Review published on June 23, 2015.Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
There are books, the publication of which represents a real literary event. This is the case with The Strangers, a beautiful volume from Tartarus Press which, after reprinting all the collections of “strange stories” by cult author Robert Aickman, now offers to the countless fans of that writer a bunch of tales that have never appeared in print before. For those who, like me, worship Aickman’s work the book provides a thrilling and rewarding reading experience. Very often unpublished material by great writers is best left unknown to the public, being minor, flawed stuff that the author himself deemed to be unworthy. The Strangers, however, contradicts that rule, starting with the title story, a spellbinding,truly Aickmanesque piece making me wonder why on earth has remained hidden so far. Indeed a strange story, very elegantly written, graced by an eerie atmosphere and that I don’t want to spoil by saying too much.
“The Case of Wallingford’s Tiger” is a delightful, unusual story where a tiger’s sickness is the pretext for masterfully portraying the small world of a British village while “The Whistler” is a short, puzzling tale of greed and death. “A Disciple of Plato”is a clever, sophisticated tableau depicting the odd encounter between an intelligent woman and a famous, disreputable character. In the dream-like “The Fully Conducted Tour” ( what a wonderful title!),we read the report of the peculiar experience related to the dangerous visit to a marvellous villa in Tuscany, where nothing really is as it appears.
The second half of the book assembles some intriguing published and unpublished non-fiction material. There are critical essays about the Oscar Wilde plays, Orwell’s Animal Farm and Russell Kirk’s fiction, a commentary about composer Delius, a couple of film reviews, an article about Harry Price, the investigator of paranormal phenomena. Aickman’s unrelenting interest in the supernatural and the paranormal is amply represented by a perceptive paper on Poltergeist, a learned discussion about the ghost story (intended as the introduction to a never published genre anthology), and a piece addressing true ghostly events that reportedly occurred in England.
His involvement in the British waterways is also exhibited in an affectionate article about the River Avon and in some significant excerpts from the Bulletin of the Inland Waterways Association that Aickman almost single-handed compiled for almost twenty years.
A great opportunity to enjoy additional, previously unknown stories by a wonderful writer , and to discover more about his life and his way of thinking.
The Strangers and Other Writings by Robert Aickman is published by Tartarus Press
aama Vol. 2 The Invisible Throng and Vol. 3 The Desert of Mirrors by Frederik Peeters