Richard Frahm on Clark Ashton Smith

Richard Frahm

[Extracts from email sent by Richard Frahm to Boyd Pearson: Monday, 3 November 1997. (foot notes by Boyd)]

Dear Boyd,
Rather elderly now so forgive my arthritic fingers for typos. Born in 1930 and visited Smith probably about 1951. Had some very strange home-made brandy which I remember asking if it was an Atlantean beverage which pleased him. I had visited a very unusual place in Southern Oregon State called The Oregon Vortex1 where there are quite evident some strange anomalies in gravity and light. You enter a flat circle on a mountainside and very definitely do not stand at the vertical but at a distinct angle. There is some odd visual distortion as well. Smith was fascinated and had heard but never visited a similar site in California. We also talked about Charles Baudelaire2 - Smith said I was a born decadent!

I have a fair collection of Smith but not Outside Space and Time but most of the remaining Arkhams. Have the 2nd series of the Fugative Poems from Roy Squires and a copy of The Double Shadow which must be unique because Smith forgot (he was going to) to make the usual corrections that he gave me. I had for Smith a extremely rare piece of a translucent to transparent mineral [Ellensberg Blue] - blue in color found only once in Eastern Washington State. He was really taken with it - and it was beautiful. If it survives, it would be quite valuable today. We spent about 2 hours on a sunny afternoon in the old farmhouse of his parents talking about books and authors. I remember seeing some of his sculpture from local stone. I think where we were was the farmhouse, but could be wrong.

[Extracts from email sent by Richard Frahm to Boyd Pearson: Tuesday, 4 November 1997. (foot notes by Boyd)]

I looked with great interest at the list of books that Smith is known to have read. My memory got triggered as a result. I had read Guy Chapman's book on William Beckford and remember we discussed it. Smith was delighted with what I told him about Beckford's fabulous lifestyle at Fonthill Abbey. Beckford had as you may know extraordinary wealth and acquired for his own pleasure many wonderful works of art and a library of rare books beyond belief. Smith was most intrigued by my account of the real Caliph Vathek.

In regards to alcohol, I remember Smith as a spare almost thin man. He certainly had none of the fat or bulk of many drinkers. We had together each just a small glass of his unusual brandy. I think one of us made a small joke about the liquor absinthe which is supposed to cause vivid hallucinatory dreams.

I note that you searched out the web site for the Oregon Vortex and you can understand why Smith was so interested. Since he knew something about a similar site in California perhaps knowledge of that location might have influenced the early story you mentioned3. It is a very odd place and I rank it along with the standing stones of Callanish on the Isle of Lewis off Scotland as places where the mundane world we know and something else intersect.

Later after our meeting I received a letter from Smith asking about a Portland, Oregon artist named Ralph Raeburn Phillips who always signed his work - Ultra Weird Artist. Apparently he claimed his work was the equal of Smith's. I met Phillips at a Portland convention and in my opinion he was a very boastful and bad artist. I reported this to Smith but can't remember a reply if any.

Foot Notes

  1. Visit the The Oregon Vortex Website. Vortex explained
  2. Baudelaire, Charles (1821-1867) [CHARLES BAUDELAIRE][Poe and Baudelaire: A Vast Ocean Apart]
  3. "Dimension of Chance" (1932)
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