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The White People and Other Weird Stories…

The White People and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (original: 2011; edição: 2011)

de Arthur Machen (Autor), S. T. Joshi (Editor), S. T. Joshi (Introdução), Guillermo del Toro (Prefácio)

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296567,122 (4)4
"Machen's weird tales of the creepy and fantastic finally come to Penguin Classics. With an introduction from S.T. Joshi, editor of AMERICAN SUPERNATURAL TALES, THE WHITE PEOPLE AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES is the perfect introduction to the father of weird fiction. The title story "The White People" is an exercise in the bizarre leaving the reader disoriented and on edge. From the first page, Machen turns even fundamental truths upside-down, as his character Ambrose explains, "there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an 'ill deed'" setting the stage for a tale entirely without logic"--Provided by publisher.… (mais)
Título:The White People and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics)
Autores:Arthur Machen (Autor)
Outros autores:S. T. Joshi (Editor), S. T. Joshi (Introdução), Guillermo del Toro (Prefácio)
Informação:Penguin Classics (2011), Edition: 1st ed., 377 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca

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The White People and Other Weird Stories de Arthur Machen (2011)


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Penguin has done a great service in publishing this splendid selection of writings by Welsh author Arthur Machen (1863-1947), which includes a most insightful introductory essay by S. T. Joshi along with a Forward by Guillermo Del Toro. A listing of the tales in this collection runs as follows: The Inmost Light, Novel of the Black Seal, Novel of the White Powder, The Red Hand, The White People, A Fragment of Life, The Bowmen, The Soldiers' Rest, The Great Return, Out of the Earth, The Terror. Rather than making overarching observations, to provide a reader with a more specific taste of the author's distinctive voice and vision, I will focus on two of my personal favorites: The White People and Novel of the White Powder.

Arthur Machen looked askance at his surrounding late nineteenth-century society’s infatuation with material progress and thinking all the vast mysteries of the universe can be reduced to the findings of science or the innovations of technology. His tale, The White People, one of the most influential works of horror/supernatural fiction ever written, addresses the consequences of such misguided notions in the personage of Ambrose, a devotee of occult literature, who tells his visitor Cotgrave that modern man is rapidly losing spiritual depth and the capacity to know the meaning of true sin and evil.

As part of his teachings, he permits Cotgrave to borrow one of his rare treasures, The Green Book, a thin volume written by a young girl now long since dead. The contents of The Green Book is, in effect, the main body of Machem’s tale. And, let me tell you folks, The Green Book makes for one captivating and exhilarating read, touching on many alluring topics and themes, the following among their number:

Secret Knowledge and Gnostic Wisdom
“I must not write down the real names of the days and months which I found out a year ago, nor the way to make the Aklo letters, or the Chian language, or the great beautiful Circles, nor the Mao Games, nor the chief songs. I may write something about all these things but not the way to do them, for peculiar reasons.” So begins the young narrator (picture her as you would Alice in the tales of Lewis Carroll) about the secret knowledge she speaks of. And it is a knowing she was told as a very little girl: “the little white faces that used to look at me when I was lying in my cradle. They used to talk to me, and I learnt their language and talked to them in it about some great white place where they lived.” We hear echoes of the great Gnostic text, The Hymn of the Pearl, of how we truly belong to a higher, more spiritual realm that we have since long forgotten.

Paganism and Nature Cults
She tells of her adventures with her nurse when she was five, how they went along a path through a wood and how they came to a deep, dark, shady pool. She’s left by her nurse to play with white people who emerged from the wood to dance and play and sing. Further on she sees the white people drink a curious wine and make images and worship them. Arthur Machen was steeped in the pre-Christian pagan religions and the various descriptions here – woods, pools, singing, dancing, playing, drinking wine, creating and worshiping images – are common to all nature cults not only in Europe but throughout the world. When the little girl relays her experiences to nurse, the nurse becomes frightened and tells her she was only dreaming and never to repeat what she has seen. And for good reason! Nineteenth century Wales is still very Christian and all of what she experienced would be labeled as “pagan” by her parents and others and she could be severely punished.

Goddess Worship
The narrator conveys more detail of her encounter, how there was “a beautiful lady with kind dark eyes, and a grave face, and long black hair, and she smiled such a strange sad smile.” Along with paganism and the natural world, goddess worship played its part in pre-Christian religions and still is a vital presence within many other world religions such as Buddhism and the various Hindu religions from India. Of course, the appearance of a goddess would pose a serious threat to the prevailing male-centered, male-controlled Christian religion. And the narrator being female adds an additional charge of danger to the equation since females, even little girls, possess such a direct connection to intuition, emotions, feelings and the earth.

Jungian Archetypes
As part of her adventures, the narrator comes upon “the big round mound.” The University of Reading in England has an entire project dedicated to prehistoric round mounds. And round mounds have so much affinity with mandalas thus they can be included in an analysis of the mandala archetype as developed by psychologist Carl Jung. As Jung has written, “The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in man.” As we follow our young guide through her Green Book, we can read between the lines to detect how rich the connections Arthur Machen has made of his narrator’s account to the world of myth, spirit and the quest for psychic wholeness.

Again and again our little girl writes of her fantastic encounters, as when she “crept up a tunnel under a tree” and “the ground rose up in front of me, tall and steep as a wall, and there was nothing but the green wall and the sky.” This is the language from the world of the shaman. Anthropologist Michael Harner has engaged in years of research of tribal cultures and writes extensively on the “shamanic state of consciousness” where the shaman will enter either the lower world or the higher world to gain knowledge and power so as to benefit the health and well-being of the tribe. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how in tribal cultures our narrator would quickly be initiated as one of its shamans.

The tale is told by Leicester, sister of her only brother Francis, a scholarly, handsome young man who returns home following his brilliant career at University. Francis decides to become an expert lawyer and to this end shuts himself away in a large room at the top of the house with his law books, dedicating hours and hours every day to intense study.

Weeks pass and Leicester suggests Francis take some time off, relax, get some fresh air, even go to the theater or read a novel, but her brother laughs off her suggestions. However there comes a time when Francis begins to look a bit worn and anxious - occasionally waking in the night with frightening dreams and in a cold, icy sweat, he’s forced to admit he is no longer in perfect health. Leicester persuades her brother to call the doctor.

The doctor prescribes a medicine and Francis takes the prescription to an old chemist to have it made up, an innocent-looking white powder that dissolves in a glass of cold water. Initially, Francis appears to return to good health, any weariness vanishes and he becomes more cheerful, so much so, he suggests he and his sister take a holiday in Paris.

Before any trip to Paris, Francis decides to spend his evenings in London. Leicester observes an unexpected change in her brother’s character: he becomes a lover of pleasure. Alas, this is only the beginning. His sister remarks: "But by degrees there came a change; he returned still in the cold hours of the morning, but I heard no more about his pleasures, and one morning as we sat at breakfast together I looked suddenly into his eyes and saw a stranger before me.”

Francis’ change of character becomes more extreme – his sister observes to her shock and extreme consternation that her brother is beginning to look scarcely human. Action must be taken so she decides to call the doctor. The old doctor arrives and has occasion to pay a visit to the scholar in his room on the top floor. The doctor returns and tells Leicester: ""I have seen that man," he began in a dry whisper. "I have been sitting in his presence for the last hour. My God! And I am alive and in my senses! I, who have dealt with death all my life, and have dabbled with the melting ruins of the earthly tabernacle. But not this, oh! not this," and he covered his face with his hands as if to shut out the sight of something before him.”

The tale continues and things becomes decidedly worse. Much, much worse. No question, The Novel of the White Powder is one of the most terrifying tales a reader will ever encounter.

"We had dined without candles; the room had slowly grown from twilight to gloom, and the walls and corners were indistinct in the shadow. But from where I sat I looked out into the street; and as I thought of what I would say to Francis, the sky began to flush and shine, as it had done on a well-remembered evening, and in the gap between two dark masses that were houses an awful pageantry of flame appeared—lurid whorls of writhed cloud, and utter depths burning, grey masses like the fume blown from a smoking city, and an evil glory blazing far above shot with tongues of more ardent fire, and below as if there were a deep pool of blood." - Arthur Machen, Novel of the White Powder ( )
1 vote Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
"Oh day and night, but this is wondrous strange!" Those words from Hamlet kept coursing through my mind as I read this marvelous collection. Machen taps into a deep Gnostic tradition in this work, positing these mysterious tales in deliberate counter-point to the industrial rationalism of his (and our) day. It's quite a heady reading experience and so unlike the typical realistic tapestry upon which most writers work. I felt like I was being led by the hand into magical realms that were both strange and somehow familiar. Machen shows, in glittering imaginative detail, that there truly are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

I am deeply indebted to Glenn Russell's fantastic review for turning me onto this work. I can't describe it any better than he already did: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2049213653?book_show_action=false&from...
( )
1 vote MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
“Now we are past all this. We are too weak. We dream when we are awake and when we dream we think we wake.”

—“The Terror” by Arthur Machen

Atmosphere is not a strength of most writers I’ve met—of most writers I’ve read. The current trend in publishing tends toward plot. And long on plot. Way long. Maybe string it out for a few installments with one fantastic invented element thrown in the titles or subtitles to make those who are “in the know” feel all the better for being so. So, maps and languages and lineages are cut from whole cloth that had been stolen from better writers. And they in turn had done the same. And that’s the sad saga of where literature has left us; cooked in a lusterless spoon. A rubber hose cuts off the artery in a neat linear narrative, needle-thin characters barely pierce the surface, a syringe full of wish-fulfillment and opioids; we are addicted to plot. Most of us. But there are a few . . .

Conrad’s setting in "Heart of Darkness" was more of a character than either of the two great main characters of that novella. Blackwood’s “The Willows” were populated by beings that you aren’t quite sure if you’ve properly seen. Bolaño’s "2666" doesn’t even really have a plot. And just who the fuck is "V." in Pynchon’s novel by the same name? Every one of these works has far more atmosphere than the average reader’s imagination knows how to process. Or even store away in the closet next to all the other objects of obsolescence, somewhere in the corner above the outmoded shirts and sweaters that are too warm for the current clime since the move, below the cracked plaster that sorely needs painted over, next to the books of CDs that will never be played again, multiple hardback dictionaries that had even lost the utility to prop up computer equipment, all undergoing the same damage by time, oxidation, disuse, simply because we’ve stopped caring. And maybe none of it is important anymore. I mean, pleated cuffs on shirts? What the hell?

Except that atmosphere sticks like glue on eyelids. Kind of like how your t-shirt clings after watering the plants in eighty percent humidity. You’ve got a second skin and it doesn’t fit at all like you want it. You need to slough it off and shower and, for fuck’s sake, you better put the bathroom fan on or else the mirror will be fogged so much that you won’t be able to see the sweat slide down from a break in the wetlands that have become your hair.

Atmosphere. That’s what Arthur Machen had. Even if I scratched my head over the plot, puzzled over just which character was who, or had to keep straight exactly which timeline I was in, I never lost the atmosphere—the smell and feel of where I was. To “lose the plot” is a saying. Besides the obvious thread of the narrative slipping through the fingers, it can also refer to one going crazy. And when writer after writer keeps stuffing their vacuous narratives with plots out-twisting the most tortuous of Shyamalan stories, I can’t help and wonder at the lack of wonder their work is sodden with. Wet hair in a wet bathroom with streaks on the mirror. It makes me crazy. Atmosphere.

Take a chance and read something to feel something—even if you don’t know what the hell it means. Be brave enough to reject the quick fix. The swim in cool, unfathomed waters is so much more stimulating. And who knows? Maybe you’ll come up with an atmosphere worth remembering, too. Something that’ll truly stick.

In the meantime, I’ve got a closetful of shirts with pleated cuffs to clear out. ( )
2 vote ToddSherman | Aug 22, 2017 |
"The White People and Other Weird Stories" is a collection of short stories from a favorite author: Arthur Machen. A Welshman, he wrote tales of the supernatural beginning in the late 1890s through the 1930s, and focused much of the underlying horror on Celtic and pagan beliefs mixed with a touch of Christianity. The stories in "The White People and Other Weird Stories" all provide a little chill running up and down the spine as the main characters try to figure out who is leaving the crude and strange red hand drawings above his victims or wonder at the mysterious deaths of townsfolk during the early stages of WWII, believing it to be Germans lying in wait through Great Britain -- but the truth is far more strange and difficult to comprehend. Most of the stories seem to deal with modern man inadvertently colliding with gods of old or with creature thought to have disappeared many centuries ago. With a few stories -- such as "The Bowmen" and "The Soldier's Rest" -- Machen tints the the battles of WWI with shades of the supernatural, ghostly soldiers coming to the aid of those in need.

It's a fantastic collection of stories and a great introduction to the work of Arthur Machen. Highly recommended. ( )
  ocgreg34 | Sep 4, 2012 |
There's magic in the world, if you know where to look for it. The problems begin when you find it, although these are as nothing compared to the problems you can have when it finds you. Magic, it would appear, is not at all user-friendly. There is good reason why so much that is considered magical has retreated into the realm of myth, cautionary folklore and spooky legend, why you can't just buy magic from the corner shop.

In this collection of stories by Arthur Machen, magic, myth, folklore and legend are very much the same thing, running like a vein of precious mineral through the narrative landscape. Because landscape is important here, it's another character wherein magic can be found by the wise, or the foolhardy, and where it waits to trap the unwary. Machen writes about a world where myth and folklore have their roots deep in the earth of solid reality, but where magic and creatures of magic have retreated from our world, existing now only as stories or memories.

Retreated, but not altogether vanished. Machen gives the strong impression that the things that our ancestors might have glimpsed in the flickering shadows at the very edge of the firelight lit to keep bad things away in the woods may still be here, separated from us sometimes only by a paper thin crust of belief or understanding, by the flickering dark, or sometimes by a more material barrier. It's when this barrier is broken, when one world intrudes on another, that things get interesting.

There are some very strong short stories here. In 'The inmost light' we meet Dyson, a fiction writer who spends his days 'chasing the phrase' and if Machen chooses to portray him as smart and charming, then who can blame any writer for doing so. The tale here is weird enough, concerning a suburban magician, but just as compelling is the description of London, it's streets and thoroughfares, people and places. The ordinary made just as magical as the extraordinary.

And it's this approach that Machen takes to the truly outstanding 'A fragment of life', a novella describing the everyday life of a suburban couple living in London. Far from fending off supernatural horrors they struggle with the problems of how to decorate the spare bedroom on a budget, and the inevitable problem that having a furnished bedroom creates, namely guests wanting to come and stay. Placed in the middle of a collection of stories that include much magical mayhem, this is an unusual tale, as the story moves quite naturally from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and an immensely satisfying conclusion.

There are traditional tales of horror in this collection also. 'The novel of the white powder' proves that while you can't buy magic from the corner shop, you can get it at the local chemist, but if you experience any unpleasant side effects after taking it then you should, at the very least, consult your physician promptly, or at least stop taking the bloody stuff at the first sign of uncanny happenings.

The's weird fiction too, with Dyson making a return in 'The red hand'. Essentially, Machen could have stopped writing after that exquisitely spooky title and just left the rest to the readers's imagination, but what we have is a fabulous occult story of murder, magic and mystery where once again London is one of the principle characters, in particular its unlit, dangerous alleyways.

There are also two exceptional stories of the First World War. While 'The Bowmen' is a tremendous story of the power of myth in war, the short 'The soldier's rest' is perhaps the more powerful tale, conveying a message of faith, honour and reward.

More conventional is the highly effective horror story titled, simply, 'The terror'. Conventional possibly, but no less chilling for that, and somewhat disconcerting.

This is an exceptional collection of stories that, unusually, both terrify and delight in equal measure. The tales of grand myth, Celtic legend or horror are good, but Machen is at his best when he moves from the mundane to the magical by parting the curtain of the everyday to reveal what was lurking there all the time. ( )
1 vote macnabbs | Aug 2, 2012 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Arthur Machenautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Del Torro, GuillermoPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Joshi, S. T.Editorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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"Machen's weird tales of the creepy and fantastic finally come to Penguin Classics. With an introduction from S.T. Joshi, editor of AMERICAN SUPERNATURAL TALES, THE WHITE PEOPLE AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES is the perfect introduction to the father of weird fiction. The title story "The White People" is an exercise in the bizarre leaving the reader disoriented and on edge. From the first page, Machen turns even fundamental truths upside-down, as his character Ambrose explains, "there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an 'ill deed'" setting the stage for a tale entirely without logic"--Provided by publisher.

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