Gods, Men and Ghosts: The Best Supernatural Fiction of Lord Dunsany Paperback – Feb 1971
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Lord Dunsany was an original fantasist who created his own cycle of gods and legends between 1904 and 1916. The stories are mostly short Arabian-Nights style fantasies suffused with an elegant irony that strongly influenced U.S. horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Also included are 6 of Dunsany's later (post-1920) stories of the incorrigible barfly, Jorkens.
Born in Ireland in 1878, Dunsany was actually a professional soldier who served in the Boer War and WWI. He is caricatured briefly in Olivia Manning's "The Balkans Trilogy," where he appears as the dyspepsic guest Byron professor at the University of Athens. Dunsany devoted much of his later life to hunting and died in 1957. His written work is a surprising counterpoint to his biographical life, and he is frequently associated with the turn-of-the-century Irish Revival movement along with Yeats and Synge.
Sidney H. Sime (1867-1942) was an ink-and-wash illustrator working in a turn-of-the-century style comparable to Edmund Dulac or Charles Robinson, but without their color palettes. The extensive range of grays used for his pictures are well reproduced in my edition.
I have to add that the back of the book jacket claims that it is "A Dover edition designed for years of use" : I purchased my copy in 1978, and the binding almost immediately detached!
At its best--and much of its best is here--Dunsany's style is both rich in imagery and underpinned with a sardonic wit which he turns perfectly, for those who like sardonic wit (i.e., he runs strongly toward ironic or catastrophic endings with faux morals about the futility of ambition). What distinguishes Dunsany from the run of fantasy writers is that he tempers his obvious enjoyment in escapism ("strange worlds") with a sensibility that can best be termed satiric. We can never be quite sure whether Mr. Joseph Jorkens is a casual liar, a manufacturer of elaborate conspiracies--or possibly a truthful traveler within amazing venues.
Sorry it's out of print and no longer available from Dover @ $2.00.