The Great God Pan

, . Filed under Thinking.

Been meaning to read this for a long time. Partly because I really liked ghost and horror fiction in my teens and partly because Mr Mark Smith is a big fan. The Kindle lets me make these impromptu downloads (it’s free on Gutenberg).

I remember Lovecraft being an awful writer, and you get to an age when the quality of the writing becomes important enough to override a love of the subject.

Thankfully, Machen writes beautifully. The dream sequences are both lovely and unsettling, and there’s tension in his taut descriptions of mood and weather:

…an ugly December night, black with fog, and raw with frost

(Completed 7 February): well, I enjoyed this. The first thing to note is the similarity to Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde (published four years before The Great God Pan): the element of the unknowable, the small scale of the London setting, the importance of place, the limited cast of male, single, professional gentleman, the fragmented narrative and even the novella form.

Like Stevenson, Machen can conjure up a sense of oddness in a few words; his description of boys delivering the news in Piccadilly is in some ways the scariest passage of the story.

However, Stevenson’s themes are secrecy, scandal and politics; Hyde represents our baser human side. Machen is more of a mystic; Pan doesn’t represent anything apart from the unknowable.