Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Black Pilgrimage & Other Explorations




It's here! The new collection of essays by Ro Pardoe has arrived. It's available in paperback from Amazon. The title is slightly misleading, as there are pieces by other authors, too. Most of the essays are culled from Ghosts & Scholars magazine, but there are also some interesting items from The Everlasting Club, a corresponding society to which Ro Pardoe has belonged for many years.

So, what's it all about? It might not entirely surprise you to learn that the ghost stories M.R. James are under scrutiny here. However, there are also musings on authors in the Jamesian tradition, such as Fritz Leiber.

As the blurb puts it:

'The celebrated writer M. R. James (1862-1936) is the most significant author of ghost stories in the world. His macabre work has terrified and fascinated readers for over 100 years. Now collected in one volume, 29 essays on his ghostly tales and themes by editor and James scholar Rosemary Pardoe 
'Plus a further eight essays on other authors, including Fritz Leiber, Arthur Machen, E. G. Swain and Many Wade Wellman and a fascinating miscellany of nine additional pieces on a variety of topics.'

The titles of the essays are great fun in themselves. 'Scrying and the Horse-Demon', 'The Night Raven', and 'The Three Fortunate Concealments' would tempt any bookish person to read on, I'm sure. And the focus varies from apparently minor details to broader discussion of MRJ's work, such as his use of draperies.

Ro Pardoe has also contributed introductions to many books, including MRJ's children's story The Five Jars. You will find that here, along with intros to the early work Occult Sciences, and Tales from Lectoure.

If you are long-term subscriber to G&S you will probably have read a lot of these pieces. However, few if any of us will have read them all which makes this a valuable collection. There's a very useful index of story and novel titles to round it all off, which is typically precise and exhaustive. All in all,  this is an excellent book to dip into, offering scholars (and any ghosts who may be interested) arcane knowledge and thoughtful criticism in very digestible form.

The art of the essay is a venerable one, and in Ro Pardoe and her circle use it with aplomb to illuminate a writer who is entertaining, sometimes baffling, and often a bit sly.


No comments: