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Charles Williams and Gothic novels

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  • Steve Hayes
    Here s a snippet from a conversation on Usenet: On Sat, 21 Mar 2009 19:48:01 -0400, John W Kennedy ... greater ... Shadows of ecstasy
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 22, 2009
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      Here's a snippet from a conversation on Usenet:

      On Sat, 21 Mar 2009 19:48:01 -0400, John W Kennedy <jwkenne@...>
      wrote:

      >On 3/21/09 2:41 AM, Steve Hayes wrote:
      >> On Fri, 20 Mar 2009 16:09:31 -0400, Steve Morrison<rimagen@...>
      wrote:
      >>
      >>> For me, the problem is that I've hardly read anything by
      >>> Inklings other than JRRT and CSL; I did read WIlliams's
      >>> /All Hallows' Eve/ years ago, but that's it. Do you have
      >>> any recommendations for books by the other Inklings?
      >>
      >> I'd recommend Williams's other novels.
      >>
      >> My favourites are "War in heaven", "The place of the lion" and "The
      greater
      >> trumps"
      >
      >Might as well include "Descent into Hell" and "Many Dimensions".
      >"Shadows of Ecstasy" is somewhat more dated than the others.

      "Shadows of ecstasy" was also Williams's first novel, and while it starts off
      OK, at the end the plot tends to dissolve into abstract philosophical
      dialogue.

      It, and "Descent into hell" have always been the ones I've liked least partly
      for that reason, but recently I've read a couple of novels that have made me
      want to re-read "Descent itno hell".

      I found a book in the library with the title "Four Gothic novels", and I took
      it out because I'd read about them, but hadn't read any of them and thought
      I'd familiarise myself with the genre.

      It has "The castle of Otranto" by Horace Walpole, the progenitor of the
      genre,
      and "Vathek" by William Beckford - both moral tales about wicked and unjust
      rulers who got their come-uppance.

      I had just read a modern fantasy novel, "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman, which
      provided a linking theme:

      All Hallows Eve
      Neverwhere
      Vathek
      Descent into hell

      "All Hallows Eve" is about two dead girls wandering around wartime London,
      one
      drifting towards damnation adn the other to wards redemption.

      "Neverwhere" has a similar setting, of a "London above" and a "London below".


      "Vathek" has the progression of an unjust ruler to damnation, a kind of
      descent into hell.

      And "Descent into hell" is, of course, what the title suggests.

      I don't want to say too much, for fear of introducing spoilers for those who
      haven't read them, but I was struck by the common themes that run through all
      four novels.

      And I suppose in C.S. Lewis there is "The great divorce", and in Tolkien
      there
      is Gollum.



      >
      >The Arthuriad is also rewarding, though difficult: "Taliessin Through
      >Logres" and "The Region of the Summer Stars". But you'd better have a
      >copy of "Arthurian Torso" on hand to follow Lewis's commentary.
      >
      >"The English Poetic Mind" is vital. And "The Figure of Beatrice" is one
      >of the leading books of all time on Dante.

      --
      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/litmain.htm
      http://methodius.blogspot.com
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