The SFFaudio Podcast #725 – Prince Alberic And The Snake Lady by Vernon Lee – read by Evan Lampe. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (1 hour 35 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, and Evan Lampe.
Talked about on today’s show:
without fixing mistakes, two sessions, a damn hard book to read, mispronouncing many words, so many times, tap-es-tree not tape-ess-tree, its fantasy Jesse, you have to understand I didn’t speak to anyone until I was 22 years old, Evan is very dry, you pronounce words like someone who only gets them out of books, isolated, orgy, or-ghee, reading Hustler, is this where the orgy happens, draught is draft, still listenable, Brother And Sister by Donald E. Westlakes, Mr. Adam, Nudist Camp, the dedication, The Yellow Book, July 1896, to H.H. the Ranee Brooke of Sarawak, True Adventure, True Man, mens sweats magazines, a guy with his shirt off getting attacked by wild animals, “Weasels Tore My Flesh”, The White Raja Of Sarawak, Brunei, Indonesia, mercenary work, for about 100 years the was a royal family that was quasi-British, married to the king of Sarawak, their marriage wasn’t so great, pawned her diamond ring, married into money, Oscar Wilde, people they’re clubbing with, fin de siècle, 1890s, Violet Paget, Purple Paget, when clubbing with Oscar Wilde, what that plays into the story, related, is Vernon Lee saying don’t raise your kids badly?, the setup not the payoff, its all setting, the castle, the furniture, porphyry, nick-nacks, all setting detail, things that happed, stories within stories, the tapestry itself, the unicorn tapestries, the hunting of the unicorn, 1495-1505, Public Domain Review, monkey looking tigers, rabbits, a lot in setup like The Alchemist, Maissa is not a Lovecrafter, The Silver Key, no male will live past the age of 30, a family curse, a person alive for centuries, the setup is similar, the payoff is different, Paul, Maissa, Marissa, Terrance and Julie, very like a fairy tale, folk tales are really short, a paragraph or 6 pages, this is a novella, fairy tales vs. folk tales, folk tales written by an individual are fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, stones coming down the river forever, The Bros. Grimm, Puss In Boots is a fairy tale, psychology, Christian folktales, grandmas pass it on to grandmas, Cinderella, some folk tales are in every culture, almost based on a real tapestry, Prince Alberic And The Snake Lady, a snake lady kissing a knight, lamia, a mother of monsters sort of creature, the outside edges, John William Waterhouse, the outside edges, what’s going on in the middle, the story where the tapestry came from, a neglected locked away child, his clothes, his nurse, this is a job for me, full of image, intertwining figures, position of body parts and distances between things, rich in detail, a lonely kid locked in the basement, falls in love with the Romper Room lady, very very Biblical, the opposite Bible story, had a snake made it through to the end, the debauchery of this duke, a parallel Eden, neglect is very important, exposure to plants and animals, castle of sparkling waters, which is eden, seeing the borders, romantic couple, a functional marriage, conceptions of romance from media, romantic comedies, why the story is long, ancestry, growing up, the kid had to evolve, The Outsider as a little kid, a serpent in the Garden, the serpent has been cursed, backstory for Ladyhawke, Matthew Broderick, the Mouse, the evil church, self-narrating, adjacent to it and appreciative of it, his ancestor, recreates the attempt to free her, it fails, infidelity, outside forces, the family interference, make something of it, undergraduate essays, wholly focused on the gender identity stuff, readable into it, dressing like a man or a boy, male pseudonym, interpret the story, Victorian repression, interesting unto itself, engaging with the snake, turning Eve into the snake, Lilith, more Lilith than Eve, Princess Albercca, an Eve/Lilith story, a lot of speculation about how many lovers she had, weird dynamic, the grandfather, playing a game with his courtiers, who’s going to be the boss, to frustrate the main story, to contrast, mundanity, base and flat vs. art and literature and teaching and play, reading it subversively, does he just have a pet snake?, a fantasy figure, is he just an autodidact that imagined all that?, a weird story in the family, a problem at the end, I gotta wait ten years, fidelity for ten years to liberate the snake lady, a young man who’s gone nuts, a castle tale, he went crazy, his line is over, after that terrible storm, blows and saber cuts, rumor, I dreamt all of this, can you confirm my dream?, weird fiction done as a fairy tale, A.A. Milne’s The Green Door, a fantasy door, you look a little bit like him, the prince is dead, go off into Eden together, free from the trappings of their royal requirements, the jester, the cleric, the dwarf, the three wise men, Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe, different loyalties, the Pope, the emperor, Spain, court favourites, 1780, who is that guy in Spain who gets blamed for the decline of Spain, the target for why things go bad, cabinet shakeup, things are going to change now, is it about giving advice to the royal highness of Sarawak?, pawn your kids off to other royal people, competition, Gaspar de Guzmán (Count-Duke of Olivares), globally common in courts, some backdrop here, historical context, Alberic is distances from these figures, when they spy on him, the jester hides in a high spot, where the fall happens, like a family curse story, our viewpoint on the more interesting story, she’s half snake half fairy, folk tales, The Doll Princess aka Doll I’ The Grass, to pass the test, spin and weave and sew a shirt in one day, the skills involved are all very practical skills, fairy tales are from a class perspective, the skills of a peasant, to ride, use a weapon, farming skills, plowing skills, donkey selling skills, ventriloquism skills, he kisses her and the curse is broken, the eclipse, the right magic items, where the Mouse comes in, an evil priest, a wolf by night a falcon by day, attempt number 3?, the monks got him, lots of threes here, all rumours are always true in Lovecraft, is she ultimately dead?, sever her head from her trunk, the dead grass snake, the body of a woman naked and miserably disfigured with blows and saber cuts, slithering around with nobody, did Balthazar meet the snake lady?, what’s up with him, he’s a little suss, he hates the snake lady and he hates the devil, his duchy ends and becomes extinct, another historical process, the consolidation of states, moreover, the mosaic chapel, the rockery, the porphyry rhinoceros, certain chairs and curtains, various pieces of an extremely damaged arras, the story lives on in the furniture, the true protagonist, she grooms this boy, reading it naturalistically, friends with a grass snake, getting this stuff from the villagers, the old man, how Lovecraft did it, a tweet from the Lovecraft Bot, it’s heaven!, imprinting on whatever is there, raised by ladies with afros, white suits, watched a lot of Miami Vice, imprinting on this snake, a naked rabbit, neglect, locking away a kid, the heir, we should probably do something about that, come in and turn his TV off, Romper Room is his whole world, I don’t want to watch Newhart, I get Scooby-Doo, the Duke with his permanent youth, prince-worthy, you’re stuck with who you got, the family line going, you don’t need a family line if you’re immortal, a shocking state of neglect, rustic is the 1890s version of on the spectrum, this kid is definitely weird, he doesn’t behave normally, a wild child, a princess worthy to be his wife, to fashion his manners, the subtle things, so he knows how to have sex, break his heart, an attack, we’re going to groom him, he hates the snake and he hates the devil, change the tapestry, Alberic the Blonde, the chronicles of the crusaders, enlightened mind and delicate taste, improbably events, D&D will send you to Hell, he’s under his own curse, he cut Susanna and the elders into strips, writing distraction, a red herring, three Biblical days, the Book of Daniel, paintings of this, an approved naked lady in the pool, she’s just trying to clean herself, one of the spies from a tree, the jester!, why he cuts it up, take out the bad things, he saw the rabbit denuded, rabbits are all about fertility, you don’t need to be fertile if you’re immortal, heirs are threats, Christians and Jews, what’s in and what’s out, placed in the apocrypha, useful for edification but non-canonical, a gender reversal, to get power, explaining why the French Revolution happened, the Emperor needs to bring his rivals close to him, dukes and counts need to be brought close so they don’t rebel, then they neglect the lands that they’re from, control his kingdom better, focused on court intrigue, the traditional job of kings is to be judges, the ‘let them eat cake’ moment, let them inject insulin, the parliamentarian, that one bad senator in Arizona, meanwhile, corruption, the rustic people don’t exist in this story, 17th and 18th century states, all going bankrupt, constant war, building things, showing off their power, London after the fire of 1667, investing all this money in the grandeur of court life, state lotteries, alliances, passing troops, War of the Spanish Succession, doochy vs. duchy, most Christian king, who does he think to marry?, let some bad blood into the royal family, chemicals, bourgeois families, nobility of the rose vs. nobility of the sword, good historical context, the description of the tapestry, the only thing on his wall, the border of fruit and flowers, red, yellow, orange, even green, ghosts, indeed it was only as he grew bigger, little by little he could see them always, he closes his eyes and he can see them, imagination, memory, a remnant of redness, a knight, doing an Evan, no wig, a helmet with big plumes, bare legs a kilt and a wig, she’s having it both ways, rich reading, a thick circular garland, very lovely, a chest of drawers, so rubbed, tapestry shouldn’t get worn out like that, embraced the lady with the other arm, all about gaze, we’re looking at him looking at it and other people are looking at him, the deep depths of this story, I’m you godmother, one hour everyday, she’s immortal too, only ages while in human form?, this is what this guy looks like, little Alberic models himself on this guy, what the Duke looks like, whose thoughts are those?, an omniscient narrator, the ignorance of the characters, outsider looking at it, the very simple thing, they can’t live their own lives to be their own sexual beings, very few female characters, maybe some peasants, ten years to become a woman, as a person of value, some of that in there?, she wrote this with a pseudonym, Vernon as her name name, she lived in Italy, what else it could be, the description of her dress, so very pale and faded, the colour of moonbeams, the ladies who got out of the coaches to the court of honour, no clothes at all on their upper part, little by little, all over her bodice, we are given some colours and some words and we read in, to see her skirt, it was probably very beautiful too, the inlaid chest of drawers, a large ebony and ivory crucifix, a great deal too heavy, why is the church so heavy?, when Alberic was 11, loud talking in his dreams, this is mine now, that nice pious crucifix, he’s being stolen from, a wonderful thing, now the TV’s not blocked anymore, a walk on the terrace, she’s naked!, riveted to the grown, oh nurse dear nurse, Evan’s German girl voices, she ended off in a big snake’s tail, green and gold, the snake part, against herself against him, he’s friends with her even though she’s not friendly, holy virgin! why she’s a serpent!, he loved the beautiful lady all the more, why the knight was so very good for her, Jervas Dudley, The Tomb, The Silver Key, this biblical element, set in Europe, Luna’s not a real place, fictional France, sexualized Victorian menstruation blood, she dances with the devil [The Moon-Slave by Barry Pain], The Big Book of Classic Fantasy edited by Jeff Vandermeer, J.R.R. Tolkien is the barrier between the two, “the ultimate collection”, chronologically, the gaps can be huge, how are you picking these?, all the handwringing that goes into choosing the stories, a systematic method, there are too many stories, everything has to be published somewhere, interesting and well written and put together carefully, she has a number of other stories, from the same period, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper gets way too much attention, Herland, where to start with more Vernon Lee, so many books, novels and non-fiction, In Praise Of Old Gardens, a long list of works, 1881, novella, A Ballet Of The Nations, a goldmine, The Hidden Door, 1887, More Deadly Than The Male, W. Scott Poole, Wastelands, so very classicist, how Vernon Lee had the ability to do this, she’s not a Conan Doyle, they’re crass, rustic, a prince right in the title, hey lady, whatchu doing later?, what’s the nice lady doing?, she is also of the upper class even though she’s a snake lady, from the lower classes, these stories are read by the middle classes who are aspirant to the upper class lifestyle.