The chill air is coming in through the window this morning fresh from its frolick down the mountain; it’s damp and crisp and carrying the scent of pine on its back, fall grass, and blue spruce. The muted chirping of small birds tells me they are farther away than they seem. I can hear the sound of tires on the Interstate, miles away; it’s a warm thrumming. There’s another sound out there; a tight barking: I’d say prairie dog, but it’s bigger. A raven, too, is playing on the windstream, whorls of wisdom for the Wanderer. I feel…not “other-than”; but, rather, “part-of”, “one-with”; laying here with Nature’s “good morning” rustling the hairs on my chest, knowing the best part of it all is the recognition of belonging.
On the Supernatural in Poetry*
Anne Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho)
[*First appeared in the New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Vol. 16, no. 1, 1826 (pp. 145-152)]
One of our travellers began a grave dissertation on the illusions of the imagination. “And not only on frivolous occasions,” said he, “but in the most important pursuits of life, an object often flatters and charms at a distance, which vanishes into nothing as we approach it; and ’tis well if it leave only disappointment in our hearts. Sometimes a severer monitor is left there.”
These truisms, delivered with an air of discovery by Mr. S––, who seldom troubled himself to think upon any subject, except that of a good dinner, were lost upon his companion, who, pursuing the airy conjectures which the present scene, however humbled, had called up, was following Shakspeare into unknown regions. “Where is now the undying spirit,” said he, “that could so exquisitely perceive and feel?–that could inspire itself with the va,rious characters of this world, and create worlds of its own; to which the grand and the beautiful, the gloomy and the sublime of visible Nature, up-called not only corresponding feelings, but passions ; which seemed to perceive a soul in every thing: and thus, in the secret workings of its own characters, and in the combinations of its incidents, kept the elements and local scenery always in unison with them, heightening their effect. So the conspirators at Rome pass under the fiery showers and sheeted lightning of the thunder-storm, to meet, at midnight, in the porch of Pompey’s theatre. The streets being then deserted by the affrighted multitude, that place, open as it was, was convenient for their council; and, as to the storm, they felt it not; it was not more terrible to them than their own passions, nor so terrible to others as the dauntless spirit that makes them, almost unconsciously, brave its fury. These appalling circumstances, with others of supernatural import, attended the fall of the conqueror of the world–a man, whose power Cassius represents to be dreadful as this night, when the sheeted dead were seen in the lightning to glide along the streets of Rome. How much does the sublimity of these attendant circumstances heighten our idea of the power of Caesar, of the terrific grandeur of his character, and prepare and interest us for his fate. The whole soul is roused and fixed, in the full energy of attention, upon the progress of the conspiracy against him; and, had not Shakespeare wisely withdrawn him from our view, there would have been no balance of our passions.”–” Caesar was a tyrant,” said Mr. S––. W–– looked at him for a moment, and smiled, and then silently resumed the course of his own thoughts. No master ever knew how to touch the accordant springs of sympathy by small circumstances like our own Shakspeare. In Cymbeline, for instance, how finely such circumstances are made use of, to awaken, at once, solemn expectation and tenderness, and, by recalling the softened remembrance of a sorrow long past, to prepare the mind to melt at one that was approaching, mingling at the same time, by means of a mysterious occurrence, a slight tremour of awe with our pity. Thus, when Belarius and Arviragus return to the cave where they had left the unhappy and worn-out Imogen to repose, while they are yet standing before it, and Arviragus, speaking of her with tenderest pity, as “the poor sick Fidele,” goes out to enquire for her,–solernn music is heard from the cave, sounded by that harp of which Guiderius says, “Since the death of my dearest mother, it did not speak before. All solemn things should answer solemn accidents.” Immediately Arviragus enters with Fidele senseless in his arms…
“The bird is dead, that we have made so much of.
–How found you him?
Stark, as you see, thus smiling.
–I thought he slept, and put
My clouted brogues from off my feet, whose rudeness
Answered my steps too loud.”–”Why he but sleeps!”
* * * * *
I am only sorry I didn’t read this novella by Michael Wehunt sooner! I bought it then slipped it onto my bookshelf. It’s so thin, I didn’t see it, snuggled up to that big fat hardback by a very popular horror novelist, whose fiction is good, but not as good as the fiction Wehunt is writing here.
I am not only in awe of the sharp, lean prose style and insight into character the story shows. It is also entertaining, enjoyable to read, creepy, haunting, a sneaker-upper on you; and it seems craftily self-aware of the dark nature of its own beauty. You can sense this in the story’s misleadingly mild tone, and in the careful descriptions—and thoughts and behaviors of—characters Lorne and his wife, Gwen, both of whom tell the story along with a peripheral narrator who lurks in the shadows.
There is also a unique prose structure to the tale that I really like and a texture to the sentences I have not seen before, like those of a poet, each word ripe with meaning and depth.
You will leave The Tired Sounds, A Wake aware of the fact that a hitherto unknown dread lurks quietly along the periphery of your awareness. It will feel as though it has always been there, under the other side of the bed, quiet and waiting. And, because Wehunt is such a masterful writer, the effect of this realization will leave behind an ashen mark that will not wash off.
Good fiction is wonderful. But great fiction is rare and not something we genre lovers and horror readers talk about enough. Wehunt is among the great literary weird fiction writers writing today. And on my own personal list, he’s in the top 5. So, go and buy his story collection, Greener Pastures (link below), so we have something worthwhile to talk about on FB, for god’s sake. (Wehunt has other stories out there online. And a novel coming soon.)
Check out his website here:
The Tired Sounds, A Wake was a limited numbered print edition novella and I believe they are already sold out. But hopefully Wehunt will collect the novella in a future story collection.
Until then…Link to purchase Greener Pastures:
H. P. Lovecraft: How to Become More Intimate With Both the Man & the Work in Just 2 Steps!
First, read this (it’s short)…
Born on August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft always felt as though he were an anachronism of the time in which he lived. His great fondness for the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations as well as his love of such fantasies as Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Arabian Nights provided the backdrop for the fascinating tales he would spin later in his life. By the age of twelve, he had already mastered the standard English meters of poetry and was mainly a poet until about 1917, when the life blood of prose poured forth out of his pen and leaked mesmerizing tales on to the parchment stained with his imagination. Lovecraft drew much of his inspiration from the works of Edgar Allen [sic] Poe, whose style is evident in many of Lovecraft’s stories. S.T. Joshi, a leading literary critic who has devoted much time to the study of Lovecraft and written several volumes about his life and works, says Lovecraft’s discovery of Poe at the age of eight gave Lovecraft’s writing “the greatest impetus it ever received.”
Lovecraft’s family life was filled with tragedy. In 1893, Lovecraft’s father, a traveling salesman named Winfield Scott Lovecraft, became paralyzed and remained in a coma until his death in 1898. As a result of this unfortunate turn of events, Lovecraft’s grandfather, Whipple V. Phillips, a wealthy industrialist, sustained Lovecraft and his mother, Sarah Susan Lovecraft, until he met his death in 1904. From this point on, poverty would be Lovecraft’s lot in life until his untimely demise at the age of forty-six in 1937. Though Lovecraft loved his mother dearly, he suffered much emotional scarring from her as she deemed him ugly and, for no apparent reason, hated him for his father’s poor health. She was hospitalized for her disturbed psychological condition and Lovecraft made no special efforts to see her during her final days. Her death in 1921, however, led Lovecraft to combat suicidal tendencies. After the collapse of his brief and unhappy marriage to Sonia H. Greene, Lovecraft lived with his aunt, Lilian D. Clark, until her death in 1932. He then moved in with his other aunt, Annie E. Phillips Gamwell, and remained with her until his death.
Some believe Lovecraft’s greatest accomplishment was his correspondence with fans of his work and other authors. It is estimated that he wrote over 100,000 letters in his life to such people as Henry Kuttner, Samuel Loveman, and Vincent Starrett. The letters describe his feelings about the nature of life, his aspirations, and his interests. Some readers find these more fascinating than his fiction works as they unleash his true writing genius completely unfettered.
(from “H.P. Lovecraft, 1890-1937,” an article published on the University of North Carolina at Pembroke website)
Now, click here…
‘I’ve been too busy to study deeply the latest issue of Le Visage Vert, even to the point of being remiss about calling attention to its publication some months ago. So here’s a belated notice. Ordering details can be found here (scroll down), and a full table of the contents of this issue here. The lead story is by Perceval Landon, “Thurnley Abbey”. Lafcadio Hearn is represented with an article (from 1875) on spirit photographs. François Ducos contributes a study of the occult detective in France, 1930-1960. There are some older materials by Kirby Draycott and Gustave Guitton, as well as contemporary stories by Jean-Pierre Chambon and Achillèas Kyriakìdis. All in all another fine issue.
The Kirby Draycott story is additionally given in its original English, as “The Clock Face of Schaumberg”, in a supplementary booklet, reprinted from The Royal Magazine, November 1898, with the intriguing original illustrations. The story concerns a sixteenth-century historical figure, Goetz of the Iron Hand, who wore an iron prosthetic after losing his right arm in battle. Michel Meurger contributes an article about the historical Goetz, to complement the fictional treatment by the mysterious Draycott, about whom very little is known beyond his authorship of a small number of tales.
The above is from the opening pages of the supplementary booklet. The illustration shows the interesting use to which a clock tower is put in the story…’
(From a review at Woormwoodiana)
A ghost appears behind a woman carrying a lantern as she passes through a doorway; from the Légende des Siècles, ca. 1860s-70s. Artist not credited.