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Just finished a collection of short stories by A.E. Coppard, who is not nearly as well known as he should be. I picked it up from the library because I saw his name on The Supernatural Fiction Database -- stories like "Polly Morgan" in which Aunt Agatha is in love with a ghost, or "The Post Office and the Serpent" about a snake bound in a lake until Judgement Day. Unfortunately this collection doesn't include many of his supernatural stories (though there are a couple), but it certainly showcases the man's ability to write. His command of language is phenomenal -- intelligent, emotional, descriptive; the word "lyrical" might not be out of place. Some of the stories are heartbreaking in their simplicity (Dusky Ruth, for example, or the one about the old man and his dog), others just off-normal enough to engender a general sense of eeriness or discomfort without being able to quite put one's finger on why.

With all that, he's also got a mildly loopy sense of humor. Take this, for example:

The old gentleman, Arthur Mildway, lean, stern and grey, had never been a soldier of any kind although he had a military appearance. On the contrary, he was a person of private means, with certain accomplishments as a local ornithologist, and an authority on beetroot. He possessed a soft, sweet dumpling of a wife who for forty years had painted water colours that none but he appreciated, and at every picture she finished they would stare in animated contemplation together for a few moments, she blinking a good deal from weak eyesight and murmuring inarticulately...Occasionally he would buy one of these artistic productions from her...Forking out a sovereign he would insist on her acceptance of the coin and then tenderly convey the watercolour to a cellar or a loft or a cupboard -- and it was never, never, never seen again.

Thanks to the wonder of The Internetz, I discover there is also an A.E. Coppard Prize offered annually!

Speaking of contests and prizes...

Literary Lab Contest Button



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