The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 27, 2013

June 27, 1914

Robert Aickman (June 27, 1914 to February  26, 1981) was a writer of horror stories, that, like Stephen Kings', are set in prosaic detail. Then, the linoleum coming unglued, an edge appears. One of his short stories, reprinted in Cold Hand In Mine (1975) is such a case. From "The Hospice":

He had disturbed a cat, returned to its feral habitude. The first he knew of it was
its claws, or conceivably its teeth, sunk into his left leg. There had been no
question of ingratiation or cuddling up. Maybury kicked out furiously. The strange
sequel ... was total silence. He must have kicked the cat a long way, because on the instant there was no hint of it. Nor had he seen the colour of the cat, though there was a pool of light at that point on the footway.

Aickman is well-regarded by aficionados of the genre, like Neil Gaiman. And he had good taste in women: Elizabeth Jane Howard had an affair with him, and she is undserveredly forgotten nowadays. And he had good luck with book jackets: Edward Gorey did the one for Cold Hand in Mine.

My guess is the only problem is he can't think straight at the ordinary level. Here is an excerpt from his memoir, The Attempted Rescue (1966) :

In the end I came to see that the true prophet of the modern world was Samuel Butler: when he suggested that the machine was an evolutionary development destined to supersede man as the dominant species and relegate him to greenfly status, the status of machine minder.....

When I suggest that greater devices may exist, wherein mechanical complexity can include the emergence of a certain kind of freedom, I certainly don't mean to suggest he was atypical in his superficiality. But if you are going to write about supernatural mystery, you have to have the natural down too. 

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