Monday, August 17, 2015

"His Murder Stories Are Practically Perfect, While His Fantasies, Mostly Diabolic, Usually Break Down Right at the End Like a Delicate Bamboo Rod with Too Big a Fish on It"

As we've observed before, John Collier is sui generis, with his fiction defying neat classification, as the two following examples demonstrate:

"Deferred Payment."
By John Collier (1901-80).
First appearance: Collier's, April 27, 1940.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online HERE.
Sometimes help comes from an unlikely place:
"Here's a straw," he said. "Clutch at that."
"Thus I Refute Beelzy."
By John Collier (1901-80).
First appearance: The Atlantic Monthly, October 1940.
Reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, October 1952.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online HERE.
. . . and sometimes help comes from an even more unlikely place:
Small Simon stopped at the door. "He said he wouldn't let anyone hurt me," he whimpered.
By John Collier (1901-80); Foreword by Clifton Fadiman (1904-99).
Collection: 26 stories.
The Press of the Readers Club.
1943. 247 pages. $2.00
Online HERE.
1. "The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It"
2. "De Mortuis" (reprinted in EQMM, November 1955; filmed in 1946, 1951, and 1956)
3. "Wet Saturday" (filmed in 1956 and 1984)
4. "Little Memento"
5. "Mary"
6. "Midnight Blue"
7. "Back for Christmas" (reprinted in EQMM, Fall 1988; filmed in 1956 and 1980)
8. "Evening Primrose"
9. "The Frog Prince"
10. "Rope Enough"
11. "The Chaser" (reprinted in AHMM, May 1988; filmed in 1960)
12. "The Devil, George, and Rosie"
13. "Great Possibilities"
14. "Half-way to Hell"
15. "Possession of Angela Bradshaw"
16. "The Right Side"
17. "Another American Tragedy"
18. "Bird of Prey" (filmed in 1952 and 1984)
19. "Thus I Refute Beelzy" (see above)
20. "Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon!"
21. "Variation on a Theme"
22. "Old Acquaintance"
23. "Ah, the University!"
24. "After the Ball" (reprinted in F&SF, November 1959) (online HERE)
25. "Hell Hath No Fury"
26. "Green Thoughts"

Excerpts from a thoughtful review:
 JOHN COLLIER has an extremely pretty wit, usually bland, unexpected, and deceptive, which is the best kind.
Collier has an infallible instinct for horror. The best contemporary one there is—far out in the lead. So much so, that I think frequently, and abruptly, he must frighten himself.
In these tales, whenever there is enough horror, the horror keeps the wit in order, and so the combination cannot be improved upon. But in the twelve or so fantasies included, with a couple of exceptions, there is something inherently wrong . . . .
I may be wrong, but fantasy has always appeared to me as one of the few literary expressions in which virtue, even if it is shabby, must win.
Like the devil, or the jinn, or the bad-fairy, the author also is completely powerful in a fantasy. Moving in a never-never world, he can do exactly what he pleases, and therefore most exactly cannot do what he pleases. Released from any necessity of the rational, or the realistic, or the human, he must use his freedom with discrimination and, if anything, become more human. Faust had to turn against the world and undergo a long period of degeneration before the devil got him, and Dr. Jekyll did the same. You can't take any old scrubby human being and turn him over. If you do, it's like some undergraduate joke. And when John Collier remembers this, his fantasies are as perfect as his murder stories.
In short, I, for one, wish John Collier would forget his preoccupation with the Devil, who's really a dull and unpleasant fellow, and too much around at present, anyway, with a lot of his lesser demons, and concentrate on murder long or short. Long, I hope, and lots of it. — Struthers Burt, "Lineal Descendant of Saki," The Saturday Review (February 5, 1944 HERE)
NOTE: These stories saw republication in FANCIES AND GOODNIGHTS (1951); see the article HERE.
- There's a Wikipedia article about Collier HERE.

Category: Mainstream fiction . . . fantasy . . . something else?

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