Lord Dunsany’s Book of Wonder

This collection of short stories by Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, aka Lord Dunsany, is akin to a jewel box. Each story is a brilliant, faceted gem to be enjoyed for its color, sparkle, and luster. These are not lengthy tales. These are snippets, anecdotes, oneiric snapshots of dreamscapes. It there is a throughline or theme it is the comeuppance of thieves and pilferers. But primarily it is, as the title has it, a Book of Wonder. Following are my (appropriately brief) comments on each entry.

The Bride of the Man-Horse. A fanciful romance of joy and beauty, brief and lyrical.

The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweler. Read before and reviewed here.

The House of the Sphinx. Enigmatic and evocative anecdote. Dunsany seems here to be tapping into Poe and Lovecraft across the nighted shores of time.

The Probable Adventure of the Three Literary Men. More musings on the unwisdom of thieving from great and terrible powers. Dunsany seems to have written much of this with a half-smile and tongue thrust deeply in his cheek. The sparse descriptions hint at so much yet reveal so little.

The Injudicious Prayers of Pombo the Idolator. Of the unwisdom of both excessive godsbothering and excessive impiety. Perhaps a warning to pursue moderation and eschew immoderate obsession. If one persists in pestering a passel of petty divinities, one is advised to practice the proper protocols.

The Loot of Bombarasharna. High seas adventure. Or, rather, the aftermath of prior adventures plus one last job. There is an almost Mark Twain-esque aspect to the telling: droll yet ultimately melancholy.

Miss Cubidge and the Dragon of Romance. An Edwardian fantasy, perhaps. Or maybe a description of a descent into delusion and madness. Either way, it is a lovely dream.

The Quest of the Queen’s Tears. A fair tale. Cautionary? Tragic? Semi-autobiographical? I cannot say. It does, however, constitute one of the more straightforward narratives in the collection.

The Hoard of the Gibbelins. A classic, reviewed here.

How Nuth Would have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles. A recounting of an attempted heist, featuring another of Dunsany’s burglars. Sort of a companion piece to The Distressing Tale… and Hoard of the Gibbelins.

How One Came, As Was Foretold, to the City of Never. An elevated sort of Little Nemo in Slumberland. Wonder tinged with regret and a twist that — while unexpected — supplies the perfect touch.

The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap. Of lucid dreaming and overreaching. Reality rears its pitiless head here in the Book of Wonder.

Chu-Bu and Sheemish. Always amusing. Reviewed here.

The Wonderful Window. A bittersweet, voyeuristic tale. It feels as if it must be illustrative of some epigram or axiom.

So, should you read this? Absolutely. But don’t hurry through it. Take out one gem at at a time, watch the light play through it. Savor its beauty along with a glass of your favorite beverage. An aged whiskey. A barley wine. A tawny port. Trust me, it will pair well.

Speaking of pairing books and booze, crack open a cold one and accompany it with — oh, pretty much anything I’ve written. I mean honestly, beer goes with everything. But, how about Reunion?






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