Saturday 11 October 2014

The Emperor’s Crystal (Lost Tales Vol. 2) by Lord Dunsany, Pegana Press

Mike and Rita Tortorello's first of their Dunsany Lost Tales chapbooks concentrated upon the early fables of London and faery of less fixed abode. This second veers more toward Orientalism and artistic adoration. As will be the case with the third – out now – each feature elaborate prose of no elaboration; Dunsany's signature style.
  While the majority of Lost Tales Vol. 1 were gleaned from the pages of London's straight and worthy 'Saturday Review,' Vol. 2 takes those from Dunsany's immediately subsequent commissions in the more sceptically leftist, transatlantic 'Smart Set.' Under the new joint-editorship of its young literary intellectuals, George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken. the magazine gained renewed cache, and star-making of its new overseers, if not actual stemming of falling sales. Still, with a roster of first-timers of the same post-Edwardian generation who'd go on to become household names, it afforded Dunsany a major fillip for further networking.
  To the half-initiated, like myself, he presents himself a simple, objective storyteller, only one bearing a visionary soul. As an instinctive Leftist, that Dunsany was a baronet with all the contacts and privilege one of his class had to hand, I'll admit to the harboured baggage of personal prejudice this ignited. I also observe the work that followed, which he, at least unwittingly, influenced. Of Tanith Lee and Ursula Le Guin I've earlier referred.
  The Chinese folk tales here, summoned in 'The House of the Idol Carvers' and 'Cheng Hi and the Window Framer,' also surely resonated with the young Mervyn Peake, whose Bright Carvers and Glassblowers would find their own sub-cultural home with what might otherwise have been a dumbfounded British readership, had they not already coveted the Eastern sojourns of Dunsany himself, Ernest Bramah, or those more seemingly authentic by the Japanese scholar, Lafcadio Hearn.
  His Protestantism is tactfully portrayed as faery fable, where portrayed at all. ('The Loyalist' and 'Researches Into Irish History'). Although, admittedly, it may have touched greater sensitivities in their day. It is not an issue he ever impresses upon the reader, however; being only more concerned – and adept – at the sheer joy of creation.
  Latterly, I read how he also a campaigned for animal rights; about his opposition to the docking of dogs' tails, and subsequent presidency of the West Kent branch of the RSPCA. Thus, in the context of his time and popular adherences, can I at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
But, in the end, it is his aesthetic sense that prevails; his sense of wonder – by his own admission – and big-hearted idealism that broadens the appeal and elevates him over and above more reactionary voices of contemporaries.


Out now – Swan River Press's Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories of J.S. Le Fanu. Featuring new, and very good, tales by Mark Valentine, Angela Slatter, Derek John, Lynda E. Rucker, Gavin Selerie, Peter Bell and others. Currently awaiting this publisher's third release in as many months, Brian J. Showers appears to be on a roll...Also featuring a new Peter Bell tale is the upcoming issue (no. 28) of the tri-annual Supernatural Tales. See here: Still available is Rebecca Lloyd's debut collection from Tartarus Press, Mercy, while Lloyd's 'Gone to the Deep' features in Tartarus's current Strange Tales anthology, Vol. IV.