Lovecraftian Rarities and Howard’s influence on Houellebecq: Lovecraft’s Legacy Part 5

lovecraft

About a year and a half ago, I started rereading the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. I had previously read the three Penguin Classics editions of Lovecraft’s work, so this time I read through the four Wordsworth editions of his fiction. The Wordsworth editions, while lacking the footnotes included in the Penguins, present a more complete collection; in fact, one of these volumes is comprised exclusively of collaborative works omitted from the Penguin versions. I wrote a series of posts on these books (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), pairing each one with a work of Lovecraftian Occultism, but as I was reading through them, it became apparent to me that while the Wordsworth editions of Lovecraft’s work are more complete than the Penguin editions, they do not contain all of the fiction that Lovecraft wrote/contributed to. In this post, I want to list and examine the short stories of Lovecraft that are contained in neither the Penguin or Wordsworth editions of his work.

There are four tales that Lovecraft wrote by himself that are not included in the aforementioned collections. These tales are Ibid, Sweet Ermengarde, The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson and Old Bugs. ‘Ibid’ is a parody of academic writing about history. It’s not funny, amusing or worth reading. ‘Sweet Ermengarde’ is a farcical comic romance. ‘The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson’ is a boring story about an old man talking about his friends, and ‘Old Bugs’ is a fairly predictable story about an old drunk. None of these stories contain any horror, and I can’t recommend checking them out.

There are also still extant several stories that Lovecraft wrote as a child between ages of 8 and 12.  These are The Mystery of the Graveyard, The Mysterious Ship, The Little Glass Bottle and The Secret Cave. These are pretty impressive for a kid of that age, but there’s no need to read them unless you’re a completist dork like me.

There are also handful of other stories that Lovecraft contributed to that are not included in the Wordsworth book of Lovecraftian collaborations. These are The Battle that Ended the Century, Collapsing Cosmoses, Bothon, The Challenge from Beyond, The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast, Four O’Clock, The Slaying of the Monster, The Sorcery of Aphlar, The Tree on the Hill, Satan’s Servants, Deaf, Dumb and Blind, The Ghost-EaterAshes and The Loved Dead. These are not included in either the Wordsworth or Penguin collections for one of two reasons. Either we don’t know how much (if any) influence Lovecraft actually had on the tales, or else the tales are absolutely shit.

Both ‘The Battle that Ended the Century’ and ‘Collapsing Cosmoses’ are collaborations between Lovecraft and his friend R.H. Barlow. These stories are jokes where they make fun of their friends, and they don’t seem to have been written very seriously. ‘The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast’ is another collaborative fantasy between these two. It’s ok. They also wrote ‘The Slaying of the Monster’ together. It’s barely worth mentioning.

‘The Sorcery of Aphlar’ and ‘The Tree on the Hill’ are collaborations between Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel. These are ok, definitely better than the Barlow crap, but it’s not certain how much Lovecraft had to do with the composition of ‘The Sorcery of Aphlar’.

‘Four O’ Clock’ is a tale by Sonia Greene, Lovecraft’s ex-wife. He apparently made some suggestions on how to improve it after reading an early version of the story. ‘Satan’s Servants’ is a story by Robert Bloch, and Lovecraft also supplied a few suggestions for this one after reading a draft.

‘Bothon’ is a collaboration with Henry S. Whitehead. It’s another one of those ‘man wakes up in an alien’s body’ stories that we’re all used to. ‘The Challenge from Beyond’ is similar, but this one is a collaboration between several authors. C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, Lovecraft, Robert E.Howard, and Frank Belknap Long all contributed sections. This one is cool for what it is, but it’s not really essential reading.

‘The Loved Dead’, ‘Deaf, Dumb and Blind’, ‘The Ghost-Eater’ and ‘Ashes’ are all tales that Lovecraft revised for C.M. Eddy. ‘The Loved Dead’ is a story of a necrophiliac, and it was contained (as the title story!) in the original versions of the Wordsworth book of Lovecraft Collaborations. It was later removed. ‘The Ghost-Eater’ is a straightforward ghost story. ‘Ashes’ is pretty crap. ‘Deaf, Dumb and Blind’ is a bit more Lovecrafty than the others, but it’s not all that great to be honest.

‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’ is included in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work, but it isn’t in any of the Wordsworth ones. I reread this one too. It’s not great.

I am glad to have been able to find these stories online, but I can’t say any of them were very good. I don’t think I’ll bother with them on my next Lovecraft reread. I believe there might be another few tales that Lovecraft is rumoured to have had some input in, and I’ll read those if I ever come across them. My plan now is to read the weird fiction of Lovecraft’s contemporaries, Derleth, Bloch, Howard and the likes.

 

For the other posts in this series, I looked at a collection of Lovecraft’s tales alongside a work of Lovecraftian Occultism. Most of those spellbooks were utter nonsense, and for this post I’m including a book about Lovecraft’s literary influence instead.

lovecraft houellebecqH.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life
Michel Houellebecq
Gollancz – 2008 (Originally published 1991)

Most of the books that I read end up getting reviewed on this blog, but recently I read two books by a Frenchman named Michel Houellebecq that don’t really fit in with the crap that I review here. Houellebecq is a respected author, but he has been critical of Islam and accused of misogyny in the past. Submission, the first of his books that I read, is about a sex-hotel in Southeast Asia being bombed by Islamic terrorists. The other one, The Elementary Particles, is about a scientist and his pervert brother. I enjoyed both books, and while they certainly contain some inflammatory passages, they are novels. Houellebecq has also written an article in defense of Donald’s Trump’s presidency, and I get the impression that he’s not really concerned with coming across as woke and progressive. I don’t agree with his outlook, but it was interesting to read something that was written by a person who clearly doesn’t give a shit.

While one of these novels has a slight touch of science fiction, Houellebecq’s thing is nihilistic, pessimistic realism. The general negativity of his books made it easy for me to swallow their nastier passages. Unhappy people have shitty outlooks. When Houellebecq’s narrators say stupidly racist things or perform acts of misogyny, it’s at least clear to the reader that these narrators are supposed to be fuck-ups.

So how does this dodgy Frenchman relate to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft? Well, while these authors’ fictional outputs are very, very different, both contain strains of nihilism, pessimism and misanthropy. There are no ancient tentacled atrocities in Houellebecq’s writing, but it didn’t surprise me to discover that the Frenchman was a fan of Lovecraft. In 1991, Houellebecq wrote a book called Against Life, Against Nature about Lovecraft’s writing.

It’s a fairly interesting read if you like both Lovecraft and Houellebecq, but I doubt it will be of much interest to everyone else. It’s basically just Michel talking about how Lovecraft’s work is groundbreaking. It contains an introduction by Stephen King.

The most contentious element of Lovecraft’s writing is his attitude towards race. While Houellebecq acknowledges Lovecraft’s blatant prejudices, he isn’t nearly as bothered by them as many modern readers seem to be. In fact, he actually seems to think that Lovecraft’s close-mindedness makes his fiction more effective. I get what he’s saying. Just because a person is shitty, that doesn’t mean that their art is shitty. Horror fiction isn’t supposed to be comfortable and pleasant for everyone, and if it’s racial prejudice that stokes the flames of fear, that doesn’t make that fear any less fearful.

Of course, it’s easy for Houellebecq and I to accept such statements. The prejudice in Lovecraft’s tales isn’t directed at us. I understand that my white privilege makes it easier for me to enjoy some of Lovecraft’s writing,and I would understand why people might deliberately avoid his writings on principle; however, I would be very surprised to meet a horror fan who has read Lovecraft and failed to find entertainment in his work.

For convenience sake, I’m just going to conclude with the links to all of the posts in this series for anyone who’s interested. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) This series is complete, but I assure you, there’s plenty more posts on Lovecraftian fiction and occultism to come.

 

 

 

The Brains of Rats – Michael Blumlein

the brains of rats - michael blumlein
The Brains of Rats – Michael Blumlein

Valancourt – 2015 (Originally published 1989)
I added this book to my to-read list after it popped up in my recommendations from goodreads a few months ago. Just days afterwards, the author, Michael Blumlein died, and the horror community on twitter assured me that this collection was one worth reading.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s top notch, bloody weird stuff. The first story, ‘The Brains of Rats’, a medical doctor’s ruminations on gender and identity, lets the reader know that this collection is going to be quite strange, but the next tale, the infamous “Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Study.”, Blumlein’s first published story, is a kick in the stomach. Its visceral cruelty is all the more punishing due to its narrator’s clinical descriptions and apparent lack of empathy, but this brutality isn’t the key to the story. I was born in 1986, so it took me longer to realise what was actually being described than it would have to anyone reading it when it was first published in 1987. Reagan is only a name to me, and the penny only really dropped when I realised that changing it to Trump would be the only necessary step to completely modernise this tale. Even thinking about it now, I’m getting excited. Publishing a story like this was gutsy, but the writing is stunning. It reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe, not in its themes or word choices, but in its absolutely masterful execution. This is a short story I will never forget.

Every review of this book I’ve read since completing it makes comparisons to the writings of J.G. Ballard, and I have to admit, Ballard’s story ‘Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan’ is the first thing that came to mind once I realised what ‘Tissue Ablation’ was about. (Blumlein’s story is not about fucking the President.) The Ballard influence runs deeper than this though. The final story, and one of the best in the collection, ‘Best Seller’, describes one of its characters fetishization of scar tissue, a feature which immediately brought Ballard’s Crash to mind. There’s lots of other little Ballardian touches throughout the collection.

‘Shed his Grace’, another Reagan inspired tale, reads like the screenplay for an unproduced Ministry music video. It’s pretty fucked up. The other story that really stood out to me was ‘The Wetsuit’, a truly bizarre tale of a family’s strange secret. These are the kind of stories that made me think about what was going through the writer’s head for him to come up with ideas like these. I really, really enjoyed this collection and look forward to reading more Blumlein in the future.

The Psychic Sasquatch and their UFO Connection – Jack “Kewaunee” Lapseritis

the psychic sasquatch and their ufo connection - kewaunee lapseritisThe Psychic Sasquatch and their UFO Connection
Jack “Kewaunee” Lapseritis

Wildflower Press – 1998

With a title like The Psychic Sasquatch and their UFO Connection, it was only a matter of time before this book ended up on this blog. Surprisingly, it’s actually more stupid than you’d expect it to be. The basic idea here is that Sasquatches are inter-dimensional beings that can use their minds to speak with people. The reason there are so few pictures of them is that they can go into a different dimension by vibrating their molecules whenever they need to avoid detection. Oh, and they were brought to Earth by aliens. (Oddly enough, this is not the first book to appear on this blog about this topic.)

alien sasquatch

Yup, this is a mad one. It’s more new-agey than I hoped it would be, and it has that whole ‘science is too close-minded to account for this phenomena’ vibe running through it that we’ve encountered a hundred times before. I’d hate to actually meet a person who believed this nonsense. (They’d almost definitely be white and dread-locked with a collection of crystals.)

There’s also a confusing amount of Christianity in here too. I laughed when I read the following line in one of the first chapters, “The next morning I was sitting on the front porch reading the Bible when Bigfoot arrived and began talking to me.” Kewaunee concludes the book with a denial of human evolution too. The Book of Genesis is literally true. A psychic Sasquatch told the author that aliens put Adam and Eve on Earth. The aliens later brought down other people – this explains how we have different races. The aliens had brought Sasquatches down here long before humans though. Oh, and dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. The author references a bunch of books on ancient aliens to back this up.

sasquatch

The nature of the Sasquatches’ telepathy is hard to wrap your head around. Kewaunee tells the tale of a pregnant Sasquatch telepathing to a woman to ask her to ask Kewaunee to help deliver her baby Sasquatch because he was a “master herbalist”. (Her sasquatch family couldn’t help because they were visiting another dimension.)
Why she didn’t ask the author directly is unclear. Kewaunee was able to receive messages from other Sasquatches, and when the Sasquatch baby was eventually born, Kewaunee was able to telepath to the mother to congratulate her, so distance was not the issue.

Also, apparently telepathy can operate consciously and unconsciously. You can send messages to people’s minds without them knowing about it. The author describes a woman sending telepathic messages to her husband that he simultaneously noticed and didn’t notice. I found this part really hard to understand.

I don’t want to get too involved in trying to explain or debate the absolutely stupid nonsense in this book, so I’ll just share a few interesting tidbits of information that I gathered from it:

  • Aliens and Sasquatches have underground research facilities in the mountains that they let some people visit occasionally.
  • There’s an island on the Connecticut River that is inhabited by a tribe of 50 prehistoric humans. They are roughly 4 foot tall and too fast to catch or photograph.
  • Sasquatch only stink when they’re scared, like a skunk.
  • Mermaids are real, but if you capture one, the American government will take it off you and destroy all evidence that you had it.
  • Sasquatches can trade bodies with people and birds.
  • Despite what many Bigfoot hunters believe, the Sasquatch people are the observers here, not us. If we want to talk to them, we have to act nicely in the hopes that they’ll want to talk to us.
  • The author, a master herbalist, had a herniated disc in his back and liver cancer, but refused allopathic medicine. An alien doctor cured him.
    alien doctor

Although this book was utterly ludicrous, it was also a serious pain to read. It’s very dense, very repetitive and very boring. I strongly recommend that you do not waste your time reading this foolish book of nonsense. Kewaunee has other books, but I probably won’t read them. Look him up on youtube though; he has a rather commendable mullet

Half a Decade of Blogging about Creepy Books

I got a notification during the week informing me that this blog is now 5 years old. My first post, a look at Wade Baskin’s translation of Collin De Plancy’s Dictionary of Witchcraft, was published on February 27th, 2015. Since then, I have reviewed almost 350 books.

I’m a little bit surprised that I’ve lasted this long to be honest. I put a lot of work into this site, but I don’t see a huge amount of traffic. I have nobody to blame for this other than myself. Most of the books I write about are bottom of the barrel stuff that nobody will ever search for. I’ve thought about branching out and reading more contemporary fiction in attempt to draw more traffic, but while I certainly won’t rule out reading new books, I reckon weird old books will probably remain my focus. I think of this site more as a literary freakshow than a review site. I don’t really care if people want to read the books I write about or not, I just want you to know that these texts exist.

I write about famous books and popular authors regularly, but my favourite posts are always the ones about books that have an air of mystery to them. There have been a few posts on this blog where I have had the delight of presenting new information or theories on strange and mysterious texts. Here are a few posts that represent my best work. I beseech any lovers of peculiar literature to check these out if you haven’t already.

 

mmThe Autobiography of Saint Margaret Mary (March 2015)
This was one of my first posts. It’s about a Christian saint who had a shit fetish. I look back on it with a smile.

 

2015-12-28 02.38.38Did Aleister Crowley Create Strange Lifeforms? (December 2015)
This was my first post on Aleister Crowley. It’s a look at the different ways he was portrayed in fiction by those who actually knew him.

 

michelle remembers ross bayMichelle Remembers – Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder (March 2016)
I’m pretty confident in saying that at the time this post was published, it was the most comprehensive account of why this book is bullshit. It includes photos from the Satanic graveyard where the events in the book supposedly took place.

 

20160325_000821The Fiery Angel – Valery Bryusov (March 2016)
A look at the real events that inspired this peculiar occult novel.

 

robert anton wilson the sex magiciansRobert Anton Wilson, Sex Magician! (July 2017)
An exegesis of a book of pulp occult pornography. (It’s one of those ‘use the text to interpret the text’ situations.)

 

liber falxiferDeath Worship and Current 218 (November 2017)
An exploration of the link between heavy metal and Liber Falxifer, an infamous text of Black Magic.

 

spawn of the devil - aristotle leviSpawn of the Devil (Inpenetrable) – A Quaint and Curious Volume of Forgotten Porn (August 2018)
I still think this is the best post I’ve ever written.

 

dark gods - anthony roberts and Geoff GilbertsonDark Gods – Anthony Roberts and Geoff Gilbertson (July 2019)
It was a delight to be able to share information on this rare and curious tome of paranoid doom.

 

La Tronçonneuse de l'Horreur - nick blakeA History of Chainsaw Terror (Come the Night) by Nick Blake (Shaun Hutson) (February 2020)
There were histories of this book online before this, but this is the most complete one out there.

 

There’s lots of other good posts on here, but these few are special to me.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed a recent lack of posts on occult books. (The last non-fiction book I wrote about was Daughters of the Devil back at the beginning of December.) There’s a few reasons for this. I’m mainly just sick of wasting my time reading stupid spellbooks written by wankers. I have been reading other types of occult books over the past few months, but unfortunately, they have been extremely boring, long and difficult to get through. I’ve had a post about Nazi Grail Hunters in the works since early October and another on a horrendously stupid book about interdimensional sasquatches, but reading these texts has been so tedious that I have been avoiding them and breezing through enjoyable horror novels instead.

I have not abandoned occult books, but I have to be more picky these days. I don’t need to read any more books of love spells or nonsense about kaballah. I don’t want to read any more post-hypnotic accounts of alien abductions or any more books arguing that some cave paintings prove our ancestors were space people. I’m getting pretty jaded with Satanism now too. The more Satanists I interact with, the less interested I am in books about their hero.

 

Recently, I decided that I want to start writing more fiction. Between Nocturnal Revelries and my other blog, I write a lot, and I reckon that I’ve read enough books now to make a decent go at my own stories. I’ve posted my short fiction before (Kevin and The Compost Bin, two disgusting tales), and hopefully there’ll be more coming soon.

Blogging may be past its heyday, but I like doing it, so I reckon I’ll keep going for another few years. Thanks to everyone who reads this site. I really hope you enjoy it.

The Happy Man – Eric C. Higgs

the happy man eric cThe Happy Man  Eric C. Higgs
St. Martin’s Press – 1985

Here’s a snappy little horror novel that took me all of an evening to finish. I enjoyed every page.

The plot centers around a man in his early 30s who’s beginning to wonder if there’s any more to life than his marriage, his nice house and his comfortable job. When a new family move in next door, he makes friends with the husband, and things start to get messy pretty quickly. This new guy is a very, very, very bad influence. The plot is a little bit underdeveloped, but the telling of the tale makes this shortcoming pretty easy to forgive. In fact, I really didn’t notice it until I was finished and started thinking about what I had just read.

I won’t say anything else about the story because you should really just read the book for yourself. The writing is excellent. It reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis’s early novels – The Happy Man set in the 80s and the characters are affluent professional Californians who are apathetic to the suffering of others. This is definitely more of a horror novel than any of Ellis’s work though.

This is a short review, but The Happy Man is a short book. I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy. It’s funny, exciting and rather dark. It was recently reissued by Valancourt Books, and as you probably know, Valancourt specialise in reprinting books that really deserve to be reprinted.  This one is no exception.

the happy man eric c higgsThe new Valancourt edition’s cover

The Voice of the Clown – Brenda Brown Canary

the voice of the clown - brenda brown canaryThe Voice of the Clown – Brenda Brown Canary
Avon Books – 1982


After 
Paperbacks from Hell came out, quite a few of the books featured therein became hard to find. I made a list of the ones that I needed to read (most of which included the word Satan in the title) and tried to forget about the rest. After a bit of hunting, I managed to get my hands on copies of all of my first picks. I ordered some online, found others in thrift stores, and downloaded pdfs of others. Now, two years later,  I have read and reviewed 20 of the books featured in Paperbacks in Hell. Some were really good (The Cipher, The Tribe), and others were truly terrible (Brotherkind, The Manse). 

At this stage, the demand for many of these novels has diminished slightly, and books that were 300 hundred dollars are now available for 50 or 60. I check other blogs and discuss books with other nerds on twitter, and I noticed that the ‘paperback from Hell’ that is most frequently mentioned because of its scarcity is Brenda Brown Canary’s The Voice of the Clown

This title had escaped my notice when I first read Paperbacks from Hell, but I googled it after seeing it mentioned a few times and discovered the reason for its scarcity. Grady Hendrix has apparently claimed that this is the one book that actually lived up to the ‘from Hell’ title and that it is the only book to ever make his jaw drop. I was enticed, but after seeing the prices that it goes for online, I decided not to get too interested as I would never pay that much for a book.

A few weeks ago, I went to one of my favourite local bookshops. It’s super cheap, and has the biggest selection of paperbacks in my city, but it’s entirely disorganized, and over the course of several visits, I’ve cleaned out most of the horror novels. This time, I spent a good half hour without finding anything, but I didn’t want to walk by the owner of the shop without buying anything, so I continued my search. Then I discovered a copy of T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies, a book I’ve wanted to read for a while, and with renewed vigour I turned to a bookcase that I hadn’t yet searched through. There are three rows of paperbacks on every shelf, and it was at the back row of the bottom shelf that I found a copy of The Voice of the Clown with 2.00 written on the cover.

I started to shake. This was the Holy Grail of collectible horror paperbacks. I grabbed another horror novel and sandwiched the Clown between that and The Ceremonies to make it less conspicuous. I had to get out of there before another collector saw what I had and a fight broke out. Like a thief in the night, I tiptoed to the counter, put my books down and smiled at the old lady. I assumed that she was going to recognise what I had in my hand, but she just smiled back and charged me 9 dollars for the three novels. I got out of there as quickly as I could, expecting to hear sirens behind me once somebody realised the daylight robbery I had just committed. 

IMG_20200216_083533

When I got home, I was elated. I tried to convey my excitement to my wife, but she didn’t seem to care. My reading list is fairly lengthy, but it was only a few weeks before I gave in to temptation and bumped this novel to the front of my list.

Then I sat down and read it.

 

Jesus Christ. This was an unrelenting nightmare.

T.J. unknowingly gets his girlfriend Molly pregnant and then moves away. Then he knocks up a different girl, Kate, and marries her even though he only loves Molly. After giving birth, Molly kills herself. A few years later, T.J. and Kate have another kid. Unfortunately for them, Laura, the new baby, is the reincarnation of Molly, T.J.’s old girlfriend.

Laura really, really, really hates her mom, but she doesn’t fully understand why yet. She REALLY loves her dad though, in a way that seems weird right from the beginning. When her dad gets her mom pregnant again, she becomes very unhappy.

For the most part, the reincarnation business is the only supernatural element in this book. This is not what I was expecting from the cheesy cover. The horror is not of evil spirits or of psychic powers. It is the horror of trauma, suicide, domestic abuse, and misery.

Laura is not only jealous; she is also a manipulative, sadistic psychopath. The story is also told from her point of view, a fact that makes this book all the more disturbing. The reader starts off on her side, but I started to sympathise with her mother pretty quickly. Laura does everything she can to upset Kate, a woman who may not be the best mother in the world but who hasn’t actually done anything unforgivable. I don’t want to give away details, but some of Laura’s actions were so upsetting that they caused me to put the book down and consider whether or not I actually wanted to finish it.

I’ve seen other reviews of this book where people said that The Voice of the Clown isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be and that it gets bogged down with character development, but I found the build up to be really effective. Also, I honestly doubt that those naysaying reviewers have kids of their own. I have a little girl, and my wife and I have another kid on the way, and reading about a child’s mission to destroy her family by any means was deeply upsetting for me. I can read gore all day and won’t be bothered, but reading about a jealous child’s well thought out plans to torment a helpless baby and its mother was utterly horrendous. This novel struck a nerve.

This is a miserable, bleak, unpleasant book to read. While there are some supernatural elements, it’s really more horrible than horror. That being said, I reckon that was the point. Brenda Brown Canary must have sat down and really thought hard on to how write the most horrible book ever. I don’t think something as unpleasant as this could happen by accident. I know that Valancourt Books have tried to get in touch with her to reprint this as part of their Paperbacks from Hell reissues line, but that she has yet to respond. I wonder how she feels about this book now. Was it written during a dark time in her life that she would rather forget? I hope I’m wrong, but I find it difficult to imagine a person who loves their life writing a book like this. It’s relentlessly unpleasant, and it gets worse and worse as it goes on.

All that being said, I think it is a good book. This is a methodically written novel of terror, real, unpleasant terror. I’ve written before of times when books have obsessed me. In all other cases, the obsession reached its peak before reading the book. I would get fixated on a rare horror novel and spend hours seeking out information about it before finding/ordering a copy. Reading it would be the climax. In this case, my interest was really sparked after finishing the novel. I’ve found myself picking it up since finishing it, staring at the cover and feeling an unpleasant discomfort. Part of me wants to get rid of my copy to have it out of my house, but the masochist in me wants to keep it in case I want to punish myself again in a few years. If you can get a copy of this thing and you’re not faint of heart, pick it up and jump into the nightmare.

Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock’s Tales of Death and Decadent Poetry

I first read about Count Stenbock on the Snuggly Books website when I was buying their collection of Montagues Summer’s ghost stories. I saw the cover of Stenbock’s Studies of Death and became intrigued. I checked and saw that first edition copies of this book go for 10,000 dollars. I had to read it.

stenbock studies of death
When I looked up Stenbock, I saw that David Tibet, Thomas Ligotti collaborator and the musician behind Current 93, had recently put out a collection of Stenbock’s work that contained all of the stories in Studies of Death along with lots of other stuff. This collection didn’t cost much more, and I decided to buy it.

OF KINGS AND THINGS STENBOCKOf Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems
Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock
Strange Attractor – 2018

Studies of Death is actually very short, and you could easily read through it in an afternoon. The stories are glum, dreary things. I enjoyed them well enough. One of the tales is about a vampire, but the others don’t really have much of the supernatural about them. I quite liked these stories, but I am very, very glad I opted for the anthology rather than just this collection.

The other tales contained in Of Kings and Things are great, and they convinced me that Stenbock was actually an interesting writer rather than just a melancholy weirdo. ‘The Other Side’ is one of the only other pieces of writing that was ever published during Stenbock’s life, and it’s a very dreamy tale of a young man becoming a werewolf. It’s really cool. There’s other stories about a voyage to Hell, a princess who pays to see a young man mauled by lions, and a monk who attends black masses and satanic ritual sacrifices. There’s also a ghost story in the form of a play. ‘The King’s Bastard’ and ‘A Secret Kept’ are very similar to the kind of stuff in Studies of Death.  All the fiction in here is worth reading, but there’s one particularly creepy story about a fella who allows himself to be cuckolded by his gay lover (his boyfriend fucks his wife), and then he falls in love with the resultant child. Yuck.

Stenbock was a real freak. There’s a story that he used to carry a wooden puppet around with him, telling people that it was his son. He was also gay. I don’t mean to insinuate that gayness is weird or abnormal, but let’s be realistic; in the late 19th century it was largely considered so. Stenbock’s writing, although never explicitly detailing acts of homosexuality, is pretty gay. Read it and you’ll see what I mean – lots of beautiful men and forbidden love. I think he deserves more credit for writing like this during that period of history. It’s a pity that he isn’t better remembered.

The physical book is lovely – it looks and feels nice, and a great deal of effort has clearly been put into it. It’s not expensive either, so if you’re mildly interested in Stenbock or a big fan of his, I can wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of Of Kings and Things. I’m glad I did.

 

Stenbock was primarily a poet, and of the 4 of his books that were published during his lifetime, 3 of them were books of poetry. Copies of the original editions of these books are now ridiculously rare. David Tibet estimates that there are 4-6 copies of each in existence. Luckily, many of these poems are included in Of Kings and Things. I was on David Tibet’s website a few weeks back and saw that he was offering free pdf copies of the collected poems of Stenbock. This collection contains all of the poems from the Count’s 3 books of poetry. I decided to give it a read before publishing this post.

collected poems stenbock
The Collected Poems of S.E. Stenbock –  Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock
Durto Press – 2001

I have very little interest in poetry. Honestly, I just don’t get it. My opinions on this lad’s poems aren’t going to be profound. I thought they were very moody and sad and dramatic – lots of crying and love and blood. If Stenbock was a teenager in the early 2000s, he would have worn lots of eyeliner and shirts with black and purple stripes. I’m too much of a bonehead to tell if his poems are good not. I far preferred his stories.