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The House of Souls

The House of Souls [Kindle Edition]

Arthur Machen
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

The mystical qualities of the first story are both rare and beautiful, and as a work of art alone it deserves to live. It is almost perfect--tender, true, intimate, and restrained.

About the Author

Arthur Machen is a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. Around 1890 Machen began to publish in literary magazines, writing stories influenced by the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, some of which used gothic or fantastic themes. This led to his first major success, "The Great God Pan". It was published in 1894 by John Lane in the noted Keynotes Series, which was part of the growing aesthetic movement of the time. Machen's story was widely denounced for its sexual and horrific content and subsequently sold well, going into a second edition.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 354 KB
  • Print Length: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Start Classics (1 Jan 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HQ4UE90
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #127,504 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare gem of a book 19 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As well as better known stories this includes A Fragment of Life, that I consider one of Machen's finest short stories, which covers the theme of finding the miraculous in the mundane. The theme is repeated elsewhere in a more sinister fashion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Free Kindle version 17 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed these short stories, which are otherworldly & quite eerie, some more than others. Very much a product of the time in which they were written (much implied compared with today's style of writing) and a window into that time, which does not always present a pleasant view! Suggest you see for yourself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading 10 Aug 2001
By Richard Cody - Published on
Machen (1863-1947) stands as one of the great figures in "weird", or supernatural, literature. This plain but functional reprint of the 1922 U.S. edition of "The House of Souls" contains two of his finest works in the genre - "The White People" and "The Great God Pan".
The book opens with an introduction, penned by Machen, which provides insight into the writing of the pieces within and into Machen himself.
The first of the four novellas, "A Fragment of Life", concerns the awakening of an "ordinary" man to his mystic and real self. This piece, rather subtle and slow moving, may require rereading for full appreciation.
"The White People" takes us into the pages of a journal written by a young girl who has been privy since early childhood, via her nursemaid, to ancient and arcane secrets. The journal is the gist of this story and is quite a gripping mix of fantasy and myth (yes, there is a difference). The narrative framework around the journal introduces us, via the discussion of two protagonists, to Machen's fascinating theories about good and evil.
"The Great God Pan" concerns the appearance of the title entity into the everyday world of men through the agency of a more or less typical "mad doctor"; or, as Machen describes the character, a practitioner of "transcendental medicine".
The fourth and final story, "The Inmost Light", is not among my favorites in the Machen cannon. Nonetheless, the narrative about another doctor dabbling in occult realms is an effective mystery and an enjoyable read.
All in all, an excellent collection from an excellent writer and requisite reading for any serious student of supernatural fiction.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some tedium, some excellence 5 July 2008
By Zen Druid - Published on
I have to admit at the start that I am not a huge Machen fan; I only read him beacause he has influenced the greats, such as Lovecraft. That being said, this is a good book because it contains 2 of his big "classics": "The White People" and "The Great God Pan". These should be familiar to any reader of weird tales. I find The White People to be a little tedious but still should be read by all. The other 2 novellas here are The Inmost Light and A Fragment of Life. I thoroughly enjoyed The Inmost Light because I am a great fan of "The Occult Detective" and this story surely fits that genra. It has a good plot that drives toward a satisfying conclusion. Alas, I cannot say the same for the opening piece "A Fragment of Life". This is a meandering monstrosity that goes nowhere very slowly. I will admit that I never finished it. After slogging through the main couple a)worrying over furnishing a room b)worrying over buying a stove and c)worrying over their mad aunt moving in with them I had had quite enough! Perhaps the end is interesting but I haven't enough time in this lifetime to wade through all the preliminary stuff. The trouble with Machen is that he tends to babble on and this story is an example of him at his worst. But 3/4 of the stories are good. I remain more of a Blackwood fan.
3.0 out of 5 stars Much ado about nothing. 1 July 2014
By Randolph O. Saluga - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
These stories are well written and at times have a slight eerineness to them,hence the three stars. But it's all much ado about nothing. The first story is mostly a mundane account of a couple's daily life. I'm a fan of leaving horror to the imagination,but this was ridiculous.
5.0 out of 5 stars Old school weird horror for the cerebral set 19 Jan 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Machen, a major influence on later weird fiction writers such as Lovecraft and Ashton-Smith, creates eerie, atmospheric stories that imply rather than show. This literary conceit works well for the type of existential horror Machen posits lives behind, beside and next to us. Almost always out of direct sight, the creature and powers are subtle, old and dangerous but passive until disturbed by the hubris of man. In some ways, his characters celebrate and warn against progress and research for fear of what such inquiries might yield. All in all, an essential read for word fiction enthusiasts.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A CHILLING AND SUGGESTIVE BUNCH OF TALES 5 Nov 2007
By s.ferber - Published on
I had been wanting to check out Arthur Machen's 1906 collection of short stories, entitled "The House of Souls," for quite some time; even since I had read two highly laudatory pieces written about this work and its author. The first was H.P. Lovecraft's comments in his widely referred to essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature," in which he claims "Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen." And, in Jones & Newman's excellent overview volume "Horror: 100 Best Books," T.E.D. Klein, in his essay on "The House of Souls," refers to Machen as "fantasy's pre-eminent stylist." Well, after years of looking, I finally managed to lay hands on a somewhat beaten-up copy of the 1928 Borzoi edition of this collection, and can now see what all the fuss has been about. My edition only contains four of the book's original stories; "The Novel of the Black Seal," "The Novel of the White Powder" and "The Red Hand" have been omitted. (Apparently, the book has had a complicated publishing history.) What remains, however, has served as a very fine introduction to Machen ("rhymes with 'blacken,'" Klein reveals) in my own case.

The Borzoi edition kicks off with the novella-length piece "A Fragment of Life," which tells of a newlywed couple, the Darnells, living in a London suburb. Machen piles on an enormous amount of fine detail to illustrate the Darnells' life; thus, we learn of their plans to redecorate a bedroom, how much they pay for groceries, the social life of their maid, the problems that Mrs. Darnell's aunt is having, and on and on. It only gradually dawns on the reader, and on Mr. Darnell, that this is, literally, just a fragment of life, indeed; that all this mundane nonsense is just a masklike covering that hides a greater reality. Like many of the characters of Algernon Blackwood and, much later, P.K. Dick, Mr. Darnell seeks to pierce the illusion of our so-called reality, and this initially prosaic story winds up being quite an eerie and mystical ride as a result. The next tale in this collection, "The White People," was Lovecraft's second-favorite horror story of all time, after Blackwood's "The Willows." In this one, a man is given the diary of a young girl by another man who wishes to demonstrate what the real nature of evil is all about. The bulk of the story consists of the girl's seemingly naive and rambling notes in her journal, and we learn that she is a sorceress of sorts, being trained by her nurse is some kind of dark arts. Nothing is really spelled out for the reader in this piece; rather, through the use of narrated fairy tales, strange incidents and almost hallucinatory journeys, a very unsettling aura is engendered. It is all very allusive and suggestive, demanding of the reader a great exercise of the imagination. I suppose that Lovecraft had a greater imagination than mine (no great surprise there, though!), because I was left wanting a bit more from this tale. Still, some pretty eerie stuff. The oft-anthologized "The Great God Pan" is up next, to my mind the strongest story of the bunch. In this one, a scientist performs a brain operation on a young woman to (again) pierce the veil that obscures an ultimate reality. Seventeen years later, a mysterious, debauched woman causes a rash of suicides in London high society, as a small group of men tries to figure out just what is going on. Reading like a late 19th century detective story crossed with the supernatural, this is one bravura piece of work from Mr. Machen, and concludes in a suitably gruesome and gooey manner. The story is a bit too dependent on coincidence in its telling, but remains most impressive. Finally, in my Borzoi edition, is "The Inmost Light," still another tale of a scientist trying to peer behind the curtain to behold a truer reality. Here, another woman is the subject of an experiment that produces horrifying results. The described image of Mrs. Black's hideous face in an upstairs window, as seen by our narrator from some distance away, is one that lingers in the memory. As in "The White People" and "The Great God Pan," most of the horrors are suggested rather than spelled out in this tale, which may be a disappointment to a modern reader steeped in the current tradition of gore and grue, but there is no denying the chilling mood that these stories can evoke.

I should perhaps mention here that "The House of Souls" was NOT that easy a read for me. There are dozens of references to English life of a century or more ago that may mean little to the 21st century reader (just what IS an "A.B.C. girl," anyway?), not to mention much British slang, Latin expressions and so on. A detailed street map of London proved invaluable to me as I read this book. Still, a little effort in these matters always results in a deeper appreciation, and there surely is much to appreciate in "The House of Souls." It is certainly well worth any reader's time. Thanks, T.E.D., and thanks, H.P.!
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