23 Oct 31 HORROR STORIES — “Opening the Door” (1931)
Arthur Machen is an acquired taste, and I’m still in the process of acquiring it. But I can tell it’ll be worth it.
Anyone who’s read SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN LITERATURE by H.P. Lovecraft knows that the mere descriptions of Machen’s stories are scarier than most fully rendered stories, even the ones by the Old Masters like Dunsany, James and Blackwood. Machen was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn at the same time as Alistair Crowley, but he was the cynical, more realistic Lennon to Crowley’s idealistic, true-believer McCartney.
“Opening the Door” is, currently, my favorite Machen. But it’s only because it’s the first Machen I’ve read so far where I feel like I penetrated his loopy, unwelcoming prose to get at what HE was getting at. I’m going to re-read “Out of the Earth”, “The Great God Pan” and “The Three Imposters”, and see if I can figure them out again.
What makes “Opening the Door” so special is that it’s about someone who THINKS they may have had an encounter, or at least a brush-up-against, the “other world”. In almost any other writers’ hands, attempting a story where even the protagonist isn’t too sure of something, but is nevertheless disturbed, and then trying to convey that feeling to the reader…well, it’d be a bust.
But Machen does it here. I mean, really pulls it off. That garden gate in the dusk, and those…children(?)