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On The Blunt Edge of Weird Fiction:
Two Short Novels by William Sloane

RimofMorning3,945 words

William Sloane
The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror
New York: NYRB Classics, 2015

“Have you been hearing some weird stories recently? About telepathy, the fourth dimension, or GHOSTS?”[1]

NYRB Classics started off seeming like a nice little boutique imprint that would “rescue” lost classics that proudly never stood a chance at best-seller status, like the works of Frederick Rolfe[2] (Hadrian the Seventh), J. R. Ackerley (My Dog Tulip), or Raymond Roussell, as selected by individual die-hard fans of taste and equal eccentricity.[3]

As the backlist has grown, it seems like it’s become just another publisher of paperback reprints.[4] Among the New York-promoted PC-slush and unreadably massive Cold War-era novels by no doubt worthy East Europeans with unknown and unpronounceable names, there’s still much to thank them for preserving in print, such as the novels of Kingsley Amis, Ernst Jünger’s The Glass Bees, or 1950s PC-confounding Catholic curmudgeon J. F. Powers[5]

Along the way, they’ve produced at least one somewhat half-hearted anthology of “weird fiction,” The Color out of Space: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Blackwood, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird (2002, with cover by Charles Burns) — to their credit, long before the “King in Yellow” fad[6] — and now comes this collection of two novellas (as readers know, my favorite format) of “cosmic horror” by William Sloane.

Sloane’s name seemed hard to place but somewhat familiar, but on prompting I did recall him as an editor and indeed a publisher himself. Along the way, early in his career, he published these short novels, To Walk the Night (1937) and The Edge of Running Water (1939). In addition to Stephen King, who provides the Introduction here, fans have included Robert Bloch, who put To Walk the Night among his top ten favorite horror novels, and Michael Moorcock, who put the same title in his Fantasy: The Best 100 Books.

Here’s NYRB’s own rather lame synopsis:

In the 1930s, William Sloane wrote two brilliant novels that gave a whole new meaning to cosmic horror. In To Walk the Night, Bark Jones and his college buddy Jerry Lister, a science whiz, head back to their alma mater to visit a cherished professor of astronomy. They discover his body, consumed by fire, in his laboratory, and an uncannily beautiful young widow in his house — but nothing compares to the revelation that Jerry and Bark encounter in the deserts of Arizona at the end of the book. In The Edge of Running Water, Julian Blair, a brilliant electrophysicist, has retired to a small town in remotest Maine after the death of his wife. His latest experiments threaten to shake up the town, not to mention the universe itself.

The first seems to promise some kind of Tom Swift adventure, while the second suggests a Universal horror film — and indeed, Edge was made into a Boris Karloff vehicle, The Devil Commands (1941), complete with deformed servant.

Walk certainly starts off very Tom Swifty, with two old college pals driving to the homecoming game and stopping off for a pre-PC picnic that involves Mad Man era amounts of alcohol before setting off on the road again. I couldn’t help but think of a rather similar scene early in Brideshead Revisited, and the same note of old time, “two swell chaps” kind of homoeroticism continues in the next chapter, when we find our boys have set up housekeeping in Greenwich Village.

After the Big Game, they decide to look in on their old Professor Lenormand, whose natural proclivities are relentlessly described:

He wasn’t the sort of man who gets married ordinarily.

Many a time Jerry had commented on the fact that LeNormand had utterly no use for women.

I can’t think of a thing that would make him want to surrender his . . . his freedom.

He had no more use for women than the Sultan’s right-hand man.

Alas, the Professor is not only now married, but has been reduced to a hideously and inexplicably charred corpse.[7] These very un-Bridesheadian turn of events only leads me to associate the boys, who of course are initially suspects, with the jaunty, murderous college pals of Rope,[8] who provide a better fit with the Long Island estate setting of the narrative.[9]

For we learn that one of the pals, “Bark,”[10] has been semi-adopted by the rich father of the other, Jerry, thus providing the wealthy backdrop authors find so convenient. Not that Bark is an orphan, really, just that is mother is the sort of Auntie Mame character[11] that has no time for children, being, well, so “gay.”

Grace is a wonderful woman who was simply not designed by God to be a mother. She is gay and charming, still looks only about thirty, dances superbly, dresses in the most flawless taste, has a notable flair for interior decoration, reads a lot more books than you’d suspect, and lives the ideal life for her with [second husband, Fred, who never appears in the narrative].

Grace’s lightly gay efforts (most of her efforts were lightly gay, but generally they were effective) . . .

Grace’s light, gay voice . . .

One really thinks this is a perhaps unconscious attempt to divert attention from the ambiguously gay protagonists.

But it was all very gay — gayer than any time I spent with Selena either before or afterward.

Of course, I know it “didn’t mean that back then” but it is interesting to see how naturally the author falls into the word; and a rebuke those curmudgeons who insist “They ruined a perfectly good word” — well, why was the word “gay” rather than, say, “jolly” or “neat-o”?

Another such word is “alien,” which gets us to another slight problem here. Between the “alien visitors” meme,[12] and the SJW’s relegation of “alien” to the PC scrapheap, the modern reader won’t really find Sloane’s occasional use of the word to be “clue” so much as confirmation of what he already suspects. There’s no real point in talking about “spoilers” here because the modern reader is apt to figure things out right quick.

Moreover, Constant Readers of our own work will pick up a number of additional clues that derive from an archetypal or at least genre-dependent tradition. Most emphatically, there is the constant reference to Selena’s beauty, which is, however, of such perfection as to be, well, alien, and even downright frightening, and not just to the ambiguously gay.

I am afraid of beautiful women.

“If it were perfect,” I said to her quickly, “it would not be beautiful.”

A small imperfection of tone or accent that would have made it the voice of a person.

She was standing at the curb in the electric twilight of a New York street at night, straight, tall, and beautiful, so that it made my throat ache to look at her, and I hated her and was afraid of her.

An even more telling clue is her smile: [13]

She seldom laughed, but she did have a silent sense of humor of some sort. At intervals she would give a silent, almost secret smile that told me she was relishing something to herself.

. . . smiled that odd smile of hers.

. . . smiled that odd smile of hers [again].

And finally, and most remarkably, for someone whose walk “seemed to me heavy and slipshod, as though she did not care how clumsily she placed her feet, she, like gay old Grace, “dances superbly.”

I had not danced with Selena before, and the moment I began I knew it was going to be an experience. My expectation had been that we’d have a difficult time together on a dance floor. There was too much constraint between us and an antagonism of character we both recognized. In addition, she was very tall, and yet, she danced as no woman I have ever met. . . . I could not think of her any longer as a woman. Instead, it seemed to me that my arm was around the moving shape of the music itself. . . . I remember thinking that this was the first time dancing had ever seemed to me an art. . . . When the music stopped there were scattered hand claps from the spectators and I discovered that we had been left almost alone on the floor. . . . “Fella,” I told [Jerry], “this girl of yours can dance.

Wherever she came from, she had been educated in an atmosphere of objective intellectuality, and her interests molded in ways unlike those of most other women. Then I would remember the way she danced, and not be so sure.

Why dancing should be such an identifying feature will be clear to Constant Readers who recall our discussion of Clifton Webb’s character Mr. Belvedere as an avatar of Krishna:

“Mr. Belvedere, you dance divinely!”

“Yes, yes I do.”[14]

Making your female protagonist an autistic/alien/time-traveler/freak of nature is certainly one way to overcome one of the main strikes against the genre, or boys’ story, writer: how to portrait a female character. Lovecraft, whose ideas of romance make Sheldon Cooper seem like Casanova, simply avoided the issue altogether.

“This is what my people lack.”[15]

Her mind was learning from her body. It takes mind and body both to make a soul. Living with Jerry taught her something of what it means to be a human being.

Although this kind of thing would become a staple of Star Trek and sub-Star Trek sci-fi,[16] but it hints at an important point about the necessarily embodied nature of intelligence that Heidegger and phenomenologists in general would make, with only a little success, against the Sheldon Coopers of “hard AI” research.[17]

Speaking of “my people,” this is the closest we get to a clue about where Selena comes from. We never do learn the exact nature of Selena — alien visitor, human time-traveler, freak of nature?[18] — or her mission, if any, despite a last minute appearance to confront and confirm the narrator’s suspicions; she just walks away, and we later learn that her idiot Doppelgänger has simply taken up where she left off.[19] I suppose this is in the service of the inexplicability that evokes “cosmic horror” but the reader feels a bit gypped.[20] Lovecraft, who was second to none in denouncing “all too human” attempts to portray alien civilizations and cosmic forces, was no slouch in providing fascinating faux-histories and lineages for his “inconceivably other” races; perhaps that’s why his work stayed in print.

Perhaps this is the point to address a typically dopey remark by King in his Introduction: what Joshi calls “the long-held belief that Lovecraft was wholly lacking in humour.” Joshi long ago refuted this idea, pointing out that while Lovecraft did say “I don’t care for humour as an ingredient of the weird tale—in fact, I think it is a definitely diluting element.”

It is clear that the type of humour to which Lovecraft refers is certainly not the “sardonic comedy and graveyard humour” (“Supernatural Horror in Literature”) that he obviously enjoyed in Ambrose Bierce, but the humour where the author is merely laughing genially at his horrors rather than taking them seriously—the type of humour encountered in Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” One gets the impression that Lovecraft regarded such humour as disrespectful of the dignity of the weird tale—an unseemly kind of mockery. He himself certainly used humour; but his humour is neither genial nor that of the grave—it is that of the abyss.[21]

Having reached the abyss, let’s turn back to Sloane and the second novella, Edge of Running Water. It’s more of the same, so if you liked the first novella, you’ll feel you’re getting your money’s worth; if not, then ennui may set in.[22] Having, perhaps, taken Grantland Rice as his model,[23] Sloane uses his thesaurus to vary the “gay” language with “queer” this time:

“The inside of your mind must be a queer place.”

“No wonder,” she said slowly, “that he’s so queer now.”

One word struck me sharply. “Queer?” I said. “What do you mean by queer?”

“That there’s something queer about Elora, too?

“It seems kinda queer to me . . .”

“They seem like kinda queer people to us here in Barsham.”

“They bein’ queer, let’s say, and it bein’ queer that Elora Marcy would walk into the river off her own field, there’s some will make a connection.”

Sure and be nothing as queer as folks, now is there? Just as in the first novella our narrator feels the need to distance he and his buddy from Leopold and Loeb, here the narrator avers “Not that I have the tender sensibilities of an interior decorator.”[24]

We get all kinds here: queer brainy types, like our smarty pants protagonists, queer inbred types like the hostile townsfolk, and queer-looking ladies as well.

Like last time, there’s the disturbing looking woman, this time with the emphasis on repulsion rather than beauty, and definitely the villain.

I told myself that all she amounted to was a fat hulk of a woman, no longer young, in a shapeless sack of a dress and with a ruin of a face.

And yet, the trouble was that here was something not quite normal—a woman with an old, sagging, lined face who deliberately let the hard harshness of morning daylight play on her face.

The nub of the matter was that she ought to have been ridiculous and she wasn’t.

And yet, there was something about her that was close to magnificence.

But we also get an unpleasant note of what I’ve called liberal psychogeography; a very early example of the switch from the urban/evil and rural/pure polarity to urban/smart and rural/crude.[25] Sloane extends the Lovecraftian meme of a pocket of degeneracy hidden way from sturdy Nordic normality to the entirety of the Maine countryside, implicitly inverting the Lovecratian/Jeffersonian sturdy yeoman to inbred hick:

This was not the city, I reminded myself.

Those eyes were not logical or reasonable. There was intelligence behind them—plenty of it, perhaps—but not the kind of intelligence to which I was accustomed.

“We ain’t so int’rested as all that in city people,” he observed. “I wouldn’t mind a particle if I never seen another.”[26]

“That’s the way they are around here,” she observed. “They don’t like strangers. At least, they don’t like us.” “It’s just the old New England reticence.” She looked doubtful. “Probably. Only . . . well, let’s not talk about that now.”

“I loathe the people in the town, and the way they look at us. You’d think we were gangsters in a hide-out.”

“I can see you’re not from this part of the world,” she said and then added, “either of you.”

“But I should be careful if I were you, all of you. The people here are different from the ones you’re probably accustomed to. They’ll blame you for what’s happened.”

They wouldn’t be easy to reason with.

In thinking it would simplify things at all I was reasoning from an abysmal ignorance of Barsham Harbor and the way its people thought and felt.

A local cab driver, like the station agent in The Shadow over Innsmouth, serves to introduce the simmering evil of The Locals:

The scorn and contempt he managed to make vocal in that short noise drove me to Julian’s defense.

“And the others might not take kindly to the idea of havin’ one of those things in these parts, anyhow.”

I called this an early example, because the shift, of course, is part of the increasing urbanization of postwar America, as well as the entirely coincidental rise to dominance of a Certain Tribe, which has striven mightily to remake Nordic Yeoman America into something more heimlich:

Never, in the most unfamiliar parts of Europe, had I felt so alien as I did there in that Maine courtroom.[27]

Here even the sheriff, unlike the noir-ish detective of Walks, is more of a dangerous rural buffoon as found in all those post-Texas Chainsaw rural danger films, epitomized by Capt. Spaulding in House of a 1000 Corpses.[28]

But the real problem here is that Sloane’s object of horror is the now rather dated idea of a radio to talk with the dead. Worse, no sooner had the idea started to be hinted at than I cold not help but recall the dreadful Z-movie The Dead Talk Back,[29] especially as it opens with the unforgettably awful monologue of Dr. Henry Krasker:

The . . . real showcase in The Dead Talk Back, however, is Aldo Farnese’s turn as the showy paranormal criminologist. . . . Instead of The Amazing Criswell’s zealous vigilance over a UFO cover up, Farnese delivers a full retread of Victorian era spiritualism, complete with a demonstration of a modern take on the 19th Century safety coffin and a “scientific” radio that can tune into the voices of spirits!

Krasker’s radio to the dead, however, looks like a crumpled ball of tinfoil glued onto a skillet. This is connected to an electric stove top mounted on a wall. Impressive technology, but I wouldn’t advise the otherworldly equivalent of holding one’s breath waiting for this thing to work.[30]

To be fair, the device here is much more interesting; though it’s still a kind of electronic version of a séance table, it does have the creepy feature of copper wire twisted into human shapes and sitting along the table.[31]

“Good God, Julian,” I said, “When you duplicate a séance, you duplicate it. This looks like a Black Mass in a futurist play.”

Nevertheless, just as with Edge of Running Water,

[Though f]ilmed just two years before both Plan 9’s release and The Twilight Zone hitting the air, it’s hard to tell if Krasker’s smug talk is due to an outdated script, too late for its 1930s spiritualist audience, or if it’s brilliantly prescient of the “scientific” paranormal film trend that would begin exactly two decades later with Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and end with Prince of Darkness (1987).[32]

And therein lies the problem. “Spoilers” aside, once the reader cons to the to-be-revealed “horror” and shrugs his shoulders, all the piling up of detail, especially sans the unique Lovecraft vocabulary (also mocked in King’s Introduction) and backstory, fails to increase the sense of dread and only becomes, well, piling up of detail. Both novellas seem over-written for the meagre punch they deliver.[33]

King correctly notes that Sloane is attempting to combine — or transcend — several genres, one of which is the detractive story. Both stories, in fact, provide us with unusual defective characters — one a hard boiled investigator worthy of Raymond Chandler, the other a Miss Marple-ish spinster-sister of the town sheriff who “just” helps out with the notes but otherwise works as a secretary in the Psychology department “at Cambridge” (not sure if that’s the British university or the way a downeasterner would refer to Harvard); both are by far the most interesting things on offer, and one wonders if Sloane would have been better off writing just the stories as detective yarns.[34]

Sloane’s ambition though was larger, as Burke notes:

[T]hese are works of cosmic horror, but they’re certainly more than that. They’re mysteries wrapped in the garments of science fiction with well-placed dashes of the fantastical that challenge the kind of positivism that would generally confine a science fiction piece. Sloane is concerned largely with exploring the nature of our limits of knowledge and mining terror from the edges at which the weird threatens to intrude.

Using the Weird to challenge the positivist limits imposed on us by the elites, scientific and otherwise, is certainly right up my alley.[35] Indeed, there are hints of some of my favorite Traditionalist themes, such as the puppet:

I thought how puppetlike we had all been, moving around at the ends of our strings while Mrs. Walters pulled them.

And the Guénonian fabric of the universe:[36]

A mechanical, arbitrary rent in the warp and woof of the fabric of the physical universe.

Alas, Time itself, like gin, rum and destiny, has played its own funny trick, [37] and Sloane’s work — at least, these two examples — seems less terrifying now than cozily nostalgic.

[T]hey’re also wonderful period pieces, written for an age when local sheriffs could employ their spinster sister to take notes longhand while they interrogated suspects, and well-to-do families had the means to employ manservants to help them dress for dinner.[38]

It would be wrong to leave the impression that Sloane isn’t capable of some great local prose effects: here we find a couple hints of a kind of hauntology:[39]

By a sort of casual introspection I tried to find out what, specifically, it was that bothered me. The house, for one thing, I decided— if you are not used to dark, cold rooms with a single candle for light the experience is a strange one, belonging to our ancestors’ ordinary routine of life, perhaps, but not to that of a modern city dweller. And Mrs. Walters. I did not like her, or the dark that had settled over the house—Julian ought not to have such a woman around and why hadn’t he put electric lights into the rooms since he had wired in the power? The lamp in the kitchen and the candle in this room were separate islands of light and there were too many shadows between them. I thought of the hall outside my door and it seemed to me that there might be someone in it, but when I looked out it was empty and silent. I thought of the shadowy living room, of the river water noiselessly running and running, almost under the sills of its windows. A hundred years and more this house had stood here, alone on the Point. A hundred years of sun and storm, of winters and summers, of dark and light. It was old, but it was not its age that gave me the tight feeling I had in the pit of my stomach.

Perhaps, if I had been superstitious, I would have been inclined to give more weight to that project of his. The house would have been “haunted” by its presence and the potential presence of the myriads of voices that were supposed to speak through it. But they weren’t there. Of that I felt sure. Just as it was self-evident that a physical machine could not be expected to produce a nonphysical result.

Or this, a meditation on the personal psychology of fear that Raymond Chandler might have put into the mind of Philip Marlowe (without that “substratum” bit):

[L]ike a man walking down an unfamiliar street in a strange city, late at night, with a vague substratum of uneasiness in his mind. He does not say to himself, “Maybe I am going to get held up and beaten in this place.” He simply feels uneasy. But if he sees the shadow of a man shouldered back in a doorway his fear rushes together like wind to the heart of a cyclone. It fastens itself on that figure and embodies itself with its image. My fear seemed to have no such focal point; it colored the rest of my thoughts but it had no shape of its own.[40]

Nevertheless, the overall effect is that of a period piece; and while that was hardly Sloane’s intention, these two novellas are still worthy of the attention of those, like many readers of Counter-Currents, who feel more at home in the past;[41] even, perhaps especially, what we might call the Weird Past.[42]


1. Dr. Henry Krasker, The Dead Talk Back (Merle Gould, 1957; released 1996), the relevance of which shall soon be revealed.

2. For more on Rolfe, see my “E-Caviar for the Masses!” here.

3. “The NYRB Classics series is dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.” Publisher’s website, here.

4. In fairness, another county heard from: ““Overall the collection is faultless. Once you have discovered the series it’s as if you’ve just gained an incredibly well-read friend who consistently lends you obscure yet highly enjoyable books…. Collecting them can become compulsive.” —Vogue, although I’m not sure when; this and more good press here.

5. Morte D’Urban is a delightful dip back into the lost world of pre-Vatican II American Catholicism, when Chicago was the center or the universe, and celebrity priests rode luxury trains throughout the Midwest, stayed in luxury hotels, and wined and dined – and were wined and dined by – high rolling potential donors and converts, while treating the indigenous Protestant masses with aristocratic contempt. In Powers’ final irony, when God humbles high-rolling Fr. Urban – with an arrant golf ball, he acquires spiritual wisdom but become useless to the Church.

6. Which did not stop them from printing a new version with the Beircean title Shadows of Carcosa: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Chambers, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird (2015). For more on the Carcosa Cult, see Christopher Pankhurst’s “True Detective & The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,” here.

7. The way the scene is depicted on the cover of a not too vintage paperback, here, reminds me of the way Freddy Lounds is delivered by the Tooth Fairy in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, here.

8. As the murder investigation starts, Bark needs to point out that “neither of us has any Leopold and Loeb tendencies,” which of course only prompts the reader to ask: Any?

9. James Woods delivers a narrative about a charred corpse from his Long Island estate in Segrio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here.

10. From Berkeley, which the butler (of course there’s a butler) “pronounces in the English manner.” The author of Rope, Patrick Hamilton, also wrote Berkeley Square. “Bark” suggests “Fido,” the nickname given to the similar human narrator of Odd John, whose titular character resembles, as we’ll see, Selena ; see “The Wild Boys Smile: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” and “From Odd John to Strangelove” reprinted in my Green Nazis In Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

11. See my “Anti-Mame: Communist Camp Classic Unmasked,” here.

12. Superman, the “strange visitor from another world,” would make his debut in 1938, right between the two novellas.

13. For some meditations on beauty so unearthly as to be ugly, and vice versa, as well as the uncanny smile, see “The Wild Boys Smile: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” and “From Odd John to Strangelove,” op. cit.

14. Appropriately, Webb himself starred as a dancer on Broadway before coming to Hollywood to portray the ambiguously gay Waldo in Laura; on the dance as the symbol of the avatar, see “The Babysitiing Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty,” here. In Rope, Mrs. Kently, an amateur astrologer (unlike the incinerated astronomer of our tale), debates the merits of some of Hitchcock’s actors: “I didn’t like the new girl much. Definitely Scorpio.” “No, I didn’t like her either, but her clothes were fabulous.” “Simply divine!” “Absolute heaven!” “But I have a confession to make. Do you know, I think I like Mason as much as Errol Flynn?” “I’ll take Cary Grant, myself.” “Oh, so will I. Capricorn, the goat. He leaps, divine!”

15. Arthur Case: You’re so profoundly sad. Betty Draper: No. It’s just my people are Nordic.” (Mad Men: “The Benefactor”(#2.3; 2008). Cf. my recent collection End of An Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015), where this occurs as a epigraph to the collection.

16. “He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature… and because of it, the greatest in the universe.” – Dr. Paul Nelson, It Conquered the World (Roger Croman, 1956; TVTropes suggests a better title would have been “It Duped A Bitter Idiot, Conquered Something Like Five People, And Knocked Out The Power For A While.”) This is known as a Patrick Stewart Speech, also known as a Kirk Summation, “World of Cardboard” Speech, and Intrigued by Humanity. Contrast Shut Up, Kirk! and Shaming the Mob. Compare So Bad, It’s Good. Astro-Zombies may top them all; as Jabootu remarks: “And really, that about says it. Oh, except for the Hero’s Obligatory Final Philosophical Declaration on the Meaning of It All. And thus the film ends with Porter musing, ‘There’s one basic element of human life that can never be removed: emotions.’ Dude, you have just officially blown my mind.”

17. See Hubert Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do. John A. Schumacher (D. Phil, Oxon), one of my teachers at Rensselaer Polytechnic, once observed that “I don’t care if computers can think, I want to know if they can fuck.”

18. In addition to Odd John, she also recalls, of course, the female idiot/savant in Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human.

19. The notion of a blow to the head causing an “idiot” to regain not just normal but supernormal cognitive functions recalls Wild World of Batwoman, where in the climactic explosion the idiot lab assistant Healthcliff recovers his faculties, revealing that he was the original scientific genius, who became an idiot only when his assistant knocked him on the head; in line with the “humor” of the film, at the very end, said assistant swats a fly on his head, and Heathcliff immediately reverts to idiocy. For more on this atrocious film, see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here.

20. The ending, right down to the apparent “return to [sub]normal” of the “monster,” resembles the Gainax Ending of Monster a Go Go: “at the end, the monster suddenly never existed, and the astronaut who everyone thought had turned into said monster turns up alive in the North Atlantic. It leaves a number of questions unanswered, starting with ‘then why did you have footage of the monster wandering around killing people?’, moving through ‘why did we get to see, in graphic detail, every preparation the military made to hunt this monster that doesn’t exist?’, and finish up somewhere around ‘what the flying rat heck?!?’” For more on the curious genesis of what the MST3k gang voted “the worst movie we’ve ever seen,” see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here. Sometimes, in the right hands, the Gainax Ending can work, sort of: “I wanted controversy, arguments, fights, discussions, people in anger waving fists in my face saying, ‘how dare you?’“ — Patrick McGoohan on the intentionally confusing ending he created for The Prisoner. See Collin Cleary’s classic essay on Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner in his Summoning the Gods: Essays on Paganism in a God-Forsaken World, ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2011).

21. “Humour and Satire in Lovecraft,” reprinted in Lovecraft and a World in Transition (New York: Hippocampus, 2014).

22. Christopher Burke notes that “It is perhaps a minor detail but noteworthy nonetheless that the two individual titles are both suggestive of constant movement forward, and the title chosen for the containing volume (originally used in a 1964 edition) perfectly sums up the sensations created at the disquieting borderland between the known and unknown.” Here.

23. “Even a sports editor, for instance, might notice something wrong with a lead that said: “The precision-jack-hammer attack of the Miami Dolphins stomped the balls off the Washington Redskins today by stomping and hammering with one precise jack-thrust after another up the middle, mixed with pinpoint-precision passes into the flat and numerous hammer-jack stomps around both ends . . .” Right. And there was the genius of Grantland Rice. He carried a pocket thesaurus, so that “The thundering hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen” never echoed more than once in the same paragraph, and the “Granite-grey sky” in his lead was a “cold dark dusk” in the last lonely line of his heart-rending, nerve-ripping stories. . . . “Fear And Loathing At The Superbowl: No Rest for the Wretched,” by Hunter S. Thompson; Rolling Stone, February 15, 1973; online here.

24. And not that there’s anything wrong with that, either.

25. See “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall St.” in my collection The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Coutner-Currents, 2014).

26. Sloane may not use the purple prose that “modern” critics mock, but he does continue the tradition of laboriously transcribing supposed “hick” speech.

27. By contrast, as Greg Johnson has documented, the inbred/crossbred monsters of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth are pretty clearly Semites, or based thereon; see his analysis here. Along the same lines, you’ll note how the official narrative of WWII has changed from “heroic democracies crush fascism” to “White nations have genocide in their DNA and must be kept on a tight lease.” In Walks, a key plot point is conveyed by a crowd that sounds “like a lynch mob” as if he’d ever heard one.

28. Captain Spaulding: “Ya’ll think us folk from the country’s real funny-like, dontcha? Yeah, well saddle up the mule, ma. Slide me some grits, I’s got to get me some edu-cation, uh hu hu hu. You asshole!” See my essay “More Aryan than Human: The Return of Repressed White Wisdom in Rob Zombie’s Firefly Family Films” here.

29. Constant Readers will recall my reflections on this and other “Essential Films … & Others” here.

30. Cinedome, Jan. 24, 2015, here. In a final irony, Gould out-Woods Ed Wood by having his film sit unclaimed at a film laboratory until found in 1993 and immediately sent to be publicly mocked by MST3k; thus, the film itself missed the paranormal fad of the 70s-80s.

31. Although here, I am reminded of a remarkable surrealistic touch in Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls (another late 50s film that sat in a film lab for 20 or so years), where an actual séance table has three skeletons sitting facing the three guests, and no one notices.

32. Cinedome, op. cit. Edge also shares, with both The Dead Talk Back and Walk, the non-ending ending; despite the cover blurb of the Bantam Edge paperback, “the dead come to call on the living,” the reader will be as disappointed as Tom Servo: “Hey, the dead never talked back!”

33. “It may seem that I am including a great deal in this narrative which has no real bearing on the story of Julian Blair and the thing that happened in the house on Setauket Point.” “My evidence will be more valuable for being presented in its setting, and every detail seems to me important.”

34. Someone at Penguin had the bright idea in 1944 of marketing To Walk with a cover where the dead astronomer’s body is flanked by a telescope which, by trick of perspective, seems rather like a gun; see the cover here.

35. See, for example, the essays on Lovecraft and Stapledon collected as The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Coutner-Currents, 2014) and Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Coutner0Currents, 2016).

36. See “The Corner at the Center of the Universe” in The Eldritch Evola … and Others.

37. “The Saga of Jenny,” Kurt Weil, Ira Gershwin.

38. Review by Cath Murphy, online here.

39. See “The Presence of the Past: From Ancestor Worship to Hauntology” by Christopher Pankhurst, here.

40. As is the previously quoted bit from the first novella, “She was standing at the curb in the electric twilight of a New York street at night, straight, tall, and beautiful, so that it made my throat ache to look at her, and I hated her and was afraid of her.”

41. See Jef Costello, “Why I Live in the Past,” here, and reprinted n The Importance of James Bond (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

42. Cf. the “Old Weird America,” “a term coined by Marcus to describe the often eerie country, blues, and folk music featured on the Anthology of American Folk Music (1927-1932; released 1952). In his opinion, the sensibility of Anthology is reflected by the Basement Tapes recordings [of Bob Dylan]. The term has been revived via the musical genre called New Weird America.” – Wikipedia, here.



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  1. AE
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I started this collection a few months back and quickly gave it up out of boredom. NYRB Classics seems to be on a deflationary venture.

    James, may I suggest a book to review? You’ve probably read it already: Thomas Disch’s On Wings of Song. A dystopic novel of a future America, with Midwest Christians vs Mid-Atlantic liberals, the latter of which feature castratos, kept men, semi-permanent blackface and a strange art-cum-drug that ends in an out-of-body experience and/or death. It’s actually been a while since I read it, so I don’t remember it all that well, but I’ve been wanting to give it another go. It seems pregnant with some of your favorite themes.

    • James O'Meara
      Posted February 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Also, people keep recommending him to me, from back when I had a boss who supposedly went to school with him. I may just finally check him out.

      Sloane is a little dull but not a bad way to spend a couple afternoons on the couch.

      • Kudzu Bob
        Posted March 1, 2016 at 12:34 am | Permalink

        I have always admired Disch’s work, especially his astonishing dystopian novel Camp Concentration, about political prisoners who are forcibly injected with a strain of mutated syphilis designed to turn them into geniuses before it kills them. His essays were first-rate too. Like Gore Vidal, whom he greatly admired, Disch had an intellect that could not easily be categorized as rightist or leftist. And although he mostly managed to stay in the good graces of the liberal establishment, not long before his death word got out that he detested Muslims and immigrants as much as he did George Bush, so of course the jackals began to gather. It was like a knife in my heart when I heard that he had killed himself.

        • AE
          Posted March 2, 2016 at 2:32 am | Permalink

          I read Camp Concentration and another title that I don’t recall– I didn’t think either compared toOn Wings of Song, but that’s just me. I wasn’t aware that he wrote any essays. Could you recommend a particular volume?

          • Kudzu Bob
            Posted March 2, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            The Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World.

            PS. I might as well mention Disch’s 1965 novel The Genocides, which depicts the displacement of Earth’s ecosystem–including mankind–by an invasive plant species sown by aliens that threatens to constitute the sole form of life on this planet, a nightmarish global monoculture. I doubt that the author originally had in mind the current prospect of a brown planet ruled over by (((corporations))), but then again, given the sentiments that Disch expressed later in life, he might not have objected to such a reinterpretation, either.

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