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April 19th, 2009

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08:24 pm - Uriconum in literature
I think there are more literary references to Uriconum, now I think about it. I haven't read it but doesn't M John Harrison have a city called Vericonium/Uriconium? Can't be a coincidence.

And I've literally just today finished a very sad novella by Arthur Machen called The Hill of Dreams (Gutenburg text here) about a lonely boy growing up in an area very like Wroxeter (though it's set over the Welsh border I think) who becomes obsessed with a vanished Roman city, until it becomes more real to him than the real world. Perhaps he is in some way damned. It's written in a dense, lush, decadent Edwardian style, all swooning sensuality, but almost nothing happens in a long, long read.

I think Arthur Machen is a wonderful writer, though in some ways he believed the opposite of everything I believe. He was a Tory, a high church Anglican, he probably opposed votes for women. Like Lovecraft he seemed to experience life primarily through a feeling of terror, which needed to be controlled by being very fastidious and right wing. But I think that at least terror of infinity and otherness is a real feeling, at least it's a direct engagement with the awesome.

Machen was involved with paganism as a young man and I think it frightened him, and in a sense all his works are a big 'DON'T GO INTO THE WOODS' warning. And yet they also make the woods seem wonderful and entrancing. I think his influence on modern writers is huge, particularly Alan Moore and M John Harrison, which was where I started.

Here's a review of Hill of Dreams at Infinity Plus which makes many of these points.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Yes, Harrison has Viriconium
[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Right. I think I was spelling it wrong. I see the wikipedia entry says

'For the Roman town located in modern day Wroxeter see Viroconium Cornoviorum....Viriconium is a fictional city created by M. John Harrison and also the name of the cycle of novels and stories set in and around it.'

So there is quite a coincidence of name. Too much to be a coincidence really.
Date:April 19th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
It also features in a couple of Rosemary Sutcliff's Roman Britain novels - The Lantern Bearers, I think, and also Dawn Wind.
[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
Oh really? I might well have read them when I was a kid, I read anything by her that appeared in our library. Thanks for the rec, I think I might have to chase those down.
Date:April 21st, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)

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