The Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James are truly unique in the genre in that they have very little to do with ghosts. They are not frightening, disturbing, horrific, suspenseful or even especially thought provoking however there is certainly a bland kind of interest coupled with a calm almost uneventful flow of the story which I find very comfortable. In truth they almost all deal with books, manuscripts, documents, archives or libraries. As one reads the book one has very much the feeling that he is seated in a comfortable chair in a darkened university library passing the time with a well written but not especially engrossing novel. In truth this may not seem an especially strong recommendation for the book however as I read the book on a lazy Saturday afternoon and evening whilst the sky was overcast and the rain seemed unending I found it an enjoyable and satisfying experience.
Mr. James was apparently a well known medievalist and Cambridge professor who enjoyed telling these stories to his students. It is not known if the enjoyment was reciprocated. Henry David Throeau once wrote “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” Were I to follow Throeau's advice I would put this book about at the 50/50 mark.
Any of us who were subject to the cloying and saccharine Winnie-the-Poo stories in our early youth will have no doubt dismissed A. A. Milne as a second rate author unfit for consumption by anyone over the age of 9. This book will change your mind and make you wonder why the author spent so much time on childish tripe. The Red House Mystery deals with all the traditional English mystery elements. A manor house, several guests, a menacing family member, a variety of peculiar servants, an amateur detective, his trusty sidekick and a murder. Mix this with an underground tunnel, a bowling green and a miscreant brother and you have the recipe for an excellent British style page turner.
I was especially pleased with Antony Gillingham the amateur detective and Bill Beverly his somewhat un-Watson like assistant. It is a great shame these two did not appear in other similar mystery novels. They might have rivaled Sherlock and Watson in interest.
Milne was a Cambridge grad and math major who wrote plays, novels, and a virulently anti-war book titled Peace With Honour as well as his Winnie-the-Poo fluff.
I strongly recommend The Red House Mystery.
Ezra Pound was a modernist poet and critic who admired the sparseness and imagery of Japanese poetry. He befriended and aided numerous young writers including T.S. Eliot and Hemingway, admired Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini and was a self declared fascist. He engaged in fascist propaganda in world war two for the axis powers and against his native land, hated F.D. Roosevelt and despised the Jews who he blamed for much that was wrong in the world.
After the war he was arrested by American armed forces and imprisoned in a looney bin for 12 years.
All of this does not add up to Mr. Pound being much of a human being and yet his poetry is stunning. He is praised by critics for his economy of language but more accurately he is the master of making less into more. Pound could write the Odyssey in 200 words and make it better and more memorable.
His greatest accomplishment is the Cantos (not all written at one time) however this poem is a superb example of his early poetry. I can not like him but must admire his work.
Mindless dreck. Unworthy of Doctorow or any serious author.