Monday, March 25, 2019

Early Caitlin R. Kiernan

Caitlin R. Kiernan was born in 1964 as Kenneth Robert Wright.  Before she transitioned around 1990,  two early stories appeared in The Freshman Sampler (1985), edited by Peggy B. Jolly, a compilation written by students in the Freshman Composition Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The first story is "The Burning" (pp. 18-20, signed as by Kenneth Robert Wright), and it concerns a fire encroaching upon the narrator's grandmother's house.  Some of the descriptions anticipate Kiernan's later lyrical prose.  Here's a sample of the narrator watching the fire:
The sky was clear as spring water, dotted with a million sparkling specks of starlight and an orange sickle of moon, building toward the bloated roundness of harvest. The fire was little more than a red halo in the darkness, moving deliberately down the eastern slope of Double Oak Mountain. We sat and watched, and listened to the strange stillness in the air. No crickets. No katydids. A dry breeze rattled the last of summer's leaves from the limbs, like the plaything of some phantom child.
The second story is "Another Christmas Carol (p. 42, signed as by Kenneth Wright) tells of an adult's disillusionment with childhood memories of Christmas.

Wright also published three professional articles in the field of paleontology (a few abstracts of Wright's work also appeared in the Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science in 1986 and 1987).  I will merely list the references to the articles here.

March 1988, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 8(1): 102-107. "Selmasaurus Russelli, A New Plioplatecarpine Mosasaur (Squamata, Mosasauridae) from Alabama" by Kenneth R. Wright and Samuel Wayne Shannon.

September 1988, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 8(3): 343-345. "The First Record of Clidastes Liodontus (Squamata, Mosasauridae) from the Eastern United States" by Kenneth R. Wright.

January 1989, Journal of Paleontology 63(1): 126-127. "On the Taxonomic Status of Moanasaurus Mangahouangae Wiffen (Squamata: Mosasauridae)"

In 2002 Kiernan contributed one further professional article:

March 14, 2002, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22(1): 91-103. "Stratigraphic Distribution and Habitat Segregation of Mosasaurs in the Upper Cretaceous of Western and Central Alabama, with an Historical Review of Alabama Mosasaur Discoveries" by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

The Freshman Sampler had three further editions, in 1988, 1990, and 1994 (co-edited with Linda B. Moore).  I have not seen any of these later editions and do not know if Wright's contributions reappear in any of them. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dunsany in the early 1910s

The Sketch also has some nice photographs of Dunsany, at the time he was writing the tales for which he would become famous.  Here are two, the first from the 4 January 1911 issue, the second from the 13 May 1914 issue.






Monday, March 18, 2019

Sime in 1910

A nice photograph (by E.O. Hoppé) of S.H. Sime appeared in The Sketch for 28 December 1910. The demonic face, with lighted eyes, peering down at Sime is a nice touch, but what is Sime holding in his hands?  It looks perhaps like a figurine of a couple embracing, but I'm not sure.  Any thoughts? 


A close-up of Sime's hands

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Lost Sime Illustration for Dunsany's Book of Wonder

Dunsany's Book of Wonder was published by William Heinemann in November 1912.  It contains fourteen tales, twelve of which originally appeared in a different order (and with texts abridged) in The Sketch between December 1910 and March 1911. The book reprints ten illustrations by S.H. Sime, while the serialization had eleven illustrations.  The Sime illustration in the periodical but not in the book was for the story "The Injudicious Prayers of Pombo the Idolator." I copy it below (click on it to see a larger version).  One wonders if it might have seemed too dark to print in the smaller book-sized format.


If you zoom in you can see what I presume to be the high-priest of Maharrion ("who is neither bird nor cat") to the left of the center, and to the right of it a boy (Pombo?) before "the little idol Duth." I suspect the figure (?) to the left of the base of the stairs is Maharrion "the god of flowers" and the aureoled growth hanging out over the abyss is supposed to be some kind of unearthly flower. Of course for The Book of Wonder, Dunsany and Sime reversed their usual process, and Sime made the illustrations first, and Dunsany then made up stories to fit the illustrations. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The H.P. Lovecraft Collection of Jack Grill and (later) Irving Binkin

In 1975, Jack Chalker's Mirage Press released a two thousand copy edition of A Catalog of Lovecraftiana: The Grill/Binkin Collection, cataloged and annotated by Mark Owings and Irving Binkin. Five hundred copies were cloth-bound, the rest were bound as trade paperbacks. From the vantage point of nearly forty-five years later, the catalog seems very bizarrely arranged. It includes 668 numbered items, the vast majority (the first 586 items) were collected by the first owner “Jack” Grill, with the remaining 82 items added by Irving Binkin as “Recent Additions” after Binkin acquired the collection. The main section of 586 items is divided into seven sections, 1) Professional Periodicals; 2) Amateur Press Works; 3) Books by Lovecraft; 4) Anthologies, Novels and Author Collections with HPL Material; 5) Books about Lovecraft; 6) Letters; 7) Photographs and Miscellaneous. Most of these sub-sections are repeated twice in the “Recent Additions” section.

The catalog also has short note by Irving Binkin in dedication to “Philip Jack Grill,” and a short introduction by L. Sprague de Camp. The use of “Philip Jack Grill” is somewhat erroneous, for “Jack” was Grill's nickname and doesn't seem to have been part of his legal name. He was born Philip Grill in New York on 29 June 1903. He was the son, and second of two children, of Philip Grill (1869-1938), a post office clerk, and his wife Katherine (1871-1941) or Katie. His sister was Clara Grill (1898-1967), who was a hair dresser in a beauty parlor. Grill was probably nicknamed “Jack” to distinguish himself from his father with the same first name. The younger Philip Grill appears in the 1930 and 1940 Censuses as an art worker for a newspaper, or as an artist. He never married.

Jack Grill seems to have began obsessively collecting Lovecraftiana in the late 1940s, and the collection he amassed is very impressive. George Wetzel contributed “A Memoir of Jack Grill” to Huitloxopetl, 1972, published by Meade and Penny Frierson, and reprinted in The HPL Supplement #3 (March 1974), also published by the Friersons. The memoir (collected in Wetzel's Collected Essays on H.P. Lovecraft and Others, e-book 2015; but it is worth noting that a slightly different version, with extra potentially controversial comments, appeared in Marginalia #1, Wetzel's contribution to the 26th mailing of the Esoteric Order of Dagon for May 1979) is about ten pages long, and contains some fascinating observations, including quotes from Grill's letters, and an account of their one meeting when Grill came to visit Wetzel. Their friendship, mostly epistolary, went from about 1955 through 1959, when Wetzel notes, Grill stopped answering his letters.

According to Wetzel, Grill “collected HPL photos, letters written to and by HPL; he interviewed HPL acquaintances, visited many of the Middle Atlantic and New England towns to which HPL had made antiquarian tours, and accumulated many other odds and ends of Lovecraftiana.” An odd, shy man, Grill wished he was “a writing fellow,” but his only writings were letters—in an execrable hand-writing, without paragraphs and mostly without dates.

Grill died in Brooklyn on 12 April 1970. His parents and sister had predeceased him. A lawyer had to deal with effects, and arranged an auction at the Brooklyn house. Enter Irving Binkin (1906-1989), one of those typically eccentric old-style book dealers with a good nose for finding rarities. According to an article by Jack Chalker (“Irvin[g] Binkin Meets H.P. Lovecraft” published in Chalker's fapazine Viewpoint no.1, February 1973; reprinted in Alien Critic no. 5, May 1973), Binkin found the house full of hundreds of No-Cal soft drink cartons, filled with books and papers. The lawyer had listed the collection as being on “Love and Love craft” but quickly Binkin realized that it wasn't sex stuff but a massive collection about a person named Lovecraft. Binkin successfully bid on the collection, though the lawyer withheld some of what he thought were personal effects, at least until an heir could possibly be located. Later Binkin acquired these items, which turned out to be more Lovecraft letters and photographs. Having seen the photographs, Binkin realized that Lovecraft had been a regular customer at his bookstore, just off Red Hook in Brooklyn, over forty years earlier. As he read through the collection, Binkin was bit by the Lovecraft bug. Later he would telephone Jack Chalker, because he was the author of The New H.P. Lovecraft Bibliography (1962), and this connection brought about the catalog of the Grill/Binkin Collection, compiled by Mark Owings and Binkin, and published by Chalker's Mirage Press.

So what was in the Grill/Binkin collection? The main section lists ten Lovecraftian issues of Home Brew, nearly ninety Lovecraftian issues of Weird Tales, and thirteen of the fourteen issues of The Acolyte, a Lovecraftian fanzine edited by Francis Towner Laney from the early 1940s. But the real heart of the collection was in the manuscripts, letters and photographs. A number of these are visible in the twenty pages of photographs in the middle of the catalog: the manuscripts of “The Cats of Ulthar” (dated June 15, 1920) and “Some Dutch Footprints in New England” (1933), as well as Lovecraft's Astronomical Notebook, 1909-1915. Grill seems to have gotten a lot of stuff from Wilfred Blanch Talman, Samuel Loveman, and Cliff and Muriel Eddy, among others. I note that Wetzel, in his memoir of Grill, quotes a letter from Grill (circa June 1957) stating he'd acquired unpublished stories by Hazel Heald, “The Basement Room” (5 pages) and “Lair of the Fungus Death” (25 pages), from Heald herself. But what happened to all this stuff? The Heald stories are not listed in the Grill/Binkin catalog. For “The Cats of Ulthar” I note that in Lovecraft's Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition (2015), S.T. Joshi remarks about “the absence of a manuscript” (Volume I, p. 151), while as regards “Some Dutch Footprints in New England” in Lovecraft's Collected Essays, Volume 4: Travel (2005), Joshi based the text on the typescript in the John Hay Library but also notes that an autograph manuscript is “also extant” (p. 255).

But where is all of this material now? In the 1975 catalog, Binkin is said to be hoping to sell the whole collection in the future to some library. But did he? Or did he sell some things piecemeal? Or did the collection disappear into some limbo after Binkin's death in November 1989, just as it very nearly did after Grill's death in 1970? Such thoughts provide a cautionary tale for collectors and their collections. However prized and cherished they may be while the collector is alive, what happens to such materials after the collector passes?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Does This Booklet Exist or Not?

In 2010, the shortlived Bandersnatch Books was supposed to publish a small chapbook by T.M. Wright (1947-2015)  titled The People on the Island. The short story was originally written for an anthology Cold Touch, edited by William P. Simmons, to have been published by Prime Books.  The anthology was delivered to the publisher in May 2002, for publication in November 2002.  But the book never appeared.

The short story, however,  appeared in Brutarian Magazine, issue 42 (2005), and was collected in Wright's Bone Soup (2010). It is perhaps most easily found in The Weird (2011), a massive anthology edited Jeff and Ann VanderMeer.

There are traces lingering on the web of the Bandersnatch Books edition.  First there is, copied from this source, an early cover for the book, from December 2009:


Next, in July 2010, Noah O'Toole published a series of rough sketches for the forthcoming booklet at his blog, here. Below is one image, for the rest see the blog:

The booklet was seemingly published on 23 October 2010, for the following statement was posted at the Shocklines Forum:
"T.M. Wright's The People on the Island now available”

After a longer delay than anticipated, I'm very pleased to announce that the revised version of the chapbook "The People on the Island" is now available for purchase. With a new cover, interior illustration and a foreword written and available only in this version, this is Terry at his best. Price is $10 plus $1 shipping.
Apparently the final cover
There are other hints that some copies of this booklet actually came out.  On November 23, 2010, the publisher wrote at Raingod's Weblog:
We’ve released T.M. Wright’s “The People on the Island” and will be releasing K.H. Koehler’s “The Dreadful Doctor Faust” in a couple of weeks.
But the Koehler book did not appear until 2015, when the author published it through CreateSpace.

Apparently, Bandersnatch Books disappeared quickly. I've never seen a copy of this booklet anywhere. What I'd like to know, bibliographically, is how many copies of The People on the Island were printed?  How many were released?  What is the content of the new "foreword written and available only in this version"?  Anyone know?

Update (2/13/19):  Thanks to the booklet's illustrator, Noah O'Toole, I can now say that some copies were indeed distributed, but not for very long.  He received only one copy himself.  The publisher disappeared very quickly afterwards.

Friday, January 18, 2019

"All Fled, All Done": Redux on Robert E. Howard's Famous Couplet

The legend* has altered in the retelling, from a slip found in Robert E. Howard's wallet after his suicide in June 1936, to it being the last thing Howard typed on his typewriter before going out to his car where he shot himself in the head. The couplet is now legendary:
All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over and the lamps expire.
Rusty Burke published an article "All Fled, All Done" in The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies (Winter 2001), in which he identified Howard's source for the final line of the couplet, a poem titled "The House of Cæsar" by Viola Garvin, which appeared in a poetry anthology Songs of Adventure (1926), edited by Robert Frothingham.  Each of the five stanzas of the poem ends with the line "The Feast is over and the lamps expire!"

Songs of Adventure 1928
Burke also notes that L. Sprague de Camp's assertion in 1966 that the second line of the couplet "seems to be a paraphrase" of a line in the poem "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae" by Ernest Dowson became a statement of fact in de Camp's 1975 The Miscast Barbarian. However, Burke notes that others have thought that Howard would not have found many affinities in Dowson's verse, despite the repetition of the line "the feast is over and the lamps expire." 

Burke also looked into the author Viola Garvin, and found two candidates, Viola Gerard Garvin and Viola (Taylor) Garvin.  Burke suggests the first as the author of the poem "The House of Cæsar" for Viola Gerard Garvin published a single volume of verse, Dedication (1928).  Alas, Burke picked the wrong Garvin.

Viola Gerard Garvin (1898-1969) and Viola (Taylor) Garvin (1883-1959) were related by marriage.  Viola Gerard Garvin was the eldest daughter of James Louis Garvin (1868-1947), famous as a London newspaper editor, by his first wife.  And Viola Taylor was James Louis Garvin's second wife, the marriage occurring in 1921, and thus step-mother to (the adult) Viola Gerard Garvin.  The details of their lives and writings are given in entries at my Lesser-Known Writers blog. Click here for Viola Gerard Garvin, and click here for Viola (Taylor) Garvin, who after her marriage wrote as Mrs. J.L. Garvin. 

The poem "The House of Cæsar" appears in her book Corn in Egypt (1926), as the final item in the collection.  Here Mrs. Garvin gives the Dowson line as epigraph at the beginning of the poem, thus showing that she had the Dowson poem firmly in mind when writing her poem; and that Howard had no necessity to have known it. (The Dowson line does not appear in the reprint of the poem in Songs of Adventure.)

The appearance of  "The House of Cæsar" in Corn in Egypt is credited to "1906" and from the acknowledgements, I suspect it appeared in The Westminster Gazette. I present a scan of this version below. The earliest known reprint of the poem comes from Amphora: A Collection of Prose and Verse Chosen by the Editor of The Bibelot (1912).  I add a scan of that appearance at bottom.

Corn in Egypt 1926

Amphora 1912

*Rusty Burke has discussed the evolution of the suicide note story in "The Note" in The Cimmerian, volume 3 no. 1 (January 2006), pp. 5-11.