There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Life is paradox.
-The Voice before the Void

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Works mentioned:
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
“The Fiddler” by Herman Melville
50 Great American Short Stories edited by Milton Crane
“I and My Chimney” by Herman Melville
Great Short Works of Herman Melville edited by Warner Berthoff
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Arma Virumque” by Ambrose Bierce
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Other authors mentioned:
Homer
Mark Twain
Robert Benchley
Patrick F. McManus
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
H.P. Lovecraft

“A Guest” by Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce’s Birthday:
Bierce regards Death with fine, sarcastic, suppurating contempt.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Guest”

Ambrose Bierce

Death, are you well? I trust you have no cough
That’s painful or in any way annoying—
No kidney trouble that may carry you off,
Or heart disease to keep you from enjoying
Your meals—and ours. ‘T were very sad indeed
To have to quit the busy life you lead. Continue reading

“A Social Call” by Ambrose Bierce

Xmas:
The most glorious misanthrope, Bierce, gives the best holiday greetings.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Social Call”

Ambrose Bierce

Well, well, old Father Christmas, is it you,
With your thick neck and thin pretense of virtue?
Less redness in the nose—nay, even some blue
Would not, I think, particularly hurt you.
When seen close to, not mounted in your car,
You look the drunkard and the pig you are.

No matter, sit you down, for I am not
In a gray study, as you sometimes find me.
Merry? O, no, nor wish to be, God wot,
But there’s another year of pain behind me.
That’s something to be thankful for: the more
There are behind, the fewer are before.

I know you, Father Christmas, for a scamp, Continue reading

“H.P. Lovecraft, An Evaluation” by Joseph Payne Brennan

H.P. Lovecraft’s Birthday:
Quite a prescient consideration.
-The Voice before the Void

“H.P. Lovecraft, An Evaluation”

Joseph Payne Brennan

MACABRE HOUSE
55 Trumbull St.
New Haven 10
Connecticut

Since the publication of my “H. P. Lovecraft: A Bibliography” (Biblio Press, 1952), I have been repeatedly urged to write out my opinion of Lovecraft’s work. I have been kept from doing so by the pressure of a full-time library job, plus my own creative work in the diverse fields of the horror story, the western story, and poetry, as well as the semi-annual publication of ESSENCE and other time-consuming activities such as an unending struggle against censorship groups which are violating Constitutional rights on both a local and national level.

The following brief essay is an admittedly hurried and incomplete attempt to meet demands for a Lovecraft critique. An entire book, requiring many months of uninterrupted work, could be devoted to the project and I sincerely regret that circumstances do not permit me to undertake such a task. But I hope that my comments, in spite of their brevity, will be of some interest. Continue reading

“One Morning” by Ambrose Bierce

St. Valentine’s Day Special:
How to apologize for running late.

“One Morning”

Ambrose Bierce

Because that I am weak, my love, and ill,
I cannot follow the impatient feet
Of my desire, but sit and watch the beat
Of the unpitying pendulum fulfill
The hour appointed for the air to thrill
And brighten at your coming. O my sweet,
The tale of moments is at last complete—
The tryst is broken on the gusty hill!
O lady, faithful-footed, loyal-eyed,
The long leagues silence me; yet doubt me not;
Think rather that the clock and sun have lied
And all too early, you have sought the spot.
For lo! despair has darkened all the light,
And till I see your face it still is night.

“The Yearly Lie” by Ambrose Bierce

Xmas Special:
Hail Bierce.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Yearly Lie”

Ambrose Bierce

A merry Christmas? Prudent, as I live!—
You wish me something that you need not give.

Merry or sad, what does it signify?
To you ‘t is equal if I laugh, or die.

Your hollow greeting, like a parrot’s jest,
Finds all its meaning in the ear addressed.

Why “merry” Christmas? Faith, I’d rather frown
Than grin and caper like a tickled clown. Continue reading

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 1

Walpurgis Night Special:
A story unique and masterfully weird… and our world’s introduction to the King in Yellow.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Repairer of Reputations”

from The King in Yellow

Robert W. Chambers

part 1

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

Cassilda’s Song in “The King in Yellow,” Act i, Scene 2.

The Repairer of Reputations

I

“Ne raillons pas les fous; leur folie dure plus longtemps que la nôtre…. Voila toute la différence.”

Toward the end of the year 1920 the Government of the United States had practically completed the programme, adopted during the last months of President Winthrop’s administration. The country was apparently tranquil. Everybody knows how the Tariff and Labour questions were settled. The war with Germany, incident on that country’s seizure of the Samoan Islands, had left no visible scars upon the republic, and the temporary occupation of Norfolk by the invading army had been forgotten in the joy over repeated naval victories, and the subsequent ridiculous plight of General Von Gartenlaube’s forces in the State of New Jersey. The Cuban and Hawaiian investments had paid one hundred per cent and Continue reading

“Quest of the Golden Fleece” by Hugh Clifford, with Discussion

A lurid story of headhunters in colonial Borneo, yet a story of engaging complexity, with an ending that almost makes the reader complicit in the horror, followed by our breathless analysis.
Read by Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
“There’s a lot on the other hand.”
Authors and works referenced in the discussion include: Mark Twain, Clifford Geertz, Gilbert Herdt, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, editor Milton Crane, “A Distant Episode” by Paul Bowles (anthologized in The Granta Book of the American Short Story Volume Two edited by Richard Ford), “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson, The Earth (La Terre) by Émile Zola, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España) by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Diego de Landa, and Charles Dickens.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Quest of the Golden Fleece”

Hugh Clifford

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce

Influential weird fiction.
The scariest thing about ghosts is that you might become one.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa”

Ambrose Bierce

For there be divers sorts of death – some wherein the body remaineth; and in some it vanisheth quite away with the spirit. This commonly occurreth only in solitude (such is God’s will) and, none seeing the end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey – which indeed he hath; but sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant testimony showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also dieth, and this it hath been known to do while yet the body was in vigor for many years. Sometimes, as is veritably attested, it dieth with the body, but after a season is raised up again in that place where the body did decay.

Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their full meaning, as one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than that which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment that everything seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn wind with heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting Continue reading

“A Little of Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce

Battle of Chickamauga Anniversary Special:
There are no accounts of battle like Bierce’s accounts of battle.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“A Little of Chickamauga”

Ambrose Bierce

The history of that awful struggle is well known—I have not the intention to record it here, but only to relate some part of what I saw of it; my purpose not instruction, but entertainment.

I was an officer of the staff of a Federal brigade. Chickamauga was not my first battle by many, for although hardly more than a boy in years, I had served at the front from the beginning of the trouble, and had seen enough of war to give me a fair understanding of it. We knew well enough that there was to be a fight: the fact that we did not want one would have told us that, Continue reading

“Religions of Error” by Ambrose Bierce

Bierce’s deep morality gets him characterized as an amoralist; Bierce’s loving humanism gets him labelled a misanthrope.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Religions of Error”

Ambrose Bierce

Hearing a sound of strife, a Christian in the Orient asked his Dragoman the cause of it.

“The Buddhists are cutting Mohammedan throats,” the Dragoman replied, with oriental composure.

“I did not know,” remarked the Christian, with scientific interest, “that that would make so much noise.”

“The Mohammedans are cutting Buddhist throats, too,” added the Dragoman.

“It is astonishing,” mused the Christian, “how violent and how general are religious animosities. Everywhere in the world the devotees of each local faith abhor the devotees of every other, and abstain from murder only so long as they dare not commit it. And the strangest thing about it is that all religions are erroneous and mischievous excepting mine. Mine, thank God, is true and benign.” Continue reading

“The Compassionate Physician” by Ambrose Bierce

Parable by Bierce.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Compassionate Physician”

Ambrose Bierce

A Kind-Hearted Physician sitting at the bedside of a patient afflicted with an incurable and painful disease, heard a noise behind him, and turning saw a cat laughing at the feeble efforts of a wounded mouse to drag itself out of the room.

“You cruel beast!” cried he. “Why don’t you kill it at once, like a lady?”

Rising, he kicked the cat out of the door, and picking up the mouse compassionately put it out of its misery by pulling off its head. Continue reading

“What I Saw of Shiloh” by Ambrose Bierce, part 2

Battle of Shiloh Anniversary Special:
The sounds of war are deafening as Bierce mesmerizes to the end. Bierce fires his shocking cynicism at Americans, at Christians, at soldiers, and ultimately at all humans as he denotes his own dark place in our dark world.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What I Saw of Shiloh”

Ambrose Bierce

part 2

VI

I suppose the country lying between Corinth and Pittsburg Landing could boast a few inhabitants other than alligators. What manner of people they were it is impossible to say, inasmuch as the fighting dispersed, or possibly exterminated them; perhaps in merely classing them as non-saurian I shall describe them with sufficient particularity Continue reading

“What I Saw of Shiloh” by Ambrose Bierce, part 1

Battle of Shiloh Anniversary Special:
The sights of war are incredible as Bierce builds the tension. Bierce describes, with artistry and clarity, an historic battle and his own fearsome marching into it, at night, in a thunderstorm.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What I Saw of Shiloh”

Ambrose Bierce

part 1

I

This is a simple story of a battle; such a tale as may be told by a soldier who is no writer to a reader who is no soldier.

The morning of Sunday, the sixth day of April, 1862, was bright and warm. Reveille had been sounded rather late, for the troops, wearied with long marching, were to have a day of rest. The men were idling about the embers of their bivouac fires; some preparing breakfast, others looking carelessly to the condition of their arms and accoutrements, Continue reading

“Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce

Battle of Chickamauga Anniversary Special:
The apotheosis of war.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Chickamauga”

Ambrose Bierce

One sunny autumn afternoon a child strayed away from its rude home in a small field and entered a forest unobserved. It was happy in a new sense of freedom from control, happy in the opportunity of exploration and adventure; for this child’s spirit, in bodies of its ancestors, had for thousands of years been trained to memorable feats of discovery and conquest—victories in battles whose critical moments were centuries, whose victors’ camps were cities of hewn stone. From the cradle of its race it had conquered its way through two continents and passing a great sea had penetrated a third, there to be born to war and dominion as a heritage.

The child was a boy aged about six years, Continue reading

“The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” by Ambrose Bierce

In all his terrible detail, Bierce shows incomprehensible horror to be commonplace. Does its nearness to mundanity make the horror less horrific, or more horrific?
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Difficulty of Crossing a Field”

Ambrose Bierce

One morning in July, 1854, a planter named Williamson, living six miles from Selma, Alabama, was sitting with his wife and a child on the veranda of his dwelling. Immediately in front of the house was a lawn, perhaps fifty yards in extent between the house and public road, or, as it was called, the “pike.” Beyond this road lay a close-cropped pasture of some ten acres, level and without a tree, rock, or any natural or artificial object on its surface. At the time there was not even a domestic animal in the field. In another field, beyond the pasture, a dozen slaves were at work under an overseer.

Throwing away the stump of a cigar, the planter rose, saying: “I forgot to tell Andrew about those horses.” Andrew was the overseer. Continue reading