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Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 21 October, 2018 02:31PM
Hello,

Has anybody read the horror story "Skule Skerry" by John Buchan (1928)? I have asked several native speakers what "folds of tucks in space" mentioned in the story could mean but nobody has been able to answer it. So I have decided to ask here because I am sure the members of this forum have read many weird tales of old literature which is sometimes hard to get and maybe might help to decipher the strange phrase.

The whole passage runs as follows.

"One thing I thought I saw clearly--the meaning of Skule Skerry. By some alchemy of nature, at which I could only guess, it was on the track by which the North exercised its spell, a cableway for the magnetism of that cruel frozen Uttermost, which man might penetrate but could never subdue or understand. Though the latitude was only 61°, there were folds of tucks in space, and this isle was the edge of the world. Birds knew it, and the old Northmen, who were primitive beings like the birds, knew it. That was why an inconsiderable skerry had been given the name of a conquering Jarl. The old Church knew it, and had planted a chapel to exorcise the demons of darkness. I wondered what sights the hermit, whose cell had been on the very spot where I was cowering, had seen in the winter dusks.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 November, 2018 06:07PM
I can only speculate, but here goes...

The passage seems to be an example of literary paradox in that it contains mutually exclusive concepts as if they, in this instance, co-exist. This, in itself, is patently impossible in the logical, rational world, and Lovecraft uses this technique when describing R'lyeh, Cthulu's city.

"Though the latitude was only 61°, there were folds of tucks in space, and this isle was the edge of the world."

The author places the locale at a specific latitude--a "rational" location--but then tells us that there's more to it than map coordinates. He uses two terms that mean, basically, the same general thing, folds and tucks, and used in this sense it amplifies the concept--it is doubly removed by an irrational spacial involution from linear space, as we understand it.

And since there is no actual edge to the world, and yet due to the redundant involutions the skerry is there at the edge, this reinforces the idea of the paradoxical, the unattainable.

To me, the passage is why I like reading well written imaginative fiction. It's like trying to look hard are a celtic design, or to unwind the Gordian knot mentally. Quite stimulating and pleasant!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 6 November, 2018 11:45AM
Thank you very much for your help.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Avoosl Wuthoqquan (IP Logged)
Date: 7 November, 2018 03:54PM
I strongly suspect that "folds of tucks" should be "folds and tucks".

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 7 November, 2018 06:43PM
That could indeed be the case. Hard to say if one suspects the author to be of a poetic flair; e.g., I think that Dunsany *might* use the two terms as indicated, ie., "folds of tucks".

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 8 November, 2018 02:57AM
This is why I enjoy reading the Eldritch Dark forum. The interest in details and subtleties of weird phenomena in supernatural literature. Rather than just sweeping comments saying a writer is great.

Sawfish described what I had a hunch and feeling of, but couldn't quite put into words.

I have nothing to add, except perhaps try to say differently, that if only "folds" or only "tucks" had been used, then that word had been read literally in its basic materialistic meaning, no reader would have understood, because the weird would not have been implied. But by putting two words that mean essentially the same thing together the author repeats himself, thereby pointing out the difficulty of describing the strange concept in words.

Perhaps I think that more evolved experienced supernatural writers, talents like Lovecraft, C. A. Smith, or Blackwood, are better at doing it than John Buchan, by using more colorful and exact language.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 8 November, 2018 01:47PM
"Folds of tucks" or "folded tucks" sounds like a dressmaker's expression. I think the "tuck" would be the folded out flap of fabric, and the "fold of the tuck" would be the actual crease where it is folded. The outer fold or crease is a spot that might be in one sense in the middle of the dress, but in another sense on the edge it.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 8 November, 2018 02:26PM
Thanks a lot for the ideas.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 8 November, 2018 03:27PM
And thanks to you I now have a new author to consider!

I'd not heard of Buchan before, but now I see that he had a collection (Far Islands, and Other Tales of Fantasy) that, if I can find it, may be an interesting new experience.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 9 November, 2018 04:20AM
Some of Buchan´s weird/horror stories are really great, chiefy "Skule Skerry", "The Wind in the Portico", "The Green Wildebeest", "The Grove of Ashtarot" and "The Watcher by the Threshold".

They are available here:

[gutenberg.net.au]

[www.gutenberg.org]

[www.gutenberg.org]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 9 Nov 18 | 04:20AM by Minicthulhu.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 November, 2018 10:41AM
Excellent!

Thanks!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 9 November, 2018 03:05PM
John Buchan is the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, a famous thriller novel about an ordinary man who puts his country's interests before his own safety. Alfred Hitchcock made a movie based on it. It is the only of his books that I have, passed on from my father.

He also wrote No-Man's-Land, a novella about the "little people".

His outer disposition reminds me of H. P. Lovecraft. http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/f/f9/John_Buchan.jpg

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 10 November, 2018 01:20PM
One must not forget Lovecraft mentions Buchan in his "Supernatural Horror in Literature." He writes about him:

"In the novel Witch Wood John Buchan depicts with tremendous force a survival of the evil Sabbat in a lonely district of Scotland. The description of the black forest with the evil stone, and of the terrible cosmic adumbrations when the horror is finally extirpated, will repay one for wading through the very gradual action and plethora of Scottish dialect. Some of Mr. Buchan's short stories are also extremely vivid in their spectral intimations; The Green Wildebeest, a tale of African witchcraft, The Wind in the Portico, with its awakening of dead Britanno-Roman horrors, and Skule Skerry, with its touches of sub-arctic fright, being especially remarkable."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 10 November, 2018 08:28PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> John Buchan is the author of The Thirty-Nine
> Steps, a famous thriller novel about an ordinary
> man who puts his country's interests before his
> own safety. Alfred Hitchcock made a movie based on
> it. It is the only of his books that I have,
> passed on from my father.
>
> He also wrote No-Man's-Land, a novella about the
> "little people".
>
> His outer disposition reminds me of H. P.
> Lovecraft.
> [www.isfdb.org].
> jpg

You'll forgive me, I hope, if I prefer this one:

[www.vintagenovels.com]

;^)

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10 Nov 18 | 08:30PM by Sawfish.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 11 November, 2018 12:15AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> You'll forgive me, I hope, if I prefer this one:
>
> [www.vintagenovels.com]
> -john-buchan.html
>
> ;^)

Yeah, Witch Wood sounds quite interesting.
John Buchan must have been well traveled; that is an impressive looking plumage. Is it Apache?

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 November, 2018 07:57PM
I think he was an appointed functionary to some Native American tribe(s) in Canada. Appointment by the government, apparently.

So probably not Apache...

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2018 02:39AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think he was an appointed functionary to some
> Native American tribe(s) in Canada. Appointment by
> the government, apparently.
>
> So probably not Apache...

Lovecraft frequently discussed politics in-between in his letters, and Clark Ashton Smith was not completely averse to it either. John Buchan was a politician. So if there is anywhere E.D. forum members could discuss politics, I guess this thread is as suitable a place as any other. But I know how easily such discussion gets infected. Nonetheless, without getting into further and deeper arguments, I want to make it clear how very upsetting I find it what happened to the Native American Indians. Considerable sections of land should have been left alone and set off for the Natives where they were most active. I am fore a varied and multifaceted world, with respect for nations and cultures. Interchange of ideas is still perfectly possible. I am against the melting pot, and the international bankers who are behind it and enforce it.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2018 11:38AM
I respect your decision, but would like to weigh in on the side of leaving politics at the door, so to speak.

Me, I come here to get away from the unresolved rancor I find on virtually all other forums. But as I said, do as you wish--you have every right to do.

All the best.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2018 06:45AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I respect your decision, but would like to weigh
> in on the side of leaving politics at the door, so
> to speak.
>
> Me, I come here to get away from the unresolved
> rancor I find on virtually all other forums. But
> as I said, do as you wish--you have every right to
> do.
>
> All the best.


All well. I try my best to keep politics aside. It is better.

Do you know any other forums that discuss fantastic and weird fiction, which are good, or ok, that you can recommend, or at least have enjoyed earlier? For instance, I have never found a proper Lovecraft forum.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2018 08:51AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And thanks to you I now have a new author to
> consider!
>
> I'd not heard of Buchan before, but now I see that
> he had a collection (Far Islands, and Other Tales
> of Fantasy) that, if I can find it, may be an
> interesting new experience.

There has been a fairly sizeable volume collecting together the majority of his shorter supernatural tales, published in 2013. He's uneven, but quite a few are very good indeed.

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2018 11:30AM
No, and I've looked a bit for a Lovecraft site, as you mention.

Forums of all kinds are becoming increasingly adversarial. I keep moving around, trying to find a group of relatively focused, courteous commenters and this one is about as good as it gets. Because the focus is so narrow, there's relatively little traffic, but the traffic is of high quality for what amounts to a hobby forum.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

SPOLIERS!!! - Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2018 11:42AM
Yesterday I finally read Skule Skerry. I'd like to comment on it, specifically, and Buchan's style, in general (from what little I've seen). Replies are of course welcomed.

The story is a good example of a literary "joke", in that, to my reading, at least, there is no supernatural element present in the tale. It's more an observation on the power of suggestion.

It's quite atmospheric, and relatively short. If it were any longer it would lose narrative momentum and would be completely ineffective. In effect, it's a long joke, with a punchline that, if you had to read one or two more pages, would not be worth the effort.

Reading it one time, there seems to be an odd sterility in Buchan's style--he, as the authorial voice, does not, for me, at least, infuse the story with any personal emotion--and I'd contrast Lovecraft or Poe, here, as examples of deeply invested authorial voice.

Buchan is eminently competent in his technical skills, in my opinion, and this is at odds with the relative lack of effectiveness of the story, in that what he says is well stated, but he hasn't actually said much.

My opinions, only.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Skule Skerry by John Buchan
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 14 December, 2018 02:01PM
I appreciate this site steering away from political debate.

I'd have some interest in what,if anything, is known of CAS's politics; but then I would be more interested in knowing where he bought his shirts, pants, and shoes.



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