Friday, March 31, 2017

Geek Highways: James Branch Cabell in Richmond-in-Virginia


Richmond, Virginia is indelibly connected to Edgar Alan Poe, much to its civic disgust. Every building the man ever lived in there has been torn down and an attempt to have a statue raised in his honor was met with horror. There is a Poe Museum there, true, which I hope to return to someday (it has a pair of his socks!) but since I only had one day in town, I devoted it to Richmond's other great fantasist James Branch Cabell.

There I am with JBC's portrait in his library, which has been moved, books and furnishings and all, to the James Branch Cabell Library in Virginia Commonwealth University. This is a recursivity that would have amused Cabell greatly.

The day began with my visit (in pouring rain) to Hollywood Cemetery, a beautiful necropolis where Presidents Monroe and Tyler and Confederate President Davis are buried.  Cabell is buried there alongside his son and both his wives. On the stone is a crest showing Kalki -- rampant in both senses -- with the slogan not MUNDIS VULT DECEPI, which is recurrent in his work and means THE WORLD WISHES TO BE DECEIVED but IMPAVIDE, which means FEARLESSNESS.

After which, Marianne ran over to the main branch of the Richmond Public Library, which is located on the site of the long-vanished building where Cabell was born.

Finally, it was off to the Special Collections and Archives in the JBC Library at VCU, there to inspect four letters that Alistair Crowley wrote to Cabell and some interesting conversation with the curator of the Cabell papers, Ray Bonis, a man who knows considerably more about Cabell than I ever did. Which is something I have to respect.

The picture below should give you a good idea of the comfortable opulence of the room. I examined Cabell's collection of books and have to say it's quite nice. I could happily spend a week there, browsing. I had to admire his collection of occult and folklore and related books in particular.

There's so much more I could say about Cabell. I could write a book about the man and his work, and in fact I have: What Can Be Saved From the Wreckage: James Branch Cabell in the Twenty-First Century (preface by Barry Humphry, no longer available from Temporary Culture, though the ebook of it is). But this is running long as it is. So, instead, I'll give you a small notion of just what a big noise Cabell used to be: Below is a bust of one of his creations, Aesred, the plump and slightly sullen Goddess of Compromise. The sculptor  Edward R. Amateis crafted it from a block of marble imported from Greece to Rome in the first century C. E. and then gave it to him as a gift.

That's how big a noise James Branch Cabell once was. He was the single most successful living fantasist of the Twentieth Century. (Tolkien surpassed him, but onlyposthumously.)

And because life goes on...

I have been received the following news from Open Road Media, my ebook publisher,:

I’m pleased to let you know that Bones of the Earth will be featured in BookBub International, an ebook deals newsletter with subscribers in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, on 4/1/2017. The ebook will be downpriced to the equivalent of 1.99 in Canada on that day, and Open Road will promote the feature via social media.

So if you're Canadian, read ebooks, and like science fiction with lots and lots of dinosars this is your opportunity. If you're Canadian and don't read ebooks, that's fine too. But if you're Canadian and don't like science fiction with lots and lots of dinsosaurs, Rob Sawyer has a few firm words to share with you.



Bill Lloyd said...

That's Ray Bonis, not Ron.

Michael Swanwick said...

Thanks. Correction made.

Unknown said...

I'm having trouble locating a link where I can buy this book. Can you help? I'd love to refresh my acquaintance with this towering creative talent.