisible. What they get is a dissolving warship and a killer fog.
Meikle has a real knack for the sea horror story and shows it even better with “Home From the Sea” which has a group of Irish men on a rescue mission to take men off a whaler floundering off shore. But they’re already dead, and their killer still on board. Continue reading
Another retro review, from December 9, 2005.
When it appeared on Amazon, weird fiction author Wilum Pugmire rightly chastised me for making a mistake about J. Vernon Shea not being an acquaintance of Lovecraft. He, in fact, corresponded with him. I’ve corrected that mistake here.
Review: Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Volume 1, August Derleth, 1971.
All the authors in this book were personal friends or correspondents of H. P. Lovecraft. Several are distinguished authors in their own right. One, Clark Ashton Smith, could arguably be said to have made some fine contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. But, apart from Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos“, none of this collection’s stories are worth reading on their own merits.
It was Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” which gave the Mythos its name. While not Lovecraft’s personal best, it is certainly one of the central Mythos stories. It has held up well after more than 60 years. That can not be said for many of his imitators. As this collection shows, there’s some alchemy at work in Lovecraft’s prose beyond the characteristic plot structures and adjectives, the props of gods/ETs and forbidden books, a power based in a carefully constructed paranoia with a decided scientific air about it — and not reworked mythology.
The worse offender here is the editor, personal friend, and arguable savior of Lovecraft’s reputation: August Derleth. Continue reading