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Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) [Paperback]

Algernon Blackwood
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Aug 2002 Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics
"Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories" is a collection of supernatural stories by one of the greatest writers of such stories to have ever lived, Algernon Blackwood. This collection contains the title story, "Ancient Sorceries", which is the tale of a tourist who becomes enchanted by a strange French town and the ancient secrets that are hidden there. Also included in this collection is one of Blackwood's most celebrated stories, "The Willows", the story of two campers who pick the wrong place to sleep for the night, as well as the following seven tales: "Smith: An Episode in a Lodging-House", "The Insanity of Jones", "The Man Who Found Out", "The Wendigo", "The Glamour of the Snow", "The Man Whom the Trees Loved, and Sand".
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (27 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142180157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142180150
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 919,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nine haunting tales 26 May 2007
Format:Paperback
Algernon Blackwood was the master of supernatural story writing. He wrote as if from actual experience and real belief. His descriptions convey feelings and images in a precise and poetic way so that his belief, for a while, becomes your belief too. The nine stories in this collection are:

1) 'Smith: An Episode in a Lodging-House'. A doctor recounts a strange and disturbing adventure he had as a student staying in lodgings.

2) 'The Willows'. Two men taking a canoeing holiday on the Danube, stop to camp for the night on a island where the willows are haunted by something huge and terrifying.

3) 'The Insanity of Jones'. A man takes revenge for outrages committed against him in a previous life.

4) 'Ancient Sorceries'. A man tries to resist being drawn in to the dark religion of a previous life.

5) 'The Man Who found Out'. A scientist who leads a secret, not-so-scientific life outside the lab, discovers something he would have preferred not to have known from some ancient tablets he shouldn't have read.

6) 'The Wendigo'. A party of hunters encounter an angry spirit of Native American legend haunting a Canadian forest.

7) 'The Glamour of the Snow'. A writer, staying at a ski resort in the Alps, is lured away from the warmth and safety of the village to the freezing regions above the tree line, by a cold entity known and feared by the locals.

8) 'The Man Whom Trees Loved'. An old couple retire to a house on the edge of the New Forest and the forest gradually takes possession of the man as the woman struggles to keep him.

9) 'Sand'. A man addicted to travel goes to Egypt hoping to get to know its real spirit and mysteries - and has a more sinister experience than he'd hoped for.

All excellent, interesting and imaginative tales. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nasty re-print with no Joshi introduction 22 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Do not order this edition if you want a Blackwood anthology presented in decent fashion. Despite the 'See Inside' preview indicating that this is the Penguin Classics edition with S. T. Joshi's introduction and notes, it is actually a bare-bones rush job by 'Digireads.com'.

It's housed in cheap cardstock and the stories themselves are printed with minimal margin space, further cheapening the experience. There is no introduction at all, and even the blurb on the back could be bettered by a schoolboy.

Like the nasty re-prints of Dunsany, this spartan money-grab shows no respect for its subject's elegant work, and should never have been printed.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The scariest of ghost story writers 9 Jan 2004
By Jay Dickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Algernon Blackwood really is the most frightening to me of all horror story writers. He has a way of capturing mood and setting that outdoes any of his many followers (among whom H. P. Lovecraft was proudly one of the most preeminent). The three most famous stories in this book--the title story, "The Wendigo," and, above all, "The Willows"--emblematize his skill. The title story is set in an ancient French town where the townspeople seem to have a peculiar habit of transforming into something else, and authentically captures the creepiness of medieval towns at night. Even more frightening is "The Wendigo": set in the North Woods, it realizes whatever fears you've ever had walking alone in the snowy woods. "The Willows" was Lovecraft's nomination for the finest horror story ever written, and it clearly may have inspired THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Two canoesmen traversing through the Middle European forests find themselves stranded on an island by unknown forces that won't let them leave. Part of the pleasure of Blackwood is that he never overdoes it: he has a marvelous light touch, and reads quite crisply at the level of the sentence.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Collection of Weird Tales 1 Oct 2002
By "sandman560" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
These are profoundly unsettling stories that reveal the darker forces that co-exist in the world alongside mankind. These are literate and thoughtfully chilling tales, whereby Blackwood buildings a sense of unease and gradual terror through his careful and atmosphericly descriptive prose.
Although this anthology features a couple of obvious choices ("The Willows" and "The Wendigo"), the editor has also added a few of Blackwood's lesser known stories, which is the reason that this collection is requisite. As usual, S.T. Joshi has done a splendid job of offering thorough and insightful notes about each tale at the end of the collection. Highly-recommended.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cumulative and Subtle Supernatural Terror 1 Aug 2004
By Nigel Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Algernon Blackwood's stories are beautifully crafted, allusive, understated and often rather quiet in tone: their subtle and lasting impact upon the imagination resides in the eerie ability Blackwood possessed to evoke certain rare interactions with remote spheres of primaeval power long anteceding modern man and his circumscribed world of reassuring rationalism: AB's narratives reveal the domain of vast elemental beings and ancient presences haunting the outer spaces of woods and the wilderness of untamed nature and lurking behind the veil of appearances, emerging betimes from behind the facades of seeming normality, often to ensorcel and lure certain susceptible humans from this world into an unknown existence in secret realms of immense mystery. AB's tales, truly connoisseur-fare for the lover of supernatural terror, almost all concern the contact, whether intentional or inadvertent, with that which lies beyond the liminal borders of the mundane, pressing invisibly in upon us but unsuspected by the greater mass of humanity. 'The Willows' is unsurpassed in the genre, a genuinely unsettling story involving unseen alien potencies which threaten two men camping on a remote river island in Middle Europe. Likewise 'The Wendigo' reveals the fearful reality which underlies Indian folklore and dwells far beyond the familiar places of humankind, in the virgin forests of Canada. 'The Man Who The Trees Loved' is an exceedingly strange account of the secret arboreal world and its claim over a human soul and 'Ancient Sorceries' is possibly the best tale of Witchcraft i have ever read, capturing the furtive and oblique feline atmosphere of the hidden life which a sleepy French town conceals beneath it's deceptive surface. I should have liked to have seen some other old favourites included such as that wondrous story 'The Trod', the quiet and fog-bound lycanthropic horror of 'The Empty Sleeve', 'The Glamour of the Snow', 'The Doll', 'The Touch of Pan' and 'The Man Who Was Milligan' and the mysterious poetic conjurations of 'The House of the Past' and 'The South Wind'. I fell under the spell of these wonderful tales when i read AB's 'Tales of the Uncanny & Supernatural' in childhood around 1973. Their appeal has not diminished with the passing of the years but only grown stronger. AB's tales of spiritual terror will lead one into a truly disquieting ambience of the supernatural which will endure in your imagination for long years afterwards.
41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Good, some not 13 Mar 2004
By Alexander Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I can't say that Algernon Blackwood is my favorite eerie writer. I prefer Lovecraft's neo-gnosticism to Blackwood's pagan naturalism. To each his own, I guess. Clearly, I am biased in favor of the former type of story over the latter, although there were many good stories.
So, with the standard disclaimers out of the way:
"An Episode in a Lodging House" - very Lovecraftian feel, including mystic text for doing Terrible Things (publication date 1906 predates HPL)
"The Willows" - can't say that I got into the spirit of this one. It reminded me of pleasant camping trips and hikes, not anything awe- or terror- inspiring. Other people seem to like it though.
"The Insanity of Jones" - an interesting story about karma and supposed justice. I was curious to see whether the central character would choose vengeance or mercy.
"Ancient Sorceries" - this lengthy story about witchcraft and a town's dark history was a good read. I found the love interest to be creepy and added to the atmosphere.
"The Wendigo" - this was my favorite. The Wendigo was what I thought The Willows should have been. The isolation, the dark, unexplored corners of the North, the terrifying abduction, all came together to be really eerie.
"The Man whom the Trees Loved" - if pagans wrote evangelistic tracts, they would be this. I felt that the writer was trying to proselytize more than write a good story. It took up a large portion of the book as well. Caveat emptor...
"Sand" - good use of suspense, realms beyond knowing. This story and the Lodging House really show the source of many of Lovecraft's ideas (who was the inspiration for many other writers such as Robert Bloch and Stephen King, who influence us today).
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Early Master of the Supernatural Tale 3 Nov 2009
By makifat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The weird stories of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) are supernatural in the truest sense. They testify to an awareness that the natural world is greater and more powerful than the puny destiny of man. Blackwood the nature-mystic holds the certitude that there are deeper forces at work in the universe, of which man is ignorant and before which he is helpless. These forces are not malignant per se, but are rather of such immensity of power and so mysterious in their purpose that before them man is but an insignificant microbe. The horror in Blackwood is the realization that modern man is insignificant to the degree that nature hardly deigns to perceive him, or perceives him only as a slight impediment in the fabric of the cosmos. Blackwood writes of a terrifying nature spirit or elemental ("The Wendigo") that haunts the great northern forests of North America, of the Danube willows which threaten to engulf two stranded campers on a island crumbling in flood ("The Willows"), and of the innate animalistic instincts of the atavistic soul ("Ancient Sorceries", which loosely inspired the film "Cat People"). Anyone with an interest in tales of the strange and uncanny ought to be acquainted with the stories of Algernon Blackwood.

The Penguin Classics edition of Blackwood contains four fewer stories than the Dover publication misleadingly named The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, but does contain a useful introduction by S.T. Joshi, who has also compiled editions of the works of Lovecraft, Machen, and Lord Dunsany.
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