animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri
Fresh from the Amazon delivery, the next few full length items slated for All Hallows Read: Lindsey Fitzharris’ The Butchering Art and Caitlin Doughty’s two titles, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to find the Good Death and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory.
Admittedly not in the same vein as the rest, but today’s All Hallows Read took the form of Paul Hoffman’s biography of Paul Erdős / Erdős Pál (26 March 1913–20 September 1996), The Man Who Loved Only Numbers (Hyperion, 1998), a frequently cantankerous but fascinating character.
“Possessions meant little to Erdős; most of his belongings would fit in a suitcase, as dictated by his itinerant lifestyle. Awards and other earnings were generally donated to people in need and various worthy causes. He spent most of his life traveling between scientific conferences, universities and the homes of colleagues all over the world. He earned enough in stipends from universities as a guest lecturer, and from various mathematical awards, to fund his travels and basic needs; money left over he used to fund cash prizes for proofs of “Erdős problems”. He would typically show up at a colleague’s doorstep and announce “my brain is open”, staying long enough to collaborate on a few papers before moving on a few days later.” (Source)
Personally, I intend to steal his epitaph, “Végre nem butulok tovább”—“Finally, I’ve stopped getting dumber”.
I’ve missed a few days, but to continue my All Hallows Read sojourn, a bit of tonight’s selection. Listening earlier to Current 93′s song “Niemandswasser” (from 2000′s Sleep Has His House) prompted me to reread the story from which it has its name, found in Robert Aickman’s Cold Hand in Mine collection, pictured here in the 1975 Scribner & Sons’ edition with the Edward Gorey cover; before leaving it, I also reread its opening story, “The Swords”. Talking of Ligotti recently, I decided to reread a bit of him, as well. First up, from The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein & Other Gothic Tales (Silver Salamander Press, 1994; limited to 1000 copies, signed by Ligotti and Michael Shea, who wrote the intro), “The Premature Death of H.P. Lovecraft, Oldest Man in New England”, “The Perilous Legacy of Emily St. Aubert, Inheritress of Udolpho” and “The Insufferable Salvation of Lawrence Talbot the Wolfman”. Given its brevity, I decided to reread the whole of Sideshow and Other Stories (Subterranean Press, 2003; limited to 350 copies, of which this is #31 and signed by Ligotti). Obscured mostly under those last two titles is Ligotti’s first mixed media collaboration with Current 93, In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land (Durtro, 1997), containing the four pieces, “His shadow shall rise to a higher house”, “The bells will sound forever”, “A soft voice whispers nothing”, and “When you hear the singing, you will know it is time”, for each of which the included CD contains an audio track accompaniment composed and performed by Current 93 and Nurse with Wound; tonight, I reread “A soft voice whispers nothing”.
This may be impossible—for me, at any rate. Two books sprang immediately to mind—Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (yes, technically that’s four books [The Shadow of the Torturer, 1980; The Claw of the Conciliator, 1981; The Sword of the Lictor, 1982; and The Citadel of the Autarch, 1983], but let’s not split hairs) and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum—but then something occurred to me: if this is supposed to indicate “what kind of person” I am, should I instead be listing the books in which I myself am printed, quoted, cited, referenced, etc.? If so, the question gets more complicated, as I’m not sure which five to choose; I realized I can give rather different (and not at all complete) impressions of the kind of person I am depending on which I present: I could use only the academic or literary works, or the mathematical and programming ones, the music references, the esoteric, or show a different side altogether by only using the gaming stuff—or I could use one of each and make it look like I’m insane lol. I suppose I could also just cite the fictional references and leave it at that:
This morning, in a mood for Lovecraft, I reread “The Dunwich Horror”, inspired by seeing the post of the Dean-Stockwell-as-Wilbur film version of the story a bit ago. Running across the many and various grimoire and other esoteric text references in that work, I had a passing idea to add a new twist to my All Hallows Read experience by thinking I might do a reading list of “Grimoires (which I own) mentioned in Lovecraft” or something like that. Going over the list in my head, I thought it might be doable, and rereading most of them would do no harm (what sanity’s left to lose at this point, right?), so it was (nearly) decided.
Luckily, I browsed my Tumblr feed before committing myself to such a course! Seeing Ms Jonusas‘s reference to Charles Dexter Ward, I realized I hadn’t nearly enough time left to do the whole list. Why? Dear old HPL in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” had to go and mention the Zohar! Ach. It’s not that I don’t have the Zohar, but rather that I’ve an overabundance of it. In the photo above, just a bit of the kabbalah section of my library, you’ll see the 12 volumes of Matt’s recently completed English translation, the “Pritzker Zohar” put out by Stanford University Press from 2003 to this year; that’s about 7,800 pages of nearly fine print. Next to it, the Hebrew edition with commentary spans 24 volumes—I don’t recall the page count on that one offhand, but it’s… substantial (I’d estimate between 8,500 and 9k pages). While not visible on the shelf, I’ve also the Aramaic critical edition, but it’s just a bound print-out of the PDF release by Stanford to accompany the Pritzker; even so, it’s 2,478 pages of difficult Aramaic. I’ve read the three editions, but to reread them all before the end of All Hallows Read? Not going to happen. Or, to put that in a more contextually appropriate way: לא היום, שטן
(Just for reference, the rest of that shelf, between the end of the Hebrew edition and the violin: Rabbi Kaplan’s Meditation and the Kabbalah and his editions of the books Yetzirah and Bahir; Idel and Dan’s collection The Early Kabbalah; Rabbi Cordovero’s ‘Or Ne`erav; a bilingual Latin and English edition of Reuchlin’s de Arte Cabalistica; Rabbi Gikatilla’s Sha`are ‘Orah; one of Idel’s studies on Abulafia, Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah; and Matt’s collection of short form kabbalistic works, The Essential Kabbalah.)
So, for now, it’s back to the horror stories.
Continuing on from #1 & #2. Today began with E.F. Benson’s “Negotium Perambulans…” (1923), Algernon Blackwood’s “The Listener” (1907) (bonus De Quincey reference), and Arthur Machen’s “The Inmost Light” and “The Great God Pan” (both, 1894). With the Blackwood & Machen combo, I’m tempted to slip into a Golden Dawn members tangent; maybe I should add one of Crowley’s tales, perhaps from his mythology inspired Golden Twigs collection? So far, the selections have all been short stories; I may give a longer work a go for the next installment.
Continuing on from earlier. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s “A Torture by Hope” (1891) and the Erckmann-Chatrian piece “L’Oreille de la chouette”/”The Owl’s Ear” (1860) down, along with Charlotte Perkins Stetson (later Gilman)’s peculiar The Yellow Wall Paper (1892) (for the curious, see also her “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wall-Paper”: “It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.”) this morning. This afternoon, Prosper Mérimée’s “The Venus of Ille” (1887) and Walter de la Mare’s “All Hallows” (1926). What next?
As an aside, I learned something while reading “The Venus of Ille”: “[…] you are a thinker and no longer notice women.”—If that’s a requirement, I’m apparently not a very good thinker!
Inspired by Ms Jonusas, I think I’ll try All Hallows Read. For inspiration, I intend to work my way through Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature and read a selection of works mentioned there. Short and familiar, and more essay than tale, I’ve begun tonight with Thomas de Quincey’s “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow” from his Suspiria de Profundis (1845). Next up: M.P. Shiel’s translation of Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s “La torture par l’espérance”, as “A Torture by Hope”.
(Update: Okay, maybe not next up, as I’ve instead just read M.R. James’ “Lost Hearts” from his Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), and Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852), originally published in Dickens’ magazine, Household Words.)