Monday, November 01, 2004

Conservative Ghost Stories?

This post should have been made on Halloween, but I didn't read John Miller's article in time. But since it deals with Russell Kirk, perhaps it will fit with All Saint's day instead:

As one of the great conservative minds of the 20th century, Kirk is best known as a founding intellectual of a modern political movement. When he wasn't writing books about Edmund Burke or columns for National Review, however, he was scribbling away for publications such as Fantasy and Science Fiction, London Mystery Magazine, and New Terrors. In 1958, T. S. Eliot wrote to him: "How amazingly versatile and prolific you are! Now you have written what I should have least expected of you — ghost stories!"


Kirk deserves a place alongside the classic authors of supernatural fiction, such as Algernon Blackwood, H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Edgar Allen Poe. The books of these writers are still in print, and are usually found on the "horror" shelves at mainstream bookstores.

What sets Kirk apart from most genre writers, however, is a sharp moral imagination. "The better uncanny stories are underlain by a healthy concept of the character of evil," he wrote in a short essay that is included in Off the Sand Road. "Defying nature, the necromancer conjures up what ought not to rise again this side of Judgment Day. But those dark powers do not rule the universe: by bell, book, and candle, symbolically at least, we can push them down under."
Every time I turn around, I find more reasons to like this guy. I have read Roots of American Order and found it to be a book I would like to have written myself. Now, I find that Kirk also shared my other passion for the Horror/Fantasy genre. My favorite quote is the following:
Kirk seemed to think that conservatives especially would appreciate ghostly fiction, given its requirement that readers acknowledge their inability to know all things — a foundational principle of modern conservatism. "Mine was not an enlightened mind," Kirk once wrote, "it was a Gothic mind, medieval in it temper and structure. I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity of organization; what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, the awful. I despised sophisters and calculators; I was groping for faith, honor, and prescriptive loyalties. I would have given any number of neo-classical pediments for one poor battered gargoyle."
That, in a nutshell, is exactly what this blog is all about.

No comments: