Tales of Love and Death - Robert Aickman (Gollancz 1977)
Growing Boys Marriage Le Mirroir Compulsory Games Raising the Wind Residents Only Wood
Growing Boys - By Aickman's standards, a relatively straight-forward (and very funny) black comedy. Includes a bit where a failed Liberal Party candidate is eaten by his own sons. As should all fiction.
Residents Only - A rather disjointed, and slightly disappointing tale about an old cemetery, which never seems quite sure what it wants to focus on. The final paragraph is a killer, and there's lots of good details along the way, but it never quite coheres as it should
Raising the Wind - Along with "Le Mirroir", one of the two shorter tales in this book. A nice little vignette.
Le Mirroir - A reworking of the Dorian Gray theme (I think, it's a bit hard to tell) which has a slight feel of filler, but I may need to re-read it.
Wood - Man marries undertaker's daughter, turns into weather-clock. You don't get this sort of thing with Robert Bloch, do you?
Marriage - One of Aickman's favourite themes, young men having horrific sexual experiences, complete with Freudian twist at the end, and the use of a large sack to induce creepiness. (See also the Japanese film Audition and Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire.)
Compulsory Games - The fact that the guy who was getting paid to write the sleeve-notes to the book didn't even attempt to do a synopsis for this story doesn't fill me with confidence... Suffice it to say that it's excellent, and if anyone knows what happens at the end, I'd be grateful if you could tell me.
The cheapest I've ever seen Tales of Love and Death on sale for is £85, so I probably wouldn't recommend it as an intro to Aickman. His best stories seem so be pretty evenly spread out amongst the various collections, so you're probably best off just going for whichever ones you can find at a reasonable price - Cold Hand in Mine, The Wine-Dark Sea and The Unsettled Dust are all available from Faber & Faber, and are thus probably the easiest to get hold of, though there were some pretty weird typographical errors in the books that I bought (which hopefully have been corrected now).
Two earlier editions of The Wine Dark Sea and The Unsettled Dust, evidently another attempt at an Aickman 'Best of ...'
Robert Aickman - The Wine Dark Sea (Mandarin, 1990)
Introduction - Peter Straub
The Wine Dark Sea The Trains Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen Growing Boys The Fetch The Inner Room Never Visit Venice Into The Wood
Robert Aickman's strange stories - his preferred term for them - are the subtle and leisurely explorations of psychological displacement and paranoia. Having none of the shock effects and conventional imagery of horror, they are meticulous, quiet, and thoroughly disturbing. His characters are ordinary but gradually touched with dread until they are drawn into the deeper, darker and infinitely more dismaying world of the terrors within. Whether you enter The Inner Room, a doll's house with a secret, The Wine-Dark Sea, where a man's thoughts are trapped in Hellenic Greece, or Into the Wood, a sanatorium for the sleepless, you do so at your peril. Robert Aickman will bring you mounting panic and lasting disquiet. Winner of the World fantasy Award, Robert Aickman has an exalted reputation among the most widely published writers of the genre. In the classic mould of Henry and M R James, his is perhaps the most important body of work since Edgar Allan Poe. 'Superb tales of suspenseful unease ... a contemporary master of the genre.' - Publishers Weekly 'Aickman's effects are so concentrated you'll be well advised not to read more than one story at a time.' Books 'This century's most profound writer of what we call horror stories.' - Peter Straub
Robert Aickman - The Unsettled Dust (Mandarin, 1990)
The Unsettled Dust The Houses of the Russians No Stronger Than a Flower The Cicerones The Next Glade Ravissante Bind Your Hair The Stains
Strange things happen in the eight stories that comprise The Unsettled Dust – all the more so for our inability to perceive exactly how or when. The supreme master of the supernatural, Robert Aickman's characters – like recently bereaved Stephen in The Stains, widowed Noelle in The Next Glade or quaint Clarinda in Bind Your Hair – are often lonely, middle-aged oddballs already a little out of step with life. Coolly, meticulously, Aickman leads them each to the brink of an abyss – and only then withdraws to let us glimpse the tiny, horrifying shove ...
'We are all potential victims of the powers Aickman so skilfully conjures and commands' - Robert Bloch
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Post by The Lurker In The Shadows on Mar 15, 2009 19:19:21 GMT
"Wood" is also reprinted in The League of Gentlemen's Book of Precious Things.
There is the touch on the shoulder that comes when you are walking quickly homewards in the dark hours, full of anticipation of the warm room and bright fire, and when you pull up, startled, what face or no-face do you see?
That Aickman came from nowhere, as far as I'm concerned. Just where did he get the style from? The view? Whatever you call it. Some would say MR James. I don't know. I don't see it. I suppose originality gathersin increments, unseen, then the full object is revealed one day and we cannot see the roots of it.
Aickman came from nowhere, as far as I'm concerned. Just where did he get the style from? The view? Whatever you call it. Some would say MR James. I don't know. I don't see it. I suppose originality gathersin increments, unseen, then the full object is revealed one day and we cannot see the roots of it.
Some of Walter de la Mare's stories seem to have a similar feel to them, at least to me.