Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dunsany's New Book (THE GHOST IN THE CORNER)

So, the first thing to say is that as a fan of Dunsany's work, I'm very glad to have THE GHOST IN THE CORNER, a collection of some fifty new stories by Lord D. ("new" as in previously uncollected, and in a few cases unpublished), edited by Martin Andersson and S. T. Joshi and just published by Hippocampus Press.

This joins THE LAST BOOK OF JORKENS (2002), THE GINGER CAT & other plays (2005), and PLEASURES OF A FUTUROSCOPE (2003, Dunsany's last novel) as a string of previously uncollected and/or unpublished Dunsany books finally published in recent years, long after the author's death. GHOST IN THE CORNER is particularly interesting in that Joshi & Andersseon say that the section making up the final two-thirds of their own collection was assembled by Dunsany himself as a book in 1956, but he failed to find a publisher. It seems likely, then, that herein we have what Dunsany intended to be his final book.

As a Dunsany scholar, a fan and admirer of his work, I’m v. glad to have THE GHOST IN THE CORNER. Most of these stories I’ve known about and had in photocopy form, but it’s much nicer (easier to read, more accessible) to have them collected into book form.  So Joshi & Anderssen have done us all a good turn here.

That said, I’m one of those who thinks Dunsany’s great work virtually all came in the first decade and a half of his career.  So I see this collection as minor work by a major author — and by major, I mean the finest fantasy short story writer in the language, bar none. But I think he lost his ability to write such stories around 1916 and that this collection shows the degree to which he'd written himself out in the final years of his career. It's as if they were to put out a Tolkien collection made up mostly of Tinfang Warbles.

I do think there are three top-rate stories in this new collection: The Story of Tse Gah (his own take on the Dalai Lama), The Traveller to Thundercliff (the gem of the lot; a deliberate attempt to return to his early style), and At the Scene of the Crime, the last of which (one of his better mysteries) is new to me.  

—John R.
current reading/viewing: various M. R. James short stories.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post I included the line "Unfortunately Anderssen & Joshi nowhere provide the intended title of that erstwhile collection: presumably they don't have this information themselves, though they don't actually say so either way". That was an error on my part. In fact, Joshi and Andersson state clearly in their introduction (THE GHOST IN THE CORNER, page 10) that they do not know what name Dunsany intended. Thanks to Doug A. for drawing this to my attention. --JDR, 7/9-17

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