Aches and Bones

My Bowen and Aickman Summary

It was my recent re-reading of Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘A Day In The Dark’ (my having now re-read all the Bowen stories in a random order), that became the first occasion ELBOW dawned on me as a significant word in her work, my having  instinctively related the meaningfulness of the two elbow incidents in that particular story. I then started noticing  more and more elbows in other stories. I think there are about 80 elbows in the main collected stories book and I haven’t yet counted all those in the Bazaar EUP collection of her stories. For me, these elbows add to the stories’ meanings in different ways. There are 38 elbows in the novel ‘Death of the Heart’, too! And many also in the other novels.

Robert Aickman (1914-1981) and Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), as far as I can see, had significant mutual friends and entered the same sort of social and literary circles. Aickman collaborated with Elizabeth Jane Howard, for example. He was also a big noise in the British Canals society. I think he knew the Sitwells etc. I have no hard evidence that RA and EB met in person, but surely they must have corresponded, as Aickman included a Bowen work in his edited Second Fontana Great Ghost Stories in 1966, and called her, in the introduction, one of the greatest exponents of the ghost story.

As I have done with Bowen, I have recently re-read and reviewed all Aickman’s fiction work….. And I have found that many of Bowen’s stories are in significant synergy with Aickman’s. Incredibly so! I am convinced the influence, if any, was mutual, although by dint of age he was probably first influenced by her. Bowen’s most Aickmanesque stories (and for me most of her stories are Aickmanesque at least to some extent) are Mrs Moysey, Human Habitation, LOVE, The Inherited Clock, Mysterious KÔR, Her Table Spread, Green Holly and, even, perhaps Gone Away! I could extend that list almost indefinitely. Some I may have forgotten.

Many paperback firms and Gollancz and Tartarus Press have published Aickman over the years ostensibly in the Ghost Story, Horror and associated genres, but, for me, Aickman’s work transcends any labels. 


My reviews of these authors HERE and HERE, I hope, successfully convey the themes and stylish elbow-power of their short stories, although I have found relatively fewer actual elbows in Aickman!

PS: EB and RA did meet, according to recent R.B. Russell biography of RA.

8 thoughts on “Aches and Bones

  1. From my review in 2015 here:

    “They encourage brainstorming when reviewing a fiction book. But then they say one should tidy it up and make it appear less haphazard, more argued as if you know what you are talking about. Well, I think there can be something valuable and revelatory in leaving your real-time thoughts written as you first write them. Those thoughts must be expressed carefully, I agree, and they must be based on the ‘truth’ of what you read and of what you feel about that reading. By revising it later you may be inadvertently destroying germs of that ‘truth’.
    I think this book is advice to students and how to present considered academic essays as a result of previous brainstorming. My dreamcatchers and gestalt real-time reviews stand or fall in the cut and thrust of social media and blogs. If many of us do this dreamcatching about a specific fiction book we can increasingly ‘triangulate’ that book’s ‘truth’…”

  2. Having said what I said above about Aickman’s elbows, I wonder what this means! —

    “My mother shook her head. Indeed, our home, though out of date and out at elbows, was considerably too large for us.” (THE INNER ROOM)

  3. She bowed her head, acceptingly, then folded her arms, consoling the elbows.”

    A description of Iseult, but tellingly by Bowen in her final novel.

    Especially now I know the importance of the word ‘elbow’ in much of her fiction.

  4. Pingback: Doubled Down | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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