The Incredible Adventures of Algernon Blackwood

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

algernon-blackwood-oldIncredible Adventures
Algernon Blackwood (Macmillan & Co., 1914)

Of all the practitioners of the classic “weird tale,” which flourished in the early twentieth century before morphing into the more easily discerned genres of fantasy and horror, none entrances me more than Algernon Blackwood. Looking at the stable of the foundational authors of horror—luminaries like Poe, James, le Fanu, Machen, Lovecraft—it is Blackwood who has the strongest effect on me. Of all his lofty company, he is the one who seems to achieve the most numinous “weird” of all.

Blackwood is often referred to as a “ghost story” writer; indeed, one current in-print volume is titled The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood. But true ghosts rarely appear in his fiction. Blackwood liked to dance around the edge of easy classification, and as his work advanced through the 1900s and into the teens, it got even harder to pinpoint. Blackwood’s interest in spiritualism, his love of nature, and his pantheism started to overtake his more standard forays in supernatural terror. His writing turned more toward transcendentalism and away from plot. The most important precursor to this development is his 1911 novel The Centaur, which critic S. T. Joshi describes as Blackwood’s “spiritual autobiography.”

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Conspiracy Theory: The Plot Against Plot

Saturday, September 5th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

Lev Grossman maintains that the reading public’s desire for plot accounts for the rising popularity of young adult novels among adult readers who have tired of difficult, and, by implication, plotless novels that are supposed to be “good for you.”  Perhaps not coincidentally, Grossman himself is the author of what is classified in some corners as young adult fiction; his latest, The Magicians, sounds like a “grown-up” take on Harry Potter.  I’m looking forward to reading it, but not because I have been denied plot and have to resort to the young adult fiction aisles to avoid more difficult work that might give me a headache.

Grossman argues that the general reading public is reacting against the “plotless” works of Modernism that presumably have come to dominate our reading selections. The problem with this is that many of the works cited as “plotless” Modernist, such as The Great Gatsby, weren’t all that popular  at the time of their publication. Indeed, it wasn’t until after World War II when the academy declared these works as part of the literary canon, coupled with the post-war rise in college attendance, that people came to hear of them.   Read More »

The Allure of the Hittites

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

liongateHey, have you heard? Archie Andrews is going to marry Veronica Lodge. Good for him; I always had this thing for Veronica. I hope Archie isn’t in this only for the Lodges’ money. In celebration of this momentous moments of moments, I’m going to write about the Hittites.

I do not believe in transitions.

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