Arthur Machen: Man Is Made a Mystery 4: Green Round, N, Exalted Omega, Tree of Life, more

Extollager

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With regard to Machen’s last novel – so to call it because it is a prose fiction too long to be a novella – Dr. Reiter sympathizes with the consensus that sees The Green Round as a failure. Having read it with enjoyment five times, I’m interested in how to account for the appeal of an old man’s book, written for money, so easily faulted for a thin plot, etc.

Perhaps The Green Round may be understood in the light of an essay by C. S. Lewis that ought to be much better known by readers of fantasy, the blandly-titled “On Stories,” in which, to oversimplify, Lewis extols the value of literary works that must necessarily deal with a sequence of events – something has to happen – but which are primarily concerned with some state of imagination that is more timeless. He gives the example of William Morris’s The Well at the World’s End and says (I quote approximately from memory): Can someone really write a story that captures what we sense when we read the words ‘the well at the world’s end’? Morris came close enough to make the book worth many readings.” We must use a net of words, Lewis says, to try to capture an elusive, poetic awareness. So perhaps the next time Dr. Reiter or other critics propose to read The Green Round, they would benefit by reading Lewis’s essay first; and see if Machen’s net of words – incidents, quotations from an obscure [fictional] book and allusions to Shakespeare and Wordsworth, notebook jottings – does capture the elusive fish, at least for a time.

For those who think they wish Machen had tied things together more firmly, had been more “forthcoming” – it might be worthwhile for them to read Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, which leaves must unsure, and then to read (if they can find it) The Secret of Hanging Rock, the “solution.” Picnic is a haunting novel with real affinities to The Green Round – spoiled, I would say, by the second book.

Incidentally, it seems very possible to me that Lindsay got the idea for her novel from a few late pages in The Green Round that tell about a mysterious experience on Mt. Nephin in Ireland. You can read a very rare Machen presentation of the incident here:

It Goes On The Shelf



Reiter might want to refine his thinking about Machen’s “Little People.” He equates what are in fact three different sorts of beings: (1) the nasty evolutionary offshoots of “The Novel of the Black Seal” and “The Shining Pyramid,” of Machen’s early horror stories; (2) the weird beings (dark faeries?) of “The White People”; (3) the goblins of The Green Round, “Out of the Earth,” etc.

On page 192 a couple of items in his summary of The Green Round are misleading. (1) He seems to imply that a Welsh woman is murdered during the time Hillyer is vacationing in the country. Machen specifically says the outrage happened about a fortnight before Hillyer’s arrival. (2) It does not seem correct to characterize Hampole’s A London Walk as an “occult book.”

And I think he is far too dismissive of the late stories, notably “N.” He may be too susceptible to the attitudes of critics such as S. T. Joshi. Frankly, so far as I’m aware Machen has attracted little or no commentary from first-rate critics. Those commenting on him are often people who, it seems, mostly know weird fiction, people who know Lovecraft far better than Wordsworth, Keats, or Blake.

I have written on some of the late Machen stories earlier this year at the Wormwoodiana blog.

On "N":

Wormwoodiana: Guest Post: Snug Conversation in Machen’s “N” and Other Stories, by Dale Nelson

On "The Exalted Omega":

Wormwoodiana: Guest Post: Machen, Kipling, and Two English Ladies at Versailles: Stories Not Quite Told, by Dale Nelson

On "The Tree of Life":

Wormwoodiana: Guest Post: Machen’s Teilo in “The Tree of Life” and the Talosian Situation by Dale Nelson

Dale Nelson
 

BAYLOR

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One think I've heard is that quality of his writing fell of drastically towards the end.
 

Extollager

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One think I've heard is that quality of his writing fell of drastically towards the end.

Is anything gained by repeating that, if you have no reason to believe it's true?
 
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Extollager

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Here's a substantial summary of The London Adventure. That's a book that I keep coming back to even though it can seem to be something that shows Machen as feeling some exhaustion.

 

Extollager

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One think I've heard is that quality of his writing fell of drastically towards the end.

Are you perhaps repeating something written by S. T. Joshi? He knows a lot about Lovecraftian fiction, but from what I have read by and about him he is limited indeed as a reader and literary scholar, and not without biases he seems to have derived from Lovecraft. Since you've troubled yourself to comment on Machen, why not find out for yourself something about his late work? Read "N" at least, perhaps also "The Exalted Omega," "Out of the Picture," Opening the Door, and "The Children of the Pool," some of which at least should be available online. Then come back with your own assessment: did the quality of his writing fall off, do you think?

You can listen to "N" here:

 

BAYLOR

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Is anything gained by repeating that, if you have no reason to believe it's true?

No Extollager this not one of my better comments . Even so, did you happen to notice that I typed this comment 4 Years ago ?
 
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BAYLOR

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Are you perhaps repeating something written by S. T. Joshi? He knows a lot about Lovecraftian fiction, but from what I have read by and about him he is limited indeed as a reader and literary scholar, and not without biases he seems to have derived from Lovecraft. Since you've troubled yourself to comment on Machen, why not find out for yourself something about his late work? Read "N" at least, perhaps also "The Exalted Omega," "Out of the Picture," Opening the Door, and "The Children of the Pool," some of which at least should be available online. Then come back with your own assessment: did the quality of his writing fall off, do you think?

You can listen to "N" here:


Honestly, I haven't a clue as what Joshi might have thought on the subject of Arthur Machen. As to my comment , It was blurb Id read decades before the 2016 comment , Ive long since forgone who said it and where I read it.:unsure: And for the record im not trying to dismiss Machen. Ive liked everything by him that ive read.:)

I will take a look at those stories.
 
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Extollager

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This thread deals with Machen later in his life. I thought some readers might like to see the attached entry on Machen from a biographical reference book published in 1931. I do not vouch for its accuracy!
 

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