The Curmudgeon


Monday, June 28, 2010

An Anniversary

Yesterday was the ninety-sixth birthday of Robert Aickman, who unfortunately spent only sixty-six among us. Besides being a dedicated conservationist long before it became fashionable - he was a founding member of the Inland Waterways Association, which concerned itself with the then deplorable state of Britain's canals - Aickman wrote forty-eight "strange stories" of various lengths, but mainly and most effectively in the long story/novella range. Some of them, like "The Waiting Room", are routine; at least one, "Rosamund's Bower" is incomprehensible; but they are all beautifully written, and a good percentage of them are among the greatest weird tales of the twentieth century, combining delicately maintained atmosphere with startling imagery and psychological acuity. His most anthologised tale, "Ringing the Changes", is one of these, narrating with immense potency the story of a middle-aged man and his young bride, whose visit to an ancient port brings them a ghastly memento mori. A short fantasy novel set in pre-revolutionary Russia, The Model, was published after Aickman's death and is reasonably easy to come by; in 1964 he also published a novel called The Late Breakfasters, which Gary Crawford regards as central to his work but which is now virtually unobtainable. Somebody ought to do something about it.

My thanks to Thomas Tessier, himself no mean writer of weird tales, who notes the occasion and makes some very charitable remarks about my critical work on Aickman.


  • At 12:51 am , Blogger Giovanni said...

    I am tempted to look for Aickman's work, but I also like to let my suspicion that you made him up linger a little longer. Your first paragraph there is right out of Borges.

  • At 1:32 am , Blogger Philip said...

    When I make up writers, I don't do it by halves.

  • At 7:13 am , Anonymous The Judge said...

    You are Stanisław Lem, and I claim my 5 złotys...

  • At 1:51 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    Those pieces were written twenty years ago. If I'd done them more recently I would doubtless be Roberto Bolaño instead and you'd have to make do with pesos.

    Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas is very nearly as much fun as A Perfect Vacuum, by the way.


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