Burroughs writes in the introduction to Man at Leisure that ‘perhaps writers are actually readers from hidden books. These books are carefully concealed and surrounded by deadly snares. It is a dangerous expedition to find one of these books and bring back a few words’
I crave the small, tactile simplicity of my new Kindle Paperwhite in its purple leather cover, which is currently home to what would make up around three boxes of physical books, but whose screen’s digital imprint is flattened of all memory and association. It’s soulless and almost weightless. On the other hand, the smug little ereader has not broken my spirit and my knees in the way that disposing of half my library has done, driving me to tears, rage and paracetamol.
If only to keep the supply of food and books flowing in, I would have to fake some sort of participation in a human environment that had never really made much sense.
Barbara Ehrenreich, Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]
Most pornography—the books discussed here cannot be excepted—points to something more general than even sexual damage. I mean the traumatic failure of modern capitalist society to provide authentic outlets for the perennial human flair for high-temperature visionary obsessions, to satisfy the appetite for exalted self-transcending modes of concentration and seriousness. The need of human beings to transcend “the personal” is no less profound than the need to be a person, an individual. But this society serves that need poorly. It provides mainly demonic vocabularies in which to situate that need and from which to initiate action and construct rites of behavior.
We lend libraries the qualities of our hopes and nightmares; we believe we understand libraries conjured up from the shadows; we think of books that we feel should exist for our pleasure, and undertake the task of inventing them unconcerned about any threat of inaccuracy or foolishness, any terror of writer’s cramp or writer’s block, any constraints of time and space.
To become wise, they would have to learn the true meaning of their own doctrines, symbols, and books, of which they at present merely know the outward form and the dead letter. They would have to form a much higher and nobler conception of God than to invest Him with the attributes of semi-animal man.
From the very existence of these books he learned one primary truth: that everything in the world was enveloped in great skeins of mystery into which one could bravely probe but which one could never fully untangle.
Jeremy P Bushnell, The Weirdness: A Novel
The Arkham Horror novella for “investigator” Silas Marsh teams up the alienated sea dog with Miskatonic University librarian Abigail Foreman. She’s in the throes of a manic episode trained on apocalyptic oracles in a sixteenth-century tome. Marsh is of course kin to the Innsmouth Marshes (of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth”), and the Deep Gate of the title unsurprisingly proves to be at Devil Reef off the Massachusetts coast.
Author Chris Jackson is an old hand at nautical storytelling and fantasy, but an admitted greenhorn when it comes to horror writing, and this experience base shows in the final product. While there are a few apt touches for purposes of horror and the yog-sothothery is all faithful enough, it’s more a quest-and-challenge sort of story than a genuinely creepy one. It is a fast read, as the books in this series generally are, and it does go a little ways to fleshing out Silas as a black sheep of the hybrid Innsmouthers.
The full-color “documentary” pages at the back of the volume show as much variety as these have in any of the other books, including correspondence, news clippings, a medical report, a scientific abstract, and a page or two from the Prophesiae Profana. The correspondence, while designed with appropriate old fonts for manual cursive and typewriting, is all anachronistically set up with headers in e-mail format: “From: … To: … Subject: …” above the body text. Also, the pages from the old tome are in English, although the story described them as being in Latin. Still, all this material does provide some entertaining supplementary perspectives on the main story, particularly the Arkham Advertiser story commending the “fine citizens” of the Marsh family.
The Silas Marsh promotional cards for Arkham Horror: The Card Game introduce this character to the game for the first time. I expect him to be fun to play, and I have already designed a deck for him to join with Ursula Downs in my first go at the latest campaign cycle The Forgotten Age.
Not only didn’t I mind Simon Callow’s Crowley, I thought Callow did a really good job … but in a crappy movie. Or, at least, I assume so. I really couldn’t watch the 2nd half of Chemical Wedding because it turned super stupid. I suppose it’s possible that the end managed to turn it around, but I gave up; and, when I talked with people that stayed for the whole thing I’m glad I left.
However, the first half really made an impression, which I was disappointed that the rest didn’t live up to. I kept thinking how interesting, as high concept, to ask what would it be like if Crowley were somehow brought back to life today. What would he say and do, and what would his personality and ideas be like, when placed within a current cultural context. What would he applaud and what would he lament and what would surprise and what would shock, anger, confuse? And what insights and breakthroughs could be made given more time in a new time?
For that matter, it’s an interesting idea which you could ask of any historical figure. Any of the historical figure re-enactments is an example of how this can be compelling. I’m thinking primarily of Holbrook’s Twain and Jenkinson’s Jefferson as these seem to be exemplars. Or, I suppose also the Riverworld stories of Farmer are also examples of this idea of moving historical figures into another context. Maybe some more good examples are the alternative history stories that come out every once in a while and even the recent trend of adding zombies or whatnot to historical literature.
Well, anyhow, I was watching the special features on Branagh’s Hamlet, and I was struck by how closely he seemed to me in some of the videos to resemble Crowley in some pictures.
Admittedly the picture of Branagh above is not the most flattering, but he’s so often smiling that it’s the best I could find on short notice to show side-by-side.
Anyhow, leaving aside the high concept of time travel and resurrection, wouldn’t it be something to see a decent period bio-pic of Crowley done with such production values and acting that someone like Branagh could bring to it? There’s certainly enough material to be interesting. Like the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton which really has only ever appeared once, and then only a short bit, in The Mountains of the Moon (which is actually a really well-done movie that I recommend); a decently done movie about Crowley, with warts and all to be sure, of course, please, but not something that is just stupid sensationalism or worse a really crappy B-grade film, would really be something to see.
Originally posted over on my personal blog at As great an actor to enact Crowley as this.