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Adalbert is a forum for me, to post ephemera, photography, poetry, occasional travel notes, and various spontaneous motions. Cover photo: Parsonage where my great-grandfather spent his early years. Taken near Liegnitz, Silesia, ca. 1870. The "xothique" portion of the web address is a nod to Clark Ashton Smith's fictional continent of Zothique.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Aquarian Visions: Algernon Blackwood's The Promise of Air

A letter attached to my copy of The Promise of Air. 

Some time not long past, I found a copy of Algernon Blackwood's novel, The Promise of Air; which I recently read. 
The book has moments of resonant poetry and originality. At times, the tone is breezy and light, perhaps to an excess. The darker currents threading through some of Blackwood's strongest works (such as his short story The Wendigo, or his memoir Episodes Before 30), are mostly absent from The Promise of Air. With its Aquarian Society, and proclamations that all are one, the book anticipated some trends that appeared much later -- in the 1960s, for example. "This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius," indeed. References to birds, as symbols of liberation and transcendence, pepper the novel. The chief character, Joseph Wimble, and his ethereal daughter, Joan, gravitate toward a life of spontaneity and freedom (while his son and wife are, at least on the surface, more earthbound and conventional). One compelling scene revolved around a family night at the movies, in their days of silent glory and novelty: "The cinema frees and extends the consciousness, restores the past, and sets distance close beneath the eyes. Only the watching self remains -- pregnant symbol! -- in the darkness." (p. 168). Despite the novel's flaws, its themes are timeless and significant.

-- JF, 2020


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