The Hospice

My new review is further below on this page.

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My previous review in 2011 (https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/the-weird-7/) here —

The Hospice – Robert Aickman (My review in 2011)

“…it was as if most of these people had been with one another for a long time, during which things to talk about might have run out, and possibly with little opportunity for renewal through fresh experience.”

I am utterly delighted to re-read, re-value this ultimate classic of weird literature in the context of ‘The WEIRD’ and of my own late middle age / accreting old age.  It is of a male protagonist in an era without King’s FD,NS sat-nav / gps contraption sent on a short cut and arrives at this private hotel (with petrol low in his car’s tank from having become lost) – (and no mobile contraption or even a phone in the ‘hotel’) – (and contraptions inadvertently unmentioned in my Third of the Way report above) – now faced with a claustrophobic concupiscence between the sexes, strikingly heavy meals (unexpectedly exaggerated but typified by the picture of spam soup earlier above), shapes in the night – but, earlier, anxiety sitting in the restaurant like a fish out of water (cf Dirk Bogarde in ‘Death in Venice’ hotel restaurant) and a sense of people of my general time-of-life  in “God’s waiting-room”: the common nickname for the area where I live. There is a pub nearby where people of my age regularly eat – a large steaming roast dinner a day. Not that I go there very often, myself, but when I do it is teeming with people I recognise from when I went there before – except for those accretingly absent…  An Age of Anxiety. The story’s weird unsettling grows artfully. The dust settling grew on this story, until I exhumed it today thanks to this book. It is a “bad dream“, true, but it is also the best thing since sliced bread. “‘…I have seldom seen a more gorgeous dress.’ / ‘Yes,’ she replied with simple gravity. ‘It comes from Rome. Would you like to touch it?‘” (19/11/11 – three hours later)

And another of my pages in 2013 about it —

Today, 4.Oct. 21 …

THE HOSPICE by Robert Aickman

“…going round and round in large or small circles, asking the way and being unable to understand the answers […] By rights he should have been more than halfway home…”

Insufficient answers, then?

Aickman does not do farces by halves. Stranded because Lucas Maybury’s car runs out of petrol … and confusion between diesel and petrol: seems a prophecy of our times today! And with this last story in my massive re-reading of Aickman (a famous story about the nature of his ‘hospice’ refuge for the night), I say that we at last attain this canon’s eschatological goal that indeed may bury Lucas as he hitches a lift with a hearse at the end, one leg perhaps shorter than the other (from a cat bite) — please see my previous review (here yesterday) of INTO THE WOOD to get the leg reference — and now he is sitting next to the wood of a coffin! … need I say more? This classic of over-eating and over-heating is equally over the top like a Whitehall farce, yet it is so creatively and darkly absurdist  it delights those of a literary taste, its most horrific moment being the gratuitous smashing of a plate of food on the floor, and  where there are also confused identities at night and inferred sexy shenanigans, but Maybury remains true to his wife back home, with whatever conclusion you would like to draw from this in the dubious light of Aickman’s themes on marriage elsewhere in his canon, and the always ’insufficient answer’ to life, the universe, and everything not even being 23 (the room number he was given by a lady he fancied) let alone 42! 

Eating as if life depended on it. “They lived for eating.” And the big slab of turkey with five vegetables does deaden life but does not awaken Maybury’s sleep into being but somehow he is rescued from the man who shared the room with him and, later, from perhaps a woman in the room dressed as a man… Don’t go there.

Heavily over-decorated, too, this hospice is said to be; even the curtains in Maybury’s room are decorations rather than useful! Like in ancient crematoria?

And the hearse in the morning, was it a co-vivid dream? And Maybury’s own murder as whodunnit with a half-stifled scream, clutching at himself, were they dreams, too? No, they were real. You see, Aickman did it.

A fine ending. Not half. At last. At least.

“Half a lifetime passed.”

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All my reviews of Aickman now complete with this one: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/

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