Algernon Blackwood was well-regarded in life as a master of the short horror story. Intertwining the supernatural and unexplained into a series of compelling narratives, the reader is left confused, scared and thrilled by the bizarre occurrences that puzzle, traumatize and terrify his characters. Blackwood's deft use of ambiguous endings leave the reader to interpret what may have happened.
The author's stories exerted an enormous influence on H.P. Lovecraft (who himself termed Blackwood a 'master' of the craft of supernatural storytelling) and other horror authors. Together with strange and frightening tales, he was an enthusiastic author of essays and plays. As well as the 'weird' fiction for which he was famed, Blackwood would also write ordinary stories and tales aimed at younger audiences.
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About the Author
S. T. Joshi is a freelance writer and editor. He has edited Penguin Classics editions of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1999), and The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001), as well as Algernon Blackwood’s Ancient Sorceries and Other Strange Stories (2002). Among his critical and biographical studies are The Weird Tale (1990), Lord Dunsany: Master of the Anglo-Irish Imagination (1995), H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (1996), and The Modern Weird Tale (2001). He has also edited works by Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, and H. L. Mencken, and is compiling a three-volume Encyclopedia of Supernatural Literature. He lives with his wife in Seattle, Washington.
Table of Contents
Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird StoriesIntroduction by S. T. Joshi
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text
Smith: An Episode in a Lodging-House
The Insanity of Jones
The Man Who Found Out
The Glamour of the Snow
The Man Whom the Trees Loved
What People are Saying About This
"Of the quality of Mr Blackwood's genius there can be no dispute; for no one has ever approached the skill, seriousness, and minute fidelity whith which he records the overtones of strangeness in ordinary things and experiences."—H.P. Lovecraft
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
H.P. Lovecraft called Blackwood `the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere¿, and, for once, this is not a hyperbolic blurb to increase sales. Blackwood really is brilliant at creating an atmosphere of otherworldly terror and uncanny intrigue. I picked up this collection of Blackwood¿s stories in desperate need of some short fiction, preferably of a speculative bent. Blackwood did not disappoint. Although I was never terrified out of my mind (my cosy nook in our sitting room prevented that) I can definitely say that Blackwood¿s stories are a cut above most supernatural tales.Blackwood spent much of his life travelling around the more remote parts of the world: from the Canadian backwoods, to the secluded parts of the Danube river basin, from the ancient tombs of Egypt, to the Swiss Alps, Blackwood visited them all at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Obviously, these places were more isolated back then, and their seclusion had a salient effect on Blackwood¿s imagination. Most of his best tales are situated in these out-of-the-way places, and it is the solitude of his characters as they are faced with forces of cosmic proportion that really stays with one.One of the interesting things about Blackwood¿s stories is that the main characters rarely, if ever, come face-to-face with the source of their terror; they nearly always only experience the sensations of horror at a remove. It is usually something that they manage to just avoid, or they experience it vicariously through another character who faces the horror head-on. This has the interesting result of increasing the isolation of the main character and, concomitantly, that of the reader. Blackwood has an insidious way of increasing the horror of his stories by what he does not show. It is, he seems to be saying, that which we imagine for ourselves which really terrifies us. Even in his longer stories, he rarely reveals the true nature of the horror, opting for more indirect ways of exposing the dreadfulness of the situation. Of course, one might argue that these obfuscatory practices conceal the fact that Blackwood himself does not know what the true nature of the horror is. Perhaps it serves to conceal a confusion of the subject-matter on Blackwood¿s part. I would argue against this, although it is probably true that Blackwood sometimes does not describe the horror because it is inherently indescribable. Whether this is obfuscation, I leave up to other readers to decide.What I can say, is that I really enjoyed this selection of Blackwood¿s tales. As always, S.T. Joshi, the editor of the collection and many other Penguin collections of weird tales, has done a wonderful job with his introduction and notes. This is one for the connoisseur of the speculative genre.