Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reading: Part de ONE

Sometimes I actually get to read things!  Actually I read a lot and much more than I post  of here, but these are some of my favorites right now, and all that I can do in chapters or sections, strung out over weeks.  Part de Two, later...

The Conan Grimoire (The Mirage Press) is top notch, with an introduction by Lin Carter, letters from REH to Clark  Ashton Smith, and various articles from AMRA, including one by John Boardman (of Diplomacy fame).  Edited by DeCamp and George Scithers, so far so good.  The book is a combination of many articles with great range, that is why I dug it out after so many years being stored away.  It has observations on Howard's style, an essay on Eddison, and so many others.  Worth more than a glimpse.  One of the essays actually gave me an idea for an REH-type adventure (Kullish), so Andy Taylor, so very busy working on some projects for me, will get another illustration list for this...  HB.  262 printed pages. 1972.  OOP.

Book of the Dead - Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers & Others (Arkham House).  Personal memories of the pulp fiction authors and editors (primarily those who wrote/worked for Weird Tales) by the famous fictioneer and pulp story historian, E. Hoffman Price.  Price met and knew all of the "Big Three" (Howard, Smith and Lovecraft) and just about everyone else from that era (Kuttner, Williamson, Bloch, Derleth, etc).  Each author gets a chapter devoted to them wherein EHP (yep that's right, he was the Evil High Priest, no, he was Buddhist, actually) delivers detailed and moving remembrances of his fellow fictioneers.  Extensive bibliography and index.  A treat, especially his noting CAS as being the best writer of the aforementioned trio (nice to know that Lovecraft and myself heartily agreed with him...). HB.  424 printed pages. 2001. Introduction by Jack Williamson.  Edited by Peter Ruber. $34.95.


Lord Ghul of Hyperborea said...

Great post, Robert. The Conan Grimoire is a pricey collector's item, so many of your readers (myself included) might not be able to spare the expense. If any of the REH letters or other observations grab your attention and are worth sharing here, please do.

The Wandering Star Books editions (now published by Del Rey) of Hoawrd's works, as edited by Louinet and Burke, I feel are the finest presentations of pure, unadulterated Howard to ever be published. I know there are fancier volumes out there, such as the leather-bound Conan Chronicles, but the Wandering Star books are the finest option for the Howard purist, particularly for their Miscellanea, Ephemera, and Appendices.

Regarding the Big Three, I have a difficult time ranking them, because although they were contemporaries, I feel they each offer something different, each being evocative of a different mood, each with his own style and pacing; subtle cross-threads and similarities amongst them.

So, as I've stated elsewhere on these webs, I favor them in order of Smith, Lovecraft, and Howard, though I can't bring myself to say 1-2-3. I prefer to think in terms of 1a, 1b, 1c. Regardless, this is a general feeling that doesn't necessarily correspond with my daily mood. Lately I've been on a Howard kick, and in the last year I've been re-reading all the Conan yarns in the order they were published (the order Wandering Star presents).

Fully realizing that I am probably preaching to the choir here at LotGD, but I sometimes find it frustrating to discuss Howard's Conan with folks whose literary tastes otherwise are similar to my own. The impression is one perhaps created by AHH-nold, but perhaps not: that of the big-dumb-brute-barbarian, but I've had compelling discussions with some who feel Conan The Barbarian (the motion picture) presents a more intelligent Cimmerian than given credit for.

Notwithstanding, at a recent holiday gathering I was in a discussion about old sci-fi, horror, and fantasy movies, when Conan was brought up, and the whole "Conan! What is best?!" line of dialog was joked over. Of course, it's a classic line, but I think it perpetuates the dumb barbarian impression.

Here is a quote from _The Servants of Bit-Yakin_ that should be noted:
...the Cimmerian drew forth the roll of parchment he had taken from the mummy and unrolled it carefully, as it seemed ready to fall to pieces with age. He scowled over the dim characters with which it was covered. In his roaming about the world the giant adventurer had picked up a wide smattering of knowledge, particularly including the speaking and reading of many alien tongues. Many a sheltered scholar would have been astonished at the Cimmerian's linguistic abilities, for he had experienced many adventures where knowledge of a strange language had meant the difference between life and death...

Rob Kuntz said...

Hey Ghul. Thanks for the box, as yet unopened. :)

Well, this was a combination post on my part--what I am reading and want to read and share. Of course I listed CG as oop, and yes it is pricey, but perhaps not for some. Mileages vary everywhere as do interests.

Note that I said that EHP notes CAS as the better "writer". Of course Carter likewise did, as do others. This has mostly to do with CAS's time proven ability to draw compelling and realistic characters with some depth of dimension to them; in turn, EHP faintly criticized his florid prose and use of antique words. That Smith crafted his prose as he did his poetry, sometimes with as many as six drafts, and then took walks while reading these aloud in his Sierran foot hills, is notable as to why it is so polished and reads so flowingly, in fact like fine poetry does.

Yes. They all have their strengths, all 3 of them, and would also rank them as you do, but fear not to say 1-2-3. Lovecraft steps up to a superior position with me in Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath where his Dunsanian influences are brightly shining, and At The Mountains of Madness is still one of my favorites combining the exploration with the mounting terror. Superb.

Howard's story vary with me. He wrote so many that I have not begun to read (and probably will not read, like his pugilistic forays and westerns included). His Kull is actually as equally appealing to me as Conan. REH influenced the Iron Golem in WG5, so what more can I add? :) But that room containing it is more CAS, and the extension, Maure Castle, is Smith and Lovecraft (via Poe) at work, as will be my Lost City of the Elders.

Rob Kuntz said...

The Conan Grimoire Link:

Book of the Dead Link: