Vital to the modern moment…are the novels of Alan Garner and Susan Cooper; especially Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and The Owl Service (1967), and Cooper’s dazzling The Dark Is Rising sequence, published between 1965 and 1977. Once read, these novels are hard to forget. They lodge and loom in the memory. Garner turned eighty last autumn, and a volume of essays exploring his legacy, called First Light, is being compiled at present, with contributions from Philip Pullman, Ali Smith and Neil Gaiman among others. I regard the second book of Cooper’s sequence as among the eeriest texts I know; Helen Macdonald is another for whom Cooper’s novels have been imaginatively vital.

It would be easy to dismiss all this as an excess of hokey woo-woo; a surge of something-in-the-woodshed rustic gothic. But engaging with the eerie emphatically doesn’t mean believing in ghosts. Few of the practitioners named here would endorse earth mysteries or ectoplasm. What is under way, across a broad spectrum of culture, is an attempt to account for the turbulence of England in the era of late capitalism. The supernatural and paranormal have always been means of figuring powers that cannot otherwise find visible expression. Contemporary anxieties and dissents are here being reassembled and re-presented as spectres, shadows or monsters: our noun monster, indeed, shares an etymology with our verb to demonstrate, meaning to show or reveal (with a largely lost sense of omen or portent).

Robert Macfarlane
The eeriness of the English countryside