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Shapeshifting multi-narrator Classic
on 24 December 2011
Using the various narrator voices & styles, The Beetle may be sold as a flavour of Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker & because of Richard Marsh's sense of humour, even Dickens. But he is none of these. Nor is he a mere amalgam. Being compared with better known authors can be faint praise indeed, as the man Marsh was prolific, yet remains woefully little known. This printing by Valancourt addresses this anomaly in literary appreciation.
Valancourt has advantages over other publishers/printers of this & other similar gothic, fin de siecle works. Printing for a start has been proof-read by experts, which some i regret are not; the binding in paperback in solid, the artwork in keeping with the age of the piece in hand rather than some modern anachronism. Add to this the notes, the appendices as well as a thorough introduction, and this printing, like their others, puts the pieces in context. Which is what they require to be fully appreciated by not simply students but general readers.
As to this particular tale, the style of Marsh is clarity, punch & lulling into a sense of uncertainty. In short, ideal for serialisation. Yet clearly from his vocabulary & diction, he matched this pertinent method with the control of his strong imagination, his diverse themes never get away from him. The hand of a craftsman is at work, if i dare be so bold, though he didn't have to be so controlled & precise in his quality to sell to some of the periodicals of the time. Many of these works were looked down upon.
Do not enter into the themes herein however if thou art of faint heart! A shapeshifter, a sordid harem of worshippers of Isis, white-slavery, threat to woman & man alike, the sprawl of slums in a metropolis, murder by neglect, moral ambiguity & rupturing of ethical society, somnambulism, persistent threat to body & soul. All quietly, solidly told with a faint whiff of the aroma of M.R. James to some of the more horrific elements. Patience & an even temperament may be the prerequisite of the reader, lest they be lulled by The Beetle...