MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD GAVIN

“It is only proper for a man to taste misery in his thirty-third year, Nathaniel decided. While waiting in the airport lounge Nathaniel realized that, in some small way, he was approaching his own customized Golgotha. Though he doubted that the effects of his journey would ever equal those of the messiah, he nonetheless found himself wondering whether Venice would bring him peace or a sword.”
—‘Strange Advances’ by Richard Gavin

Omens[Hardcover]Richard Gavin- Omens is a collection of twelve haunting tales by Richard Gavin, whose work is reminiscent of the subtle supernatural tales of Robert Aickman, and also of the eerie and unsettling tales of Thomas Ligotti. — I like collections. I think the short story format can, when done well, offer variety and freshness, that can sometimes be hard to sustain over the course of a novel. Some of our most acclaimed writers, those who remain relevant generations on, Poe, Lovecrat, Howard, etc., do so because of their short stories. Because of their ability to in scant words get to the heart of a story and of ourselves. Richard Gavin does that in these stories, that while it has beeen alluded to Aickman or Ligotti, the stories are more visceral than Aickman and more satisfying than Ligotti, are uniquely Richard Gavin.

 

If you’ve been coming to this blog in the last month you can not help but see how enamored I have been with Richard Gavin’s short story collection, OMENS. His Sophomore collection, the 2nd in now four collections, was my introduction to the writer. Based on the strength of which, all of the writer’s works are now on my radar.

Whether it’s the Gothic meets ghostly underpinnings of ‘Pale Lover’ or the implacable, creeping horror of “The Bellman’s Way” or subtle and sumptuous tales of the existential and the lost such as ‘Strange Advances” you will find it all in Gavin’s OMENS. But mostly you will find a use of language that cradles you like a lover, before riding you like a fiend.

And this writer of the strange and the dessicated and the boundless loss, was kind enough to consent to some words and some time. The reason I do this MONARCHS OF MAYHEM segment is because I think it is endlessly fascinating not just how the most imaginative people think, and their loves, and influences, and challenges, but the differences in their views and passions when contrasted with their peers. Richard Gavin brings a rich, depth to his responses that I think will both enrich and enliven you, as much as it did me. Again it comes down to that term, endlessly fascinating, and Richard Gavin… is that. Enjoy.

MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD GAVIN

HT: We’ll start with an easy one. What is your favorite genre or genres?

RG: The Gothic and weird strains of the Horror genre, followed closely by 19th century Decadent literature.

[for those of you like me who want to read more about 19th century decadent literature, this GUARDIAN article and the comments are intriguing.]

HT: What is the favorite thing you’ve written (both long form (novel) and short form (short story) and feel free to do detail and discuss why if you choose)?

RG: Probably my novella THE ELDRITCH FAITH, which will be published in my forthcoming collection. I consider it a very “pure” work because it was written with no public considerations whatsoever. I wrote it for myself.

It’s a 25,000-word meditation on a nightmarish reality. Consequently, some readers may roll their eyes and dismiss THE ELDRITCH FAITH as an over-the-top mood piece, but so be it.

HT: Name 5 classic or genre writers who inspire or impress or influence you?

RG: I will cheat a little here by listing five authors from history and five contemporary ones:

Past masters: Algernon Blackwood, Hanns Heinz Ewers, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Comte de Lautréamont.

Maldoror and the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautréamont

André Breton wrote that Maldoror is “the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential.” Little is known about its pseudonymous author aside from his real name (Isidore Ducasse), birth in Uruguay (1846), and early death in Paris (1870). Lautréamont’s writings bewildered his contemporaries but the Surrealists modeled their efforts after his lawless black humor and poetic leaps of logic, exemplified by the oft-quoted slogan, “As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!” Maldoror’s shocked first publisher refused to bind the sheets of the original edition… and perhaps no better invitation exists to this book which warns the reader, “Only the few may relish this bitter fruit without danger.” This is the only complete annotated collection of Lautréamont’s writings available in English, in a superior translation.

“Lautréamont’s style is hallucinatory, visionary… this new fluent translation makes clear its poetic texture and what may be termed its subversive attraction.” — New York Times

“Alexis Lykiard’s translation is both subtle and earthy… this is the best translation now available.” — Washington Post Book World

Contemporary masters: Thomas Ligotti, Clive Barker, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell, and Caitlin R. Kiernan.

HT: Name some current or new writers, whose work you’ve recently read or discovered and blew you away.

RG: In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I am irritatingly picky when it comes to modern fiction, genre or otherwise. I read very little of it because a lot of contemporary writing leaves me cold for various reasons; the most common being lifeless, pedestrian prose. The modern writers I mentioned in question number three are ones I consider exceptions because they produce daring visions and, more importantly, unique and rich language.

Many current writers seem too plot-minded. Atmosphere and startling word-selection take a back seat to rollicking story-lines, or worse still, to postmodern genre mash-ups (werewolf detectives, love-starved vampire spies, etc.) I’ve spoken to a lot of genre writers who believe that unusual words (by which I mean words that one might not use in the course of everyday conversation) are simply pretentious, silly, or are distractions from what must always be a rip-roarin’ read. None of this resonates with me. My tastes run to the Decadent and the grotesque and the weird, to fiction that doesn’t read like fiction but rather like a lost account of some truly awesome occurrence.

Beneath The Surface

Nightingale Songs

Bearing all this preamble in mind, I would say that Simon Strantzas is a writer who with each passing year needs less of an introduction to readers who love moody, enigmatic short stories. Laird Barron creates Horror fiction that is deeply atmospheric and genuinely frightening. I’ve also been delighted by the extraordinary work I’ve read from Livia Llewellyn, Daniel Mills, and Orrin Grey.


Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors

HT: Going along with the above, name an author(s) (either new or old) who you think does not get the attention they deserve, and everyone should be reading.

RG: There are plenty of writers who are now all but forgotten because their work is no longer en vogue. On the one hand this is sad, but on the other hand, for the die-hard connoisseur there is a singular joy to digging into the genre’s past and “unearthing” these obscure writers. It’s akin to wandering in a foreign land and suddenly encountering someone who speaks your language. Such discoveries keep people seeking for rarer and rarer treasures, so I’ll leave the reader to unearth these old companions on their own. Obscurity in the contemporary field, however, is a different animal. This kind of attention-deficit can do real harm to a writer’s sense of self-worth. I know a little something of this myself. One current writer whose work is criminally overlooked is Matt Cardin. His short stories and essays are superb examples of the kind of thoughtful, deeply textured Horror that I personally love. Matt’s collection DARK AWAKENINGS was one of the best I’ve read in years.

Dark Awakenings

Revenants

HT: Name 2 or 3 of your favorite horror, fantasy, genre, etc., short stories

RG: “Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror” by Thomas Ligotti, “The Hound” by H.P. Lovecraft, “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood.

[ The wonderful folks at Lovecraftzine have an audio reading of 'The Hound". Swing by and give a listen here.]

HT: Anthologies are usually theme based, so you have your Poe anthologies, or Lovecraft etc. If you could do a short story for such an anthology, if you could decide/choose, what would the anthology be about.

RG:I would love to see a hefty anthology that features not short stories, but accounts from various writers, past and present, detailing their most vivid, unworldly nightmares. It would be a kind of frightening and intimate dream journal, but by many dreamers instead of one.

HT: Name 5 Favorite films, horror or otherwise.

RG: I’ll squeeze in six titles if I may. Films that have had a lasting impact on me are BEYOND DREAM’S DOOR, BORN OF FIRE, DIVINE HORSEMEN: THE LIVING GODS OF HAITI, ROSEMARY’S BABY, MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN, and Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR.

Divine Horsemen:The Living Gods of Haiti: A Film by Maya Deren

Beyond Dream’s Door (Special Edition)

Vampyr (The Criterion Collection)

HT: What do you think can or should be done to get more writers producing genre fiction, and more importantly to get more of the public reading genre fiction

RG: Nothing whatsoever. In fact, I don’t want ANY writers producing genre fiction. This may sound hypocritical coming from a writer who has always identified himself as a Horror writer, but the Horror fiction that is most valuable to me is the kind born of Horror writers, not of writers who sometimes wrote Horror as a mere literary convention.

The Horror-as-genre mentality creates a very tepid construct, one that overflows with cliches and stock images. A great deal of Horror is unreadable to me because I can tell when it’s been written by a jack/jill-of-all-trades writer who paid a quick visit to that dark country for whatever reason (to amuse themselves, there was an open market, they just need to write every day, etc.). They write something “scary” (often
trying to achieve little else) and then they leap back to space operas or social realism or dragon fantasies or what have you. It’s all just genre-jumping. Many writers are praised as being diverse for doing this,
but I don’t care about diversity. I want a singular vision. I don’t want to hear from the tourists of Horror who found the setting strange or quaint. I want to hear from the lifelong residents, the ones who were born there.

Personally, I don’t toy with genre elements or try my hand at dozens of styles as a creative exercise. When I write, I am conveying reality as a I see it. Period. Yes, of course there are obvious dramatic embellishments, and yes, I have the same drudgery in my day-to-day routine as you do, but ultimately I view the world through a glass darkly, if you will. For as long as I can remember, my psyche has resided in the Underworld. I’m quite happy this way. My stories are a manner of “dramatic footnote” to my life experiences; a more public communication perhaps, but not fundamentally different from the diaries and dream journals I keep.

I never try to “write dark.” I experience the world in a Gothic manner and I write what I find moving and beautiful and eerie. Therefore, the writers with which I feel the strongest resonance are the ones who spent their lives conveying *their* vision of reality — Lovecraft, Baudelaire, Ewers, Maupassant, Ligotti, et. al. Thomas Ligotti once referred to these writers as “mutants,” which is as good a description as any. I don’t care if your personal vision is scary or not. Just don’t be ordinary.

The Nightmare Factory

Of course this is not the best stance to adopt if one hopes to strike it rich as a Name Author. The less conventional your fiction, the greater your chances of professional disaster and heartache. But I honestly have no interest in producing fiction simply to entertain. There should be engagement and pleasure, yes, but not pat amusement. If there’s no fire behind the story, I simply won’t write it.

In short: I’m glad I have a day job.

HT: While book sales have been steadily declining, specialty presses such as subterranean and centipede press continue to sell out of their lavishly illustrated, high quality tomes/reissues of writers of weird fiction. Proving that even in the age of ebooks there is an un-lessened demand for collectible books with spot illustrations and art-books.

So keeping this in mind a/what are some of your favorite book covers and b/what artist would you like to do a cover and spot illustrations for one of your books?

RG: I’ve been extremely fortunate as far as cover art goes. My books have been graced by the work of two of my favourite contemporary artists: Harry O.Morris and J.K. Potter. Harry has actually done two of my books and we just may be pairing up yet again in the near future.

In terms of other artists, I’d love to collaborate with the American baroque painter Michael Hussar one day. His work is stunning and I think we share a similar aesthetic.

HT: And finally in closing with less than 9 months left in 2012, a/What can we look forward to from you this year and b/what are you looking forward to this year(could be anything, your call)?

RG: This fall Hippocampus Press will release AT FEAR’S ALTAR, my fourth full-length collection of fiction. The book is being edited and Introduced by the preeminent weird fiction scholar and critic S.T. Joshi. To be working with S.T. is definitely a watershed moment for this writer.

I’ve stories coming out in the Lovecraftian anthology AKLONOMICON, a Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology called THE GRIMSCRIBE’S PUPPETS, and another entitled SEASONS IN CARCOSA, which is an anthology of stories set in the
mythos of Robert W. Chambers’s THE KING IN YELLOW.

[Go here to read the writer who influenced Lovecraft or buy the books here: The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories

The King in Yellow (Mystery & Supernatural) ]

There are a few other pieces in-progress, but I’m a very slow writer, so I don’t think there will be much more to add to the list for this year. Anyone who is interested in my comings and goings can visit my website at www.richardgavin.net.

Thanks for letting me blather on like this.

Charnel Wine – Memento Mori Edition

Omens

The Darkly Splendid Realm


I want to thank Richard Gavin first for his time, and second for the depth and richness of his responses. He has given me and, I believe. you dear reader… much to explore, to discover, to enjoy. Pay it forward by running out and supporting the writer’s past and upcoming books (definitely frequent his website as his upcoming work isn’t on Amazon yet, so keep checking his website), and feel free to use the attached links and treat yourself to books and films and the languid fictions that this week’s Monarch of Mayhem recommends.

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

So I just received in the mail, the now Out of Print, Subterranean Press’ 2011 HC edition of GRIMSCRIBE. Now I own the original 1991 Carroll & Graf edition, but my interest was piqued by the sold out nature of previous Subterranean Press editions, the wonderful cover art as well as the description of their Grimscribe edition as being revised and definitive.

Here’s the description:

“Grimscribe
by Thomas Ligotti

Dust jacket by Aeron Alfrey.

Limited: (sold out)
Trade: (sold out)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-409-6

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works is the second volume in a series of revised, definitive editions of the horror story collections of Thomas Ligotti. First published in 1991 by Carroll & Graf in the United States and Robinson Publishing in England, Grimscribe garnered significantly more recognition than Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which was issued two years earlier by the same publishers.”

So biting the bullet I picked up one of the sold out Subterranean editions (sold out in less than 3 months, which is pretty darn impressive), thankfully for not too much more than cover price (it’s now, in the brief 2 weeks since I purchased it, climbed to the 3 figure range) and having perused it today I have to say, my initial impression upon taking it out of the box is… I’m a bit dissapointed.

I mean I really am disposed to like imprints such as Centipede Press and Subterranean Press, that in this day of digital are trying to make the hardcopy something attractive and special. My problem is for the price, I’m not even talking the marked up reseller’s price, I’m talking Subterranean’s retail price, GRIMSCRIBE when finally seen is underwhelming.

I mean for the money I don’t think a slipcover done to quality, embossing on the cover, and maybe spot illustrations and a ribbon marker and gilded pages are too much to ask. Look at books such as Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, which sells for a fraction of the price of Subterranean’s books, but in terms of quality there is no comparison. Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN is a work of art. Something you’re going to be treasuring and proud to have on your shelf for a long time.

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

I can’t say that for Subterranean’s GRIMSCRIBE.

The first thing that strikes me is it’s a smaller, less imposing/less impressive book than what I was expecting. Just average HC trade dimensions. And the slipcover which boasts imaginative art by Aeron Alfrey, unfortunately undermines that art quite a bit with a muted, even muddy looking printing, and cropping/shrinking the image rather than allowing it to take up a respectable amount of the cover.

But getting beyond the slipcover the book itself is just an average brown coated HC, with blue type on the binding. The interior however does offer large, legible, and attractive type.

Now onto the heart of the matter, the “revised, definitive” nature of this new version. Is it or isn’t it, an improvement over the original?

Well comparing the two versions there are minor differences, what Ligotti described thusly:

“One thing I did not do is deliberately seek out changes. Of course there would be errors that needed corrections and phrases that needed to be polished. But I didn’t look to shorten or lengthen the stories or any part of them, or to make my prose leaner or more baroque, or to in any way alter the tone of a given story. I just read the books carefully from start to finish and keep on the lookout for additions and deletions that would enhance each story, at least to my mind.”—- see full article here.

Okay, a writer can change his work if he wants, I mean it’s his work. But sometimes you can’t go home, and sometimes a writer or a boxer or an actor’s best work is behind him rather than in front. Frank Miller’s great comics are all decades in the past, his current work a poor shadow of him in his prime. Bernie Wrightson is one of the most hailed and influential artists of the 70s and 80s, but his work in the 21st century (while still head and shoulders above most artists) for a variety of reasons, cannot compare to the artist he was. I’m saying the changes a 21st century Thomas Ligotti makes are perhaps not an improvement on the writing of a 20th century Thomas Ligotti.

Examples, changes are small, but they are I think telling, a tendency to the dumbed down, and often clumsy phrasing rather than the lyric poetry and embracing of the extremes of youth:

THE LAST FEAST OF HARLEQUIN

Original:

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of awful purity and emptiness. I remember those invisible moments when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Revised 2011 Subterranean version”

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of purity and emptiness, the paradise of the unborn. I remember how I was momentarily overtaken by a feeling I had never known when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Again the changes aren’t many and aren’t drastic, I just don’t think they improve on the original and for the most part I find them to be the clunky exposition of age, rather than the fertile and frenetic choices of a visionary.

I find his earlier word choices, in almost every case, to be the stronger, more poetic, more memorable. The mating of differences, terms like “awful purity” and “invisible moments” wonderful baroque phrasing of the original, that are missed in this revised edition.

THE SPECTACLES IN THE DRAWER

“Without an author whoever lived in this world, if you will recall what I told you about it.” that is a clunky, and unwieldy sentence in the revised version.

In the original it is:

“Without a living author, if you will recall what I told you about it.”

Original:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was one I remembered looking into some days– or was it weeks? –before.”

Revized Suibterranean version:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was that tilting mirror I remembered looking into not so long ago.”

Again, not a major change, a few words, but they tend to be poorly chosen, and a bit boring and pedestrian compared to the original.

And such ‘improvements’ run throughout the stories in the 2011 Subterranean collection.

The only thing the Subterranean version has going for it is the slightly flawed slipcover, which flaws and all is a 100 times better than the pathetic slipcover on the original 1991 HC. Unfortunately a slipcover is not enough. So my recommendation, save yourself the dough on Subterranean’s “revised, definitive” edition and get the original HC instead and have your own nice slipcover made for it(all of which can be done for less than the price the Subterranean books are going for).

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

Grimscribe: His Life and Works

Aristocrats of Insanity: The books of Thomas Ligotti

“A paralysis had seized them, that state of soul known to those who dwell on the highest state of madness, aristocrats of insanity whose nightmares confront them on either side of sleep.”
—from Thomas Ligotti’s THE TSALAL short story, available in his excellent collection NOCTUARY

I’ve spent an inordinate amount on collecting the work of Thomas Ligotti, and I’m not quite sure of it, his works, or even sure of him yet, as a writer.

His MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE, one of his later collection of stories, was just plain… endless. It was often tiresome, un-engaging writing that spiraled itself into ever tightening circles of disinterest. Luckily, I did not buy MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE, but had the good sense to rent from the Library.

While Nihilism is a state we all flirt with, particularly the artistic minded, to make of those fleeting moments a religion or a philosophy or a world view, is the height of maudlin, affected, self indulgent claptrap.

Particularly to invoke thousands of words to the belief in meaninglessness or the uselessness of everything or the need for everything to be exterminated, as Ligotti purportedly does in his non-fiction book THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE (and no I’m not about to read it, the snippets I’ve read are enough, when Ligotti is being maudlin I can’t make it through his short stories, much less his novel length attempt at philosophy) is the height of affectation and self-delusion.

If nothing means anything what the eff are you writing for?

Have the strength of your convictions and off yourself, or the more rational and preferred thing… embrace the fact that your convictions may need work, and life can be good as well as bad, and that’s reason enough… for everything.

So Ligotti, when he gets out of his own way, and doesn’t succumb to his own ennui, or believe too much in the precarious hype heaped on him by his overly ‘cultist’ fan base… can be a great writer (the only thing more detrimental to a writer than the critic who believes he can do no right, is the fan who believes he can do no wrong. The former at least would potentially embrace change, the latter, should your style change/mature, would hate you for ‘selling out’). Unfortunately in any given collection, he tends to be a .500 hitter.

However perusing his earlier collections there is much there to be enamored of, in that 50%.

SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER (1985,1989)
Songs of a Dead Dreamer

GRIMSCRIBE (1991)
Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

NOCTUARY (1994)
Noctuary

THE AGONIZING RESURRECTION OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (1994 – On the low end copies of this are going for a few hundred dollars. Pretty expensive for a book of not even short stories, but snippets, vignettes. Save yourself money and buy SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER instead, as they share some of the same vignettes.)
The agonizing resurrection of Victor Frankenstein: & other gothic tales

THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY (1996- Collects the previous, at the time, out of print story collections).
The Nightmare Factory

[There were some CD chap books that were released in this period.]

MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE (2001)

THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD (2005- With NIGHTMARE FACTORY being out of print, this is NIGHTMARE FACTORY light, being a smaller, less comprehensive collection, sampling of Ligotti’s previously published work. With a few new stories tossed in. This was my introduction to Ligotti, and considering I’m still talking about him, I guess it was a good one)
The Shadow at the Bottom of the World

TEATRO GROTTESCO (2006)- And as with previous volumes there’s very little new here, it’s mostly a repackaging of previously collected stories. However, because this is the newest, this is the most affordable collection out there, so makes a great starting place. Plus the Virgin Books edition that is available is very nicely laid out, readable interior, comfortable compact shape, and a cover that is a closeup on the face of a weathered, broken doll… which says everything you need it to say about the work within.

Teatro Grottesco

So I’m not sure the future is going to bring us anything substantially new from Ligotti, more than likely just ever more expensive repackaging of older stories. But it does mean you can pick up just about any volume and get a nice sampling of Ligotti’s work.

I think you’ll find, Ligotti at his best… worth your time.

Short Story Review: CONVERSATIONS IN A DEAD LANGUAGE from NOCTUARY by Thomas Ligotti

CONVERSATIONS IN A DEAD LANGUAGE from the short story collection NOCTUARY by Thomas Ligotti-

There is something TALES FROM THE CRYPT like about this short story, and more straight forward then what one usually associates with Ligotti, and it is a pleasant surprise. The shift in writing style I mean, not the story, which could not be defined as pleasant. Well done, grotesque, disturbing and enthralling… yes. Pleasant…. no.

CONVERSATIONS IN A DEAD LANGUAGE initially feeling more reminiscent to me of Robert Bloch, especially in its more visceral, graphic, vulgar imagery/language/sensibilities. However by the end, with its stream of consciousness narrative, absorption with dreams and puppet imagery, and its strange antagonist and his talk of what lives beyond the darkened sky… with all this you’re in solid Ligotti territory.

It’s a good read ranking up there with Ligotti’s more compelling efforts. A solid B+. Take it for a spin yourself here:

Noctuary

What I’m Reading and Listening to

“We love only heroes. Glorious
death in battle. Scaling walls, burning bridges behind us, destroying
all ways back. All retreat. As if
some things were fixed. As if the moon
would come to us each night (&
we could watch
from the battlements). As if
there were anything certain
or lovely
in our lives.”

— excerpt from “THE DEATH OF NICK CHARLES” by Amiri Baraka (available in the great anthology BLACK VOICES)

*************

I have been listening all day to an old time radio program called CRIME CLASSICS. From the 1950s it is absolutely riveting half hour based shows, that dramatize infamous places in history. It dramatizes our crimes. From Lizzie Borden to Billy the Kid to others who I have never heard of. It tells of places deep and dark and devious, that can only accurately be called the human heart. It is brilliantly directed/produced by Elliot Lewis, written by Morton Fine and David Freemen, and captivatingly introduced by Lou Merrill portraying Thomas Hyland and performed by some of the best radio actors of the day, from Paul Frees to William Conrad to Bill Johnstone.

I don’t know how to sell someone on audio dramas, anymore than I know how to sell someone on reading. To me it’s analogous to having to sell someone on breathing or sex. It is something people should be, of their own volition, racing toward… racing to do, racing to consume.

Audio dramas, the best of them, are such a pure medium. Such an interactive one, while still being a completely solid vision/narrative.

And Old Time Radio is a very reflective medium, it can teach, by that distance of time, of old oaths that we have turned our back on, and old follies that we have embraced.

I highly recommend this show. And you can find it here. I recommend getting it quickly as the shows have a tendency to disappear as greedy corporations and venal lawyers and their lobbying… erodes the concept of Public Domain… erodes the concept of The Public. It is a great show. Enjoy.

****************

“His name is…

Will it ever come to me? There is a grand lapse of memory that may be the only thing to save us from ultimate horror. Perhaps they know the truth who preach the passing of one life into another, vowing that between a certain death and a certain birth there is an interval in which an old name is forgotten before a new one is learned. And to remember the name of a former life is to begin the backward slide into that great blackness in which all names have their source, becoming incarnate in a succession of bodies like numberless verses of an infinite scripture.

To find that you have had so many names is to lose the claim to any one of them. To gain the memory of so many lives is to lose them all.”
—From Thomas Ligotti’s GRIMSCRIBE short story collection

I find Ligotti an acquired taste. I’ve read several of the stories in GRIMSCRIBE in his more comprehensive collection, THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD, and I wasn’t particularly taken by them there. I thought the GRIMSCRIBE selections were the weakest part of THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD (an uneven, but worth having anthology, because the stories that do work, four come to mind, are worth the price of admission). But I found the above excerpt from Ligotti’s introduction to GRIMSCRIBE quite compelling.

********************

“Formal business has certainly decayed in the city centre, with empty shops, boarded-up office blocks. Maybe a Black guy will buy a shop and start selling pap, the local food, but there’s been no boom of Black businesses- prices are still high, and because of the Group Areas Act it’s mainly Asians who own the shops and warehouses. There are plenty of traders and hawkers in the streets now, ladies doing other ladies’ hair for money and services like that. There are big working-class taxi ranks because the public transport is so bad. But the general economic trend is very clear: the rich have got richer and the poor poorer. Under the ANC, South Africa has now surpassed Brazil as the most unequal country in the world. According to Statistics South Africa, the average African household has got 19 percent poorer in the past five years, and the average White household 15 percent richer.”
—Trevor Ngwane discussing the current conditions of South Africa, from Tom Mertes’ A MOVEMENT OF MOVEMENTS.