Lord Dunsany was a literary jack-of-all-trades -- he wrote fiction, fantasy, poetry, plays and recounted his own experiences in World War I. And "Selections From the Writings of Lord Dunsany" covers some of his best (or just best-known) material, though those with his other books will probably find that they already have it. But it's a good introduction for newbies.
It opens with two plays: "The Gods of the Mountain," a comic tale of a beggar trio who take advantage of a prophecy, and pretend to be gods, and the first act of "King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior," about an overthrown king who is now a despairing beggar.
Then it switches to Dunsany's fantasy, which are crammed with gods, "Babbulkund, City of Marvel" which was consumed by a sandstorm, strange kings, and immense riches, and then of ships and captains onon the River Yann. There's a brief "Miracle" about thirteen cats in a Roman Temple, a "Castle of Time" where a king makes war against the country of Time, and finally his poem "The Sphinx" ("She had painted her face in order to ogle Time").
Yeah, it's all been seen in othe collections of Dunsany's work, particularly his brief plays. The only new part is the introduction by poet W.B. Yeats, who praises Ireland's honoring of poetry and art for a few pages. Then he begins to describe the "subtle elaborate emotions" of time and past grandeur in Dunsany's work and talks about his own interactions with Dunsany.
This is basically a sampler of Dunsany's work, although at times it's a little difficult to tell who selected the stories and why. They all do possess one thing: a bittersweet look at the passage of time (in some cases, a war with Time) and the changing of the world. His writing is elaborate and striking, full of magical cities swallowed by the desert, fallen kings, and things like "Sphinx" which are real-life illustrations of how things change. Except he really doesn't seem to like the Sphinx much.
Newcomers to Dunsany's work will find this a rewarding little anthology, and longtime fans will probably have read it before. A brief but engaging look at his mythic stories and plays.