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Old 08-30-2017   #21
Speaking Mute
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Speaking Mute View Post
If you think that the only thing separating Scooby Doo from immortal greatness is more fainting, sentimental romance, use of the word "sublime", and slowing the plot to a glacial crawl in order to praise sublime French and Italian landscapes, then Ann Radcliff is definitely the way to go.
The landscapes aspect definitely appeals, setting is one of the most important things for me. I hate the idea of Scooby Doo endings but if the castles are still real, I can make do. I read a really beautiful excerpt of her writing once.
I love the prose of authors like Tolkien, Lovecraft, Melville, Hardy etc. who develop setting and atmosphere through detailed descriptions of natural landscapes, architecture, technology etc., but Radcliffe doesn't have the knowledge and sense of phrasing or pacing to pull it off. I haven't read enough about her to know if she explicitly plagiarized other authors, but her descriptions were infamously based off of contemporary travelogues, and it gives her writing the cut and paste character you'd expect from plagiarism.

If you haven't read any of the 18th century Gothic writers, I'd recommend starting with Lewis, Waldpole, Reeve, Brown, etc. The logic, plots, and characters are on par with Radcliffe, but I think they're all far more enjoyable.
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Old 08-30-2017   #22
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Walpole's Castle Of Otranto? That book has a really bad reputation but I've heard some people recommending his comedic writing.

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Old 08-30-2017   #23
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

I might be quibbling over terms, but I think Weird Fiction has more of a "cult of history" than "obscurity". The growing interest in Belgian Fantastique, for example, seems to me to owe quite a bit to tracing back Ligotti's influences. Machen, Blackwood, and to lesser extant, M.R. James, might never have been forgotten, but it's hard for me to see how Lovecraft's popularity, and Supernatural Horror in Literature specifically, hasn't contributed to a surge in their readership. There are always fans in any form of media who look at influences, but it seems more intrinsic to Weird Fiction than other corners of genre fiction. This strikes me in keeping with what Robert Adam Gilmour said about the obscurity of being widely known but rarely read - I've seen plenty of SF fans discuss and debate the history of genre, but it never translates into a push to see more translations from earlier, non-English contributors like Yevgeny Zamyatin, J.H. Rosny, Paul Scheerbert etc. or even a prescription to read well known and available works like Mary Shelly's The Last Man. Fantasy has a little more historical depth due to the literary esteem that's been assigned to mythology and folkore, but when it comes to looking at fantasy consciously written as fantasy prior to the 20th century, there doesn't seem to be much interest.
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Old 08-30-2017   #24
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post

I've been interested in obscurity for a long time and I've done a great deal of field work in the area.
This thread is pure gold. Every third post is now going to end up as a line or image in some obscure comic book by some dutch guy with an immigrant name.

My entire life is 'field work in the area of obscurity' i guess.

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Old 08-30-2017   #25
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Walpole's Castle Of Otranto? That book has a really bad reputation but I've heard some people recommending his comedic writing.
I am among the few who like both Walpole and Radcliffe.

I've just realised I'm too hungry to write at length, so can't write what I intended. However, if you were to chance your luck with Radcliffe, I'd recommend starting with The Romance of the Forest.

Walpole is actually known (though not in horror circles) as one of the greatest letter-writers who ever lived. I recently treated myself to the Everyman edition of his Selected Letters.

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Old 08-30-2017   #26
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Walpole's Castle Of Otranto? That book has a really bad reputation but I've heard some people recommending his comedic writing.
I'd say the difference between Walpole and Radcliffe is that with Walpole you're still awake to catch all the soap opera dialogue and leaps in logic. With that warning, however, I still found the Castle of Otranto enjoyable for the same reasons that I like any of Fulci's movies; they seem to fail by any analysis of what makes a book/film good, but as a whole they hang together like bizarre dreams and seem a bit more disturbing because of it.
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Old 08-30-2017   #27
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Quote Originally Posted by rhysaurus View Post
What on earth is 'obscurity' anyway? Pramoedya Ananta Toer is almost completely unknown in the West, but he is very well known in Indonesia. Andrei Platonov has been hugely neglected in the West until recent times and yet the Russians have known for decades that he is one of the best (and strangest) writers of the 20th Century. There are tens of thousands of such examples.
...
Take the trouble to learn French or Spanish or Italian, etc, and suddenly a whole world of obscurity will become normal, accessible and available.
Even this is no guarantee. I don't know if anyone here ever visits the site of Tor books ( i try not to, because i always feel like i'm being sold books there, which is of course the case, but sometimes i succumb, as witness the following)... i read a short piece there recently by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt, in which it is claimed that there is no tradition of the supernatural or the strange in Dutch literature. In fact some of the most renowned of Dutch authors have a strong undercurrent of the otherworldly running through their work. None of the names i'll mention mean anything to most here, i presume, but here goes anyway.
There's Simon Vestdijk & Hella S. Haasse: the latter especially has written quite a few near-Gothic novels ( If i'd have to point to an Anglophone equivalent, perhaps that would be Iris Murdoch ), while the former's short stories do not shy away from supernatural happenings or atmospheres, much like F. Borderwijk's short pieces.
A century earlier Louis Couperus in his late period wrote symbolic & mildly decadent fairy tales reminescent of Wilde. There's his contemporary Arthur van Schendel whose prose, baroque and incense-scented, gleams so very uncalvinistically, and J. Slauerhoff. & if we also look at Belgian authors writing in Dutch, there's Hubert Lampo and Johan Daisne.
Granted, this is hardly a linear tradition, but these are all canonical writers ( Vestdijk is a giant) , who at one point or another did not deem it below them to adopt the techniques or approaches of the Weird.
I understand, of course, that mr. Heuvelt has books to sell, and the suggestion of uniqueness is always a welcome tool in this endeavour, so perhaps there is some measure of propaganda involved, but in any case, taking that short essay at face value, i'd say that even speaking a language, even writing in it, is no guarantee of being in any way knowledgeable about its literary tradition, apparently...

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Old 08-30-2017   #28
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Publication: The Dedalus Book of Dutch Fantasy
Publication: The Forbidden Kingdom
Title: The Hidden Force
Publication: New Worlds from the Lowlands: Fantasy and Science Fiction of Dutch and Flemish Writers
Publication: The Dedalus Book of Flemish Fantasy

Everything I could find by those writers in this database.

Should be noted that Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho has 10834 ratings and 784 reviews on goodreads. I would guess this is mainly students studying the gothic period and general classics readers.

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Old 08-31-2017   #29
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

I wouldn't think of Ann Radcliffe as obscure - she's obviously not popular in the sense of J.K. Rowling, but I think she would qualify as an author that someone well versed in English literature is supposed to at least know of in name. In terms of Gothic Fiction - and from my personal experience, there seems to be a large non-academic fan base for it - she's a canonical author.

Tying this back into the article, there's something to be said here about the idea of a canonical literature (or film, art, music etc.) Opposed to any cult of obscurity, there's a cult of canon where you're just not allowed to dislike or ignore certain works:

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Old 08-31-2017   #30
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Re: Weird Fiction and the Cult of Obscurity

Related to this discussion about foreign authors and English-speaking world, I recall one funny comment about writers like Jean Ray and Grabinski being nowadays much more well known and far more talked about among the English-speaking fans of weird and horror fiction than they are in their home countries, even though only a portion of their work is available in English translation (and in Ray's case, those translations are mostly out of print and are nowadays only available to those with sufficiently deep pockets).
Quote Originally Posted by Speaking Mute View Post
With that warning, however, I still found the Castle of Otranto enjoyable for the same reasons that I like any of Fulci's movies; they seem to fail by any analysis of what makes a book/film good, but as a whole they hang together like bizarre dreams and seem a bit more disturbing because of it.
Also, it features a giant homicidal helmet, which is not something that you're likely to encounter... well, anywhere else. So, that counts for something.
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