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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.129.20.239
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 10:21 am:   

Well my God.
For what feels like the first time in absolutely ages I have been frightened by a story, and one by an old chestnut, to boot. The story is Seaton's Aunt by Walter De La Mare. I have not been able to put it down, and last night I was actually phyisically frightened to read it. The big sad shock was in realising just how rarely that happens, and has happened in my life, now I think about it. This Dark Descent book is absolutely fantastic, and has re-awoken me utterly into realising what horror can do.
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 218.168.198.72
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 12:13 pm:   

I knew (from looking at the contents of Dark Descent) that this one was coming up for you, Tony, but didn't say anything because I wanted to see how it affected you. 'Seaton's Aunt' is one of the great examples of inconclusive, ambiguous terror in the field, I think, and as such ranks alongside certain stories by Robert Aickman, L.P. Hartley, John Metcalfe and others as masterpieces of the genre. It achieves its effects through suggestion and the accumulation of strangeness. I think that many of today's horror writers could learn a thing or two from reading de la Mare and Aickman.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.129.20.239
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 12:20 pm:   

You know what? It feels like I've only just found out what horror is, that I've found a door through what I had taken to be a surrounding wall. It's great!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.156.110.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 01:27 pm:   

Tony, do you know, that story is one of very few that has actually frightened me? I first read it at sixteen and couldn't sleep afterwards. The closing line really shook me up. De la Mare really can be terrifying, because you're not sure whether he means what you think he means or it's just you. 'Mr Kempe' is similarly disturbing.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.236.13
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 01:51 pm:   

"All Hallows" is the one that does it for me; every sentence is a delight and the apotheosis under the roof of the old cathedral by the sea is quite simply shattering. Does anyone know whether de la Mare had a real location in mind when he composed this?

"Mr Kempe" is another good one; I suspect Lovecraft was influenced by this when he wrote "The Picture in the House".

"Crewe" is very M.R. Jamesian, you'll love it.

Another favourite of mine, "A Recluse", may have inspired Lovecraft when he wrote "The Whisperer in Darkness". The ending is just TOO similar.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.156.110.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 02:02 pm:   

Hubert, I'm pretty sure 'The Picture in the House' was published before 'Mr Kempe' if I'm wrong, smite me with lightning or whatever!
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.219.8.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 02:05 pm:   

Tony, I read the story for the first time last year, and had the same response as you. Magnificent, isn't it?

I also like The Vats, by De la Mare. It's extraordinary.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.156.110.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 02:53 pm:   

'The Vats' is completely bonkers. Like much of de la Mare. His is a madness that sometimes makes devastating sense. Not unlike that of... er, John Metcalfe.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.236.13
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 03:53 pm:   

I would also recommend "Miss Duveen", "Miss Miller" and "'What Dreams May Come'". I'm Pretty sure Albie would love "Miss Miller".

"The Vats" remains a complete mystery. I've seen it described as 'post apocalyptic', and that, I suppose, is as good an explanation as any.

@Joel: You may well be right, for I know next to nothing about Walter de la Mare's life . . .
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 61.216.37.14
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 04:14 pm:   

Good recommendations, all. Let me add the following:

The Quincunx
The Green Room
The Guardian
Bad Company
The House
Out of the Deep
A.B.O.
An Anniversary
A Revenant
Strangers and Pilgrims

Tony, if you're looking for more de la Mare, the best single collection of supernatural or 'strange' fiction is the recent Tartarus Press volume Strangers and Pilgrims. There's also a 2-volume set of all his short stories (some eighty-odd tales, not including the children's stories) published by Giles de la Mare.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.156.110.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 05:21 pm:   

As far as I can gather, de la Mare was likeable and had many friends. But his fiction revolves around themes of loneliness, madness and spiritual decay.

When de la Mare was quite old he had an affair with his young editor Kaye Webb, the founder of Puffin Books. Bless.
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John_l_probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 90.203.130.237
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 06:12 pm:   

Well I rather hope it IS possible to write horror and yet still be likeable and have many friends, &c &c.

Anyway chaps, once I've finished my Harry E Turner collection I think I'll start on my Tartarus de la Mare book after the comments posted above
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.156.110.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 06:21 pm:   

By the way, how many of us are alumni of the Puffin Club? Kaye Webb was still running it when I was a member.

The Puffin Club changed my life. One of the competitions was to draw/paint an original teapot. Among the winners described in the competition report was a shattered teapot with an arrow going through it, with the title 'Porcelain Teapot'. Imagine the small Joel and a light-bulb in a thought bubble...
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 79.70.15.15
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 06:41 pm:   

Totally off topic but there are a few of you around.
Which is the correct punctuation? I think.
"He had this thing about hands you see, womens' and mens.'
Someone else says,
"He had this thing about hands you see, women's and men's."
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 218.168.187.226
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 06:44 pm:   

I was in the Puffin Club too, Joel! I'm pretty sure I've still got a few of their old paperbacks somewhere (probably going mouldy in a box in the attic).

Lord P, the Tartarus de la Mare collection is superb. It's one of their best books yet, I think, along with the Hartley, Onions, Wells, Stevenson and Aickman volumes. The E.T.A. Hoffmann is due out soon... :-)
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 218.168.187.226
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 06:51 pm:   

I'd say: "He had this thing about hands, you see, women's and men's."

It might flow more smoothly with a colon instead of a comma, though. ;-)
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.156.110.243
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 06:59 pm:   

'Men's' is definitely correct.

Personally I feel a colon, though grammatically OK, would be overkill from a style point of view. The comma is a thing of great power, when used appropriately.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 79.70.15.15
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:17 pm:   

I can't understand why I was convinced that it was the other.

Ah - well, back to the script. Much appreciated Huw and Joel :>)
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.249.146
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:18 pm:   

I'm with Joel on the grammar. Gramma. Grandma.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.163.48.60
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:29 pm:   

Yep - I'd go with:-

"He had this thing about hands, you see; women's and men's."
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 79.70.15.15
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:33 pm:   

Any advance on semi-colon?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:35 pm:   

I'd write: "He had this thing about hands, you see - women's and men's."
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John_l_probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 90.203.130.237
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:38 pm:   

I'd do what GF suggests (in this instance, anyway).

Huw - I've just ordered the Hoffman, & I've got all the others you mention except the Stevenson, which I have somehow missed
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 79.70.15.15
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:42 pm:   

Mmm - it does look better in the script - the way - Gary and John - have suggested.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:43 pm:   

Neither a comma nor a semi-colon work for me, and as for a colon - seems a bit stuffy and formal. I suppose it depends on the context, the 'voice' you're using. If it's a chatty, first-person narrative, I'd use the dash. But it's all a question of preference.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:47 pm:   

"He had this thing about hands, you see - women's and men's."

"He had this thing about hands, you see. Women's and men's."

"He had this thing about hands, you see: women's and men's."

"He had this thing about hands, you see, women's and men's."

"He had this thing about hands, you see; women's and men's."

All work without a mangling of meaning. I guess the one to chose is the one that suits your 'voice'.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:48 pm:   

"...choose..."

:<)
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.236.13
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 07:49 pm:   

How about

"He had this thing about hands, you see. Women's and men's."

or:

"He had this thing about hands, you see--women's and men's."

I suppose it depends on how much emphasis is needed. The latter has a jagged, slightly neurotic effect. The Lovecraft influence?

Nothing wrong with a semicolon, however. I probably wouldn't use a comma in this context.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 79.70.15.15
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:09 pm:   

"He had this thing about hands, you see - women's and men's."

This suits - just fine:>)
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John_l_probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 90.203.130.237
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:12 pm:   

How about:

'He was a total perve where hands were concerned. Men, women, apes, crabs, Action Man models, he didn't care. Any finger, claw, pincer or realistic rubber grip action was not just a comfort to him but a unique thrill, one that could be rediscovered the following morning at the flick of a switch as the DVD recording of the previous night's amusements was replayed.'
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:17 pm:   

Perve with an extra 'e', John? :<)
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.163.48.60
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:18 pm:   

Absolute filth, as ever, Lord P.

"He had this thing about women, you see. And men's hands".
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:24 pm:   

The women had their hands about the men's things. You see?
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.249.146
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:33 pm:   

"He had this thing about hands. Preferably after they'd been removed from children's wrists using a cold chisel and a half-pound hammer."
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:43 pm:   

"He didn't have a thing about hands at all - either men's or women's. He didn't have a thing about feet, either. In fact, his predilection for appendages was pretty much a non-starter, all told. But he did like commas, and semi-colons; and dashes - and colons: and full-stops."
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 218.168.178.167
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:46 pm:   

I agree with Gary - it depends on the context. Sometimes this stuff comes instantly, other times it can take ages to work out what exactly 'feels' best (while remaining grammatically correct).
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.24.122.40
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:50 pm:   

Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a feeling that Ramsey would use a colon here.
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Huw (Huw)
Username: Huw

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 218.168.178.167
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 08:52 pm:   

John, I think you will like the Stevenson collection!
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Albie (Albie)
Username: Albie

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.195.236.131
Posted on Friday, May 16, 2008 - 12:16 pm:   

"He had this thing about hands."

"Was he bothered about the gender?"

"No, Flannagan, he wasn't. And get out of my house with your LSD spewing gas mask."
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 11:59 am:   

Help! I read Seaton's Aunt yesterday & the disturbing quality so praised in reviews completely passed me by! In fact the story did so little for me I was shocked to discover this old RCMB thread where it seems the tale half frightened Tony to death and gave Joel a sleepless night.

So, is de la Mare not for me, or should I give him another go? Suggestions welcome!
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.203.69
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 12:05 pm:   

It's you, John! Too subtle for you. ;)
I have to say, the tale got less scary as it went on, but certain hints in it really troubled me. I bet what spoiled it was our praise; I had been expecting nothing whatsoever.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 12:43 pm:   

You're probably right Tony! It was in the First Fontana Ghost book, which also has Blackwood's The Wendigo, about which I'd heard great things & which more than lived up to its reputation. I suspect I was expecting too much!
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.93.21.74
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 12:55 pm:   

Try "Crewe", John. I like de la Mare's work, but that's the only one to give me more than a delicate frisson.

Coming back to this, which I didn't notice at the time -

"Mr Kempe" is another good one; I suspect Lovecraft was influenced by this when he wrote "The Picture in the House"

- the Lovecraft tale was written in 1920, but he didn't read de la Mare until 1926.
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Mark_samuels (Mark_samuels)
Username: Mark_samuels

Registered: 04-2010
Posted From: 86.133.23.20
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:04 pm:   

I'm very pleased to have my memory jogged by mention of "The Vats": at the first time of reading many years ago I adored this one. Thanks Zed. I'll take my big fat Tartarus De La Mare from the shelf later on today...

Mark S.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:08 pm:   

Thanks Ramsey. I've had 'Mr Kempe' recommended to me on the Vault of Evil site, along with A/B/O which sounds like my cup of tea so I'll give 'Crewe' and those a go. As you know, I've always preferred the 'heavy blow to the face with a hammer' approach to the 'delicate frisson' but I do try to adjust my sensibilties according to what I read!

I have to say I didn't dislike Seaton's Aunt, and I thought the aunt character herself was splendid - especially when she was playing the Moonlight Sonata. I just didn't find her or the story at all scary!
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 213.122.209.76
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:10 pm:   

Well, as instructed, I've just read "Seaton's Aunt" and - dare I say it? - Tony's probably right about the subtlety, John. I don't think it's meant to "make sense" as such and I experienced it mostly as a mood piece. Unnerving and unsettling if not exactly scary.

I'm not sure if the aunt WAS in league with the devil or not. It's also not clear to me if she killed Arthur, but the undercurrent of favouritism towards the narrator implied that she wanted him as a replacement for her inferior nephew. But that's ambiguous too. When she calls out to Withers, asking if it's Arthur, he is "horribly startled" by the question without knowing why and can think of "no conceivable answer". Then she appears to recognise him when she says "Oh, it's you. THAT disgusting man." I've no idea what to make of that, but it certainly gave me a nasty little shudder.

In all, weird and sinister and distinctly unpleasant - in the best way. The comparison with Aickman is a good one! I'll read his "The Trains" next.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:10 pm:   

I'll take my big fat Tartarus De La Mare from the shelf later on today...

That'll be two of us then! And The Vats is now on the list as well
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 213.122.209.76
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:12 pm:   

I've always preferred the 'heavy blow to the face with a hammer' approach to the 'delicate frisson'

But you loved "The Willows!"
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:18 pm:   

the undercurrent of favouritism towards the narrator implied that she wanted him as a replacement for her inferior nephew.

I got that too and you're probably right - I tend to read these sorts of stories the wrong way. Rather than finding it unpleasant, I thought the idea of the aunt disliking her nephew enough to want to replace and possibly kill him was all rather fun. And I loved the bit where she played the piano. In fact if it were a movie it would be a terrifically fun role to play - I'd do Seaton's aunt as a demented Hinge & Brackett composite (I'll explain that when I get home)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:19 pm:   

I've only read two short stories by Walter De La Mare and they were both exceptional: 'Seaton's Aunt' (1922) & 'Bad Company' (1955).

The first is a masterpiece of characterisation - I've always considered it a kind of psychic vampire story. A dark psychological drama shot through with subtle hints of the supernatural that stays with the reader and demands several repeat reads to get all its nuances. The second is a chilling "traditional" ghost story set on a train that subtly subverts all expectations and reads like a nightmare put on paper. On the strength of these alone I would rank De La Mare as one of the greats and long to read more by him.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:20 pm:   

But you loved "The Willows!"

Because that's a heavy blow to the psyche
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 213.122.209.76
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 01:24 pm:   

Because that's a heavy blow to the psyche

Then why on earth didn't you like Happiness?
(asked in the tone of Rik asking "So why isn't Cliff Richard boring, clever-trousers?")
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.234.38
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 02:30 pm:   

John, A*B*O is so opaque, nay oblique it's difficult to understand what's it actually about. "Seaton's Aunt" is by no means my favourite de la Mare. I much prefer "All Hallows" and the sinister "A Recluse". The latter may be hard to find, but it is in Cynthia Asquith's The Ghost Book.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 02:41 pm:   

A*B*O is so opaque, nay oblique it's difficult to understand what's it actually about.

Oh dear. But at least now I'm forewarned. Thanks Hubert!
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.253.174.81
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 - 05:15 pm:   

And I've just read A*B*O in a spare ten minutes and really liked it - by turns eccentrically witty and very scary indeed. I had assumed the title referred to blood groups...
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.185.27.8
Posted on Thursday, June 08, 2017 - 09:12 pm:   

I heard a radio version of this today and it got me looking it up on google. a sad thing; this thread was the fifth link down from the top. So sad seeing Joel reply to me, and his mention of the last line shaking him up has shaken me now, and in a new way, for Joel himself is 'buried' now.
Strange being back here. The election is underway and it feels like a cellar on one of those films about tornados.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.153.107.130
Posted on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 12:22 pm:   

Elections. Ugh. Elections are rubbish now.
And is it too late to be really annoyed by Allybird interrupting?
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.233.132.171
Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 02:13 am:   

It's not too late, but, er, maybe a little harsh? But then that's just me, and I can hardly throw stones when it comes to going off-topic!

Sorry I've been really busy so haven't had a chance to reply to things.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.170.88.199
Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 07:42 am:   

You're right. I just have bad memories of her only using this place to plug things she was doing or had out, never joining in conversations.
Sorry, I'm evoking that bitchy tone that was often due to me.
Don't worry about not getting on here. I understand.

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