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The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Mark Samuels

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16. März 2011
Cryptic and potent languages, bizarre cults, mysteries that span the gulf between life and death, occult influences that reverberate through history like a dying echo, irresistible cosmic decay, forces of nightmare that distort reality itself, gateways to worlds where esoteric knowledge rots the future. Here, from Mark Samuels, the author of 'Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes' and modern exemplar of mystical horror, is a collection of tales that forms a veritable Rosetta Stone for scholars of cosmic wonder and terror.


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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Man Who Collected Machen 19. März 2011
Von Brendan Moody - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
The line between homage and pastiche is a tricky one for any contemporary horror writer to walk. From the major figures of the 19th and early 20th centuries-- Poe, Machen, Lovecraft-- to equally admired and influential moderns like Thomas Ligotti, there are many worthy names from whom the writer can draw inspiration, but the question is how to show one's respect for tradition without producing tales that are stale and uninspired, or sublimating one's own voice to a poor imitation of a dead master. Fortunately for fans of the classically-inspired weird tale, Mark Samuels has figured out how to strike the balance. As Reggie Oliver, himself possessed of that gift, said in a review, "Like most writers who are confident of their abilities Samuels is not afraid to acknowledge influences... but the dominant figure is always Samuels." The Man Who Collected Machen, Samuels' fourth collection, is a slim one, containing only eleven relatively brief stories in the new Chomu Press edition, but that's more than enough to demonstrate the truth of Oliver's statement. Both readers interested in the history of the weird tale and those who appreciate its modern evolution cannot afford to miss this first mass-market-priced edition of Samuels' work.

Although I'd read bits and pieces of Samuels' fiction in various anthologies, The Man Who Collected Machen was my first full-length exposure to his work. (I should be reading his early collection The White Hands before too much longer, but my copy is apparently still in the post.) As I read the first story, "Losenef Express," I was uneasy. The ending of the story wasn't terribly difficult to see coming, and while that isn't always a problem in a weird tale, in this case it made me impatient. It was also distracting to have the protagonist, an overweight horror writer from Tennessee, described and thinking in the clipped, formal rhythms of Samuels' prose. Despite this, the story did offer some striking images, particularly an unexpected, gruesome tableau near the end, and as I turned the final page I remained hopeful for a decent, if not spectacular, reading experience.

I got so much more than that. I hadn't known quite what t o expect from the second, title story. Although I have read Robert Bloch's "The Man Who Collected Poe," which I assumed to be a loose inspiration, I haven't read much Machen, and what little I do know has made, I regret to say, very little impression. It was a good thing for me, then, that "The Man Who Collected Machen" doesn't require any familiarity with that author, though there may well be little touches to reward those who know his work. This is a traditional tale of a young bibliophile and a mysterious old man, told in a simple but powerful descriptive language, with a visionary conclusion that is, I think, very reminiscent of Machen himself. It's also a meditation on what it means to collect, and to appreciate, the works of a particular author.

The next story, "THYXXOLQU," is the first of several stories to treat language as a virus, and has, I think, a touch of Thomas Ligotti about it, although it's by no means a pastiche. It also reminds me of Robert Aickman, not so much in terms of superficial content as in the ambiguous nature of its supernaturalism. The mysterious language that is infecting London may disfigure the very mouths of its speakers, but it also suggests new and greater realms of understanding than those offered by ordinary speech. The story's ending, in which the terror and the promise of Thyxxolqu come together, is unsettling on the higher philosophical level of the best weird fiction.

"The Black Mould" is a work of faintly Lovecraftian cosmicism, but it turns that notion on its head by treating humanity as insignificant even with the perspective of the story, which is about, and from the perspective of, the alien menace that in Lovecraft is only ever glancingly seen. The result is a six-page story of truly universal horror that inspired in me both a chill and a morbid chuckle. By this point I had well and truly realized what a marvelous little collection this was going to be.

And the remaining stories largely lived up to that expectation. There was one more that didn't do too much for me, the intriguing but underdeveloped "A Question of Obeying Orders," but the rest were uniformly excellent, from "Xapalpa," a grim tale of unusual pinatas, to "Nor Unto Death Utterly," a Poe homage that (as Poe himself only sometimes did) thoroughly lives up to its narrator's histrionic tone, to "The Age of Decayed Futurity," a story whose intensity and ingenious frame narrative elevate it about the cheap anti-Hollywood satire it might have been. Too often when one reads that a weird writer has been inspired by "the classics," it means that he produces pastiches of his one idol, be that idol Lovecraft or James or Machen, and so his work has no variety. This is not the case with Samuels, who can write about London or Mexico or "a crater on a dead world at the rim of the universe," about nineteenth-century resurrections or twenty-first century telepathy.

That last comes in during "Glickman the Bibliophile," one of my personal favorites from the collection and another language-as-virus story. This one links philosophical pessimism with contemporary literary theory via an anti-book cult of shocking vehemence. (The name of its leader, Janus Yaanek, is perhaps one of those rare cases where Samuels' acknowledgment of the past comes close to overegging the pudding.) The third such story, "A Contaminated Text," is even better. It begins like an encyclopedia article, takes in a secret society of delightful absurdity, and then takes several more viscerally and intellectually startling turns, including this eerie nightmare:

"Those who loaned books from the library suffered from horrible, fragmentary dreams. They dreamt of a decayed city of inverted steeples shrouded in a fog, of black stars in a blood-red sky, of being dead-but-alive, and of searching after a cryptic symbol of no human origin, a symbol which alone brought oblivion. They were tormented by a voice seeming to call from a great distance, a voice muttering unintelligible words, a voice that bubbled and spat like hot tar."

The first ten stories in this collection also appeared in the first edition of The Man Who Collected Machen, an expensive hardcover from Ex Occidente Press. The eleventh and final one, "The Tower," is new to this edition, and makes a fitting conclusion and summation for this visionary, literate volume. Its concept-- an isolated thinker's philosophical journey, and the mysterious tower that appears to him, is a simple one, but Samuels' prose is pitch perfect, and the story's final page, although it may mean nothing at all in crude literal terms, means everything to the life of the mind. And, though Samuels has a gift for strange and disturbing images, it is that life that is the true focus of The Man Who Collected Machen. Mark Samuels, like the writers who have inspired him, is literate, unexpected, challenging, and, once you've made the effort, infinitely rewarding. Like many distinctive voices, his is best encountered at length, in this or another of his collections. Allow his simple yet hypnotic style to draw you in. You won't be sorry you did.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A fantastic and qtxxhph collection of stories. 14. August 2012
Von ramonoski - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Thomas Ligotti once wrote that at the heart of every weird tale is a enigma that can never be fully dispelled. Mark Samuels' weird tales follow this convention, but the lack of a proper explanation is never frustrating so much as it helps increase the sense of dread instilled by his stories.

There's "Thyxxolqu", "Glickman the Bibliophile" and "A Contaminated Text", all of which are quite terrifying; Miguel de Unamuno once said that consciousness is a disease, and if that's true, then, as these stories suggest, its pathogen is language.

Being from Mexico, I really took a certain appreciation to "Xapalpa", as it did remind me of the many quaint little towns I've seen throughout my life (but hopefully none of them has as dark a secret as Samuels' town does.) This story and "The Age of Decayed Futurity" are similar in that they both contain a story within a story.

To me the highlight of the book was "The Black Mould". It's the shortest piece in the book, but it's one hell of a read. It takes cosmic horror to its ultimate conclusion.

This is a very good collection of stories. The stories vary in subject and scope, ranging from World War 2 to the infite aeons in the far recesses of the universe, so there's some variety. And perhaps more importantly, there's some really brilliant stuff in it, a very literary cleverness that reminds me of people like Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, which puts Samuels way ahead of most other contemporary authors in the genre. If you're a fan of weird fiction, you don't want to miss out on this one.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The New King of Bizarre Fantasy 20. März 2011
Von Grady Harp - Veröffentlicht auf
Mark Samuels is described in the dictionary as 'a London-based writer of horror and fantastic fiction in the tradition of Arthur Machen and H. P. Lovecraft. Born in 1967 in Clapham, South London, he was first published in 1988, and his short stories often focus on detailing a shadowy modern London in which the protagonists gradually discover a dark and terrifying reality behind the mundane urban world.' Unless the reader is familiar with horror and fantastic fiction outside of the works of say, Edgar Allen Poe, then this collection of stories will take some adjustment to the genre.

Doubtless that Mark Samuels is a gifted writer: he could write on almost any subject or in any format and be successful, he is that fine a wordsmith. This collection of stories deals with strange influences, outside forces that, whether historically real or created for the sake for the story, are well developed - sometimes so well developed that a bit of research on the part of the reader may be necessary to arrive at the plane on which Samuels is writing. for example, it is important to know who Arthur Machen is in order to grasp the punch of the title story. For the uninitiated Arthur Machen (1863 - 1947) was a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. Given that added information the story 'The Man Who Collected Machen' becomes a brilliant and moody setting for thought. Many of the other works in this collection benefit form some added time with the dictionary, but that is not a bad thing; how refreshing it is to discover a writer who challenges our brains while entertaining us with some very strange tales! There are eleven stories in all, and each one is unique an engrossing. Grady Harp, March 11
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Weird and Wonderful -- a must for more than Machen fans 8. August 2012
Von A. Seegert - Veröffentlicht auf
I was lured into this collection because of the title, "The Man Who Collected Machen," for I'm a huge fan of Arthur Machen. I was not disappointed. Samuels GETS what Machen was out to do in prodding the veil of mystery and weirdness, especially the secret ecstasy of urban spaces like London. But this is no mere pastiche of Machen (or of Lovecraft, et al). It's fresh and vibrant, cerebral without being sterile, with engagements concerning language and textuality that remind me a bit of Kafka, Borges, and Lance Olsen's critifiction.

This collection gets my highest recommendation, but with one caveat: when I first stumbled upon it I began at the beginning and somehow the first story ("Losenef Express") just didn't appeal to me very much. That almost kept me from reading any further, and that would have been a shame. The second time, I began with the title story ("The Man Who Collected Machen") and I randomly sampled from there, and found myself mesmerized.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent! 6. März 2012
Von Kristine Ong Muslim - Veröffentlicht auf
I have never read anything like this. This is superb! The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales seethes with mysticism. Mark Samuels reminds me of Algernon Blackwood and not Arthur Machen. This has all of Blackwood's handiwork, most especially that fine touch of "implied" horror.

The story, "Glickman the Bibliophile," kept me on edge the whole way through and brought to mind a completely unrelated "The Clerks of Domesday," another excellent story by another writer. I think the true measure of the greatness of any book, whether or not it will stand the test of time, is its ability to remind a reader of a snapshot of another awe-inspiring story, a thing, an event.

From "Glickman the Bibliophile"

And Yaanek told him frankly that any notion of individual identity was a lie. There is no "self" to destroy. Once Glickman had grasped the final truth that the "I" does not exist, that his past life was illusory, then he would be free.

Here's a spoiler from "A Contaminated Text," a story that will appeal deeply to Lovecraft fans.

The afflicted dreamt of their own corpses emerging from funeral parlours and from hospital morgues, to wander the streets, each one muttering the same plaintive query in accents like bubbling tar. They dreamt of descending into the caverns of the earth, down and down, hypnotised by a telepathic summons until they reached the dread torture chambers...
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