Robert Aickman

Robert Aickman

posted Wednesday, 24 October 2007 Last Modified: Monday, Apr 23/2007 13:45

Written by df lewis
I’ve just started a systematic re-reading of all the Aickman stories in my possession.

I have been particularly struck by ‘My Poor Friend’ (which amazingly I can’t recall reading before) — a very strange tale (even for Aickman!) that takes place in the British Parliament and even features Harold Wilson with his fish and chips!

It a disturbing tale. Highly recommended.


Another: ‘Larger Than Oneself’.
This is superficially a satire on spiritualists and religionists ….with some sexy underclothes!
Extemely weird.
It even has a Lewisite!

The vision at the end is most unsettling


1/13. re
Written by des – Sunday, April 29 2007
Just read another very strange story: A CHOICE OF WEAPONS.

Includes stale confetti and the smell of bloaters.

2/13. through time’s mists of enchantment …
Written by thogatthog – Tuesday, May 01 2007
“the smell of bloaters”

Bloody hell, that takes me back a bit! Haven’t smelled a bloater in years — probably decades!

I wonder how many modern readers would know what he was talking about?

3/13. re
Written by des – Thursday, May 03 2007
It has suddenly struck me that this anthology (collection):
WE ARE FOR THE DARK containing six stories by Robert Aickman and Elizabeth Jane Howard (1965) – (my copy Mayflower Dell) – is the only forerunner of ‘Nemonymous’ that I can think of, as the stories are not allocated in print to a particular author. We do now know which is which, but not if we only depend on this book itself:

Perfect Love
The Trains
The Insufficient Answer
Three Miles Up (a masterpiece! – des)
The View
Left Luggage


The stories ‘Choice of Weapons’ and ‘The View’ give a view of Mrs Jekyll and Miss Hyde – and a sexual journey that the author used his fiction to travel?

4/13. re
Written by des – Friday, May 04 2007
I’ve just started re-reading ‘The Insufficient Answer’ (by Aickman) from the above WE ARE FOR THE DARK.
It mentions an art show in a gallery entitled:
Women Who’ve Made As Good As Men.
I think I would have guessed the story was by Aickman not Howard (had I not already known)!

Bloaters, Paul?

You’re dead right there.

5/13. re
Written by des – Monday, May 07 2007
‘Growing Boys’, when I read it the first time a generation ago, had more of an effect than it did now.  It now seems like Dr Who burlesque.

‘The Swords’, however, has redoubled its power. The seediest story I’ve ever read.  Patrick Hamilton squared.

6/13. re
Written by des – Tuesday, May 08 2007
Just read the story entitled MARRIAGE. This is probably the most scandalously salacious story I’ve ever read!

I hesitate to add a smiley to the above.  But, seriously, I couldn’t remember reading ‘Marriage’ before, but I must have done as it’s contained in a book I know I’ve read before many years ago.  Selective memory?

Or are RA’s stories so very slippery that they actually transmute through time?

7/13. re
Written by des – Thursday, May 10 2007
The Real Road To The Church is a finely satisfying, deeply textured, Elizabeth-Bowenesque ghost story.
8/13. re
Written by des – Thursday, May 17 2007
Attacked by woman from the water (Niemandswasser) and from the air (Compulsory Games).
9/13. re
Written by des – Sunday, June 03 2007
I’ve just read (or re-read?) RAISING THE WIND and note that it depicts the church-door through-the-keyhole-kiss that is prevalent in the area where I live in Essex, UK. Unknown elsewhere. The story even mentions Marks Tey which is quite close by.
10/13. re
Written by des – Sunday, June 10 2007
Who agrees with me that ‘Residents Only’ is possibly Aickman’s masterpiece?

It is one of his longest stories. Which is sort of relevant. When I started reading it, the glanced-at length seemed about average for Aickman – but as I continued reading it, and looking, from time to time, at the pages still to read, it seemed bodily to grow, as if the act of reading made it longer. A bit like the very British committee system embodied in its plot, the cemetery committee itself that is the centrepiece, reminding me of Jarndyce & Jarndyce or of a meal at Aickman’s own Hospice. I mean this quite seriously … and this seemed to be confirmed by the story’s coda with these words: “Everyone perceived that the past should be allowed to merge into the future, with no official recognition given to an interregnum.”

11/13. re
Written by des – Thursday, July 12 2007
I have now re-read ‘No Stronger Than A Flower’ (I can’t remember reading it before but I must have done!) –
Nesta reminds me of Pete Burns in Celebrity Big Brother…
A visit to an imputed ‘back-street abortionist’ to be ‘reborn’ as a nothing or a ghost gradually – coupled with an SF morality tale about the coming Plastic Surgery generation that was presumably in Aickman’s real future when he wrote the story.
I think it interesting that Pete Burns’ famous group in the eighties was ‘Dead or Alive’.


“I have often noticed in life that we never really learn anything – learn for the first time, I mean. We know everything already, everything that we, as individuals, are capable of knowing, or fit to know; all that other people do for us, at the best, is to remind us, to give our brains a little twist from one set of preoccupations to a slightly different set.”
Robert Aickman (from ‘The Clock Watcher’)

That certainly gave my brain a little twist! I don’t yet know why, but I feel that helps to ‘explain’ RA’s stories, if explanation is seen to be needed.

12/13. re
Written by des – Saturday, July 21 2007
Just re-read ‘Ravissante’ in my current re-read of Aickman marathon. This came up fresh. It’s probably – with the vantage point of years of experience with RA – his best story. It is very powerful – and that black poodle…??!

Particularly inspired by this (edited) passage:

“My pictures are visionary and symbolical, and, from first to last, have seemed to be painted by someone other than myself. […] I am thus entirely self-taught, or taught by that other within me. I am aware that my pictures lack serious technique(if there is a technique that can be distinguished from inspiration and invention). I should have given up painting them some time ago, were it not that a certain number of people seemed to find something remarkable in them, and have thus identified me with them, and made me feel mildly important.”

And from another place, I believe the following is a brilliant summation of the Aickman experience as written by Richard Gavin:

“To me, that is the real power of Robert Aickman’s strange stories — they are bewildering, yet are so cunningly written and seductive that you sometimes do not realize just how frightening the heart of the story is until it’s too late…by then the story has taken root inside of you and, in an odd way, *owns you*.”

13/13. Ligotti / Aickman
Written by des – Saturday, August 04 2007
I’ve just finished my re-read of all RA stories in my possession, and the last few contained ‘The Breakthrough’, plus ‘Into The Wood’ (to be differentiated from ‘Wood’) and ‘The Fetch’.
These three stories are very powerful and represent humanity sleep-walking into death as surrounded by motley shapes in various states of this journey. I think Aickman and Ligotti must be blood brothers! One walking into the other like into Mr Can.

I shall do a further summation of this process before I too am absorbed! 🙂

comments (1)

1. Weirdmonger left… Sunday, 26 October 2008 5:22 pm ::

AICKMAN ISLANDS at above link.


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2 responses to “Robert Aickman

  1. Having completed my month-long real-time review of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN by Thomas Mann (HERE), I am convinced that it must have been an enormous influence, outweighing any other influence, on the fiction of Robert Aickman. This is not only because of the similarity I seem to be the first to observe between The Hospice and The House Berghof, and their residents, and their meals, but also because of many other factors, including tone and beguiling disarming undercurrents and tropes, an absurd-weirdness that borders on nightmare as well as rationality.

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