Read Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural by Algernon Blackwood Free Online
Book Title: Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural|
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Reader ratings: 6.5
The author of the book: Algernon Blackwood
Edition: Spring Books
Date of issue: 1969
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 415 KB
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Algernon Blackwood is one of the best writers of weird fiction around, and if you've read "The Willows", you know that's true. This may be one of the best single collections of Blackwood's writings that I've run across, short of an actual "Complete Works", which I don't believe anyone has attempted yet (as stories keep being discovered) - and it doesn't have "The Willows" in it! Which is to say, some writers get typecast by their best stories and all it takes is digging below the surface a little to make you remember why they were a great writer, over and above the classic tales.
This collection gives a nice sampling of all of Blackwood's styles - straight out horror ("The Doll", "The Occupant Of The Room", "The Terror Of The Twins", "The Decoy" and "The Empty Sleeve"), the weird tale ("The Man Whom The Trees Loved", "The Valley Of The Beasts", "The Man Who was Milligan", "The Trod", "The Glamour Of The Snow", "Entrance And Exit", "The Pikestaffe Case") and some touching tales that seem almost like supernatural romances with weird events ("The Little Beggar", "The South Wind", "The Touch Of Pan"). He is a subtle and considerate writer, always surprising with some aspect in a story that you couldn't see coming. The recurrent themes of Blackwood are here as well: man interacts with the elemental forces of nature personified (in "The Valley of The Beasts", "The Glamour of The Snow" and "The South Wind", and is diluted into nothingness by those same forces in "The Man Whom The Trees Loved" - a story that seems to have a lot in common with Vladimir Odoyevsky's "The Sylph"), or with some paganistic symbol of the same ("The Trod" features faeries neither good or evil, just inhuman, which is as it should be; "The Touch Of Pan" features an appearance by the God of Panic himself, presiding over a - chastely described - orgy, and yet he's not presented as evil, but simply part of the natural order of things, unlike E.F. Benson's conception at the time - but then Benson was raised in religion, while Blackwood was a member of the Golden Dawn at one time, or so it's thought).
"The Doll" is probably the best story ever written about a creepy doll. "The Touch Of Pan" and "The Trod" feature men who feel they have some sensitivity to a natural world that the rest of coarse civilization cannot comprehend, then meet women who feel the same (one story turns out badly, one nicely) - these stories really convey a sense of yearning by Blackwood for a real soul-mate, one I believe he never found (I haven't read the bio I have on my shelf yet). "Entrance & Exit" and "The Pikestaffe Case" mine then current theories of higher mathematics and spacial geometry to bizarre ends, something I thought only H.P. Lovecraft and the Belgian writer Jean Ray had done much with, although it does make up a large part of Blackwood's "The Willows". "The Man Who Was Milligan" re-interprets a classic Lafcadio Hearn tale of the worlds of art and reality intersecting to an unsettling degree, while "The Decoy" is one of the best "stay overnight in a haunted house to prove nothing can happen" stories that also mixes in a doppelganger.
Really, Blackwood is just amazing. Any aspiring writer should read him thoroughly to examine how well a story can be built with attention to detail, pacing and a touch of creativity. Now, where's that "Complete Algernon Blackwood"?
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Read information about the authorBlackwood was born in Shooter's Hill (today part of south-east London, but then part of northwest Kent) and educated at Wellington College. His father was a Post Office administrator who, according to Peter Penzoldt, "though not devoid of genuine good-heartedness, had appallingly narrow religious ideas." Blackwood had a varied career, farming in Canada, operating a hotel, as a newspaper reporter in New York City, and, throughout his adult life, an occasional essayist for various periodicals. In his late thirties, he moved back to England and started to write stories of the supernatural. He was very successful, writing at least ten original collections of short stories and eventually appearing on both radio and television to tell them. He also wrote fourteen novels, several children's books, and a number of plays, most of which were produced but not published. He was an avid lover of nature and the outdoors, and many of his stories reflect this.
English writer of ghost stories and supernatural fiction, of whom Lovecraft wrote: "He is the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere." His powerful story "The Willows," which effectively describes another dimension impinging upon our own, was reckoned by Lovecraft to be not only "foremost of all" Blackwood's tales but the best "weird tale" of all time. (Unfortunately, Blackwood, who was familiar with Lovecraft's work, failed to return the compliment. As he told Peter Penzoldt, he found "spiritual terror" missing in his young admirer's writing, something he considered all-important in his own.)
Among his thirty-odd books, Blackwood wrote a series of stories and short novels published as John Silence, Physician Extraordinary (1908), which featured a "psychic detective" who combined the skills of a Sherlock Holmes and a psychic medium. Blackwood also wrote light fantasy and juvenile books.
The son of a preacher, Blackwood had a life-long interest in the supernatural, the occult, and spiritualism, and firmly believed that humans possess latent psychic powers. The autobiography Episodes Before Thirty (1923) tells of his lean years as a journalist in New York. In the late 1940s, Blackwood had a television program on the BBC on which he read . . . ghost stories!
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