The short stories of Walter de la Mare

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The short stories of Walter de la Mare

1alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 9:29am

I made the following three posts over on 'So whatcha readin' now, kids?--vol. 3', but de la Mare's stories are posing such a challenge to me that I decided to start a thread. Even though I'm not 100% certain that the four I've read so far, dark though they are, belong in a Gothic Literature thread ...

2alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 9:30am

I've been reading Best Stories of Walter de la Mare and so far I've read 'The Almond Tree', 'Mrs Duveen', 'An Ideal Craftsman' and 'Seaton's Aunt'. I don't remember ever finding it so difficult to form an opinion on a body of work.

I have to say straight off that he's a really good writer: his prose is really evocative and he really grabs you and holds you into the story. Having got that out of the way, what to say next is a real poser.

We talked here about 'The Almond Tree', but I found it much more powerful for reading it than for listening to it on the radio--and much darker. And the following stories have got progressively darker. But they are so ambiguous; so much is just hinted at--and, sometimes, barely hinted, at that. The reader has to struggle for what is going on. I think now, though I wasn't at all sure about this on first hearing 'The Almond Tree', that they are all fit matter for a Gothic lit group ... if you think hard on the implications of them. On that point, each of the four could stand a second read on my part.

BIGOne problem is that all four are concerned, one way or other, with suicide and I really don't have much idea of DLM's or his society's attitudes towards it. How strongly was it regarded as a mortal sin? Did it automatically lead to denial of burial rites? Was it widely believed to lead to eternal damnation? It's a question that has a very real bearing on each of these four stories..

3alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 9:31am

>50

The trouble is, I don't know what I feel about the subject matter. On first sight On their surfaces they each smack of the kind of domestic drama I don't much go in for. I don't know if it's to my taste or not; but his writing is so good he's holding me in anyway.

4alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 9:32am

>50, >51

And childhood? I don't suppose it's a spoiler to ask why childhood features so heavily in all four.

5alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 9:39am

I think I'll re-read each of them before I go any further.

6pgmcc
maig 19, 2020, 9:56am

I have only read The Return but really liked it. On the strength of that I bought three volumes of his works:
Volume 1: Walter de la Mare Short Stories 1895 - 1926
Volume 2: Walter de la Mare Short Stories 1927 - 1956
Volume 3: Walter de la Mare Short Stories for Children

I will have to get into them seriously. Thank you for the prompt.

>2 alaudacorax: But they are so ambiguous; so much is just hinted at--and, sometimes, barely hinted, at that.

I felt that about many things in The Return.

By the way, I have not read anything behind your spoiler masks and will not until I have read the stories.

7alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 9:59am

>2 alaudacorax: - ... though I wasn't at all sure about this on first hearing 'The Almond Tree' ...

I heard it on BBC Radio 3 Extra and my first thought was, "Why the hell is this in a series called 'Ghost Stories of Walter De La Mare'?"

8alaudacorax
maig 19, 2020, 10:04am

>6 pgmcc:

Ah, not in my current volume, I'm afraid. I suppose it's fairly obvious he's getting a grip on me, so no doubt I shall get round to it in due course.

9pgmcc
maig 19, 2020, 11:29am

>8 alaudacorax: It was not a short story. In the 1970s I would have called it a novel, but I suspect people would refer to it as a novella these days.

10LolaWalser
Editat: maig 19, 2020, 12:05pm

I've read two of De la Mare's story (et al.) collections, On the edge and Ding Dong Bell, plus some indefinite amount of stuff anthologised elsewhere... I don't recall anything specifically Gothic but a lot of it easily has a Gothic "feel".

I keep meaning to get to Memoirs of a midget. I'm so afraid it will turn out not to be about a midget.

11alaudacorax
Editat: maig 24, 2020, 1:27pm

I've just re-read 'The Almond Tree'. I've not got anywhere.

On the face of it, the 'action' of the story is easy enough to follow, but I don't understand how the different elements of the story fit together or what de la Mare intends the reader to take from it. I especially don't understand the function of the younger brother in the story, nor do I understand how de la Mare intends us to picture him.

Is there any significance to the almond tree being 'a symbol for constancy in love and eternal hope'?

And I still don't understand how this is a ghost story.

And that's it--I'm giving up on this one--though I'll be very interested if any else has any light to shed ...

12LolaWalser
Editat: maig 24, 2020, 8:45pm

Well now you have me intrigued... Started looking around to check which stories are in my books (yes this is actually an easier approach than trying to dig up my own books), did not find that info, but did come across a seller specialising in rare fine and collectible popular fiction "from the earliest times to the present"... some interesting books shown:

https://www.lwcurrey.com/

ETA: this looks esp. interesting, lots of "insider" (it seems) discussion of August Derleth etc:

https://www.lwcurrey.com/arkham-house-archive-private.php