Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories

by Algernon Blackwood

I am a big fan of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) especially after being so moved by his short story, The Willows which I consider one of the best horror tales ever written.

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories was Blackwood’s first collection of short stories (I respectfully disagree with ManyBooks. This collection was published in 1906, not 1916) when the author was 37 years old. Though lacking some of the finesse he developed later in his career and suffering from very abrupt endings, the collection is more than just ghost stories tackling themes such as a murder mystery, demonic possession, and an intriguing take on lycanthropy.

The stories in order are:

  • The Empty House
  • A Haunted Island
  • A Case Of Eavesdropping
  • Keeping His Promise
  • With Intent To Steal
  • The Wood Of The Dead
  • Smith: An Episode In A Lodging-House
  • A Suspicious Gift
  • The Strange Adventures Of A Private Secretary In New York
  • Skeleton Lake: An Episode In Camp

    All in all, the collection is an enjoyable romp through another time and culture with some genuine chills thrown in for good measure.

    C. Alan Loewen

  • Reviewed on 2012.07.22

    Alice in Wonderland

    by Alice Gerstenberg

    Alice Gerstenberg was a prolific Chicago playwright, Alice in Wonderland being one of her first works.

    Actually, the play is a mishmash of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and characters from both stories pop in and out of the narrative which for this reader was distracting and created to jarring a dissonance for one who knows the original source material very well.

    It would have been interesting to see how Gerstenberg worked out the logistics of the play as there are several special effects that are described, but there are no actual notes to reveal how they were pulled off (such as the Cheshire Cat).

    All in all, reading the play is a quick, quite diversion to pass an hour, but nothing memorable.

    C. Alan Loewen

    Reviewed on 2012.01.14

    Arthur Machen

    by Vincent Starrett

    I confess that this literary essay leaves me slightly confused. Though the author has a deep respect for Arthur Machen and his very impressive body of literary work, I leave this essay wondering if the author believes that Machen was more into promoting evil than good, or demonstrating that evil was more powerful than good.

    I cannot deny that the author's main thesis that ecstasy can come from both holy and unholy sources, but to allude that Machen prized unholy ecstasy over holy ecstasy seems to stretch at least my understanding of his stories.

    I will leave it to other reviewers to more accurately critique the main point of the short literary essay.

    C. Alan Loewen

    Reviewed on 2011.09.17

    The Analects of Confucius

    by Confucius

    Confucius (aka K'ung Fu-Zi) (c. 551 BC – c. 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose book, The Analects of Confucius guided Chines culture for well over a thousand years and though Confucianism has diminished dramatically, The Analects still have a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.

    The Analects teach the basic Confucian values including social and ritual propriety, righteousness, loyalty, and filial piety, all centered about the central thought of becoming the "proper man" or "gentleman." Interestingly, one can find the Golden Rule within its pages, though stated in the negative: Do NOT do unto others as you would NOT have them do unto you.

    However, be aware that The Analects, unlike many other philosophical books, does not translate well into English. Many of the concepts refer to people and places the Occidental mind has no awareness of. The bottom line is that without a well-written and researched commentary, many of the nuances will be lost on the Western reader. However, to understand the Oriental mind, reading and studying The Analects is not an option and there are sections that are easily understandable to an individual seeking to understand the morality and philosophy of Confucius.

    C. Alan Loewen

    Reviewed on 2011.05.09

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