7 Minutes in Hell (10/14/2017)

Posted in 7 Minutes in Hell, Black Hymeneal, Jobot Coffee & Bar, Melt Ice Cream Shop with tags , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Facebook event banner for the 2017 edition of 7 Minutes in Hell.

Saturday night I took part in what is to be the last 7 Minutes in Hell to be performed at the Pierce Street location of Space 55. It had been a while since I had read there, at least a year or more and I figured it would be a good opportunity to plug my forthcoming book, Black Hymeneal. I went to the theater directly after getting off from work, so I was a bit early and decided to go to Jobot, a hip local coffee shop on 5th street & Roosevelt, for a quick snack, but they seemed to be closed for some reason. Moving down a few doors I stumbled upon an ice cream shop called Melt. The flavors were very unusual, pistachio with cherries, churro, horchata, etc. I settled on a single scoop cake cone of horchata and was not disappointed! It even came topped with a fortune cookie the message within read: “You will lighten another’s heart.”

I don’t know if I did that, but I believe I entertained a few people in the audience at least. I was 3rd in line after a boisterous opening song by host Russ Kazmierczak and a hilarious skit by Ashley Naftule. Russ had what I assume was a karaoke track for Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive over which he sang a lyric about all the wondrous things he’d seen at Space 55. His voice wasn’t always on key, but his heart was in the right place and he got the whole room, myself included singing the refrain “I saw it at Space 55”.

Ash came on in character as a film critic whose name was a spoof on Cliff Notes, but I cannot recall exactly what it was. His deal was that he was a critic who would do reviews of movies he’d never seen. He asked the audience to shout out some film titles and he would do these brilliantly hilarious reviews. Ash is a master of improv and his broad knowledge of film and pop culture was put to good use here.

Then I came up, plugged Black Hymeneal and my blog, then read 3 poems selected from my book. I started off with Manurog to ease the crowd in, then moved onto Manqueller Manque finally wrapping up with Love Song of the Lugubrious Gondolier. The set seemed to go over fairly well, despite my losing place in the middle of Manqueller. The reason for this was that my old book of poems has so many corrections and cross-outs in it that I couldn’t tell where to look for the marginal notations. That being said, I did get a few compliments afterward.

Now, I tend to get antsy after I come off stage and generally only stay for the next act so as not seem ungrateful or non-supportive. I waited for the next act Steve Marek, a stand-up comedian. His set began with a eulogy to Hugh Hefner which was clever and ended with a political “horror tale”. He asked the house to dim the lights and he used the light from his gadget (i-phone, or whatever) like one might put a flashlight under one’s chin to tell a campfire tale, as he regaled us with an explicit piece of horror-otica featuring Sherriff Joe and Jan Brewer engaged in a rather compromising  hi-jinks. It was a bit sophomoric, but it had some poignant political digs thrown in for good measure.

I considered leaving then, but ended up sticking around for the next act. This one was a woman named Dineta Williams-Trigg who I guess is a regular in the scene, I did not know her but she was very personable and even approached me before the show to ask me about my Venom t-shirt. She explained that she was a fan of B-movie Horror and had recognized the Baphomet symbol on it. She gave her time up to invite people to come up and talk about their experiences at Space 55 and what it meant to them. First up was Amy Ouzoonian who came up with her precious infant in a make-shift papoose fashioned from of a long swaddling blanket wound around her torso. She told of her experiences there as part of the Arcana Collective and as a cast member in one of the past productions featured at the venue. She would later come back up with her babe to recite a monologue about the questionable joys of mother hood. Then came Marcella Grassa who told a similar tale of working with the Arcana Collective and being in shows, most recently as one of the leads in Ashley Naftule’s play “The Ear”. Lastly, was an audience member who told how seeing some of the wacky skits there gave him the courage to try his hand at performing on stage.

After this heart warming tribute, I began to relax and just enjoy the show and stopped looking for a chance to make my exit. I believe the next act was Marcella and her friend Gullveig (spelling?) who did a skit they’d penned about the legendary water spirit Melusine explaining to the goddess Kali her decision to allow Starbucks to use her image for their brand logo. It was a bit rough in spots (Marcella gave the disclaimer before they began that they had just written it a couple of days before and were under-rehearsed) but very clever and on the money on certain points about cultural appropriation by big corporations.

Space 55 regular Leslie Barton did a shtick as a brontosaurus comedian called Brontobill Hicks, Bill Brontohicks, or something to that effect.  She basically wore a brontosaurus mask and told  brontosaurus themed jokes in the manner of Bill Hicks.

Up next was Paul Kolecki, one of the Space 55 troupe who played the male lead in “The Ear”. He did a passionate monologue from “Death of a Salesman”. Following him were the Arcana Collective the fluid line-up of which this time consisted of Ernesto Moncada as the shaman Don Pablo Xibalba, a character he played in “The Ear” and Allison Dee who was topless, dressed only in skimpy panties and a big black veil which, along with the usual Arcana eye kohl made her look like a vamp from a Paul Naschy film. She played the theremin and some Eastern-looking variation on a percussion triangle. Don Pablo  called for a volunteer from the audience  and a young man came up. Don Pablo made him drink from a glass bottle filled with the waters of the dead I believe he said then covered him with a red cloth and did some mock ritual over him. There was more to it, but I cannot recall the detail.  Either way it was very amusing and one of the more interesting things I have seen them do.

Closing the show was comedic singer Scott Gesser, who began with a brief monologue introducing the song he was to play. The intro went a bit too long, but the song, a tale about his misadventures in Nebraska, was fun.

In the end, I stayed for the whole show and not once had the usual anxiety fueled  urgency to bail the premises, which is saying a lot. All the artists and entertainers were fun and unique in their way and I was glad to have been part of the show. I look forward to upcoming events at their new location and even have an invite to participate in a planned Horror themed Christmas show to make up for the last Lovecraft bash in August which had to be postponed for real life stuff. Good times.

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H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Hound”

Posted in ghoul, H.P. Lovecraft, Jaxon, Lovecraftian Horror, Necronomicon, Poppy Z. Brite, Roddy McDowall, The Burning Ember Mission of Helldorado, The Hound (1922), W.H. Pugmire with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Since 2012 I have been a frequent reader at the annual H.P. Lovecraft birthday celebration in downtown Phoenix. For the 1st show I penned my tribute to the Rhode Island gentleman, H.P.L. R.I.P., but since then I have always tried to read a brief story or poem by the master to remind everyone why we are there. The first story I read was one of my all-time favorites, The Hound. Originally written in 1922, it made its publication debut in the February 1924 issue of  Weird Tales and was reprinted in September 1929. Despite being disparaged by critics as a pastiche of Poe’s florid Gothic style and Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, it has many admirers (my humble self included) and it has inspired several tributes and adaptations.

Weird Tales’ February 1924 issue in which debuted Lovecraft’s “The Hound”.

Notable for being the first Lovecraft tale to mention his infamous grimoire, the dreaded Necronomicon, the Hound tells the tale of an unnamed narrator and his crony, St. John, bored with the effete entertainments of the decadent scene they decide to create a black museum, a veritable theme park of the damned with grotesque fountains, noisome censers, macabre works of art (including an unknown portfolio that “held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumored Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge”), and gruesome trophies pilfered from graveyards around the world:

“Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternating with comely, lifelike bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist’s art, and with headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one might find the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the fresh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children.” (from The Hound, by H.P. Lovecraft, 1922)

Eventually they rob the wrong grave, steeling a jade amulet which literally sets a hell-hound on their trail. Now, I have seen this story in collections of vampire stories, but it is definitely not one of those. I assume the editors of those books selected it because of the initial description of the well-preserved cadaver with “long, firm teeth”  and the frequent mention of large bats that seem to be connected with the creature in the casket or the hound, which if you read the story carefully, are one and the same. The thing in the casket was a ghoul; a supernatural creature that subsists on carrion from fresh graves. Traditionally, they are shape-shifters and they tend to shift into hyenas, but not exclusively. This one shifts into the titular creature, a sort of hell-hound with wings, which is confused by the fact that the cadaver seems to show bite marks from the same. Even so, when the narrator returns to the scene of his egregious crime to plead for mercy what he finds there is not what he expects.

“Amine Discovered with the Goule”, from the story of Sidi Nouman, of the One Thousand and One Nights. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoul; retrieved 10/16/2017))

Lovecraft was dismissive of the tale in his later years and many of his most vociferous proponents followed suit. Lin Carter dismissed it as “a minor little tale” that is “slavishly Poe-esque in style”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hound#Reception, retrieved 10/13/2017) and even Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi doesn’t seem to hold it in high regard, even opining that it must have been an intentional parody of the decadent school of writing.

I, however, am of a different mind on the subject. I love the thick Gothic atmosphere and Grand Guignol-inspired black humor, and as for the “overwrought style” that everyone complains about, think of it this way: the tale is told in  first-person narrative voice, and that person being a aesthetic ghoul with a taste for the baroque, so how could it not be delineated in such a manner? And I am not the only one who feels this way. Despite it’s notable detractors, it has some champions as well. Actor Roddy McDowall recorded it circa 1962/63 for his LP “Roddy McDowall Reads the Horror Stories of H.P. Lovecraft”. When I  discovered the existence of these recordings I looked them up on Youtube and listened to McDowall’s brilliant interpretation, which is where I first encountered the proper pronunciation for St. John, which apparently is Sinjun. I recall reading in Lovecraft: A Biography (1975) by L. Sprague de Camp, that Lovecraft had a high pitched genteel speaking voice and listening to Roddy McDowall, I imagined that his rendition was probably as close as one could get to hearing it read by HPL himself.

Album cover for “Roddy McDowall Reads the Horror Stories of H.P. Lovecraft” (1962-3, Prestige)

Although there haven’t been any film adaptations of note that I am aware of (which I find surprising) there have been at least a few comic book adaptations, most notably the May 1972 4th issue of Skull which features a very stylized adaptation by Jack Jackson (credited as Jaxon), which has a bit of an E.C. Comics vibe to it while being a prime example of the 1970’s underground comic look.

A page from Jaxon’s adaptation of “The Hound”. Note the column of bats in the first frame and the amulet in frame #4. I assume the book on which it rests is the Al Azif, the Necronomicon in the original Arabic.

He really seems to relish the gallows humor and deftly depicts the Gothic atmosphere with great flair and wit. The text is an abbreviated version of Lovecraft’s original text which is cool.

“Uncommon Places” by W.H. Pugmire (2012, Hippocampus Press), which contains the story “Some Distant Baying Sound”.

Apparently, W.H. Pugmire has penned a sequel in 2009 entitled Some Distant Baying Sound, which I would love to check out, although his works are a bit hard to come by and pricey when you find them. It is featured in Weird Inhabitants of Sesqua Valley (2009), and Uncommon Places: A Collection of Exquisites (2012), respectively.

“His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories” by Poppy Z. Brite (1995, Penguin).

Southern Gothic author Poppy Z. Brite (now Billy Martin) used the premise of the Hound for the story His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood (1990), which appears in the collections Swamp Foetus (1993) and Wormwood (1996) and was even featured in a Penguin 60s collection called His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories (1995). It is flagged on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database as a Cthulhu Mythos story although, aside from the premise, which I recognized when I read it some 20-odd years ago, I don’t recall anything specifically Lovecraftian about it. I shall have to re-read it now that I am more familiar with the Lovecraft’s oeuvre and might be more apt to detect any allusions in the text to his Mythos.

Finally, I too have made reference to the ghoul, in passing, in my tale The Burning Ember Mission of Helldorado, and both he and the hound are secondary elements in the tale I am currently working on, tentatively entitled “Helldorado-Mouth”.  For a tale which Lovecraft called “a dead dog”, it seems to be tough one to put down.

Blood Ceremony: Toronto’s exponent of “flute-tinged witch rock”

Posted in Acid-folk, Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony (band), Ceremonia sangrienta (1973), Doom Metal, Lord of Misrule (2016), Oliver Haddo, Psychedelic Rock, Somerset Maugham, The Magician (1908) with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Blood Ceremony band logo

Formed in Toronto Canada in 2006, Blood Ceremony is one of the more interesting bands taking their cues from their musical forefathers. In the promotional material found on their Facebook page as well as on their profile on the Rise Above Records website, they describe themselves in this manner:

“BLOOD CEREMONY’s distinct style of flute-tinged witch rock evolves from an infernal marriage of occult-inspired acid folk and vintage hard-rock riffing. After a mind-numbing study of hundreds of trashy witchcraft films, the group began to pour their energies into crafting songs, transforming their fascination for horror into a profane musical vision. ”

English language poster for the 1973 horror film “Ceremonia sangrienta” which is the band’s namesake.

Taking their name from the 1973 Spanish/Italian Horror film “Ceremonia sangrienta” their lyrics (penned by founding member guitarist/composer Sean Kennedy) explore occult themes and reference folklore and occult film and fiction (he seems to be fond of Somerset Maugham’s character Oliver Haddo from his 1908 occult novel The Magician based on Maugham’s impressions from his brief acquaintance with occultist Aleister Crowley; penning not one, but two separate songs about him, The Magician, and Oliver Haddo, respectively). Originally conceived by Kennedy as an old school heavy rock band, things took on a more eclectic turn when flutist/organist Alia O’Brien joined the band. Originally invited to play flute on a couple of songs,  O’Brien joined full time as lead vocalist when their original singer left to go to India.

An early image of Alia O’Brien which I have seen incorporated into gig posters and depicted in fan art.

An accomplished instrumentalist, Alia O’Brien’s flute and Farfisa organ playing have fleshed out the sound transmogrifying it into an alchemical amalgam of such early 70’s rock icons as Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Uriah Heep. Although not a trained singer or front person, the statuesque Ms. O’Brien has really come into her own over the years and has developed her voice, look, and persona in a way that has brought much attention to the band. Make no mistake though, she is not just a pretty face and the success of the band relies not just on their image, but the evolving sound of the band.

Blood Ceremony’s eponymously titled 2008 debut album featuring artwork by George Barr from the 1970 Ballantine Books collection of Clark Ashton Smith stories, Zothique.

Initially they were grouped in with the Doom Metal scene because of their heavy Sabbath influenced riffs, but they have so much more going on musically and their sound, although thematically consistent, is anything but stagnant. Like Sabbath, their riffs never stay in one place for long, and the avowed influence of both 60’s psychedelia and early English folk-rock acts such as Pentangle and Fairport Convention flesh out the sound to something of a proto-prog vibe or as Kennedy describes it “a folkier Sabbath”.

Blood Ceremony 2016, from left to right: Mike Carillo (drums), Alia O’Brien [seated] (lead vocals, flute, keyboards), Lucas Gadke (bass), Sean Kennedy (guitars).

Since their debut in 2008 they have released four albums and one single, each unique unto itself. Their most recent offering, “Lord of Misrule” is probably the most diverse of the lot, with the inclusion of mellotron (Loreley) and some 60’s psych-pop tropes (Flower Phantoms) to accompany the usual heavy riffing and flute and organ flourishes. There is even a brief nod to The Pink Floyd’s 1967 psych-pop gem Lucifer Sam in the opening notes of the album’s lead rocker The Devil’s Widow, the lyrics of which deal with the forsaken fairy mistress of Tam Lin, as she pines for her lover after he was rescued from her enchanting clutches by his human sweetheart.

Screencap from the promotional video for the song Goodbye Gemini.

Although I had come across Blood Ceremony before in my Youtube searches for psychedelic and progressive rock bands, I was always under the impression that they were a one-off indie band from the 70’s until a friend of mine shared some digital files of their hard-to-find albums with me. Even so, I didn’t realize they were current and still touring until I found their profile page while perusing the Rise Above Records website recently. Too bad it took me so long to sort that out as I would have loved to have seen them on their last tour in 2016! Until their next release however I must make do with their one promo video for the tune Goodbye Gemini off their 2013 album The Eldritch Dark (an apparent fan fave according to the myriad Youtube comments I have seen; if you see the video, keep an eye out for the scene where drummer Mike Carillo pauses from his drumming duties to take a puff off of a churchwarden pipe–presumably loaded with Halflings’ Leaf!) as well as the many fan videos of the band from their various shows over the last several years, and pray that they come around again in 2018. Perhaps I need to make a sanguinary oblation to the dark gods of occult rock?

 

Remembrance of Goth Girls Passed

Posted in Casanegra Presents, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Latino Goth, memoir with tags , , , on September 28, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I recently had a memory resurface which may explain my literary fixation with young female heroines and the Latino Goth aesthetic. It was somewhere around 1996 and I believe I was on a bus riding down Sunset Boulevard in L.A. when outside my window I spied a pretty young Latina girl, barely in her twenties, coming out of a storefront. I believe she was accompanied by another girl, but what stood out about this young woman was her look. She had a diamond shaped face and her coloring was similar to mine: sort of tawny hued. She sported her black hair in a chin-length bob cut which looked like it had grown out a bit and she was apparently having fun with her companion because she had a playful grin on her face.

I believe she wore a dark colored folksy dress which I cannot recall with any clarity, although it did remind me of some of the folk dresses I saw in Mexico during my stay there in the 80’s, and I think she had some heavy duty boots on as well. The thing that does stand out though was her coat. Despite the sunny weather, she had on a purple colored brocade coat which came down to her calves. This is what tied together the whole look for me. The color looked washed and thinking back it may have been done with a natural dye, perhaps a Tyrian purple. She looked like something from another time, yet still contemporary. She was folksy but with a definite Gothic bent, while still maintaining her identity as a Latina. I realize that my description may come off as just bohemian chic, but there was a decisive Romanti-Goth vibe to the ensemble.

I recall that I was so struck by her because I had never really linked the two things together before in my mind. I was familiar with the Romantic Legends of 19th century Spanish writer Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, some of which are Gothic in essence, and the macabre sensibilities of the Mexican folk beliefs always fascinated me but I never thought of any of it in relation to the Gothic aesthetic in the modern sense. Since seeing this young woman, however, it has been an idée fixe in my subconscious and has through time metamorphosed into the raison d’être behind my creative output. That being said, I still didn’t get the notion to pursue that route artistically until I saw the Casanegra DVD releases of the classic Mexican Horror films of the 50’s & 60’s, but that’s another story…

 

Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Return of the Sorcerer”

Posted in Black Mass, Clark Ashton Smith, Night Gallery (1969-1973), Richard Corben, Sator Square, Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, The Return of the Sorcerer with tags , , , , , , on September 18, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

With the proliferation of Lovecraft and Cthulhu related media coming out over the last decade or so I am truly surprised that the cinematic world has not attempted to adapt more stories by his Weird Tales comrades, especially Robert Bloch and, of course, my beloved Clark Ashton Smith.

Clark Ashton Smith: poet, author, painter, sculptor and member of the original Lovecraft Circle.

Although several of Bloch’s shorter non-Mythos works have been adapted for television, and his novel “Psycho” (1959) was adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1960 feature film of the same name, very few of Smith’s works have been rendered into the cinematic medium. This could be due to the esoteric nature of his subjects and the dense baroque nature of his prose which, oddly enough, I feel should actually make him stand out from his contemporaries.

The most notable adaptations of his work (at least that I am aware of) are the “Mother of Toads” segment by Richard Stanley from the portmanteau film “The Theatre Bizarre” (2011), which I have reviewed here already, and the eccentric reworking of the “The Return of the Sorcerer” (1931) for season 3 of  Night Gallery in 1972. Whereas the former is an admirable, if flawed, attempt to bring the essence of Smith’s tale to the silver screen, the latter is a risible fiasco despite the casting of Vincent Price in the role of Carnby.

The September 1931 issue of “Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror” in which “The Return of the Sorcerer” was first published.

First published in the September 1931 issue of Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, the basic story is one of a young man, Mr. Ogden, who answers an ad for an in-house secretarial position from a recluse scholar in Oakland, CA (one of the rare instances of a real-world location for a Smith tale). One of the requirements for the appointment is a more than passing familiarity with the Arabic language which Ogden has. Upon arrival, he is put off by the bleakness of the demesne and the febrile mien of its senescent master, a Mr. John Carnby. He accepts the position in spite of this and, once engaged, is taken to the study which is decorated like a sorcerer’s lair: “There were tables strewn with archaic instruments of doubtful use, with astrological charts, with skulls and alembics and crystals, with censers such as are used in the Catholic Church, and volumes bound in worm-eaten leather with verdigris-mottled clasps. In one corner stood the skeleton of a large ape; in another, a human skeleton; and overhead a stuffed crocodile was suspended.” (from “The Return of the Sorcerer” by Clark Ashton Smith, 1931)

A good portion of the library, he sees, is dedicated to Goetia and Black Magic and, as it turns out, Mr. Carnby needs someone to translate a certain passage of the Necronomicon (yes, that Necronomicon) which was not included in the Latin translation, but which Ogden suspects has an occult significance to Carnby despite his protestations to the contrary. Even so, he seems to blanch at every bump that goes off in the darkness of the creepy old house. “The house is full of rats.” he says, unconvincingly in explanation. The “rats” return on subsequent nights and each time the racket they make becomes louder as they seem to encroach upon Carnby’s chamber. Ogden himself even catches a brief glimpse one night of something ” …much too pale for a rat and its form was not at all suggestive of an animal. I could not have sworn what it was, but the outlines had seemed unmentionably monstrous.” (from “The Return of the Sorcerer” by Clark Ashton Smith, 1931)

It is apparent, by his jitteriness that Carnby is anxious about something more than rats and the aforementioned grimoire passage, once translated, gives some foreshadowing of the final act, so I will skip it so as not to ruin the tale for you. It is perhaps a bit predictable, but it is also ghoulishly effective and definitely fun to read how it plays out in Smith’s Gothic prose stylings.

Marquee for “The Return of the Sorcerer” retrieved from the Night Gallery.net site.

In the Night Gallery adaptation the source of Carnby’s anxiety and the main reason for his wanting to accurately translate the excised Necronomicon passage is revealed much too early, thus diminishing it’s power in unlike when it was accompanied by the ensuing grisly denouement.  Aside from Price, the Night Gallery episode stars Bill Bixby as Noel Evans (a stand in for Ogden who is only known by his surname in the tale), and there is an added provocative female assistant for Carnby named Fern (played by the lovely Tisha Sterling). In the DVD commentary it is explained that Fern was added to explain what was going on to the audience, but nothing she says in this regard isn’t said by Carnby in the original tale, although she does have a monologue about overturning the patriarchy in the dinner table scene. To be honest, I believe she was added for eye candy, despite her feminist diatribe, and there is a whole subplot about her deposing Price and seducing Bixby, which I found unnecessary and distracting.

What’s also distracting is the campy gags which take away from the dread of the original tale and I think demean Smith’s work. For example the  addition of a scene with the goat at the dinner table. In the final act, the gruesome climax is reworked into a mock Black Mass (not in the story) where Carnby and Fern recite the palindromic chant from the Sator Square: SATOR / AREPO / TENET /OPERA / ROTAS. In the commentary it is divulged that Ms. Sterling felt very uneasy about saying it as she believed it was part of a genuine Black Magic rite. In reality, it is a protection spell, dating back to the days of Pompeii, which has since been used for other benevolent uses in it’s many variations.

Unlike Boris Karloff’s Thriller, which I feel did right by many Weird Tales alumni in their adaptations, Night Gallery didn’t seem to give the material proper respect and many potentially interesting teleplays were ruined by camp humor and watering down the fantasy and horror elements so as not to offend or overtax the bland tastes and small minds of their intended audience. Occasionally they came close, but missed the mark more often than not. Even so, as my buddy Chester is wont to say, the book/story is still there for one to enjoy no matter how bad or unrecognizable any given adaptation might be.

On a final note, Smith’s tale was also adapted by comic artist Richard Corben. Unlike his Poe adaptations, he remains more or less faithful to Smith’s tale and retains some of it’s gloomy baroque atmosphere.

A page from the 1992 comic adaptation of the tale by Richard Corben.

 

 

J.S. Le Fanu’s “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter”

Posted in Brinsley Le Fanu, Ghost Stories, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Schalcken the Painter (1979), Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 6, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have been on a bit of a Le Fanu kick these days. J. Sheridan Le Fanu was a master of the Victorian Ghost story. I believe I have mentioned him here before. His most celebrated work is “Carmilla”, which was the inspiration for much of the moodiness and homoeroticism in modern vampire literature and is the indirect impetus behind Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. (A fact which I intend to explain further in another post sometime in the near future).
Even so, Le Fanu has many more great ghost tales to offer and was also an inspiration to M.R. James, the recognized master of the classic ghost tale. One of Le Fanu’s most famous works is “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” (1839), which I had been aware of for decades but had never actually read.

Illustration for “Strange Event in the Life of Schalcken the Painter” by Brinsley Le Fanu from “The Watcher and Other Weird Stories” [1894, Downey & Co., London]

I have no excuse however, as I had it in my Dover edition of “Best Stories of J.S. Le Fanu”, and could have read it any time over the last 25 years or so. I finally decided to read it the other day however and was not disappointed. It is the tale of a painter (Schalcken) who while under the apprenticeship of the “immortal Gerard Douw”, secretly falls in love with his niece, Rose. Although Douw suspects this, he decides his ward would have a better life being married to a rich man and reluctantly gives/sells her to a mysterious and insistent older suitor, Mynher Vanderhausen, for an extravagant sum of money. After the marriage contract is signed, Vanderhausen spirits her off and she isn’t seen or heard from for months. The painter and his master try in vain to find the suitor, whom no one seems to have heard of in his alleged home town, and they despair of ever learning the fate of their beloved Rose until one night she arrives unexpectedly at her guardian’s house in a tizzy making wild claims about her husband, repeatedly exclaiming “The dead and the living cannot be one–God has forbidden it!”. What transpires next is a classic example of subtlety and terror. As an aperitif, there is a hint of Rose’s fate in a dream that Schalcken has wherein he receives a visit from his long lost love. Very chilling stuff. It wasn’t as gruesome as some of his tales can be, but it was definitely creepy, and the fact that the nature of the antagonist or the threat he imposes is never really explained makes it as enigmatic as it is disturbing. This would probably not sit well with some modern readers, who might need more explicit or neatly tied up explanations, but I found the ambiguity very intriguing.

Apparently there is a 1979 BBC adaptation of this story, with an abbreviated title, which is available on DVD. I shall have to try to find a copy of it online and see what they did with it. I have seen some images from it online though and the uncanny look of Mynher Vanderhausen is reproduced exactly as he was described in the story, which is promising.

DVD for BBC adaptation of Le Fanu’s “Schalken the Painter”.

I have also just found a nice copy of the Folio Society’s 1988 hardbound edition of  Le Fanu’s classic Gothic novel “Uncle Silas” illustrated by Charles Stewart, which I intend to review here when I get around to reading it. Look here for more on that in the coming months.

“Black Hymeneal” Reboot

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose with tags , , , on June 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

My first poetry collection, “Black Hymeneal”, is back on track. It will not be the beautiful book I envisioned so long ago, but it will at least get out into the world. It shall not feature any specific artwork. Unfortunately, my friend Michele has some pressing familial responsibilities which have taken precedence (understandably) over helping to complete the artwork for the book, so I am going to just continue without it at this point. Perhaps someday we can collaborate on a portfolio of the completed artwork she did for the book, if the collection proves to be successful enough to warrant that. Her lovely artwork deserves to be seen, and I hope some day it will be. I appreciate the hard work she did and the help she gave me in showing me the ropes of the publishing business. I shall never forget her kindness.

The table of contents for the new book has changed, since I have decided to pull a few pieces for another planned collection of song lyrics for my old band, The Dark Young. More on that after I get “Black Hymeneal” into the world.

The new selection is as follows:

01. Manurog
02. Hell-flower
03. Thalia
04. Witch’s Tit
05. Sor Maria and the Devil, Luzbel
06. Krampus
07. Manqueller Manque
08. Moribond
09. Skull in an Ice Cream Cone
10. HPL RIP
11. Broceliande
12. Threnody
13. Black Hymeneal

I have already begun retyping the manuscript and adding new introductions for the poems. My goal was to be ready to publish by my 50th birthday in August. We’ll see if I can make the deadline. Keep your eyes on future posts with updates.