Monthly Archives: August 2022

Can Such Things Be by Ambrose Bierce

From my Notion book template

What It’s About

A collection of short stories by mysterious and cynical hall of famer Ambrose Bierce

How I Discovered It

I was originally looking up the name “Carcosa” from the series true detective, which led me to the fictional city, which was created by Bierce, and used by HP Lovecraft in a few of his stories. The “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” story was written in 1886. I came across Bierce in Florence King’s With Charity Towards None book in the 90s. I think I read The Devil’s Dictionary then too.

Thoughts

I liked it – it was very uneven with minimal editing, which made some things hard to follow, but kept a mystery around others. Bierce felt uncompelled to end things neatly which has the effect of keeping me as the reader in suspense.

What I Liked About It

I liked the genuine feeling of suspense and periodically dread. I had very little idea of where many of the stories were going – very much a random walk in a horrible place.

What I Didn’t Like About It

Sometime the editing was too minimal – events in the stories made very little sense and a lot of stuff was under introduced.

Who Would Like It?

Anyone who like HP Lovecraft

Related Books

Anything by HP Lovecraft.

Quotes

As he grew to such manhood as is attainable by a Southerner who does not care which way elections go.

and there is a graveyard that would delight a poet.

Nevertheless, there was something lacking. I had a sense of comfort, but not of security.

Unfortunately, our feelings do not always respect the law of probabilities, and to me that evening, the possible and the impossible were equally disquieting.

If there is ever sunshine I do not recall it; if there are birds they do not sing.

To each and all, the peace that was not mine.

“Because you cannot without affirming what you wish to deny, namely, intelligent cooperation among the constituent elements of the crystals. When soldiers form lines, or hollow squares, you call it reason. When wild geese in flight take the form of a letter V you say instinct. When the homogeneous atoms of a mineral, moving freely in solution, arrange themselves into shapes mathematically perfect, or particles of frozen moisture into the symmetrical and beautiful forms of snowflakes, you have nothing to say. You have not even invented a name to conceal your heroic unreason.”

I had never been invited into the machine-shop— had, indeed, been denied admittance, as had all others, with one exception, a skilled metal worker, of whom no one knew anything except that his name was Haley and his habit silence.

“Who rescued me?” “Well, if that interests you— I did.” “Thank you, Mr. Haley, and may God bless you for it. Did you rescue, also, that charming product of your skill, the automaton chess-player that murdered its inventor?” The man was silent a long time, looking away from me. Presently he turned and gravely said: “Do you know that?” “I do,” I replied; “I saw it done.”

The forest was boundless; men and the habitations of men did not exist. The universe was one primeval mystery of darkness, without form and void, himself the sole, dumb questioner of its eternal secret.

What we inherit as a superstition our barbarous ancestors must have held as a reasonable conviction. Doubtless they believed themselves justified by facts whose nature we cannot even conjecture in thinking a dead body a malign thing endowed with some strange power of mischief, with perhaps a will and a purpose to exert it.

The old belief in the malevolence of the dead body was lost from the creeds and even perished from tradition, but it left its heritage of terror, which is transmitted from generation to generation— is as much a part of us as are our blood and bones.”

I ventured faintly to remonstrate with Jo. for his unchristian spirit, but he merely explained that there was nothing about Chinamen in the New Testament, and strode away to wreak his displeasure upon his dog, which also, I suppose, the inspired scribes had overlooked.

It was as if the Old-World barbarism and the New-World civilization had reconciled their differences by the arbitration of an impartial decay— as is the way of civilizations.

They had a child which they named Joseph and dearly loved, as was then the fashion among parents in all that region.

“I have so frequently related them that nothing but observation could shake my conviction. Why, gentlemen, I have my own word for it.”

Many of the graves were sunken, from others grew sturdy pines, whose roots had committed unspeakable sin.

the place was a dishonor to the living, a calumny on the dead, a blasphemy against God.

As to John Bartine, my friend, my patient for five minutes, and— Heaven forgive me!— my victim for eternity, there is no more to say. He is buried, and his watch with him— I saw to that.

Soldiers in the intervals of battle laugh easily, and a jest in the death chamber conquers by surprise.

Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where some pompous tomb or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion.

And then I knew that these were ruins of the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.

Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the spirit Hoseib Alar Robardin.

man is like a tree: in a forest of his fellows he will grow as straight as his generic and individual nature permits; alone in the open, he yields to the deforming stresses and tortions that environ him.