Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams

Arthur Machen – The Hill of Dreams
Corgi Books – 1967 (Originally published 1907)

When I first read Arthur Machen I was blown away. It was a collection of his best short stories, and I was fascinated. These tales were dark, folky horror, and the fact that the author was an occultist gave them an extra little je ne sai quoi. A few years later, I read some more of his short fiction. It didn’t compare. I was awfully disappointed. I knew his novel, The Hill of Dreams, was supposed to be pretty good, but I waited almost 5 years until I picked it up.

Yuck. Not for me. This is the story of a wimpy little freak who becomes an insane drug addict because he can’t find success as an author.

I’ve come across references to the “decadent” movement in relation to the fiction of Montague Summers and Huysmans before, and while I don’t think I ever looked into what decadent means in that sense, I was able to identify The Hill of Dreams as a decadent work about half a page in. Too many words and not enough story. Call me a Philistine if you will, but I’m not into this tripe.

I’ve seen this book referred to as horror, but that’s absolutely not accurate. I’ve also read people saying it contains dark visions. Techncially it does, but they are just drug induced day dreams. There’s nothing supernatural about the story.

There’s a part where a bunch of kids murder a puppy and the protagonist looks on does nothing. This made it really hard for me to care about him. I understand that the book is largely autobiographical too. I hope that part never happened.

I probably would have pretended to like The Hill of Dreams if I had read it 10 years ago, but I have no time for overwritten fiddle-faddle anymore. The only people who will like this nonsense are namby-pamby struggling author/artist types who like reading drawn out descriptions of wooded paths through the forest. Yeah, actually, you’ll probably enjoy this book if you like listening to the Cure.