ok maybe I'll wait another ten years before I post anything. If any one is remotely interested in weird short foction then read this guy, otherwise get back to the dubstep...we dont read books round here mate, we listen to dubstep yeah. try the old peoples forum if you want to talk about reading lol
That's odd, as I was reading through that post I started thinking about Picnic at Hanging Rock and what the author's relationship to its ambiguous ending might be and how that differs from in the case of Aickman.Hi @catalog @IdleRich it was probably my post here: https://www.dissensus.com/index.php?threads/27/page-315 I think I said I discovered Joel Lane via his essay collection on Tartarus Press I bought for his work on Aickman and Ligotti
Idlerich - if that comment is about Aickman then there is something to say. I recently finished the Ray Russell biography of Aickman. And his confidence to leave facets of narrative unexplained, unrecognised, has taken a different shade for me.
'Embark on no foolish explanations, for they only render down truth for the relief of the timid' is an oft cited Aickman quote, and in many ways what I found so fascinating in his short stories - the ambiguity, the constant nagging questions, the self doubt, after you put a book down.
Ray's Attempted Biography uncovers a side of Aickman that is obsessed with power, leadership and possibly had more than an academic curiosity in fascist leaders. Aickman always considered himself a 'leader of men', and he believed in inherited power and not democracy. He was rather, ahem, trad, in this way - and in the few photos of him, he appears Edwardian, but was living through 60s-70s.... One of his other mantras was that great men should 'never apologise and never explain themselves', which, going by the England Waterways anecdotes, he seemed to conduct himself with great fealty too. He observed relationships through a prism of power, very much. His treatment of women seems to have been a mix of Gaslighting and narcissistic abuse - he always took the role of great 'teacher' with friends. He was coercive and controlling with his wife.
So, why I am saying this? It's difficult to admire his recalcitrance to explain, his opacity, his closed off narratives in the same way. Were they superb literary ambitions? Or were they symptomatic of a stubborn man that refused to explain, that refused to be generous? That refused to consider the reader? He didn't get on well with many in publishing—like his life generally—so I wonder if edits were suggested and he never felt the need to be responsive (i.e. weak and subservient as he might see it, not a great man) in that way.
I do wonder if the supremely ambiguous nature that fans of Aickman love is not so much a literary ambition as symptomatic of his personality - insofar as I'm unconvinced by how aware he was of this aspect of his work being a general tendency of his. Much testimony in the biography paints him as a bristly man that could not bear to wrong, that had to win every argument, but was also aloof and unforthcoming.
Like an inversion of Hanging Rock - a book that is deeply mysterious and great precisely because the editor removed the explanatory last chapter.