As almost always, but with more purpose than usual, I am sifting through the chaotic collection of reading material in the house, of late to help create a new office for my cohabitant's private practice. So, some old (inanimate, literary) friends are uncovered, and I am reminded of them, or look at them again. And at other items they remind me of.
First up today is not exactly a short story, but it can be read as one, as it's a gracefully-lifted excerpt from "a sort of novel" as the author or her publisher tagged it, on the cover at left, below. And has any writer used her legal name at a worse time than Ethel Rosenberg, with her first novel Go Fight City Hall (1949) and a sequel of sorts, carrying over a major character from the first book, Julius Pasternak, and his family and social circles, Uncle Julius and the Angel with Heartburn (1951).
apartment building in Brooklyn, only to find a number of small distractions and annoyances in the way of getting to the train station on time, not least that the landlord, that goniff, has sent in a painter to finally give the apartment a new coat, and a sensitive painter who complains of distraction no less, and the Pasternaks' niece has actually engaged a taxi for them, with the meter running and all, yet the cabbie comes up and asks for a glass of water, while offering advice, as he's a psychologist, as well. '"You know what that means, don't you?" "Yes," Julius says patiently. "It means you took a course once."' As one might expect, this is rather familiar ground all these decades later, from no end of dramatic as well as literary variations since, but amiable and well-recomplicated and still worth the look. Rosenberg signed most of her subsequent work, apparently all aimed at younger readers, Eth Clifford (the latter a middle or maiden name). That was the byline on her 1995 MWA Edgar Award shortlister, for "juvenile novel", Harvey's Mystifying Raccoon Mix Up. Best Humor Annual editors Louis Untermeyer and Ralph Shikes had their own fun in the McCarthyite tenor of the early '50s, as well.
A different sort of Raven than MWA's or Poe's comes into play with Canadian poet and anarchist scholar George Woodcock's essay/ recounting of how the Raven trickster/creator myths are embedded in the religious traditions northwestern North American nations, in the fifth, June 1988 issue of The Raven (a link to where the issue can be read), a quarterly journal that was for some years the stablemate of the venerable UK-based anarchist newspaper Freedom. "Raven, the Prometheus of the Indians" notes in summation "How much of all this makes Raven an appropriate mascot for an anarchist magazine? He is always, in his own way, Lucifer, concerned with bringing the light and dispelling the darkness. Whatever his motives, he is never seen on the side of the powers that be, whatever they are, but carries on a perpetual trickster's war against their pretensions." As one who loved the origin myths that Woodcock deals with in the essay when reading and hearing them in my youth, his take is elegant and a bit nostalgic.
Nostalgia of various sorts brought me, while pining a bit for my copy of Ramsey Campbell's first anthology Superhorror, and its perhaps most brilliant story and probably the most criminally overlooked in the career of its author, R. A. Lafferty, "Fog in My Throat" (also a consideration of the place of religion in our lives...and deaths)--only one relatively rare, limited-edition collection among Lafferty's includes it, and no other reprints have occurred so far I'm aware of...I managed to land on Dennis Etchison and Martin Harry Greenberg's A Century of Horror: 1970-1979, clearly meant to be the first volume of a ten-volume series, but, as with a lot of the later Greenberg projects, plagued with certain obstacles, and the only volume that appeared. Terrible cover illustration, as well. Here's the contents as detailed by ISFDB, which (like myself) tends to segregate more or less "realistic" suspense fiction from horror fiction, but inconsistently, and does so with the clumsy tag "non-genre":
- 1 • Introduction (A Century of Horror 1970-1979) • essay by Stefan Dziemianowicz
- 7 • Duel • non-genre • (1971) • novelette by Richard Matheson
- 30 • The Dripping • (1972) • short story by David Morrell
- 39 • The Events at Poroth Farm • (1972) • novella by T. E. D. Klein
- 81 • Come Dance with Me on My Pony's Grave • (1973) • short story by Charles L. Grant
- 94 • Something Had to Be Done • (1975) • short story by David Drake
- 100 • Sticks • [Cthulhu Mythos short fiction] • (1974) • novelette by Karl Edward Wagner
- 120 • Belsen Express • (1975) • short story by Fritz Leiber
- 133 • Ladies in Waiting • (1975) • short story by Hugh B. Cave
- 143 • Armaja Das • (1976) • short story by Joe Haldeman
- 161 • A Case of the Stubborns • (1976) • short story by Robert Bloch
- 177 • It Only Comes Out at Night • (1976) • short story by Dennis Etchison
- 190 • The Viaduct • non-genre • (1976) • short story by Brian Lumley
- 207 • Night-Side • (1977) • novelette by Joyce Carol Oates
- 232 • Best Interests • (1978) • short story by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
- 245 • Gotcha! • (1978) • short story by Ray Bradbury
- 253 • The Man Who Was Heavily into Revenge • (1978) • short story by Harlan Ellison
- 267 • Divers Hands • [Julian • 11] • (1979) • novelette by Darrell Schweitzer
- 292 • Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory • (1979) • novelette by Orson Scott Card (variant of Eumenides in the Fourth-Floor Lavatory)
- 308 • Red As Blood • (1979) • short story by Tanith Lee
- 319 • Mackintosh Willy • (1979) • short story by Ramsey Campbell
- 334 • Seasons of Belief • (1979) • short story by Michael Bishop
--where, for example, Bradbury's "Gotcha!" (probably his best late-published story though apparently one he'd written and put aside some years before) is no more horror per se than is the Matheson or the Lumley--the Lumley being one of his best stories, far from the clumsy melding of boy's adventure and Cthulhu mythos fiction that afflicts much of his other work. But, then, Greenberg was a good (if not always attentive) editor, and Etchison was an even better one...though "Sticks" is perhaps more Karl Edward Wagner's most popular horror novelet than his best one (some of his "Kane"-series short fiction, straddling sword and sorcery and horror better than anyone else who comes to mind except for Fritz Leiber, and more consistently, probably would've been my choice here), and the Card story is a clumsy diatribe in the form of a not particularly good story on any level, though it does succeed in being as disgusting as Card wants it to be. Most of the rest of the choices are at least reasonably arguable, if not always the best of the decade as promised. Certainly the Lafferty story cited above, from the same source anthology of originals as the Lumley, should be present...
For more of today's SSW reviews, please see Patti Abbott's blog (and Pennsylvanians and others in the Philadelphia area can see Megan Abbott tonight at 7p at the Phoenixville bookstore Reads and Company).