The Drug and Other Storiesby Published 15 Sep 2010
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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.
G.K. Chesterton was fond of pointing out that man is a paradox, and I can think of no man more paradoxical than Aleister Crowley. He was arrogant, privileged, sadistic, iconoclastic, spoiled, intemperate, insecure, and reactionary. He was also highly educated, an accomplished mountain climber, and wrote with brilliant clarity and insight on such topics as occultism, yoga, and astrology. Alas, in his works of fiction, his reach very much exceeds his grasp. He was highly anxious to be regarded as not only a great writer, but an important one, and (absurdly) declared himself superior to Yeats in poetry. But, perhaps as a result of trying far too hard, the short stories in this collection are dense, turgid, and — as I'm sure Crowley would regard as the greatest possible insult — boring.
There are a few exceptions. When he's dealing symbolically with occult truths, there is some value for those who can be bothered to decode them, and I'm personally quite fond of the short "Felo de Se" (more an essay than a story, really). Apart from that, there is little to entertain even someone like me who is generally sympathetic to Crowley's writing. It only goes to show that genius in one field does not extend to another, and that even the very talented are capable of blindness to their own inadequacies.
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.
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.
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.