February 25th, 2007


What I'm reading

Arthur Machen, The Three Impostors. Machen is a writer I've heard about for years and have wanted to read, but somehow I never got around to it until now. In part, this was because his work was difficult to obtain, but with the advent of the internet and print-on-demand publishers, many of his books are now readily available. I don't have much to say about this one, other than that it is a good yarn, somewhat reminiscent of Poe. I'm about halfway through it.

John Cowper Powys, Rabelais. I first learned of Powys from reading Henry Miller's The Books in My Life, some 35 years ago. Subsequently I read Powys' Autobiography and one of his books on literature (I can't recall the title). Powys was a lecturer and author on literary subjects for most of his life. In his late fifties, he turned his attention to writing fiction, and spent the next 30 years turning out a number of long, complex novels. I plan to read his major novels over the next few years, but I am starting with this book, a study of Francois Rabelais, the 16th Century author of Gargantua and Pantagruel, which Powys devoted several years to writing. The book includes a biographical sketch, a new translation of selections from Gargantua and Pantagruel, and an interpretation of Rabelais' genius and philosophy. I have read Gargantua and Pantagruel before in an old translation, but didn't know much about his life or the history of his book. That background information, and Powys' enthusiasm, makes me want to get my hands on a later translation and re-read the entire book.

Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith, ed. Schultz & Connors. It's easy to forget how young CAS was when he was first achieved recognition as a poet. I read through several years of his letters to George Sterling, and was quite surprised when he mentioned his upcoming 21st birthday! Having recently read a collection of CAS' poetry, it was fascinating to read his comments on those same poems, made at the time he was writing them. I'm glad I bought this book; although I enjoy CAS' fiction and poetry, I wasn't sure that I would find his letters interesting, but the combination of mundane details about his life, discussion of his work and aspirations, and reference to events of the day makes this book an easy and enjoyable read for anyone interested in his work. In a way, it's like reading someone's LJ.

Relevant quotation: "I have another of [Arthur] Machen's books: Hieroglyphics, one of the best things on literature and literary values that I have seen for a long time, apart from the writings of John Cowper Powys." [from CAS' letter of 8/28/1919 to George Sterling]