Where to buy: Tartarus Press and other fine book retailers.
World Gone Wrong: H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythology of Loss (part two) by Joel Lane
Contra Grundy: William Sharp and The Pagan Review by Paul Fox
Cultivating the Demon Within: An Appreciation of Frances Oliver by Paul Newman
A Beauty, an Inspiration and an Unreality: On Robert Aickman’s ‘Letters to the Postman’ by Philip Challinor
In an Unresting Land: Randolph Stow’s The Girl Green as Elderflower by Mark Valentine
Screaming Skulls & Dead Smiles: F. Marion Crawford’s Short Fiction by Mike Barrett
Under Review by Reggie Oliver
Late Reviews by Douglas A. Anderson
Camera Obscura by Mark Valentine
Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today I bring you my fourth and final review (at least for the moment) of the excellent journal Wormwood: Literature of the fantastic, supernatural, and decadent. Enjoy!
As with the three issues that preceded it, all of which have been reviewed by yours truly previously on this site, the eighteenth issue of Wormwood is fascinating, well-researched, and has made me aware of some interesting authors whose names were previously unknown to me.
The issue begins with the conclusion to Joel Lane’s two-part essay “World Gone Wrong: H.P. Lovecraft‘s Mythology of Loss,” which is just as strong as the first chapter, which appeared in the previous issue. This chapter gives primary focus to Lovecraft’s stories set in what H.P.’s friend August Derleth dubbed the Cthulhu Mythos. Lane also discussed some later authors’ contributions to the Mythos, including Robert Bloch and Brian Lumley. Paul Fox contributes “Contra Grundy: William Sharp and the Pagan Review,” which discusses the Scottish poet and biographer’s one-shot faux literary journal, whose stories and poems were all actually written by Sharp himself under various pseudonyms. Sharp’s work, which can best be described as fantasy, sometimes dealt with surprisingly frank sexual themes for the time in which the magazine was published. Following this is Paul Newman’s “Cultivating the Demon Within: An Appreciation of Frances Oliver,” which strives to draw attention to this Austria-born latter-day (1960s-present) author, whose novels include All Souls (1976), about the heiress to a mansion that, like its inhabitants, has seen better days. Philip Challinor provides “A Reality, an Inspiration and an Unreality: On Robert Aickman‘s ‘Letters to the Postman’,” an interesting analysis of a short story about a young postman who becomes infatuated with a mysterious woman. Challinor is at his most interesting in discussing and contrasting the portrayal of the females who make up the bulk of the story’s characters. It is worth noting that Aickman’s plays were discussed by Douglas A. Anderson in the seventeenth issue. Editor Valentine contributes “In an Unresting Land: Randolph Stow‘s The Girl Green as Elderflower,” about the Australian author’s collection of three retellings of alleged medieval legends. Despite how well-regarded Stow appears to have been in his time, he appears to be little-known today, but I am intrigued enough by Valentine’s piece to perhaps seek out the book in its title. Mike Barrett contributes the final article of this issue, “Screaming Skulls & Dead Smiles: F. Marion Crawford‘s Short Fiction.” Crawford is one of the few authors discussed in this issue besides Lovecraft whose work I’m familiar with, having read “For the Blood is the Life,” his entertaining story about a vampiress. As the title of the article suggests, Crawford’s stories “The Dead Smile” and “The Screaming Skull” are the main focus. While I have not read the latter work, I have seen Alex Nicol‘s tedious 1958 film loosely based on the story on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Since Barrett describes Crawford’s story in fairly glowing terms, I’m guessing it is much better than the film, which makes reading it a priority for me. Reggie Oliver’s (no relation to Frances) regular column “Under Review” follows, with a discussion of four works having to do with the occult, with a biography of Aleister Crowley and a collection of essays analyzing the classic horror film The Exorcist being of the greatest interest to myself, though Oliver is not entirely uncritical of either. Anderson chimes in again with “Late Reviews,” a regular column analyzing books of decades past. Valentine closes the issue with “Camera Obscura,” discussing some recent books that may have slipped under the radar.
It has been a great pleasure to review four issues of this superb magazine. Each issue has been erudite, well-researched, and written with a scholarly tone without being pretentious. I hope to review more issues in the near-future, as those four terrific issues have made me hungry for more. I give this issue, and indeed all four I read put together, a resounding 5 out of 5 tentacles!
Sean Levin – Assistant Editor/Reviewer/Reporter