The Drug and Other Storiesby Published 15 Sep 2010
|The Drug and Other Stories.pdf|
With an Introduction by William Breeze and a Foreword by David Tibet. This volume brings together the uncollected short fiction of the poet, writer and religious philosopher Aleister Crowley (1875 1947).
Crowley was a successful critic, editor and author of fiction from 1908 to 1922, and his short stories are long overdue for discovery. Of the forty-nine stories in the present volume, only thirty were published in his lifetime. Most of the rest appear here for the first time.
Like their author, Crowley's stories are fun, smart, witty, thought-provoking and sometimes unsettling. They are set in places he had lived and knew well: Belle Epoque Paris, Edwardian London, pre-revolutionary Russia and America during the first World War. The title story The Drug stands as one of the first accounts–if not the first–of a psychedelic experience. His Black and Silver is a knowing early noir discovery that anticipates an entire genre. Atlantis is a masterpiece of occult fantasy, a dark satire that can stand with Samuel Butler's Erewhon . Frank Harris considered The Testament of Magdalen Blair the most terrifying tale ever written.
Extensive editorial end-notes give full details about the stories.
The Drug and Other Stories Reviews
I haven't actually finished, but life's too short to carry on reading bad books.
Passably good tales of the macabre in the vein of Poe, Lovecraft and Machen with heavy doses of English wit.
Could have used a bit more editorial discretion. At nearly 600 pages, it feels a little overburdened. The parable-like tales that Crowley considered part of his magick teachings could have easily been cut. They feel a bit out of place here and would have made a nice little collection on their own. Likewise, a couple of longer "novellas" (like "Ercildoune") could have been spun off into a nice little separate collection as well.
So this may be a low rating, but "it's ok", just like goodreads describes the 2-stars. It is a short story collection, which is not my favourite thing to read, mainly because it jumps around so quickly in content and quality.
First of all, Crowley's writing is beautiful, definitely made me want to read some passages out loud. He is also quite funny, snarky and creative with his story-telling, trying a few different things in this over-40 story book. However, his writing can also be a bit confusing at times. The fact that some of the stories also meander made me lose track and focus quite frequently, especially in the second half of the book.
My favourite stories although, and the ones I think I will reread often are:
- The Three Characteristics;
- The Wake World;
- T'ien Tao;
- The Stone of the Philosophers (the poetry in this story was so beautiful!);
- The Soul-Hunter;
- The Testament of Magdalen Blair;
- Felo de Se;
- The Bald Man;
- God's Journey;
- The Colour of My Eyes;
Please be aware that there's a LOT of sensitive topics discussed in this book... And I hope that whomever picks up a Crowley book is well prepared for it. Suicide, paedophilia, violence, murder, rape... He can also be quite sexist. He is mostly unconventional though, going against certain societal norms and institutions, like the Church. He speaks in a lot of symbolism, so probably someone who knows more of the Kabbalah, Egyptian mythos, Masonic symbolism, etc, will follow him better. The stories more heavy on that are nonetheless interesting, and they really give you chills and a certain pound in your heart. At least they did for me! They are weird though, there's no escaping that. Crowley was the weirdest. He even got expelled from his order for being too out there.
I would recommend this to whomever likes beautiful, symbolic and witty writing! I would especially advise you to read some of those stories I mentioned above, to get a taste. I don't think this book needed so many, personally.
Some stories are difficult to read and seem to drag slightly while others are entertaining and well written. I enjoyed Crowley's style and occasional twist endings. A good idea would be to mix the stories with another book of short stories to avoid monotony, but still a worthwhile read.
Love these Wordsworth Press books.
Right then, I think I've read just about enough of this. I still have some 90 odd pages left to go and I may dip back in again at some point should the fancy take me but that's enough for now.
As it is, it's taken me around six months to get this far. It's something I often find with these Wordsworth editions, you have to dip in and out of the collection, not attempt to read them all at once. And this one is no exception, there's a huge number of stories in here featuring a wide range of themes. It certainly serves to demonstrate Crowley's versatility as a writer. Personally though, I would have prefered a far more condensed and carefully selected collection.
One has to wonder just who this collection is aimed at. I can't imagine who else would pick up one of these editions if it wasn't merely to try the author, to sample their wares as it were. That's certainly why I picked it up at least. I was expecting more of a focus on his supernatural/weird fiction and many of the stories left me wondering why they were even in this collection.
That said, there are some wonderfully effecting and terrifying stories in here. "The Testament of Magdalen Blair" being one of the finest examples of these. The trouble is, they were lost, like needles in a haystack. I would find maybe one story in five of the kind I was interested in. The others weren't necessarily bad, just not of interest to me.
So, I'm not sure I would recommend this collection in particular to anyone but I definitely feel that Crowley as a writer has a lot to offer the fan of classic horror. Certainly there are gems in this collection but you will have to read through a lot else besides.