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Devil's Tor: from the author of A Voyage to Arcturus Kindle Edition
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"...Fate made visible, the Great Mother, the mystic stones belonging to a world of other dimensions, the part of the Northern races in history, the supernatural bringing-together of a chosen pair for the uplifting of humanity, the purpose of the creation of the universes..." Lindsay has used various storylines in his books including a journey to another planet, celtic myth, a dream recording machine, Adam and Eve, ancient goddess worship, and a witch. These elements or even some of the philosophy in the books are not the key to the genius of Lindsay. He uses everything to create a bridge to the numinous and help the reader to a hint of supernatural experience. He succeeds well with the numen at the tor. This depiction of an ancient goddess at Devil's Tor, along with the other visions seen by people there, give a strong sense of another dimension. Lindsay had also done his homework on ancient goddess worship. Many facts presented in the book check out with current archaeology. Behind all of Lindsay's books is the emphasis on individual contact with something that is very like the Chinese concept of the Tao. Something existant before religion, before gods and goddess. Lindsay calls this muspel (norse myth), in one book and names it the ancient in Devil's Tor. Contact with this ancient brings authentic life in a world that Lindsay often sees as sham. Devil's Tor can be a slow read because Lindsay makes use of interior monologue to let us see inside his characters. The characters engage in endless arguments and discussion which can make for tedious reading at times.
This line from the book describes sundown at the tor: "Only in the vertical line of the sun's descent a lozenge of darkest, quietest crimson hung over the horizon, as it had been a goblin window..." With Devil's Tor Lindsay has opened a goblin window on the numinous.
Lindsay originally wrote Devil's Tor in 1924, then did an extensive rewrite between 1928 and 1932. All the extra time he spent on the text resulted in a lot of superfluous material. Many passages are overwritten in the extreme as Lindsay puts far too fine a point on his numerous cosmic ideas. I would say that the novel is at least 40,000 words too fat. To be fair to Lindsay, though, what he is trying to describe in the book is nothing less than the eternal nature of the universe - a daunting task to be sure. No doubt Lindsay found that no matter how many words he wrote he failed to get a handle on the subject matter, and so he wrote more. Trying to give tangible form in print to that which is unknowable is a characteristic that runs through all of Lindsay's work. Only with A Voyage To Arcturus, where he was working on a purely symbolic level, did he meet with something approaching full artistic success. His post-Arcturus novels with their casts of reality-based characters and 1920's English settings rely on lengthy exposition to make their points, with the result that the reader frequently gets bogged down. This is most notably the case in Devil's Tor, which is ironic since Lindsay writes repeatedly in the novel about the power of symbolism.
The chief frustration of the novel is that its story is in fact highly intriguing making the reader anxious to find out what happens next, yet Lindsay constantly interposes page after page of excessively detailed inward reflection and Nietzsche-inspired philosophizing (much of which is awkwardly written) before revealing the next plot development. This is particularly troublesome in the last third of the book where just as the story's pace should be quickening towards its climax, Lindsay slows it down with infuriatingly tedious squabbling between the main characters. This is a book that requires patience and a degree of determination to finish.
With such serious faults, why should anyone bother to read Devil's Tor? The answer is that David Lindsay was one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century and that while as a writer he suffered from some exasperating limitations, he nevertheless possessed remarkable gifts. Nobody evokes a sense of otherworldliness better than Lindsay, and few writers have meditated as deeply on the nature of existence and the universe. The result is that Devil's Tor is overflowing with weirdly beautiful imagery and sharp cosmic insight. The book has a strange, tranquil power as if it were conceived in a metaphysical trance. A quiet, solitary man who spent much time wandering the very moors upon which Devil's Tor is set, Lindsay appears to have opened - or at least believed he had opened - a window onto the spiritual plane. Communicating the glimpses and hints he received of a more profound, more terrible, yet wondrous reality underlying human existence is the main function not only of Devil's Tor, but of all his books.
If you are new to David Lindsay, be warned that Devil's Tor probably shouldn't be the first of his books you read. It is best to start with A Voyage to Arcturus, Lindsay's masterpiece, then proceed to The Haunted Woman, Sphinx, or The Violet Apple (provided you can get your hands on copies). Only after you have acclimated yourself to the difficulties of Lindsay's post-Arcturus novels (and have enjoyed the experience) should you attempt Devil's Tor. It's a demanding book, yet when read with patience and the proper set of expectations, it yields significant rewards.