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Old 06-01-2014   #37
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ChildofOldLeech
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

It is true that Jean Ray has a large, unwieldy oeuvre, a portion of which can be more or less regarded as quick and disposable, but to my mind, to refer to the author of Malpertuis and such stories as 'St. Judas of the Night' and 'The Shadowy Street' as a mere "pulpster" is like dismissing Kimt or Schiele as nothing but purveyors of pornography. Yes, Ray wrote primarily for the pulps; such was the nature of the beast. It's worth recollecting that until relatively recently, the weird/fantastic was a medium of expression almost totally marginalized and relegated to the fringes of popular culture; to such an extent that these effects can still be felt today, in the curled lip and scornful tone of those who consider 'horror' to be a dirty word. If you've read about the old-school pulp writers, those who wrote for pennies a word to keep food on the table, will also know that by default they had to write a lot, ceaselessly, whether or not inspiration was flowing or whether necessity alone had the reins. As someone who lived and wrote thusly, of course a part of Ray's work is 'just pulp' - it could hardly be otherwise given the circumstances; however, that's only half the story. It's worth noting another writer whose creative vision forced him to play the pulp game, a certain gentleman from Providence, who was also dismissed as just another hack pulp writer. To be sure, his career was cut tragically short, and resulted in a much smaller body of work compared to Ray, but if he had continued to live and write at length, undoubtedly much would continue to be brilliant, but as for the whole. . .ah, who could say? The curse of the professional 'pulp' writer is that inevitably they write too much, as anyone who has attempted to read the complete works of the likes of a Wandrei or a Wellman, or even a visionary like Ashton Smith, can attest. And, finally, judging Ray's entire oeuvre by The Horrifying Presence would be akin to dismissing films like Brazil, Blade Runner, or Heaven's Gate based upon their studio edited versions; 'Presence' was a noble attempt, but the translation is erratic, to say the least.
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