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Old 09-29-2016   #501
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Re: Recent Reading

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian -- Robert Howard

The first of the three volumes collecting undoctored versions of Howard's Conan tales. As I've been reading the book what I've most been struck by is how Howard's prose is often so mediocre as to be laughter-inducing, yet for all that incredibly gripping and quite fun to read. No pulp author I've read manages to be so good for being so mediocre as Robert Howard.

As a philological exercise, I've also been working my way through the original ancient Greek text of the apocryphal Book of Judith, which tells the story of how the virtuous maid Judith saves her people from the evil general Holofernes by coming onto him, getting him drunk, and beheading him when he passes out. The story is illustrated by Caravaggio in a hilarious and gruesome painting that I've always loved:



The look on the face of Judith's old nurse is too funny.

Another painting of the story that I've always loved is by Klimt:

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Old 09-29-2016   #502
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Re: Recent Reading

The earliest Conan tales were the best because there was room for experimentation. They got intolerably dull after Howard worked out a polished formula. That said, "The Tower of the Elephant" and "Queen of the Black Coast" are my favorites.

This is my life. This is my damnation. This is my only regret--that I ever was born.

-- Swans, "Beautiful Child"
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Old 09-29-2016   #503
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Re: Recent Reading

I'm an unashamed fan of Howard's sword and sorcery. I think both the early and later Conan tales are good. It was the middle period when they became formulaic and repetitive. Later on we have Queen of the Black Coast, Red Nails, Hour of the Dragon and Beyond the Black River. All strong.

I have been too dizzy and depressed to read anything new, so I am revisiting selected Lovecraft tales. The Dunwich Horror is growing on me again, although I still wish the climax were stronger.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 09-29-2016   #504
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Re: Recent Reading

Anyone think Dennis Etchison and stories like Tom Disch's "The Asian Shore" are kind of like Aickman and similar writers? I used to hear about Etchison all the time but I think it may have been years since I've seen him name dropped.

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Old 09-29-2016   #505
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Re: Recent Reading

One last word on Colin Wilson.
He had the potential for being a really good novelist but his passion for the didactic derailed this. His attempt at a Durrenmatt novel (Necessary Doubt) was less than stellar.
Quite regrettable, in my view.
Ligotti claims to being a didactic writer. I don't agree. Conrad or Hemingway (my memory is shot these days) said that a writer reveals himself with every other word. True; but that's a very different thing. Ayn Rand is a didactic writer; Lovecraft isn't.

I hear the Spider World books are pretty enjoyable though. I may check this out for myself. I really liked the guy when I was younger.
You hear it a lot, mainly from constipated American critics, that so-and-so is a writer best read when you're young. It's usually garbage. But, in the case of Wilson, I think it may be true. His work is like a tonic to young readers, bracing optimism and all that stuff.

Last edited by Druidic; 09-29-2016 at 03:54 PM..
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Old 09-29-2016   #506
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Re: Recent Reading

A lot about this dreadful subject:


Your fall should be like the fall of mountains. But I was before mountains. I was in the beginning, and shall be forever. The first and the last. The world come full circle. I am not the wheel. I am the hand that turns the wheel. I am Time, the Destroyer. I was the wind and the stars before this. Before planets. Before heaven and hell. And when all is done, I will be wind again, to blow this world as dust back into endless space. To me the coming and going of Man is as nothing.
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Old 09-29-2016   #507
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Re: Recent Reading

I think of Etchison as more of a Charles Beaumont type of writer. He wasn't as good a stylist as Beaumont--who is?--but he studied writing under the guy. Instead of Beaumont's precise and objective prose, Etchison favored a more 'poetic,' gloomily introspective style. It wouldn't surprise me though if some of his stories had a seeming kinship with Aickman. He seemed to favor a kind of ambiguity in his fiction but not nearly as extreme as you find in Aickman.
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Old 09-29-2016   #508
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Re: Recent Reading

Since I may not be that active in the future, I may as well clarify some of my thoughts on Aickman.
There are at least a half dozen stories by the guy that I really like. I've never read a bad story by him. But his stuff doesn't haunt me like the works of other writers I admire. I might go through a phase of rereading Aickman and then go about forgetting his work for a decade or so--until I either run across a story in an anthology or feel like rereading a few of my Aickman favorites. I recognize his importance and appreciate his artistry but I'm not an obsessive fan. I like him but he's not quite my cup of tea. De la Mare, however, is a different story for whatever reasons.
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Old 10-01-2016   #509
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Re: Recent Reading

Arthur Machen and Walter de la Mare are among the only writers who touch Aickman's level of quality in the arena of enigmatic, unsettling and strange supernatural fiction. They are joint second along with some others. What pips Aickman above them for me to the top spot is the consistency of his corpus in its exploration of these ideas. Walter de la Mare wrote much fewer ghostly stories in comparison, and Arthur Machen attempted wonder more than anxiety in the best stories of his later career (The Secret Glory, The Great Return, N and Opening the Door).

With Machen and de la Mare, as with Poe and Lovecraft, I tend to be somewhat selective in what I read and return to the same number of classics, whereas I can pick up an Aickman book and am guaranteed to love what I am reading. I even like Growing Boys and Pages from a Young Girl's Journal. I think only Ligotti can be deemed Aickman's equal when it comes to sheer consistency of merit throughout a weirdist's career.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 10-01-2016   #510
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Re: Recent Reading

Recently finished Operette Morali, translated by Patrick Creagh. As far as I know, this is the only English translation. It is true as Leopardi says through the voice of Parini, that readers like myself-not practiced in the art of writing-can only appreciate a fourth of his genius work (with the barrier of translation, even less). I think Leopardi is at his best in witty, ironic dialogues, as they lift his pessimism and help the bitter truth more digestible.

The translator, though, I have some issues with. Sometimes he would make apologies for Leopardi's pessimism, as this is his introduction to The Dialogue of Frederick Ruysch and his Mummies "To those who object, understandably, that this work, and particularly the great chorus, is the most wretchedly negative thing ever written, I can only offer the words of Zibaldone (259-260), used as a motto for this book."
It seems he takes pain to convey: "Yes, I know this guy is a downer and you don't like what he says at all, but look at his beautiful style!"

"So in the end it remains advisable to accept whatever comes, to behave like an inert mass even if one feels oneself being swept away, not to be lured into a single unneccesary step, to regard others with the gaze of an animal, to feel no remorse, in short to crush with one's own hand any ghost of life that subsists, that is, to intensify the final quiet of the grave still further and let nothing beyond that endure." ---Franz Kafka, Resolutions
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