This book, along with its author and some of his equally illustrious contemporaries or near-contemporaries, represents a buried treasure-seam of literature which might immeasurably enrich our currently moribund cultural landscape, if only it were not buried, had not been ruthlessly buried alive in the first instance.As they say on the Internet, quoted for truth.
For "buried," read forgotten, marginalized, disqualified. It seems as if, with the arrival of Jane Austen on the literary map, there was a sudden and unanimous consensus reached within the critical fraternity to the effect that socially realistic parlor-dramas and sparkling comedies of manners were not merely the most lofty point to which all writings might aspire, they were the only form of writing that could be considered genuine, serious literature. Thus, at a sweep, all genre fiction and all fantasy were ruled unclean, consigned to the outlying slums and ghettos past the ivory battlements of literary respectability.
There are a few names, it is true, that have somehow survived the purge: Poe. Lovecraft (just). Maybe Bram Stoker, simply based on Dracula's enduring success. Possibly another one or two whose names evade the memory at present, which, if anything, just serves to underline the basic point: Buried. Disqualified. Forgotten.
What about Lord Dunsany, with his perfect little one- or two-page fables? What about Clark Ashton Smith, his opulent prose style, his retirement partly spent in carving pebbles into leering and fantastic demon-heads then throwing them away, perhaps to be found decades later by some stranger, who would surely marvel all their lives? What about Arthur Machen, with The Three Impostors or The Great God Pan, who joined the legendary magic brotherhood, the Golden Dawn; who saw visions of Sion rise above the wind-scoured squares and terraces of Holborn? What of M.P. Shiel, "the gem-encrusted magus," overweight and running from his health through London's twilight streets, wearing a vest of battery-driven lights to alert coachmen and pedestrians to his approaching presence? What about William Hope Hodgson?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The player of Pike in my Dwimmermount campaign passed along something interesting to me: Richard Corben did a graphic novel adaptation of William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland. I don't (yet) own this, but, having now read its introduction by Alan Moore, I plan to do so. Here's a particularly piquant part of it: