Reading, Short And Deep #379
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Unseen Blushers by Alfred Bester
Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.
The Unseen Blushers was first published in Astonishing Stories, June 1942.
The SFFaudio Podcast #718 – The Sea Wolf by Jack London – read by Nick Bulka. This is a complete and unabridged reading of story (11 hours 39 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, Evan Lampe, Will Emmons, and Trish E. Matson.
Talked about on today’s show:
a psychological adventure novel, 3 episodes of Evan’s podcast, first time, a Jack London read-through, so many books, so little time, three famous famous famous novels, The Call With The Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf, such a great writer, a very interesting book, similar to Moby Dick, Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, fry-cook to sea-captain, Humphrey is like a boy, immature in very specific ways, cabin boy, made manifest, the main character is Wolf Larsen, Brewster, the destroyer, social Darwinian cul-de-sac, kill seals and die, a critic, disliked critics, the only creative force, she has a grow-up, changing characters, from a passive person to an active person, the person with the character arc is the protagonist, impressionable, sucked in by Maude, a strong magnetic charge, old voicemails, in the arguments, speaking of what Jack London really believes, a social Darwinian, an atheist, this life is all that there is, the meaning we get out of life, socialism is the only out, Evolution And Ethics by Thomas Huxley, Darwinism is right, a reality of nature, the metaphor is a garden, you’re going to end up with weeds, a gardener to weed the garden, evolutionary ethics, the weaker good things, London is somewhere there, this is the world, gilded age capitalism, The Iron Heel, he’s both characters, as a success as a writer, an article in the Atlantic about Poe, criticism can be art, who’s the most successful artist on this boat?, the hardscrabble guy, no leg up in the world, in a struggle with death, only his manly body and his manly mind, what he happened to have been given, London has read Nietzsche, a guy giving lectures all the time, gentlemen and gentlewomen, real world practical experience, he’s almost like a Conan like force, Robert E. Howard, pull-up your pants mentality, dealing with reality as a man, vital nature, romantic love, not as awesome as Jesse was expecting, falling in love with the lady on the boat, a romantic novel, a philosophical struggle with death, ultimately he goes down, the end of his life, the Charles Bronson / Christopher Reeve adaptation, music tells you how to feel, Humphrey is telling us how to feel, many conversations, presented with a very hard philosophy, wouldn’t it be nice if everybody was nice, tweeting quotes:
“You have eternal life before you. You are a millionaire in immortality, and a millionaire whose fortune cannot be lost, whose fortune is less perishable than the stars and as lasting as space or time. It is impossible for you to diminish your principal. Immortality is a thing without beginning or end. Eternity is eternity, and though you die here and now you will go on living somewhere else and hereafter. And it is all very beautiful, this shaking off of the flesh and soaring of the imprisoned spirit. Cooky cannot hurt you. He can only give you a boost on the path you eternally must tread.
“Or, if you do not wish to be boosted just yet, why not boost Cooky? According to your ideas, he, too, must be an immortal millionaire. You cannot bankrupt him. His paper will always circulate at par. You cannot diminish the length of his living by killing him, for he is without beginning or end. He’s bound to go on living, somewhere, somehow. Then boost him. Stick a knife in him and let his spirit free. As it is, it’s in a nasty prison, and you’ll do him only a kindness by breaking down the door. And who knows?—it may be a very beautiful spirit that will go soaring up into the blue from that ugly carcass. Boost him along, and I’ll promote you to his place, and he’s getting forty-five dollars a month.”
very powerful, amazing, airy fairy, following through on the conclusion, we do not like it, some alternative explanation, some outside philosophy, very hard truths, at somebody’s house, not really paying attention, so propagandized, so in their class, what can you do there?, tacit or active support for horror, where is Jack London here?, we’re in a difficult situation, steel manning the enemy argument, he cheats his way out of this book, Goliah, it isn’t an angry book, we did our best for that terrible man, he’s trying to kill them, a hard choice to return good for evil, off together married, a happy ending, convenient death, who kills Wolf Larsen?, Death kills him, Melville’s Moby Dick, a secret crew, a secret hold, a plan to fight death, amazing, I’m going to kill, the Ghost, they escape from the Ghost, seals everywhere in Heaven, sealed their fate, headaches and strokes, status quo ante, admitting to himself he loves this woman, so one sided, worshipping her, all told from one point of view, 1904, he made a good argument, this isn’t a good time for romancing, at his mercy, hey lady, he’s a really decent fellow, dissed in a review, can I choose the weapons, I choose grammar, you lose, an essential good insight into this character, Wolf Larsen’s grammar, wrestling with the works that surround him in his cabin, perfectly human, Wolf Larsen’s enemy is Wolf Larsen, there is no god, his hate is curdling inside him, making himself sick, his circumstances of his life, born to Humphrey’s station, born poor, no education, low on the totem pole, starting half-way up as a half-ass, achieving, the latest failson out of Hunter Biden’s laptop and phone, drive from beneath to succeed, there are these Humphrey Van Wydens, somehow got rich, made him a gentleman standing on deadman’s legs, a morality hidden in Wolf Larsen, for your soul’s sake, he makes a project of him, he likes the conversations, winning the arguments, he wins all of the arguments, the Robert E. Howard – Jack London connection, Conan has two fathers, the psychology behind this stuff, the answer to the riddle of steel, William Smith: not men not women not beasts can you trust in this world, steel you can trust, James Earl Jones, kills his mother, a mission to kill that guy, nailed to a tree, boy you don’t know what you’re talking, come to me my child, a scene right out of Black Seers of Yimsha (The People Of The Black Circle), these two fathers raised the boy Conan, ‘I am your father, boy’, it was steroids, you need to be challenged as a person to flourish, some pruning, you behave yourself, benign pain, become kind of a man, marriage, blow up Washington, DC and bring in a new order, White Fang, Call Of The Wild is the Conan story, a dog that’s soft that becomes hard, a free dog becoming a slave, become a wolf, a transcendence life experience, brought low, muscle, sitting around and being weak again, an island of seals, ship out on any ship in the world, stronger people, instill good values, she’s 27 she better hurry, one of the wealthiest people based on his own ability to write, makes her living based on her writing, marauding around as well as writing, drinking his way across the planet, Charmian London, we did a show on a biography of London, six movie adaptations, the 1941 movie starring Edward G. Robinson, an observing writer, for the better?, interesting, choosing to make her not a lady, some kind of convict or criminal, film is not literary, literary conversations, leaning on Milton, reign in Hell rather than serve in Heaven, less visual things, more timeless, William Shakespeare, Omar Khayiam, Ecclesiastes, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, a rich literary experience, Edgar Allan Poe, deny the connection, individualism against society, capitalist individualism, becoming socialized, interacting with indigenous people, the member of a pack, between Howard and London, Wolf Larsen is an intellectual dead end, the law of the jungle, where Van Wyden and Brewster are going, Hobbes, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, a thing that you cannot do, somehow blessed with a good brain and a strong body, the triumph of the Will (Emmons), the very materialistic, our opponent has nothing, an airy fairy liberal feeling, why it feels so one sided, intellectual rigor, I learned a lot from this hard man that is wrong and I take that into the fight against the horrors of this world, taught himself to read, his brain betrayed him, a refutation of the idea that there is or isn’t a soul, so amazing, his brother is Death, Wolf is not his name it’s his nature, what Jack London wanted people to call him, Wolf House, triumvirate of three famous books (are all about wolves), inside Jack London there were two wolves, timely and of its time, somewhat that will date this podcast, that’s what they were thinking back then, this monster of a book, Will loves this book, this romance thing is a sideshow to what the point of what the book ought to be, who is the audience for this book, the Maud and Van Wyden people, to help them digest this difficult philosophical heavy stuff going on, a lot of fiscourse, long monologues, comparing life to yeast:
“I believe that life is a mess,” he answered promptly. “It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all. What do you make of those things?”
but they have dreams, radiant flashing dreams, dreams of grub, read more Jack London, the volume on the original, oh my god it’s the character from Strong Bad: Strong Sad, dim sounding, why is this voice so familiar?, South Park, a better long running series, so of itself, so silly, Cookie, Melville?, the captain character going after God, he wears his philosophy on his sleeve, the thing Will likes, all in drawing rooms, Stranger In A Strange Land, it just becomes Ahab’s story, a mission to kill god, struggling more, avast my brother death I’m coming for your, incentivize the crew, nailing the gold coin to the mast, we’re all going to get rich, what everybody wants: more grub, very Shakespearean and experimental, literature and the meaning of life, whales! let’s talk about them, its very companionable to squeeze your friends while churning sperm, a very different love story, Queequeg would be Maud, no Starbuck here, Jack London doesn’t care about the crew, Melville cares a lot about the crew, he wrote Moby Dick as Jack London, social Darwinian theory is well developed, much more actory, bring more of yourself to Moby Dick, Maissa’s judgement, how civilization softens and ruins you, brought back to the wild to become a worthwhile person, a prison ship, a prisoner of himself, the ship being the Earth, they try to escape the ship to find their own Eden, Adam biting the apple, strange Eden, what makes me courageous is wanting to look courageous in front of my girl, clubbing seals, ready to club Larsen, violence and strength are the more important thing, my spirit will get rewarded in heaven, remaking the world, who intrudes into the garden is the holy Ghost, Lucifer, wolf a symbol for Satan?, goats, a predator danger, baddies control wolves, why wolves are bad guys, To Build A Fire, a good and different, Alaska, sea voyage, rebuilding a boat, almost science fiction space opera detail, very practical, whale geekery in Moby Dick, Trish read it in highschool, he was your Wolf Larsen, far fewer beatings, focus on moral behavior, a classic every week, for moral instruction, adopt this as your life, utterly horrific, would Humphrey survive the book?, breezed through it, coarsened and brutalized by life, from the ropes you’ve been pulling, grew the appropriate fungus on your fingernails, how dare you!, do more Jack London, a good book, one of the best novels, they make students read a lot of bad books, Charlotte’s Web, Animal Farm, Lord Of The Flies, a difficult book for humans, Hobbesian to the core, identifying with poor Piggy, look at the symbolism, his philosophy is all over the page, very implausible, earning up to that point, Buck’s story is Wolf Larsen’s story except they have primitive communism among wolves already, the idea of the lone wolf, in community, studying the differences between dogs and wolves, dogs are human oriented, wolves are pack oriented, they inform on each other, they’re on team human, “Buck did not read the newspapers”, Martin Eden, John Barleycorn, People Of The Abyss, The Road, a memoir of his hobo days, A Thousand Deaths, 1899, science fiction, The Black Cat, a guy in the water off San Fransisco Bay, an invention, revivifying people, an island in the South Pacific, like Tesla or Edison, a force field, he disintegrates the captain, it was his father, the father doesn’t recognize that it’s his son, his daddy issues, “I can kill you, dad”, the man he adopted as his Thulsa Doom father, Edgar Allan Poe’s story, an adopted name, his father Allan, I can be good, and drinks himself to death, potent writers who wrote good books, a little bit commercial, Before Adam, a prehistorical romance, those are science fiction too, racial memories of being an upright ape, almost domesticating a dog, a little bit Flintsonesy, a trace of that, the dog sees himself as a troglodyte, racial memories, on a big Bronson kick (again as usual), he always plays himself, Christopher Reeve playing a weak man, he plays dandies well, Ichabod Crane, an eastern dandy looking fellow, Lee Marvin, Ernst Borgnine, Keith Carradine, The Emperor Of The North Pole (1973), 1907, The Trail Of The Tramp, Coast To Coast, Lee Marvin playing Jack London, Emperor Norton, the hobo experience, 70s hobo movies, A Number One, Lance Henrickson plays an uncredited railroad worker, Humphrey Bogart has a cameo, that pick-pocketing this is just in the movie, a party scene, film steals from film, the writers are doing that, strange new worlds that are just Alien, they did that in Voyager, a Die Hard episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, deriving film from film, things adapted tend to be better, Arena by Fredric Brown, a Lee Marvin / Toshiro Mifune movie Hell In The Pacific (1968), Enemy Mine by Barry Longyear, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, Predator (1987), read Jesse’s essay, an episode of 30 Rock, film adaptations, 1913, an unnamed sailor, 1920, 1926, which ship starred as the Ghost, going to luff and jib and jibe, the focsle, The Cruise Of The Snark, a star on his shirt, Tales Of The Fish Police, 40 when he died, 1876-1916, he lived every year, very Wolf, kinda mean when drinking too much, BBC Radio 4 adaptation, The Cruise Of The Dazzler, The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., the movie with Oliver Reed, Evan should record the audiobook of John Barleycorn, Evan is good enough, Evan’s recording of Nudist Camp, all those Orrie Hitt, most of Orrie Hitt is public domain, Brother And Sister is coming out soon, it’s a (wrong) kissing book, cheating together, Sin Doll, sin books, Burlesque Girl, Never Cheat Alone, a writing machine that deserves more love, the white logic, why drunks in the body vs. drunk in the mind, you are just meat, Just Meat, happy going to church (they don’t need to drink, they’re drink on the lord, a Jamesian argument, a lived experience you can no longer enjoy, the noseless face, the skull behind your flesh, a different kind of good.
This unabridged reading of the story (7 hours 3 minutes) is followed by a discussion of it.
Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Connor Kaye.
Talked about on today’s show:
1907, semi-autobiographical novel, he kills himself at the end, the Lord Dunsany introduction from 1954, narrating audiobooks, a writer of note himself, surprisingly lucky in a way that Machen was not (not just being born a lord), Machen made his money as a journalist, editor, a job here and there, inheriting money from relatives, that allowed him to write, how else do you get the time to write, Lovecraft’s struggles, walking, The Silver Key, ancient Greeks and Romans, The Watcher By The Threshold, the veil, the secret world behind the veil, the colour of that world (is red), the furnace and the fire, light and colour and emotion, a very odd book, this book is a real trip, maybe Machen’s masterpiece, bigger in scope but also very intimate, take out all the parts about the struggle of writing, if condensed down, what makes it into a novel, bounced off this book, what is going on in this book, no clear plot at the start, not having anybody support that, Mark Nelson: fantastic, Mark Nelson has good taste and picks good stuff to narrate, Machen is a tough writer, he’s dense, floating on a river and sensations happen, Mrs. Gibbon and Annie were more important than we thought, the faun on the hill, by the end you understand, the first reading through, the focus is strange, Ambrose Bierce is perverse, Mark Twain, the least understandable way is the best way, this book has its own reading list, Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe, this is my guy, Poe and me are best buds, making gold out of letters on pages, even Lovecraft is easier, Lovecraft doesn’t throw us red herrings, a series of red herrings (the troubles of life), significant as a life trauma (not a plot point), incidents from Lucians life, The Cosy Room, a lot of rooms, he really knows place, exhausting your body walking and coming to a space, he can’t look at certain things in the room, the level distance from the harsh realities, I’m an alien, I’m much higher above looking down, a nice coping mechanism, boys torturing insects, they don’t feel pain anyways, the puppy torture scene, kids are like that, Out Of The Earth, bloodlust of children causing WWI, strange connections, put on the button that says “current thing”, Russians are evil now, very interesting but very difficult, get your trigger warning out, how disassociated Lucian is, I wanted to shake him, he didn’t do anything, talking about it, he has to be aloof from these things, so disconnected from what was happening around him, considering the rest of this story, he is the puppy, he feels, he is a victim, the owner of the puppy, she is the one who comforts him, the girl that becomes his religion, the puppy scene is incredible,
The leader saw the moment for his master-stroke. He slowly drew a piece of rope from his pocket.
“What do you say to that, mun? Now, Thomas Trevor! We’ll hang him over that there bough. Will that suit you, Bobby Williams?”
There was a great shriek of approval and delight. All was again bustle and animation. “I’ll tie it round his neck?” “Get out, mun, you don’t know how it be done.” “Is, I do, Charley.” “Now, let me, gwaes, now do let me.” “You be sure he won’t bite?” “He bain’t mad, be he?” “Suppose we were to tie up his mouth first?”
The puppy still fawned and curried favor, and wagged that sorry tail, and lay down crouching on one side on the ground, sad and sorry in his heart, but still with a little gleam of hope; for now and again he tried to play, and put up his face, praying with those fond, friendly eyes. And then at last his gambols and poor efforts for mercy ceased, and he lifted up his wretched voice in one long dismal whine of despair. But he licked the hand of the boy that tied the noose.
the core problem for all of us, we are the ones who inflict pain, monsters and boys, trying to be kind to everyone, in the city, that quality of generosity, the most beautiful, Annie, a servant girl, Master Lucian, when he meets her in the lane, reverse double leg cling, she caresses his head, the published book with stuff stolen from his book, once something is published, no one wants any of that, something we both do and something that we do to others, it’s amazing, here read my book, they cant see the garbage that they’ve written, they can only see , why would I bother that something isn’t published?, the worst baseball player ever, keep going johnny you can do it!, the cultural movement, late 90s, the rise of self-help, you can do anything, every person can be the best at something they are capable of being, liking to run, long legs and pain inside that can only be healed by having a gold medal around your neck, a horrible reality of the world, a coming of age story, realization of your own limitations is coming of age, a painful aspect, the pain of sexuality, the horniest boy ever, his fellow kids, him alone spinning up his own theories, lusting after almost ethereal objects, highly romantic sense of the world, working class people who don’t give a shit, let’s get trashed, the 12 year old and the 15 year old, going for long walks, idealizing women, under the surface, we don’t know him that well except where his actions bubble up against reality, there is feeling there, when he tries to share his book with people, do pretty flowers, some people are trying to help him, unwillingness to deviate, he’s gifted, he knows he’s gifted, a lot of alchemy symbolism, words are magical, the ability to provoke and control emotions, making people more subject to what they are, mostly used for evil, when he first sees that book with his stuff published in it, validated, apathetic, he’s proud of it, making it all about money, he needed the validation, a stage that a lot of authors get stuck in, the ideas are going to be stolen, Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998), you gotta sue, a Guy De Maupassant story was totally ripped-off, sold to weird tales, The Tortoise Shell Comb, An Apparition, a cavalry officer, comb my hair for me, if you were Guy De Maupassant, Banksy?, give your mom a book you wrote, a dishonesty of the known relationship, do the esoteric stuff not the commercial stuff, the anti-Edgar Rice Burroughs, kind of suceeds, it’s a victory?, a lot of Lovecraft in this character, the young writer, the particular personality type, unbending, committing to a vision, not compromising, he got that book, a funny line they always say about Lovecraft, so many beans, accentuates the victory, we can’t even read the fucking thing, and yet it’s a victory, who is it a victory for?, a victory for Lucian, overdosing on morphine, Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater, ladies of sorrow, horror movies, Suspiria (1977), a bestseller, How I Smoked Crack And Lived To Tell About It, that French guy who loved Poe, Les Fleurs Du Mal, Suspiria De Profundis, Charles Baudelaire, insight into his mind, an unreliable narrator?, he’s hiding something from us, he has the shakes, smoking a ton of tobacco, overdosed, an addict, emotionless, he probably doesn’t want to masturbate, doesn’t have the materials, burying thoughts in physical weariness, piercing his own body with burrs, a recognized mental illness symptom, cutting, hare shirts, impure thoughts, the fetish, unhealthy, complex organisms in a complex society, get a real job, follow my advice, very real, who’s to say they’re not right?, the middle road, Lucian chose complete dedication art, bending like a reed in the wind, no goals, getting you killed, going along with the current, part of the problem for individuals, living in a society with mass hysteria, why do we have to have that war on another continent, an alliance treaty with France and Russia, white chicken feathers, the current thing, almost a statement, Trevor Towers, Celephais?, sleepwalks off a cliff, a triumph but only from his point of view, capitalism’s threat: knuckle under or become homeless, peruse artistic endeavors, Machen survived where Lucian didn’t, another way he could have gone, this is what could have happened to me, idealistic, circumstances were slightly different, early 2000, Richard K. Morgan, conflict investment, Market Forces, caught up in Netflix deals, ultimately the opposite of the Stephen King/Lovecraft route, success can be something that can hurt you as well, The Bowmen, jotted off in five minutes, the Ghost of Kyiv, the Angel Of The Mons, attestations, Bryan Alexander, Colonel Tomb laughs at this from his grave, just has to be true stories, Vietnamese fighter pilot, Colonel Toon, WWII, Panfilov’s 28 Men (2016), War Thunder, how dare you say that, it’s important!, bullshit made of wholecloth, the rolling thunder of this truth being needed, if Machen had any kind of cultural impact, debunking it, it’s true that it would be good for morale, Rape Of Belgium, these brave Belgian boys, we need them to be hard done by, raped by the pre-Nazis, ginning up anger, encouraging recruitment, a fundamental lie at base, there’s a veil between reality and how we see reality, the veil is real, willful blinders, the noble lie, telling truths, from genuine situations, confabulating slightly, Philip K. Dick’s characters are autobiographical, Horselover Fat, A Scanner Darkly, putting himself on the list, sometimes we slip through, a very odd book, John Steinbeck, East Of Eden, magnum opus, frustrating and meandering, not page turners, ethereal feeling, the veil between reality, The White People, The Great God Pan, monologue about what is reality, investing the time and energy, it feels pretty long, Charles Dickens is very engaging, floating down a river, Machen loves his descriptions of nature, at the fort on the hill, descriptions of the trees and nature, crafted, did this actually happen to Machen as a boy?, ecstatic experience, on drugs, what makes you go back there, how small you are, connection, he tried it with a novel, alcohol, the invention of gin, counter-reaction, massive social impacts, China’s reaction to computer games, a three hour limit, internet games, solo game disconnected from the internet, single player games now require an internet connection, Civilization 2, Roblox, Minecraft, set in its period (late 19th century), love of literature and great texts, 18th century authors knew what was going on, Kublai Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats, knight vs. wight, Tolkien leftovers, because it’s archaic, a horny young man and an idealized woman, a femme fatale story, it destroys him, dissociates, his ideal woman, Annie as a person, as a part of his imagination, the Roman fort, being a Roman senator, the Roman temples of D.C., we are just as great (corrupt) as they were, a false reality, I’m wearing a business suit, folk horror, how women are depicted in folk horror, pagan motifs, witchcraft, blindsided, when Miss Gibbons died, a very fairy tale scene, he’s the wolf, Annie was a witch, unholy wedding, explicitly magical aspects, seduction, the magic is in the men, brain chemicals, the shapely waist, her skin, the Platonic ideal, in the air in the period, Mr. Skelmersdale In Fairyland by H.G. Wells, I’m ruined now, transformed him, it isn’t played for laughs, The New Accelerator, The Invisible Man, comic possibilities everywhere, bittersweet, a triumph as a tragedy, a silk purse of a sow’s ear, lemonade from lemons, the slippery idea of the ideal world or woman, when we read Lovecraft that’s the absent part, Edgar Allan Poe, the ideal woman is the dead woman, she can never be limited by reality (growing old, not being smart enough, fighting), the Baudelaire way, beautiful cruelty, life is cruel, damaged people managing their trauma (in ways other than alcohol), a moment later, joy and happiness, drunk on love, bronze hair, come for a walk with me, a statue, very Greek, his visions, there was death in the woman’s face, she had indeed, the brink of utter desolation, a sex scene too, the carpet matches the drapes, a very sexual novel for a guy who’s so chaste, he falls asleep on the hill, none of them are real and all of them are, is this kid mentally ill?, the end of Dagon, he’s seeing the thing he’s fearful of in himself and not recognizing it, a troubled kid, maybe it’s like he has down syndrome or he’s autistic, kindness, the world is retarded and not him, he’s so extreme in his uncompromisingness, expressed as greatness, isolation, pushes him to the brink, again he was astray in the mist, splendid as Rome, terrible as Babylon, the place of eternal gloom, ring within ring, circle within circle, high writing, the sanctuary of the infernal right, wresting, muscles that could throw down mountains, a flaring street, naphtha fires, pure poetry, dusky figures, a noise like a chant of the lost, orgy, bronze hair, a gulf of darkness, all symbolism, precious robes, the room!, a vapour of the grave, horrible caresses, the matted thicket, the desire rose up like a black smoke, amazing, she lures him, he forces himself upon her, she turns into a very bad trip, exaltation to pain and torture, the elm tree was riven, Lucian is a good name, the tumult and the shock came as a sudden murmur, he overdosed, is he chasing the dragon?, are all of these dreams on the hill?, his dependence on tobacco, a symbol for a later addiction, walking to get rid of his energy, thick black tobacco to cloud his mind, he chases her across a landscape that is not a city, a difficult triumph, no one else is wealthier for it, a vast silence overwhelmed him, Ex Oblivione, dissolving into the Realm of the Forms, a temporary escape from reincarnation, The Novel Of The White Powder, going to seed or dissolution, a continuous issue, Lovecraft was a teetotaler, the other way you can go, morphine?, The Green Meadow, ecstatic states, walking to exhaustion, a difficult topic, there’s truth everywhere in it, sloppy racism, the primitives being in touch with sensations and sense, barbarian hating civilization, Robert E. Howard, nine times, barbarians, pleasantly, prigs perfected, joyous manly young fellows, raped?, devious backstreets, the respectable inhabitants are barbarians, The Lost Club, a Weird Tales reprint, The Lost Room by Fitz James O’Brien, places that go missing, The Music Of Erich Zann, The Lost Street [by ], a strange experience, experiencing weirdness, N, a more definite divide between fantasy and reality, a magical world intruding upon London, The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany, does he go through it?, Golden Dragon City, Game Of Thrones, the only guy with HBO in 1902, Dunsany had it much easier, a crazy man confronts Dunsany in a restaurant, I just make them up you see, the story that is described is one Dunsany wrote, as extreme as Dunsany gets, not quite on the level of Guy de Maupassant, rigid principles, flowery words and a suit, a lifestyle that could so endanger them, is N unfinished?, a warning story, prurient interest in seeing how far one can descend, reality TV shows, I’m not that depraved, morbid curiosity, not edifying curiosity, The Cosy Room And Others, Hippocampus Press, The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft, nothing of Lovecraft is copyrighted, you don’t know how many letters he wrote where he put a poem in for a newborn baby’s birthday, so nested and so rich with vocabulary, a werewolf story, Psychopompos, exhausting a sonnet, more time invested in reading Clark Ashton Smith is a good thing, if this is Machen’s worst I want to read more, difficult, The Shining Pyramid, tiny details that fly by, The Unknown World, May 15 – June 15, 1895, Robert E. Howard wrote way more than H.P. Lovecraft did, the vastness of his other work, popular for his supernatural stories, Robert W. Chambers flips a switch, the opposite of what Lucian does, The Secret Glory, The Three Impostors, a fix-up, chasin a dragon out of the window, spent it all on insane asylums, The Horla, Maupassant rented a hot air balloon to promote a book, before airplanes, The Troop by Nick Cutter, trained up and fought a poet to promote his book, Uwe Boll, Ed Wood, completely talentless, maybe he just got past it, self-awareness is a stumbling block, Ed Wood (1994), found family, he has an eye and no talent, as innocent as a war veteran could be, a go getter, $5, Golan Globus Theatre podcast, the Tijuana Bible, historical records we need to have preserved, what Julian needed (was printed pornography), Conquering Goddess, it needs to be fully illustrated, BDSM, Robert E. Howard, nudy pulps before Playboy, the first Playboy with Marilyn Monroe, weird repression, Penthouse, happening but hidden away, human nature never changes, more evidence that this is how we have always been, embarrassing, left out in the woods, pre-WWII, this is somebody’s great grandma, challenged one of his critics to a boxing match, if he won the boxing match, you won the fight therefore, dueling, humour was our way of escaping bullies, laughter is disarming, intellectual overpowering, more than halfway through (life), a very thinly veiled autobiography, drawing on his own experience, a lot of philosophy, writerly philosophy, more about writing than it is about mysticism, why Maupassant wrote weird fiction, Maupassant’s career, A Piece Of String, A Ball Of Fat, a Star Trek episode [The Galileo Seven], hypocrisy, my servants are stealing from me, I am my servant, these terrible experiences he must relate, very healthily not on Twitter, No Man’s Land by John Buchan, Esteban Maroto, Australian youtube audiobook narrator, Steve Parker audiobooks, simple guy: likes audiobooks, iPads, Randall’s Round, you should always record, The Wind In The Portico, The Temple Of Death by A.C. Benson, 23 temples, spread out the Buchan, doing the same authors but not back to back, The Horror Horn by E.F. Benson, a yeti story in Switzerland, The Inn by Guy De Maupassant, the horror of being alone, afraid of a lot of stuff, The Terror, Who Knows?, the little shop dwarf, his homunculus, “oh monsieur, all your furniture is gone”, this is alarming, the furniture is the faculties of his mind, all metaphorical, symbolist, a good discussion of a complex book.
C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius and Reluctant Prophet
By Alister E. McGrath; Read by Robin Sachs
13 hours 56 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Oasis Audio
Themes: / biography / religion / fantasy / medieval literature
Before setting out on this review, I must apologize for the liberal use of the first-person pronoun, which I normally use sparingly. This book intersects my personal and professional interests at several points, so I’m not even going to attempt an objective, impartial review, if such a thing is even possible. I am, as Lewis was, a student of medieval literature, though I can only dream of reaching his depth of knowledge and scope of imagination in this field. Furthermore, I undertook part of my studies at Oxford University, which was home to Lewis for much of his life. The City of Dreaming Spires, as Matthew Arnold called it, exerted a profound influence on Lewis’s life and work, and having walked its winding cobbled streets and ancient quadrangles it’s easy to understand why. Last, but certainly not least, Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia had a profound impact on my intellectual and imaginative development as a child. In this I suspect I’m not alone, and I hope this review will encourage readers to learn more about the life and mind behind one of the wellsprings of modern fantasy.
Before discussing the biography itself, I should say something of its author. Though currently Professor of Theology at King’s College, London, McGrath’s previous post was in Oxford, where I had heard his name spoken with a great deal of respect while I was there. The biography lists ever so slightly in the direction of Christianity, reflecting its author’s background in theology and apologetics, but on the whole it’s a balanced work firmly grounded in scholarly research of Lewis’s works and correspondence. The biography, of course, deals extensively with Lewis’s religious and spiritual development so central in his life and work, but the work by no means white-washes Lewis’s life or even his faith. This audio recording is preceded by an interview with McGrath, whose calm, measured voice assures us as listeners that we’re chosen a trustworthy guide down the path of Lewis’s life.
Like most biographers, McGrath takes a strictly chronological approach, with very few detours either to backtrack or to foreshadow. The narrative takes us through Lewis’s birth and childhood in Northern Ireland, through his lengthy tenure at Osxford University, to his final years as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge. The biography strikes a delicate balance between Lewis’s rich inner life as reflected in his writings and his sometimes tumultuous outer. In the former case, McGrath devotes considerable space to Lewis’s conversion experience and subsequent development of his spirituality. As an academic, I was also pleased that Lewis’s scholarly works, notably on Edmund Spender’s Faerie Queene and Milton’s Paradise Lost, receive some attention. In regards to Lewis’s personal life, the biography charts Lewis’s many professional disappointments resulting from his popular religious work and the rift that formed between Lewis and other Oxford academics. Lewis’s relationships also receive some attention, in particular his long-running peculiar arrangement with the older Mrs. Moore and his controversial marriage to Joy Davidman. Of course, there is significant interplay between Lewis’s inner and outer lives, and McGrath expertly weaves these strands together to illustrate how one sometimes influenced the other. The book concludes by reflecting on the rise of Lewis’s reputation in various circles, religious and popular, after his death in 1963.
Two whole chapters are dedicated to Lewis’s development of The Chronicles of Narnia. McGrath packs a lot of material into these relatively few pages, from Narnia’s inception in Lewis’s mind, to the debate over the proper reading order of the books (Lewis’s ordering, order of publication, or internal chronology), to the works’ modern reception, especially Philip Pullman’s criticism. This section also manages to delve a little deeper, too, highlighting the philosophical and theological underpinnings of this imaginative, not imaginary, world. McGrath deals with the question of whether Narnia is an allegory, and also links the work to Plato’s Republic and the allegory of shadows in the cave. Obviously this is a lot of topics to cram into so little space, and I would have liked a more thorough treatment, but to be fair this is a biography, not a work of literary criticism. McGrath has promised a fuller, more scholarly edition of this book in the near future, which will likely feature copious footnotes providing a wonderful paper trail for the Narnia enthusiast eager to learn more. SFFaudio readers should also note that Lewis’s lesser-known Space Trilogy also receives brief treatment in this biography.
Though built on academic bedrock, C.S. Lewis: A Life is written in a lively, accessible style. McGrath uses Lewis’s own words, or the words of his associates, when possible, which imbues the book with a sense of immediacy and authenticity to the work. I sometimes felt as though I were in the room with Lewis, Tolkien, and the other Inklings as they discussed important religious, mythological, and literary matters. Like Lewis himself, McGrath also has a way of explaining complex intellectual and theological matters in a way that an average reader like me can understand. This is, in my view, the hallmark of any solid intellectual or literary biography. My only criticism of the book, and it’s a trifling one, is that McGrath hardly even alludes to any sexual relations between Lewis and Mrs. Moore, or later between Lewis and Joy Davidman, even though it’s obvious there was some sort of sexual element to these relationships. Perhaps McGrath found this matter distasteful, or thought the book’s Christian readers would. In any case, this omission is to me the one glaring lacuna in an otherwise thorough life story.
Robin Sachs’s stately narration lends the perfect air of British respectability to the audio edition. His pronunciation of some of the book’s more arcane linguistic and literary terms are, for the most part, spot on. As mentioned earlier, the inclusion of an interview with Alister McGrath, is a welcome addition, and provides additional insights into an already insightful work. Another minor quibble: I feel the interview should have been included at the end of the audiobook, rather than the beginning. I prefer to go into a book unbiased by the author’s later thoughts on the book. Again, though, this quibble is very minor. What does conclude the audiobook, however, is an amazing recording of Lewis at his deep-timbres lecturing finest.
There are certainly many other windows into the lives of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other Inklings. Despite the influence of these authors on my own life, I have to admit I have not read most of these other works. So I’m very glad that one of the first I’ve read has proved to be such an enlightening and entertaining journey, (mostly) free from the partisanship and polarity that plague some biographies of relatively recent figures. I can’t think of many readers who wouldn’t benefit from or at least be entertained by Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life.
Posted by Seth Wilson
Filled with a mournful o’er-brimming of incomprehensible beauty John Milton’s poem Lycidas likely inspired the titles of John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up and Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore’s Two-Handed Engine.
The complete text, with annotations, is available HERE.
[via Eighteenth Century Audio]
Posted by Jesse Willis