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on 29 July 2015
I came to Machen via H P Lovecraft (who I still regard as the sine qua non of the weird tale), and though I'm glad I did, this is more because my curiosity was satisfied than because I enjoyed what was a rather mixed bag of tales. Oddly (and disappointingly) this collection does not include Machen's best-known (and best) story, The Great God Pan, though I'd read that in another anthology. The White Powder and The Black Seal are good tales taken on their own terms, The Terror is OK; but I was left rather non-plussed by the much-praised The White People.

The most interesting story is The Bowmen, written in 1914 and which inadvertently gave rise to the legend of The Angel of Mons, which is still taken seriously by some people today.

If you like H P Lovecraft or William Hope Hodgson or similar, then you'll probably find enough in here to enjoy.
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on 3 July 2013
I have been a Machen fan for years and had not read these stories for a long-time, having lost various books along the years to forgotten friends and forgotten libraries. This book didn't disappoint, it re-kindled my fondness for all things weird, and you can't pigeon-hole weird, nor explain it, it just "is". From all the shorts in here, The Novel of the White Powder stands out for me,i won't explain it, just buy the book, read the stories and immerse yourself in the 19th Century, walk into Machen's house, open the cellar door and descend into a world of madness....
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on 13 March 2017
like nothing I've ever read before . Five stars.
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on 18 August 2017
I read this mainly because I was aware of H.P. Lovecraft's comments about how good the title story is, but I have to confess that particular story left me cold, even after reading it twice. I liked some of the stories, but I thought that others maybe lacked impact. I think that the story I liked best was 'The Novel Of the Black Seal', which is probably the story that is most similar to Lovecraft in style and content.
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on 27 August 2012
If you want to get entranced into the mystic world of Machen, this is the book for you! This book came into my hands quite a long time ago and got me hooked into the esoteric world of Enchantment and Wizardry through imagination. Having purchased it quite recently, I have seen it in a new light what Machen was really trying to teach: something about your inner ('darker') self and the Psychology that goes with it. Here it is. No nonsense Anglican Welsh folklore! Not as far-fetched as some might think. Do it!
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on 3 December 2014
Bought as a birthday gift for my Niece.
I read this book myself a couple of years ago.
A collection of short stories.
Not as good as I was expecting.
Only about two were really interesting. The rest were average.
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on 8 July 2017
Having heard Machen compared very favourably to Dunsany and M.R. James, I'd hoped and expected to enjoy these stories more than I did. Mostly they're about fairies: not the pointy-eared chaps of children's books, but mysterious, primitive, evil creatures. Underlying all the stories is Machen's conviction that "the universe is verily more splendid and more awful than we used to dream."

The first few stories are unremarkable (more exuberant than James; less playful than Dunsany; less technically accomplished than either). A third of the way in, though, Machen suddenly reaches new heights of subtlety and execution. The stories that follow are an intriguing mix of folk tales, evocations of place (always London or South Wales), provocative philosophies and sublime descriptions of mystical experiences that transform the world for those who experience them.

Still, though, most of the stories are lacking in something, normally tension. Often this is because they're too long, or the faux reportage in which they're written distances the reader from the action. On one occasion it's because Machen evokes the tedium to which everyday life can descend far too effectively.

There is much to enjoy in Machen, then, and this an atmospheric and thought-provoking book, but it's not a page turner.
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on 3 February 2016
Certainly hasn't received the attention that other weird fiction writers like James, Blackwood and Benson have received, but worth a read as he is easily on a par. His style of writing means that you have to concentrate more when reading and I suspect his popularity has suffered as a result. This is an excellent collection of his stories but you will need a quiet room to fully appreciate them.
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2013
I had been meaning to read some of Arthur Machen's work for a long time, since discovering some years ago that he and John Ireland, the composer, had corresponded over some of Ireland's mystical and rhapsodic pieces of music. This excellent new edition in the Penguin Classics series offered the ideal opportunity and I have just completed reading the selection of Machen's stories in it.

Machen, born in 1863, was a near contemporary of writers such as Arnold Bennett, H G Wells, Conan Doyle, and J M Barrie, and made a name for himself during the Edwardian era through journalism and by writing tales which conjured strange otherworlds of fantasy and mysticism. Since that time he has had a band of devoted followers who have kept his reputation reasonably bright. One such follower is the filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, who has written a Foreword to this book.

I must confess however that I struggled with these stories because while they do indeed evoke strange worlds of the imagination, the prose style in which they are written is cranky, awkward and dated to a degree that would make one of those discussions on the old BBC Third Programme sound free, spontaneous and almost risque. Nearly every tale begins with a dialogue between two gentlemen who laboriously quiz one another over some peculiar event or antique object - a convention acceptable enough in the hands of Wells or Joseph Conrad, but Machen never manages to lift the subsequent story to a level where the prose takes flight. His language remains earthbound and prosaic, and in each tale he manages to defeat the object of his ambition, which is to carry the reader away into the landscape of his imagination.

After finishing the book which is, as I have said, an excellent edition in itself, I looked up Christina Rossetti's very strange poem, "Goblin Market", published in 1862, the year before Machen's own birth. I marvelled at how she had achieved all the weirdness, danger, eroticism and mystery which Machen strived so hard to create but, on the evidence of this selection of his work, signally failed to deliver.
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on 31 December 2015
An ok set of yarns; but not in the same league of weird as Poe.
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