November 2, 2019

A writer who attempts in the nineteenth century to rehabilitate the ancient legends of the were-wolf and the vampire has set himself a formidable task. Most of the delightful old superstitions of the past have an unhappy way of appearing limp and sickly in the glare of a later day, and in such a story as Dracula, by Bram Stoker, the reader must reluctantly acknowledge that the region of horrors has shifted its ground. Man is no longer in dread of the monstrous and the unnatural, and although Mr. Stoker has tackled his gruesome subject with enthusiasm, the effect is more often grotesque than terrible.

The Transylvanian site of Castle Dracula is skilfully chosen, and the picturesque region is well described. Count Dracula himself has been in his day a medieval noble, who, by reason of his ‘Vampire’ quilters, is unable to die properly, but from century to century resuscitates his life of the ‘Un-Dead,’ as the author terms it, by nightly droughts of blood from the throats of living victims, with the appalling consequence that those once so bitten must become vampire in their turn.

The plot is too complicated for reproduction, but it says no little for the authors powers that in spite of its absurdities the reader can follow the story with interest to the end. It is, however, an artistic mistake to fill the whole volume with horrors. A touch of the mysterious, the terrible, or the supernatural is infinitely more effective and credible.”

Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker – The Manchester Guardian, June 15, 1897

stuck in a strange town

October 2, 2017

Sabine Weiss, Paris, 1953

‘Ancient Sorceries’ is just one of the John Silence stories that bears mentioning when discussing Blackwood’s work. First collected in 1908, this was the second of the Silence tales, and maybe one of the strongest. Here we find the good doctor recounting one of the many adventures he heard about through his career. Told as a story within a story, this format allows Blackwood to both write in a very straight-forward, objective manner, as well as a more flowing, subjective and personal style. Relating the tale of one Arthur Vezin, who was crossing France by train on the way home when he becomes stuck in a strange town, it becomes known, quite quickly, that this town, and its inhabitants, is not natural at all. Blackwood starts building feeling of dread almost immediately here, and he continuously increases that feeling with each paragraph. It is interesting to note as well that Blackwood’s keen sense of description utilizes all of the senses, especially sound, and how one’s interpretation of music can heighten our perception of reality.

Bob Pastorella
Exploring the cold, desolate cosmos: Algernon Blackwood