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Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 02:15PM
Sawfish wrote:

> ….I somehow was
> introduced to the existence of the Icelandic
> sagas, which are folk history, of course, and the
> few I read onlne were very, very powerful
> accounts. Jealousy, envy, revenge, etc. Something
> like the Illiad, but small scale.


Is there any chance you first met the saga world in Sam Moskowitz's anthology Horrors Unknown, from the early 1970s or so? It contains the "Grettir at Thorhallsstead" passage with the hero's encounter with the undead creature Glam. Grettir dispatches Glam, but is permanently damaged; when he'd got the better of the horrible Glam, had him pinned to the ground as I recall, Grettir looked at Glam's eyes and saw the reflection of the moonlight in them, and Glam prophesied that Grettir would never be free of the sight. Brrr!

Or did you maybe read Poul Anderson's retelling of Hrolf Kraki's Saga in the Ballantine fantasy series?

You're sure right in suggesting the importance of the feud element in the sagas.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 02:22PM
Sawfish wrote:

> To the degree that they are folk tales I enjoy
> them, but have never done well with pantheons, and
> stories directly concerned with the actions or
> motives of gods within the pantheons.

I wonder if you would like the Finnish Kalevala. (By the way, as I understand from a friend who reads Finnish, to say "The Kalevala" is redundant; the terminal '-la" means "the." Kalevala means "the land of heroes," I think. But such heroes! There aren't a lot of them, and they aren't like your Greek gods at all. I wrote a review for Amazon 18 years ago of the World's Classics version (Keith Bosley):

There's a lot less bloodletting in this epic than in many mythic-legendary works. But -- what a lot of frustration, inhospitality, and breakage! Boats jam, people lie, an heroic expedition to the North is a flop. You won't find any great romances here, but a number of maidens who would druther not leave home (especially undesirable if the prospective husband is a "nook-haunter" -- an old man). A suitor might perform all the tasks the girl's mother demands, and after doing the impossible, he doesn't get to marry her even so. Heroes arrive in a village to be sent on from one house to the next in an unfriendly manner. A quest for fire leads to calamitous accidental conflagrations. Quests don't end in dazzling triumphs; the great quest-object for this epic ends up plopping into the sea and being broken. This is indeed the epic of the "luckless lands of the North."

Especially powerful are the cantos about that scary young punk Kullervo. Where else in traditional literature is there such a portrait of a kid born to make everyone miserable before he takes his own life?

It's not all dour stuff, to be sure. There are a number of passages in which the words practically writhe off the page as the lines describe tingling, squirming magical growing. There's some humor.

The work is suffused with an earthy quality. It's not ambrosia and nectar we have here, but fish to eat, home-brewed beer to drink, and plain bread -- sometimes bulked up with bark -- to chew. People wear wool, navigate fogs, get up early to light fires and milk the cows.

It was one of a select few works that C. S. Lewis cited, in his essay "On Science Fiction," as works that provide additions to life. Other things that made the list were Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, parts of the Odyssey and of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Peake's Titus Groan, etc.
Interesting list!

This translation seemed to me quite readable.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 02:24PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish wrote:
>
> > ….I somehow was
> > introduced to the existence of the Icelandic
> > sagas, which are folk history, of course, and
> the
> > few I read onlne were very, very powerful
> > accounts. Jealousy, envy, revenge, etc.
> Something
> > like the Illiad, but small scale.
>
>
> Is there any chance you first met the saga world
> in Sam Moskowitz's anthology Horrors Unknown, from
> the early 1970s or so? It contains the "Grettir
> at Thorhallsstead" passage with the hero's
> encounter with the undead creature Glam. Grettir
> dispatches Glam, but is permanently damaged; when
> he'd got the better of the horrible Glam, had him
> pinned to the ground as I recall, Grettir looked
> at Glam's eyes and saw the reflection of the
> moonlight in them, and Glam prophesied that
> Grettir would never be free of the sight. Brrr!
>
> Or did you maybe read Poul Anderson's retelling of
> Hrolf Kraki's Saga in the Ballantine fantasy
> series?
>
> You're sure right in suggesting the importance of
> the feud element in the sagas.


I haven't read any of these. It was translations of the actual sagas, themselves.

Like this:

[sagadb.org]

You know, you're helping to build a really fine reading list... :^)

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 02:36PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish wrote:
>
> > To the degree that they are folk tales I enjoy
> > them, but have never done well with pantheons,
> and
> > stories directly concerned with the actions or
> > motives of gods within the pantheons.
>
> I wonder if you would like the Finnish Kalevala.
> (By the way, as I understand from a friend who
> reads Finnish, to say "The Kalevala" is redundant;
> the terminal '-la" means "the." Kalevala means
> "the land of heroes," I think. But such heroes!
> There aren't a lot of them, and they aren't like
> your Greek gods at all. I wrote a review for
> Amazon 18 years ago of the World's Classics
> version (Keith Bosley):
>
> There's a lot less bloodletting in this epic than
> in many mythic-legendary works. But -- what a lot
> of frustration, inhospitality, and breakage! Boats
> jam, people lie, an heroic expedition to the North
> is a flop. You won't find any great romances here,
> but a number of maidens who would druther not
> leave home (especially undesirable if the
> prospective husband is a "nook-haunter" -- an old
> man). A suitor might perform all the tasks the
> girl's mother demands, and after doing the
> impossible, he doesn't get to marry her even so.
> Heroes arrive in a village to be sent on from one
> house to the next in an unfriendly manner. A quest
> for fire leads to calamitous accidental
> conflagrations. Quests don't end in dazzling
> triumphs; the great quest-object for this epic
> ends up plopping into the sea and being broken.
> This is indeed the epic of the "luckless lands of
> the North."
>
> Especially powerful are the cantos about that
> scary young punk Kullervo. Where else in
> traditional literature is there such a portrait of
> a kid born to make everyone miserable before he
> takes his own life?
>
> It's not all dour stuff, to be sure. There are a
> number of passages in which the words practically
> writhe off the page as the lines describe
> tingling, squirming magical growing. There's some
> humor.
>
> The work is suffused with an earthy quality. It's
> not ambrosia and nectar we have here, but fish to
> eat, home-brewed beer to drink, and plain bread --
> sometimes bulked up with bark -- to chew. People
> wear wool, navigate fogs, get up early to light
> fires and milk the cows.
>
> It was one of a select few works that C. S. Lewis
> cited, in his essay "On Science Fiction," as works
> that provide additions to life. Other things that
> made the list were Tolkien's Lord of the Rings,
> Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, parts of
> the Odyssey and of Malory's Morte d'Arthur,
> Peake's Titus Groan, etc.
> Interesting list!
>
> This translation seemed to me quite readable.


Hah! I found Kalevala on Project Gutenberg, and downloaded it.

BTW, two corrections to things I had previously written, unrelated:

1. I had said that I'd gotten The Owl Service from PG, but this is incorrect. I got it from the public library, hardcopy, and there was a frontspiece that had the pattern.

2. In describing my personal POV as regards the role of religion in my family, I had grasped for a word and used "irreligious'. This is incorrect. What I needed was "areligious", in the same sense as apolitical.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 03:58PM
Sawfish, is that the Kirby translation of Kalevala that you found? That was the one that lit up Tolkien's imagination over a hundred years ago. It might not be the best one for all readers today, though. I'm thinking about taking a look at Magoun's, which is highly regarded by my Kalevala-loving friend -- though right now my main fantastic-literature projects are a rereading of The Well at the World's End, and more of the CAS stories you recommended.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 16 Feb 20 | 04:04PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 06:19PM
Yes. Kirby.

I'm looking forward to it!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 06:55PM
There are two references to the Kirby translation of Kalevala in the Tolkien Letters volume. In 1944 he's writing to Christopher, his son, & discusses the "Runo" dealing with the origin of beer. "Drunk was Ahti, drunk was Kauko, drunken was the ruddy rascal, with the ale of Osmo's daughter" -- "Kirby's translation is funnier than the original." "Thus was ale first created … best of drinks for prudent people; Women soon it brings to laughter, Men it warms into good humor, but it brings the fools to raving." Sounds about right. But in a 1955 letter to W. H. Auden, telling how "Finnish...set the rocket off in story," JRRT says he was "immensely attracted by something in the air of the Kalevala, even in Kirby's poor translation." He was particularly fascinated by the tale of "Kullervo the hapless" -- as one of the Tolkien books published in the past 15 years or so will demonstrate. Kullervo was definitely not a hero in the Classical mold....

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 26 February, 2020 11:45PM
I don't have time for details now, but -- a quick suggestion about the Kalevala -- translator Magoun urges that the first-time reader not begin at the beginning, but begin with one of the main stories, such as that of Kullervo or of Lemminkainen -- the table of contents of a translation should suffice to indicate where to go. I think that, when I revisit it, that's what I'm going to do, though I read it straight through, start to finish, the first time, and enjoyed that -- in Bosley's good translation.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 27 February, 2020 12:04AM
Thanks. I will remember to do it when I get started.

Reading Celine right now...

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 27 February, 2020 12:48AM
And I haven’t forgotten about the CAS list.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 27 February, 2020 10:24AM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And I haven’t forgotten about the CAS list.


That's fine, Dale. If it comes, it comes, and I'll be glad of it.

Way, Way WAY off-topic--I believe that I'm finding that Celine has influenced the post-modernist novel a lot.

First and foremost, you can see Catch 22; you can see Vonnegut's stuff, especially Slaughterhouse 5; and you can see that he's the thematic grandfather of Houellebecq.

But enough... :^(

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2020 07:42PM
I think one needs a sensitivity and passion for color and form, and for weird and bizarre phenomena, to truly appreciate CAS. He was a master painter with words (the only comparable writer in this regard I can think of who comes somewhat close is Jack Vance), and he had a developed visual grasp and command of form. (Some of his carved stone sculptures too, although not naturalistic in style, has a great sense of placement of mass.) I would almost define him as of Hellenistic spiritual bent, with a touch of morbid Poe, and a generous dash of the ancient star gazers who had looked deep into space.

How would you define (and I am speaking here to those of you who truly appreciate CAS) Smith's work?

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 29 April, 2020 02:58PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think one needs a sensitivity and passion for
> color and form, and for weird and bizarre
> phenomena, to truly appreciate CAS. He was a
> master painter with words (the only comparable
> writer in this regard I can think of who comes
> somewhat close is Jack Vance), and he had a
> developed visual grasp and command of form. (Some
> of his carved stone sculptures too, although not
> naturalistic in style, has a great sense of
> placement of mass.) I would almost define him as
> of Hellenistic spiritual bent, with a touch of
> morbid Poe, and a generous dash of the ancient
> star gazers who had looked deep into space.
>
> How would you define (and I am speaking here to
> those of you who truly appreciate CAS) Smith's
> work?

Perhaps I should not answer, because I probably cannot count myself among those CAS's biggest fans. I am more of a fan H.P. Lovecraft (and others), with an interest in CAS because CAS was part of Lovecraft's circle.

But certainly I do agree that an enormous strength of CAS is his ability to set a scene. I'm not sure that's the same thing you are saying.

I notice this particularly among CAS' wizard stories, such as "The Double Shadow" and many others. The setup of these stories always stirs my imagination; but I am generally less impressed with the actual story as it develops. "The Master of Crabs", a relatively late work, stuck out in my mind as having a relatively satisfactory story, but without, perhaps, as impressively colorful a setup.

Interesting that you should mention Jack Vance. Jack Vance was certainly influenced by CAS, and I think particularly Vance's "Dying Earth" was influenced by "Empire of the Necromancers" and/or other CAS stories of wizards and/or Zothique. But certainly Vance was the more dynamic storyteller, once he had set his scene.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2020 02:59AM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> Perhaps I should not answer, because I probably
> cannot count myself among those CAS's biggest
> fans. I am more of a fan H.P. Lovecraft (and
> others), with an interest in CAS because CAS was
> part of Lovecraft's circle.


Well, you seem to like CAS anyway. As long as you don't show him a general outright contempt, while staying on this website that is a loving dedication to him, I think it is alright. That is my view of natural good manners.

>
> But certainly I do agree that an enormous strength
> of CAS is his ability to set a scene. I'm not sure
> that's the same thing you are saying.


Yes, that is part of it. A very visual writer. And his substantive prose has brilliant poetic exactness in its word selection. His vision is grounded with both feet in physical reality (Hellenistic outlook), and at the same time wedded in history, spirit, and the soaring cosmos.

>
> I notice this particularly among CAS' wizard
> stories, such as "The Double Shadow" and many
> others. The setup of these stories always stirs
> my imagination; but I am generally less impressed
> with the actual story as it develops. "The Master
> of Crabs", a relatively late work, stuck out in my
> mind as having a relatively satisfactory story,
> but without, perhaps, as impressively colorful a
> setup.
>
> Interesting that you should mention Jack Vance.
> Jack Vance was certainly influenced by CAS, and I
> think particularly Vance's "Dying Earth" was
> influenced by "Empire of the Necromancers" and/or
> other CAS stories of wizards and/or Zothique. But
> certainly Vance was the more dynamic storyteller,
> once he had set his scene.


Jack Vance is a very sophisticated storyteller. He also develops intricate possibilities through the larger format of the novel. But his stories quite often (not always) turn into slapstick humor. CAS is more serious, with an understated and integrated humor. When looking at some of CAS's best stories, like "The Double Shadow", or "The Dark Eidolon", etc., and comparing to Vance's short-stories, I couldn't say who is the most effective storyteller. Vance may be more convoluted, but who is the most striking? Vance is generally more light-hearted and action oriented.

I see the influence from CAS in Vance, there is some correlation in imagination and mood, but Vance is great enough to be his own, and took a very different path. They foremost share a similar brilliant visual talent. To Vance's disadvantage his novels have much filler action in bridging passages, I think, not all of it feels essentially interesting. More professional in outlook and discipline than CAS, Vance delivered products to the entertainment reading market. But intermixed he is still a great artist. I also like to think that marriage has something to do with it; being a family supporter with wife and child, you can't just dream emotionally and drift, you have to be professional and grownup or suffer severe guilt and unhappiness (the unhappiness may come just the same, from being tied down). You can starve alone, but you can't let your children starve. CAS didn't start his own family, so he was freer and consequently less disciplined (whether this freedom was to his merciful fortune or not, I don't know; that is partly a philosophical question. Probably both, for every coin has two sides, a positive and a negative, the ever nagging duality of existence, whatever path we are destined to walk down through life), except for having to take care of his parents. Supporting his parents, I think, was what gave him necessary discipline to write all those tales for Weird Tales.

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