reading Lolita

July 20, 2018

book and trees

In Nabokov’s Lolita, the sexualised young heroine is pedestalised whereas her middle-aged mother, Charlotte, is knocked down by a car. This paradigm works so effectively and hauntingly because it illustrates, all too plausibly, a man’s predatory, appropriative desire for youth on the one hand, and his ambivalence towards the archetypal ‘mother’ on the other. There are exactly two roles a woman can have in the Lolita universe: she can be scrutinised, idealised, exploited and abused; or she can be scrutinised, mocked, exploited and disposed of. Putting aside Nabokov’s wit and satirical tendencies for a moment, I would insist that reading Lolita is a particularly uncomfortable experience for a woman because the female reader is reminded that, in the eyes of some men, she will always be fitted into one horrible category or its horrible opposite. This is not to say the novel is not great or that it should not have been written, but merely that women readers may receive its messages differently to male readers.

Kathryn Maris
Transgression and transcendence: poetry and provocation

words on a face

If you’re just starting out, you need to get feedback on your work and the easiest (and cheapest) way of doing this is by attending a writers’ group where members read and comment on each other’s work. You’ll be astounded by how much you’ll develop as a writer. The feedback I’ve got from my writers’ group has improved my writing to such an extent that I can barely read my writing from before I joined

But what you also need to remember is that writing is one of the most subjective businesses there is. One person’s opinion on your work could be completely different to another’s, so getting feedback from a cross-section of fellow writers is much more useful than getting it from just one person. It’s important to remember this with rejections, too. It’s one opinion. Always try and get more before you change something fundamental about your work. You don’t want to end up deleting or changing something that might not be to that person’s tastes but is literary gold to everyone else

C R Berry
Interview 11th May 2018 for Theme of Absence

Good literature

July 18, 2018

Good literature very simply is that which uplifts an enriches in some way, that which gives you an insight into the human condition so that you understand that we all live in the same skin and we are all heir to the same fears and joys and that makes you want to be a part of the human race. That’s good literature to me.

Harlan Ellison
Ellison on Crafting Short Stories
NBC Today Show, 24 April 1981

Important Notice

July 1, 2018

Sky land and sea intertwined in a moment of infinity

In a world where eroticism has come to be associated with obscenity, Peedeel seeks to challenge and confront the hypocrisy of sexual stereotypes, reclaiming sexuality as sacred, celebrating the source of creativity itself.

However…

Even Peedeel needs a rest occasionally! So he has packed his essentials, and is off for a short break. But do not despair, boys and girls, he will return –

in the rain

The four books of short stories written by Montague Rhodes James, Provost of Eton College, have been collected in a single but not overly bulky volume under the imprint of Longmans, Green & Co. One can heartily recommend the acquisition of this volume to all lovers of the weird and supernatural who are not already familiar with its contents.

James is perhaps unsurpassed in originality by any living writer: and he has made a salient contribution to the technique of the genre as well as to the enriching of its treasury of permanent masterpieces. His work is marked by rare intellectual skill and ingenuity, by power rising at times above the reaches of pure intellection, and by a sheer finesse of writing that will bear almost endless study. It has a peculiar savour, wholly different from the diabolic grimness of Bierce, or the accumulative atmospheric terror and rounded classicism of Machen. Here there is nothing of the feverish but logical hallucinations, the macabre and exotic beauty achieved by Poe; nor is there any kinship to the fine poetic weavings and character nuances of Walter de la Mare, or the far-searching, penetrative psychism of Blackwood, or the frightful antiquities and ultra-terrene menaces of Lovecraft.

The style of these stories is rather casual and succinct. The rhythms of the prose are brisk and pedestrian, and the phrasing is notable for clearness and incisiveness rather than for those vague, reverberative overtones which beguile one’s inner ear in the prose of fiction-writers who are also poets. Usually there is a more or less homely setting, often with a background of folklore and long—past happenings whose dim archaism provides a depth of shadow from which, as from a recessed cavern, the central horror emerges into the noontide of the present. Things and occurrences, sometimes with obvious off-hand relationship, are grouped cunningly, forcing the reader unaware to some frightful deduction; or there is an artful linkage of events seemingly harmless in themselves, that leave him confronted at a sudden turn with some ghoulish spectre or night-demon.

The minutæ of modern life, humour, character—drawing, scenic and archaeological description, are used as a foil to heighten the abnormal, but are never allowed to usurp a disproportionate interest. Always there is an element of supernatural menace, whose value is never impaired by scientific or spiritualistic explanation. Sometimes it is brought forth at the climax into full light; and sometimes, even then, it is merely half-revealed, is left undefined but perhaps all the more alarming. In any case, the presence of some unnatural but objective reality is assumed and established.

The goblins and phantoms devised by James are truly creative and are presented through images often so keen and vivid as to evoke an actual physical shock. Sight, smell, hearing, taction, all are played upon with well-nigh surgical sureness, by impressions calculated to touch the shuddering quick of horror.

Some of the images or similes employed are most extraordinary, and spring surely from the daemonic inspiration of the highest genius. For instance, take the unnamable thing in The Uncommon Prayer Book, which resembles “a great roll of old, shabby, white flannel,” with a kind of face in the upper end, and which falls forward on a man’s shoulder and hides this face in his neck like a ferret attacking a rabbit. Then, in Mr. Humphreys and his Inheritance (one of subtler and more inferential tales) there is the form “with a burnt human face” and “black arms,” that emerges from an inexplicable hole in the paper plan of a garden maze “with the odious writhings of a wasp creeping out of’ a rotten apple.” In The Tractate Middoth one meets an apparition with thick cobwebs over its eyes—the lich or spectre of a man who, obedient to his own rather eccentric instructions, had been buried sitting at a table in an underground room. And who, upon reading The Diary of Mr. Poynter, can fail to share Denton’s revulsion when he reaches out, thinking that a dog is beside his chair, and touches a crawling figure covered with long, wavy, Absolom-like tresses? Who, too, can shake off the horror of Dennistoun, in Canon Alberic’s Scrap Book, when a demon’s hand appears from beneath on the table, suggesting momentarily a pen-wiper, a rat, and a large spider?

Reading and re-reading these tales, one notes a predilection for certain milieus and motifs. Backgrounds of scholastic or ecclesiastic life are frequent and some of the best tales are laid in cathedral towns. In many of the supernatural entities, there recurs insistently the character of extreme and repulsive hairiness. Often the apparition is connected with, or evoked by, some material object, such as the bronze whistle from the ruins of a Templars’ preceptory in Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad; the old drawing of King Solomon and the night-demon in Canon Alberic’s Scrap Book; the silver Anglo-Saxon crown from an immemorial barrow in A Warning to the Curious; and the strange curtain-pattern in The Diary of Mr. Poynter which had “a subtlety in its drawing.”

In several stories there are hints of bygone Satanism and wizardry whose malign wraiths or conjured spirits linger obscurely in modern time; and in at least one tale, Casting the Runes, the warlock is a living figure. In other tales, the forgetful and vanishing phantasms of old crimes cry out their mindless pain, or peer for an instant from familiar pools and shrubberies. The personnel of James’ Pandemonium is far from monotonous; one finds a satyr dwelling in a cathedral tomb; a carven cat-like monster that comes to life when touched by a murderer’s hand; a mouldy smelling sack-like object in an unlit well, which suddenly puts its arms around the neck of a treasure-seeker; a cloaked and hooded shape with a tentacle in lieu of arms; a lean, hideously taloned terror, with a jaw “shallow as that of a beast”; dolls that repeat crime and tragedy; creatures that are dog-like but are not dogs; a saw fly tall as a man, met in a dim room full of rustling insects; and even a weak, ancient thing, which being wholly bodiless and insubstantial, makes for itself a body out of crumpled bed-linen.

The peculiar genius of M. R. James, and his greatest power, lies in the convincing evocation of weird, malignant and preternatural phenomena such as I have instanced. It is safe to say that few writers, dead or living, have equalled him in this formidable necromancy and perhaps no one has excelled him.

Clark Ashton Smith
The Weird Works of M.R. James
From: The Fantasy Fan February 1934

ignorant scribblers!

June 28, 2018

These detective-story writers… always making the police out to be fools… and getting their procedure all wrong. Why, if I were to say the things to my super that their inspectors say to superintendents I should be thrown out of the Force tomorrow on my ear. Set of ignorant scribblers!

Agatha Christie
Death in the Clouds

Once upon a time there was a six-foot-tall woman with blue hair and a sense of smallness. In her house was a teacup saying ‘girl, you got this!’ and on her wall was a kitten hanging from a clothesline. The kitten’s word balloon said something like, ‘Hang in there!’ or ‘Don’t let go!’ Always something with an exclamation mark. Isn’t that the moral of the story, always? There is always a small woman, hiding her grandness, trying to fill up on uplifting wordplay. But today, this small woman sits down and writes a poem in which she details her smallness and why she came to be that way. Another small woman reads it, and from the tip of her hair a fire starts, but just as quickly dies. Isn’t that why we are here? To write another poem for a small woman to read, and then another. Until the amount of sparks are too much for the quick extinguishing, and she is a woman on fire, exploding into the world.

Heather Bell
Afterword to: While trying to write a novel

Elżbieta Niezgoda

The harp is played by Welsh fairies to an extent unknown in those parts of the world where the harp is less popular among the people. When any instrument is distinctly heard in fairy cymmoedd it is usually the harp. Sometimes it is a fiddle, but then on close examination it will be discovered that it is a captured mortal who is playing it; the Tylwyth Teg prefer the harp. They play the bugle on specially grand occasions, and there is a case or two on record where the drone of the bagpipes was heard; but it is not doubted that the player was some stray fairy from Scotland or elsewhere over the border. On the top of Craig-y-Ddinas thousands of white fairies dance to the music of many harps. In the dingle called Cwm Pergwm, in the Vale of Neath, the Tylwyth Teg make music behind the waterfall, and when they go off over the mountains the sounds of their harps are heard dying away as they recede.

Wirt Sikes

British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions

writing

June 26, 2018

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann
Essays of Three Decades