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The Wine-Dark Sea Paperback – 21 Aug 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (21 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571244270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571244270
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 638,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A repackage of this classic collection from the master of horror --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Robert Fordyce Aickman was born in 1914 in London. He was married to Edith Ray Gregorson from 1941 to 1957. In 1946 the couple, along with Tom and Angela Rolt, set up the Inland Waterways Association to preserve the canals of Britain. It was in 1951 that Aickman, in collaboration with Elizabeth Jane Howard, published his first ghost stories in a volume entitled We Are for the Dark. Aickman went on to publish seven more volumes of 'strange stories' as well as two novels and two volumes of autobiography. He also edited the first eight volumes of The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories. He died in February 1981.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By S. Hapgood VINE VOICE on 15 Sep 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It asonishes me that a writer of the abilities, and possessed of the sheer story-telling power of Robert Aickman, is so neglected these days. Getting hold of a copy of his 'strange stories' (as he so aptly called them) can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The fact is that Aickman wrote some of the most haunting fiction that has come out of this country in the past 40 years. "The Wine Dark Sea" is the best collection of his stuff that I have come across. The title story, about a traveler in the Mediterranean who comes across an island which seems to have an unnerving effect on the locals, and decides to go out and explore it for himself, is simply beautiful, like something out of the Greek Myths. There is no denying that the stories can also be VERY wierd. My only complaint is that this volume doesn't include "The Hospice", the first Aickman story I ever read and which I believe to be his best. But perhaps some day someone might release a "best of" Robert Aickman. I won't hold my breath on that one though!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Reader in Tokyo on 26 Jun 2009
Format: Paperback
This book, the second of the four reprint collections of Aickman's short stories, was published in New York in 1988 and London in 1990. The London edition--the one I read--contained eight pieces published between 1951 and 1980, drawn from six of his eight original collections of short stories. The New York edition contained an additional three pieces, "Bind Your Hair," "The Next Glade" and "The Stains," and drew from one additional original collection.

During his lifetime, Aickman published 47 short stories, and two more pieces have come into print since his death in 1981. For this reader, the best of his short works from throughout his career succeeded in balancing four elements: hypnotic developments and action, mesmerizing and dreamlike images that captured a character's inner life, an uncovering of the ways people behave toward each other, and a haunting and open-ended conclusion.

Model stories combining these things included "The Trains" (1951), "Ringing the Changes" (1955) and "The Swords" (1969). Almost as good were "The Inner Room" (1966) and "The Hospice" (1975), despite extra layers of obscurity or developments bordering on parody. By comparison, many other pieces by the author often contained something memorable but felt lacking in one element or another; particularly from the late 1960s, the pacing of many seemed to grow increasingly deliberate, the text longer and the prose heavier. Another type of worthwhile story from this writer expressed something more of what might be called his philosophical outlook, and for me the clearest of these was "The Wine-Dark Sea" (1966). Others were "Into the Wood" (1968) and "The View" (1951).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Everington on 3 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Aickman is one of my favourite authors, and this volume contains some of my favourite stories of his: "Into the Wood", "The Trains", and the title story itself. Aickman described his tales as 'strange stories' and this volume certainly doesn't dissapoint in that respect. If you like inteligent, literate, ambiguous (sometimes *very* ambiguous) 'horror' fiction then Aickman is an author you have to read...

This would be a five-star review, apart from the presence of some typos in the edition I have (including the memorable "Glive Barker" in the Peter Straub's intro - an interesting addition to the book) which was dated March 2009. Hopefully later reprints have corrected this.
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16 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Reader on 2 Aug 2009
Format: Paperback
I open this tasty looking collection with great anticipation. On the first page of Peter Straub's introduction I find a quotation mark that is never closed - most distracting - another (obviously nothing to do with the first) that is back to front, and - also on this first page - a reference to "Give Barker". I have no doubt that Peter Straub, a great scholar of the strange tale, originally wrote "Clive Barker". Does the once distinguished house of Faber no longer employ copy editors or proof readers? I am for the moment too scared to continue reading. But not for the intended reasons.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
subtle and haunting 8 Nov 1999
By Beauregard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I strongly recommend the sadly hard-to-find fiction of Robert Aickman to ghost story aficionados, lovers of British literature, horror fiction readers willing to try something different and challenging, or just lovers of the short story form. Aickman's compelling, beautifully written, dreamlike stories are often puzzling, always atmospheric, and generally extremely memorable. The title story, a "strange story" (as the author liked to call his fiction) of a British tourist who journeys to a very strange Mediterranean island and meets three even stranger women, is typical of Aickman's bizarre, unsettling fiction. These stories are among his most accessible (although some readers will still undoubtedly find them opaque). If you are willing to risk being confused, Aickman's fiction is well worth your time. If you ever come across a copy of his first novel "The Late Breakfasters," which I don't believe has ever been published in this country, I would recommend that book perhaps even more highly.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Dazzling collection of the spooky and bizarre 10 July 2001
By Michael Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
'The Wine Dark Sea' is a fabulous collection by an unjustly neglected author. Robert Aickman writes stories unparalleled by any other writer. It's not hyperbole to call him the finest spooky story writer of the 20th century.
This particular collection, published several years after Aickman's death, gathers together several of his later stories. My favorite story is the eerie 'The Wine-Dark Sea' which tells the tale of a vacationer in Greece who, against the admonishments of his Greek hosts, takes a boat out to a deserted island. Once there he finds three exotic women who claim to be sorceresses. What follows is a magnificent story of magic, love, and betrayal. Quite simply one of the finest novellas I've ever read.
The rest of the stories in the collection are all fine reading, but none approaches the level of the title story. Of particular note is 'The Trains', the creepy story of two girls bumming through Europe who stumble across a mansion with a mysterious past.
As a previous reviewer noted, Aickman's stories aren't easy to read. You get the most out of an Aickman story if you go slowly, read every word, and occasionally re-read paragraphs. This method, combined with his lengthy stories, means that one story can take you up to an hour to read. It's a lengthy process, but the stories are worth it.
I'm only exaggerating a little when I say that it's a tragedy Aickman's stories are out-of-print. There was a very ..., complete collection released in the UK in 2000, but that doesn't help us Americans!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Truly Strange Stories 13 Jun 2000
By R. Kunath - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert Aickman's "strange stories" are far from the usual horror fare, and readers who prefer straightforward, no-nonsense spectres are well-advised to steer clear of Aickman's work. But if you are a fan of the beautifully-crafted supernatural stories of Henry James and/or Walter de la Mare, Aickman will be *essential* reading for you. At his best, his stories are small masterpieces of the uncanny that are all the more disturbing because it's often not entirely clear what has happened. *The Wine Dark Sea* is an excellent collection, which brings together a number of Aickman's most evocative tales. Try "The Inner Room" if you're skeptical--if it doesn't work for you, then Aickman may not be your cup of tea. Some of the stories in this volume are a bit uncharacteristically direct--"The Fetch and "Never Visit Venice" for example--but even they have layers of multiple meaning that make them very rich and rewarding reading. ...................... so don't give up on finding some of the stories of this great and sadly under-appreciated master of the supernatural story.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Challenging but worth the effort. 1 Mar 2001
By "g00dsizedogs" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the only book entirely by Aikman I have, and it has given me enormous pleasure. The title story is my favourite, though "The Trains" (I think that's the title - book is not to hand)was delightfully unsettling. Aikman, similar to Blackwood, weaves an atmosphere that surrounds the reader all too snugly, making the impact of each occurrence in a tale similar to having the wind knocked gently out of oneself. I first met RA in an anthology of 'ghost' stories, his selection being "The Hospice". Not a true horror story per se, but discomfitting, with a lasting, lingering impression which is still with me. Based on that reading, I've been collecting what I can find of his since. Nothing personal, but with Stephan King hardcovers on the remainder tables (and everywhere else!), it is a shame that this master of the "strange story" should be allowed to go out of print! Find him if you can, and settle in for a memorable and probably disquieting reading experience.
Enjoy!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A few things you should know about 'The Wine-Dark Sea' 5 Feb 2010
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Robert Aickman was a writer of what he called 'strange stories', but of the eight stories in this collection 'The Fetch' is the only piece resembling a traditional ghost story. Aickman's work contains acute psychological insight; he is master of a unique and very modern form of horror where the protagonist often doesn't know what he or she has done to bring about disaster. This is seen at its starkest in 'The Inner Room' (the first story I read by Aickman and still my favourite - a truly haunting piece which will stay with me for as long as I live), and in the title story, where protagonist Grigg allows "the last living rock" be killed...but doesn't actually know what he did to let it happen.

The twentieth century was a time of disorientations, when Europeans were walking "on overgrown paths" as Knut Hamsun famously put it. So how is one supposed to act in such situations? There is something, a hidden room, to which we don't have access...

Aickman reveals subtle and ambiguous sympathies for fascism and Nazism in this book - admittedly far more ambiguous than those of Hamsun. In the final story of this volume, 'Into the Woods', a Polish officer asserts there was "darkness on both sides" in what Aickman describes elsewhere ('The Inner Room') as "the late, misguided war". And in 'Never Visit Venice' Aickman mentions an inscription left "by the previous regime" (i.e. Mussolini's) to the effect that a minute as a lion is preferable to a lifetime as an ass. This has been left up, not just for difficulty of access but also apparently for deeper reasons.

In 'Your Tiny Hand is Frozen', the central character Edmund St. Jude is a member of an old, aristocratic family, and an authority on obscure 18th century poets. St. Jude (named for the patron saint of lost causes?) struggles to fit in with his contemporary surroundings. This mirrors Aickman's own deep suspicion of modernity. In another story, a character observes that "the Greeks used to decorate their houses with flowers and sing songs. Now they buy tinsel from shops and listen to radios."

'Never Visit Venice' demonstrates Aickman's antipathy to the modern world at its starkest. Mass tourism has made the world into "a single place, not worth leaving home to see." The protagonist Henry Fern has something inside him which makes him different, something indefinable which he would like to be rid of, yet at the same time which he is sure is the best thing about him. This undefinable something acts as a barrier between Fern and other people, and holds him back in his career. He feels work and relationships are largely a charade, and one girlfriend accuses him of being "too soulful". He dreams of a woman with whom he attains understanding and affinity. But that woman turns out to be...Death.

"The city fathers are all dead. Everyone in Venice is dead. It is a dead city. Perhaps it died when 'Tristan und Isolde' was composed here." Aickman feels cut off from the feminine, something which emerges more explicitly in a story of his not included in this collection, 'Ringing the Changes' (which itself is something of a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth').

Aickman is not without humour, though, as shown in the grotesque and hilarious 'Growing Boys'. The boys' repulsive father, a hypocritical, Guardian-reading leftist called Phineas Morke, is seen by his own wife as resembling "an immensely long anchovy, always with the same expression at the end of it."

'Into the Woods' delves into more esoteric regions. This tale of insomniacs (read: initiates) whose knowledge makes them feared by the general populace is an allegory about finding the true Self, which very few ever do. The forest, or Self, has "no beginning or ending", similar to Jung's description of the Self as a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. This Self cannot be quantified, but contrary to the claims of certain totalitarian empiricists, it most definitely exists...and no one knew this better than Robert Aickman, one of the finest supernatural writers of the twentieth century.
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