Walter de la Mare was a writer of "strange stories". Oblique perhaps, but only because most people are too materialistically oriented to grasp the subtleties of his spiritual perspectives. Aickman and la Mare were on equal level of artistry, Aickman perhaps being even better, but de la Mare was probably more mature of soul.
Ha ha, ... I might add that I don't pretend to understand most of Walter de la Mare's stories. But to read him (likewise so with the poetry of C. A. Smith for example) feels like being in the presence of someone with vast intelligence who towers above me. I may not fully grasp their meaning, but it still rings of truth. That is fascinating. I might also add that I am very demanding of myself, and of others, and think we should always aim for the very best, not mere idle entertainment. I get bored when authors do not explore the uttermost fringes of their mental abilities.
Read GROWING BOYS for the first time the other day. Wow. So absurd. Really makes use of the ambiguity of words. Just how big were those boys?
This one stands out in my memory as my least favorite Aickman story, though I can’t recall why. Maybe it wasn’t spooky enough.
Then again, perhaps it’s my materialistic orientation combined with the immaturity of my soul (I’ll own up to all of that).
My tastes stem from the surreal as well as the spooky. I'm happy to have either but especially both. The story provided both for me. It inspired the usual Aickman feeling. I wonder if it is the same feeling we all receive when we read this scribe.
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 Se The Trains Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen Growing Boys The Fetch The Inner Room Never Visit Venice Into The Wood
The original hardbound edition of The Wine-Dark Sea (Arbor House, 1988) has eleven stories in it, and an unusually well conceived, and satisfying, Aickmanesque cover painting.
I thought "Never Visit Venice" was beautifully written. A psychologically capitulating self-study. It is also a wonderful attack on modernity (Aickman understood some of the deceit going on which we are all victims of). And actual observations blend and drift smoothly into dreamy historic past and spirit. It is bittersweet.