Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Dance of Death

Algernon Blackwood
Pan Books

These six strange tales are all pervaded by the chilling mystery of the unknown and the inexplicable. In ‘The Dance of Death’ we have a fleeting glimpse into another world, tantalisingly only half explained. Each disturbing tale is stamped with the unmistakable hallmark of Blackwood’s style.

A year or so ago I read a couple of mammoth collections of Blackwood stories which got me to thinking  that I'd read the majority of his output - I'm a fool.   The very next book of his I picked up I discovered that half of the book was new to me.

Of the 6 stories that make up this nifty little Pan paperback the 3 that I knew were three that I like very much. 'A Psychical Invasion' is one of the John Silence tales and introduces the good Doctor with an investigation of a 'haunted' house that is transforming the personality and work of a young writer.  'The Touch of Pan' and 'The Valley of the Beasts' are both aspects of Blackwood's bucolic soul as the power of nature and the soullessness of modern life are placed in direct opposition.  The first using Western mythology and the second Native American.

So, for me at least, it's the other 3 stories that are of the most immediate interest.  'The Dance of Death' is an unusual tale for Blackwood set as it is at a dance where a young man is determined to enjoy himself despite a worrying diagnosis.  The appearance of a mysterious, beautiful, ethereal stranger reminds us though that with Blackwood other worlds are always interconnecting with ours.

'The Old Man of Visions' is a lovely little tale of a man finding and losing a connection - at one remove - with the infinite. It's deliciously subtle, perhaps more parable than story, and a real treat.  The third tale, 'The South Wind' is a very brief little ditty regarding the journey of a gust of wind and the promise it brings and is another delight.

Truthfully I bought this book to sell but finding three new tales prompted a read and I'm very glad as both old and new proved to be prime Blackwood.


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