Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Albert Camus ("The Stranger"). Jean-Paul Sartre (Author of "Existentialism and Humanism"). Simone de Beauvoir ("She Came to Stay"). They are considered the leading French--if not the worldwide--proponents of existentialism. It's a big word that means, in essence, that to truly be free one kill their conscience; that one should act without fear of moral consequences.
Robert Smith, lead singer of The Cure, was greatly influenced by them. His song "Killing an Arab" was based on "The Stranger" and he stated that he read Sartre in the original French when in high school. It's believe that "Six Different Ways" by The Cure (Head on the Door Album) is about "The Dice Man" and it would seem to fit given Robert Smith's penchant for existentialism. See my Cure blog -- Disintegration Nation.
That's all fine and good, but where does that leave "The Dice Man"? The 1971 cult novel emulates these existential heroes by introducing readers to Dr. Luke Rhinehart, a fictional character (we think) who just happens to have the same name as the author of the novel. Hoomph. George Crockcroft is real name of the author and Luke Rhinehart is his penname, which makes tongue-in-cheek sense. Crockcroft sounds more like a penname or perhaps if you last name is Crockcroft you need a penname.
Dr. Rhinehart adopts the dicelifestyle by doing what a roll of dice tells him to do without regard to morality or social outcome. The protagonist tells readers: "The secret of the successful dicelife is to be a puppet on the strings of the die." We are told to "Create the options. Shake the dice. All else is nonsense."
If you are into existentialism or even nihilism, The Dice Man is for you. If not, the novel can drag over close to 600 pages and doesn't have the plotted storyline one might expect for a novel this size.
Andrew Barger author of The Divine Dantes trilogy.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
In 1848 Alexandre Dumas published "The Vampire of Carpathian Mountains" (also called "The Pale Lady") in his French short story collection One Thousand and One Ghosts. It is a fantastic book that contains some of the best supernatural tales Dumas ever penned. If you have at least a reading knowledge of the French language, it is well worth the effort of flagging it down on Gutenberg.org or some other site.
Of course if your French needs a bit of a refresher from high school, it becomes a more difficult task. This is especially true of Dumas's signature horror tale: "The Vampire of Carpathian Mountains". When BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849 was compiled, I included a 1848 translation of the Dumas vampire story from the London New Monthly Magazine. It was the rag, after all, that printed John Polidori's "The Vampyre" in 1819, which is also contained in my collection and is considered the first vampire short story to originate in the English language. So I figured the New Monthly Magazine knew a thing or two about vampire stories and would give the English translation the attention it rightly deserved.
Only after I published the classic vampire anthology did I realize I was wrong. It was brought to my attention that the original French version by Dumas included a poem that was nowhere to be found in English translation by theNew Monthly Magazine. Not only that, but the ending seemed rushed. I turned paler than a person under the throes of vampirism. I had done what is a no-no for one of my collections--I had published an abridged version of a classic short story and fallen victim the horrible magazine practice of trying to save space on the printed page.
With the aid of a translator in Montreal and a little help from online translators, I went to work. A month later I had in front of me an English translation of The Vampire of the Carpathian Mountains in a form that is much closer to what Dumas originally intended. I immediately updated the ebook versions of the collection and they are live now with the non-abridged story. I hope you enjoy it and forgive my faux pas.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
T. S. Eliot
The routine and regimented ways in which to write a T. S. Eliot poem in 10 easy steps are as follows, ahem:
1. Come upon a cute turn of phrase,
2. Pen a rambunctious title loosely related to said turn of phrase,
3. Thumb the pages of Dante and pluck out an epigraph (preferably in the original Italian),
4. Insert said epigraph beneath said title,
5. Write slapdash quatrains,
6. Insert said turn of phrase at a random place in said quatrains,
7. Run the occasional line of said quatrains onto the next line,
8. Allude to a Bible verse (preferably the Old Testament),
9. Add italics to random words, and
10. Tell short tales within the poem that have no connection to the others.
Eliot is said to have ushered in the modernist movement in poetry. That is to say he largely did away with rhyming and sentimentality employed by the Victorians. He painted a dying world in the relatively few poems he gave us. "The Waste Land" is considered his best--perhaps because it is his longest. "The Hollow Men," however, shines brightest with its Shakespearean and Heart of Darkness references. A number of songs have been written about Eliot's poems and the famous play Cats was based on his Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Afternoons and Coffeespoons" Crash Test Dummies God Shuffled His Feet 1993
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Creep" Radiohead Pablo Honey 1993
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" “Peaches” The Presidents of the United States of America Presidents of the United States of America 1995
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" “The Message” Grand Master Flash The Message 1982
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Thick as a Brick" Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick 1972
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats Cats Musical Andrew Lloyd Webber
"The Wasteland" "The First Day of Spring" Noah and the Whale
"The Wasteland" “Wasteland” Dan Bern Dan Bern 1993
Meh is how I would sum up the body of poetry Eliot left us. It certainly pails in scope and impact to the poems of Edgar Allan Poe. One has to wonder if he would be known at all without the litter of jellicle cat poems he penned, had more than nine lives on the West End and Broadway.