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February 20, 2006

O Socrates, Would You Suppose That Such Vile Things As Mud And Dirt Have An Idea Distinct From The Actual Objects, Or Not?

Was rather intrigued by some ghost stories by Robert Aickman. What strikes me about them is that they give you not the comfy shivers you usually get from horror yarns, but a very real sense of psychic desolation; they're effective evocations of a certain kind of very English squalor. Often, the proceedings are quite enigmatic, and there seems to be no underlying scheme to figure out, just glimpses of really nasty and embarassing and unhealthy lives moving at the edge of vision. There are all sorts of (somewhat pretentious) allusions to mythology and cultural history, but nothing's spelled out. What really seems to make some of these stories special is a certain realism in the depiction of stagnant environments that keep folding into themselves and feeding on themselves. It made me think of my (nice) doctor grandmother with her basement full of old, useless pharmaceutical products and her fridge full of red beet juice. It also reminded me of some notion I first had while reading Amos Tutuola's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts": if there really were ghosts in the attic and vampires in the basement, they would produce no dark glamour and sense of wonder at all. The dealings with them would be nothing but a darn tedious drag and you'd wish they all would just go someplace else and bother some other folks.


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