Monday, October 30, 2023

A Ghost Version of A Voyage to Arcturus

Updated 5 November 2023

Some months ago I consulted Walter Rigdon's Notable Names in the American Theatre (1976), and in a list of "Premieres in America" I found an unexpected reference to a theatrical performance of A Voyage to Arcturus in New York in 1970. It reportedly took place on March 4, 1970, at the Theatre Genesis, at 10th & 2nd in New York City (p. 188).

That's all the information that is found in that book, and sadly, that turns out to be the only reference to the performance that I can find. Thus I still wonder: Who adapted it? Who starred in it?  How long was the show?  How many performances?  How did this version relate to the novel? 

I did look around for further details, and only found some contextual information. The Theatre Genesis was an off-off Broadway theater, founded in 1964, for the producing of works by new American playwrights. Located in the East Village, it was housed in St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. Its most famous playwright was Sam Shepard, among other notables. It was first run by Ralph Cook (an actor and parishioner), who left the theater in 1969. It was then operated as a cooperative for a few more years, and it seems to have ended around 1973-74 when the new leader Murray Mednick moved to Los Angeles. Some of the early history of Theatre Genesis is related in Kembrew Mcleod's The Downtown Pop Underground (2018).

The 1970 performance was probably inspired by the publication of the Ballantine edition of A Voyage to Arcturus, which came out in November 1968. 

Anyone know of any other details? 

Thanks to Murray Ewing (see comments), here are a few notices from The Village Voice:

 26 February 1970, p. 48

12 March 1970, p. 50

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Finding E.R. Eddison in an Unexpected Place

Chance brought me to view a copy of an anthology Great Stories of Sport (1931), edited by Thomas Moult. Scanning the contents I was surprised to see E.R. Eddison's name, with an eleven page piece titled "The King Wrestles with Goldry Bluszco"--it is self-evidently a section from The Worm Ouroboros (1922). Actually it is the bulk of chapter two of that book, "The Wrastling for Demonland." The bibliographically-inclined may be interested to know that it runs from the 19th paragraph of that chapter (beginning "Now began a great company to come forth from the palace...") on to the very end of that chapter (pp. 19-28 in the 1922 Jonathan Cape edition). Moult credits its appearance as "By special permission of the Author and Messrs. Jonathan Cape Ltd." I wonder if any readers of a sport anthology went looking for the full of Eddison's classic fantasy.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

William Morris on Believing or Not Believing in a God

 In his posthumous;y published A Diary (1907), William Allingham (1824-1889), a friend of William Morris, recorded on [Tuesday] 13 June 1882 a discussion he had with Morris: 

Walking with William Morris from the Society of Arts to Bloomsbury last Friday, we talked, among other things, of believing or not believing in a God, and he said:  "It's so unimportant, it seems to me," and he went on to say that all we can get to, do what we will, is a form of words. I think I agree in part, not entirely; but in the street and in a hurry explanation was impossible. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

2023 Sounds a Lot Like 1968

 Only a few specifics might be changed:

The world you were born into is going nuts. Just check around you if you think I’m wrong. People stand and watch while women are knifed to death in the streets; church-going boys from good homes take down rifles and butcher pedestrians en masse; kids call their parent square, and they’re right; parents call their kids dope fiends, and they’re right; wild-eyed bigots run for publish office; the book-burners are back with us; suddenly, getting high on something that twists your chromosomes seems like the only way to make it through the night; cops beat up pregnant women because they plead for peace; the black man hates the white man and the white man hates the black man and the gray man is caught between, riddled from both sides; fear rises up into the air like ugly smoke, permeated with the stench of paranoia and alienation.

This comes from the dust-wrapper blurb, by the inimitable Harlan Ellison, for his collection Love Ain't Nothing But Sex Misspelled (New York:  Trident Press, 1968).  The very nice cover art is by Leo and Diane Dillon. The contents of the collection varies from what is found in later editions. 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

How to Correctly Pronounce Names Like Cabell, Dunsany, Machen, Powys and Tolkien

The Literary Digest was a weekly American magazine published by the Funk & Wagnalls Company of New York. It began in 1890, and by mid 1937 it was evidently stumbling, for in February 1938 it folded.  One of its editors in the 1930s had responsibility for a filler column called “What’s the Name, Please?” This editor, Charles Earle Funk, wrote to various prominent or up-and-coming people with names that could be easily mispronounced, asking them how their name should be pronounced. A number of the responses appeared in issues of The Literary Digest, and the column was reportedly popular. Funk decided to make a book of the responses, including names which were yet expected to appear in the future issues of The Literary Digest. The book was titled What’s the Name, Please? A Guide to the Correct Pronunciation of Current Prominent Names, published by Funk & Wagnalls Company in May 1936.  A second printing came out in June, but the overall sales were evidently small, for the book is rare today.

A number of writers of fantasy with easily mispronounced names appear in the book.  (I do not know if their notes ever appeared in The Literary Digest.) Here are the entries for James Branch Cabell, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, John Cowper Powys, and J.R.R. Tolkien.  

I've written about the pronunciation of Cabell previously on this blog, here

Here's is Lady Dunsany's reply:

Arthur Machen's entry (which crosses over two pages) also includes notes on the American J. Gresham Machen, who had a different pronunciation of his last name:

John Cowper Powys's entry includes his brother Llewellyn Powys:

And it seems early for Tolkien (here, in the never-used form of "John R.R. Tolkien") to have appeared in such a formulation. When Funk's book was published in May 1936, Tolkien was six months from delivering his landmark British Academy lecture Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, and The Hobbit wouldn't be published in England until September 1937, and in the U.S. in March 1938.




Saturday, February 4, 2023

William Gibson on H.P. Lovecraft

In 1981, William Gibson was three years away from publishing his award-winning first novel, Neuromancer. He had published an early story ("Fragments of a Hologram Rose") in 1977; and would have four more appear in 1981, including "Johnnie Mnemonic" and "The Gernsback Continuum." At the time, Rick Coad was publishing a fanzine entitled Space Junk, and for issue 6 (1981) Coad solicited contributions for a "Lovecraft Issue." Gibson contributed a short piece entitled "Lovecraft & Me." 

Here are some of Gibson's comments on Lovecraft, whom he read between 1962 and 1964. Most of the ellipses are in the original, though the ellipses in brackets indicate omissions by me: 

My basic advice on Lovecraft is to take your Baudelaire straight and take a pass on all that kink shit; go to the source, get yourself a good hit of Paris spleen, and ignore the nameless things that flap their dank genitals in the black and noisome alleys of the Elder Culture . . .

[. . .] Anyway, this guy's work abounds with "feminine landscapes", hillocks and mounts with holes in them, and, if you're unlucky enough to find your way down one of these things, you'll find, too late, that it's full of rats, it's all damp and icky there, the very fabric of reality breaks down, down there, and it's just a burbling, bubbling chaos, where things with big feet dance to the music of madness, all burning-churning fishy-nasty . . . 

[. . .] Today you can buy Lovecratf like candy; you don't have to send off to Sauk City for creepy little brochures. It must take a lot of the thrill away. You kids don't know what you're missing. The Golden Age of Sexual Paranoia is past, and HPL's just another taste in the wire rack at Safeway . . .

Looking back, I can see that my Lovecraft period extended from about age fourteen until sixteen, when I started to satisfy my curiosity about hillocks and mounts. After that[,] somehow, he never packed quite the same punch. Kerouac and Henry Miller had more to tell me, then, and poor old Lovecraft wandered up into the lumber-room of early adolescence and stayed there, pressing his trousers under the mattress and staring dully through a small-paned window, eating ice-cream and worrying about fish. 

I'm still looking for those rats . . . 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Guy Thorne: Why I Chose My Pen-Name

From Pearson's Weekly, 4 July 1907: 

“Guy Thorne”  (C. Ranger Gull), the author of “When It Was Dark”

          I chose my pen-name of “Guy Thorne” in the following way and for the following reasons:

Some four or five years ago I had written a good many novels under my own name. These novels were not at all concerned with religious matters. They were ordinary society novels dealing with the problems of modern life, as I saw it.
One day it occurred to me that the theory of the modern novel is all wrong. It is not, in the majority of cases, a true representation of modern life, because it absolutely ignores what is an integral part of every man and woman's life in Britain—religion.
People who are irreligious are just as interested in the religious question as the larger majority who are more or less religious. Therefore it seemed to me that a story of the British life, which entirely ignored and made no mention of religious matters, only represented a part of life.
Pursuing this line of thought, I came to see that a novel which should express these views and show how intimately religion is bound up with the lives of everybody, even those who do not appreciate the fact and would not allow it, would probably interest a great many people. I set up to write this book.
When I was half way through it I began to realise that if I published it under my own name the story might possibly have the result of alienating the regular circle of readers I had won, for the reason that it was not the literary fare which they were accustomed to buy under my name. I resolved to make the experiment of issuing a story under a pseudonym.
The pseudonym was not an easy thing to choose. The name ought to be, I thought, something which was easily said and easily remembered. I decided upon a name of two single syllables. “Guy” is about the shortest Christian name in the English language, so I resolved upon that.
Writers have always to be students of how words sound when they are spoken. I have been a student of sound in this way. I knew that a long “i” sound ought to be followed by a longer vowel sound, but which, in its constitution, allowed a drop in the voice. The human voice always drops at the end of a statement. From that it was not difficult to evolve the surname of “Thorne,” which seems to me to fulfill the conditions I had laid down for a pen-name, and, in conjunction with “Guy,” to have a certain picturesqueness. This is the simple story of my pen-name.

[signed]  Guy Thorne

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Why I Chose My Pen-Name: Dick Donovan

From Pearson's Weekly, 4 July 1907: 

"Dick Donovan" who is busily writing a splendid series of stories that will start shortly in Pearson's.

Many years ago I was asked to write a series of detective stories to be published in a widely-read journal with which I was then associated. I was not particularly anxious to undertake the work, and imposed a condition that if I did the articles must appear under a nom de guerre.

This was agreed to, and then I became puzzled about the selection of a suitable name.

I chanced, however, to be looking over some old records of Bow Street when that historic thoroughfare occupied the position that Scotland Yard does at the present day. The "Bow Street Runners" had a rough and arduous time of it, for they were not aided by telegraphs and railways. They were veritable sleuth hounds tracking their prey by trail and scent.

I noted that among those who most distinguished themselves towards the end of the eighteenth century was a Mr. Richard Donovan, He was a terror to evil doers, and was the means of bringing some of the notorious criminals of his day to a well-deserved end. It at once occurred to me that by abbreviating Richard into Dick I had an excellent pen-name in "Dick Donovan," and one that would cling to the public memory. 

I therefore adopted it, and I hope that the spirit of the dead and gone Mr. Richard Donovan has not been perturbed thereby

 [signed:] J.E. Preston Muddock