Review by Reber Clark
Dec 20, 2018
It is always exciting and encouraging to see new releases in new forms of the work of authors many of us treasure. Oxford University Press' The Great God Pan and other Horror Stories by Arthur Machen is no exception.
In an interesting shade of yellow clothbound hard cover, printed with tentacles (or are those ram's horns?), we find Machen's work, including The Three Impostors (which was a new work for me), in its entirety. On the back cover of the book is printed, "Something pushed out from the body there on the floor, and stretched forth a slimy, wavering tentacle..."
I was immediately hooked. The binding is solid. The size is handy. The typeface and spacing are well done and comfortably readable. The paper quality is a bit lower than I'd like but is perfectly serviceable – if I came across this in a bookstore I would snap it up immediately. All in all a worthy addition to any collector of Machen.
Upon reading I did not spot any typos. The Introduction by editor Aaron Worth includes a nice note stating "Readers who are unfamiliar with the stories may prefer to treat the Introduction as an Afterword." – in other words, "Spoiler Alert!" However, the introduction is thorough and excellent and I learned quite a bit more about Machen than I had known.
A note on the text is included: "The main priority in assembling this collection has been to include as much of Machen's seminal horror fiction from the 1890s as possible, as it originally appeared (hence the inclusion of The Three Imposters complete, rather than harvested for individual stories as is usually done), and complemented by seldom-published pieces from this period which throw additional light on these better-known works..."
"The text of all stories have been taken from their first appearance in book form… except in two cases ('The Lost Club' and 'The Shining Pyramid'), where a later but superior edition has been preferred." A select bibliography and a chronology of Machen are also included. A section of explanatory notes in the back completes the excellent volume with solid finality.
From the book: "Arthur Machen is a significant figure in supernatural literature of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. His work, which mixes Gothic horror with fin-de-siecle mysticism, has influenced writers and film-makers (notably H. P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Stephen King, and Alan Moore). From the beginning of his literary career, Machen espoused a mystical belief that the humdrum ordinary world hid a more mysterious and strange world beyond. His gothic and decadent works of the 1890s concluded that the lifting of this veil could lead to madness, sex, or death, and usually a combination of all three. Machen's later works became somewhat less obviously full of gothic trappings, but for him investigations into mysteries invariably resulted in life-changing transformation and sacrifice." Editor Aaron Worth is Associate Professor of Rhetoric at Boston University, having previously taught courses in English and American literature at Brandeis University.