Walter de la Mare's Ten Best Stories
according to rbadac
with a woodblock illustration by Bold for "Miss Jemima" from Broomsticks & Other Stories
Trying to pick the ten best de la Mare tales is like trying to pick the ten best Beatle songs. You're screwed before you begin. It can't be done. Might as well give up now before you make a fool of yourself & piss everybody off in the bargain. Don't you want to have friends? What's wrong with you, anyway? Put down that pen. Better to keep silent & be thought an idiot than open your mouth & remove all doubt.
Ahhhh, who am I kidding? Since when did I give a damn?
I'll try to stick with just the supernatural ones for the purposes of this group, though even that won't be easy; "Seaton's Aunt" could go either way, & that's the most well-known one. You all know as well as I do that de la Mare wrote many other excellent stories with nary a shade in them-- I recommend you to Edward Wagenknecht's selection in the "old" edition of the Collected Tales (Knopf, 1950) for an overall mix. He comes closest to being an expert on the man as anyone I can think of, perhaps even leaning toward outright worship, but so what? You're best at what you love. And when he treats de la Mare thus as a one-of-a-kind literary figure, he gets no argument from me.
So here they are, rbadac's favorite fantastic de la Mares, in Letterman order:
10. Seaton's Aunt
Let's just get this one out of the way now. Of course it's great. Far be it from you to argue with ten million anthologists. ("Yesterday," "Hey Jude")
9. Out Of The Deep
No one understands it, no one names it as a favorite, yet it will not go away. Personally I like it for all three reasons. ("I Am The Walrus," "Happiness Is A Warm Gun")
Because it's creepy. ("I'm Only Sleeping," "Blue Jay Way")
7. A Recluse
I did this one in a separate post awhile back. Remember Chunks the dog? ("Hey Bulldog," "Old Brown Shoe")
6. A tie ! Heh. I'm cheating. Sue me.
a. A Revenant
Poe has the last word. ("Drive My Car," "Day Tripper")
b. Hodmadod The one about the scarecrow. ("You Know My Name, Look Up The Number," "Rain")
5. The Green Room
For bibliophiles & ectoplasmophiles. ("Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane")
4. Strangers & Pilgrims
It has an especially elegant feel. ("Norwegian Wood," "Eleanor Rigby")
3. Miss Jemima
Be careful what company you keep. ("Ticket To Ride," "Lady Madonna")
2. The House
When I die, I want it to be just like this. ("Baby You're A Rich Man," "She Said She Said")
And rbadac's Number One favorite in the class is...
1. All Hallows
Turn me on, dead man. ("All You Need Is Love," "A Day In The Life")
It is hardly necessary to remind you that, like the Beatles, there are so many treasures beyond the scope of any "best of" list that you would be remiss in not seeking them out. Take care, for instance, not to omit his non-supernatural tales, or his stories which are ostensibly meant for children. There is more child in you still than you could ever imagine. Enjoy the novels, which are as highly regarded as any; do not-- I repeat-- do NOT neglect his poetry. It could be the Key to the Universe, even as deceptively simple as some of his poems are. His anthology of others' poems, Come Hither (1923) is a must-have. Its Introduction, "The Story Of This Book," is actually another de la Mare story in itself, & itself deserves an eminent place with the others, full of magic & remembrance.
-rbadac, who can also equate the stories of M. R. James with the songs of The Rolling Stones, should such an extremely unlikely demand arise.
copyright © 2000 by rbadac, all rights reserved
Read also rbadac's
Walter de la Mare's "The Recluse"
There are classic ghost story writers aplenty,
generally including de la Mare, offered in the
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