May 8

Casonetto's Last Song

11 comments

Edited: May 8

I think the biggest shock in this story was how short it was (even by short story standards), compounded by the rather abrupt ending. That said, I really enjoyed it. I think Howard accomplished a lot with very little. The language was wonderfully evocative, especially when describing Gordon's reaction to the titular song. Hearing is (in my limited experience) an underutilised sense in weird fiction, where we tend to get wonderful descriptions of what the protagonists see - or occasionally feel - while hearing is usually limited to drips in damp caves or chanting cultists. If nothing else Howard made an excellent case here for exploring weird experiences through other senses (and now I'm wondering what could be done with taste...).

 

In terms of the actual story itself, again I thought Howard did a lot with very little. My immediate response to the introduction is that this feels like an epilogue or sequel to a more classic sort of weird story; that of the protagonists plumbing the depths of the earth and discovering unspeakable terrors therein. This is even a style of story Howard wrote quite a few examples of himself, with Conan, Solomon Kane and others. So maybe this was him taking a break from that and writing a 'what happens next' story.

 

I think Howard provides just enough here that I didn't feel like I was missing out by not having that first part of the story, but you were right to point out in the episode that there are some serious unanswered questions here, not least the nature of the relationship between Gordon and Casonetto. I read Casonetto's use of "friend" as not quite literal, but certainly suggestive of the idea that they knew each other well before the incident. I feel like they probably weren't as close as Gordon being Casonetto's manager as you suggested in the episode (but that's just a feeling): maybe they were associates or rivals on the opera scene? I think the idea of Gordon stumbling across Casonetto's secret lair at random would be too ridiculous - he'd have to have some reason to suspect Casonetto was hiding a dark secret, with the revelation of what that is being the climax in the Satanic ritual scene. I think if I did anything with this I'd be tempted to make the "black nameless winged being" some sort of entity other than Satan too, just to ramp up the 'weird' angle (with Gordon not really understanding what he's seeing and misinterpreting it as Satanism, a reasonable thing to do in the 1920s or 30s). Not that there's anything wrong with Satanism as a plot device of course, but it can sometimes feel a bit mundane. Although Howard showed here that he absolutely had the writing chops to make whatever was happening seem anything but mundane!

 

To be honest, the idea of a sequel or continuation to this story didn't even occur to me (despite the abrupt ending) before I listened to the episode, but you did a great job of convincing me that someone could make a great longer story out of this incident.

Wow, I'm not sure I could stomach a weird fiction story that emphasizes taste. Lovecraft's obsessions with smells is often too much for me.

 

I think you're right that Gordon probably wasn't Casonetto's manager (and I feel dumb for having said it) when some sort of professional rivalry is pretty clear. I mean, managers and agents are pretty notorious for not looking gift horses in the mouth.

 

There are so many adaptations and spin-offs of Howard's work that the odds are that someone has already done something with this story, but I don't think we should let that stop us.

A quick google search just turns up a short film. I suspect the obscurity of this story probably means no one has done anything else with it.

This is a great short story I had never heard of. Thanks for covering in.

 

In my mind Gordon is an emprasrio of some venues where operas or boxing boots could happen. This would explain his association with Costigan and Casonetto and why Casonetto refers to him as friend. As to the idiot problem, one of the victims was a woman Gordon was in love with, who was never found. The record promises to reveal her location.

It was supposed to be boxing bouts not boots. Dam autocorrect.

I love these solutions -- there's a whole novel here ... or maybe a season of True Detective.

Load more replies

As a note Howard used the Steve Costigan name for a different character before the boxer was created.

True. The sledgehammer fist capable of smashing a record player suggests it's the boxer in this story though.

I imagine Gordon hearing the enchanting voice of Cadonetto coming out of other peoples' mouths, becoming mad and eventually killing one of his most beloved (like that Japanese (or was it Chinese) tale in which a man kills his new wife because he thinks she's his late wife (who he had poisoned earlier), because her face appears on her new wife's head).

Oh, I love this story. The voice has taken over his hearing -- it's awesome!

New Posts
  • What an odd story! As with a few before it, I didn't enjoy this one much when reading it, but the discussion in the episode really helped put a better perspective on it. In particular I really liked the framing of it as a plague story with the spectre of cholera hanging over everything (for some reason it hadn't occurred to me that the omen of death was an omen of them getting cholera), and the idea of it as a reaction to the science of the Enlightenment. Thanks also for making the weird political digression make sense! It completely boggled my mind what it had to do with anything else in the story. I'm still not completely convinced, but I guess it worked for Poe. Overall I thought this story had a lot of great set-up; the evocative description of the cholera epidemic and the tantalizing hints of the tomes in the library would make an excellent introduction to a different weird story. As it stands, though, the description of the beast and the revelation about it didn't do anything for me. Maybe that's a problem of perspective as a modern reader, which at least would fit with the theme of the story in a roundabout sort of way.
  • Great podcast. About the political situation in the 1840’s there was in 1848 an outbreak almost simultaneously of revolutionwry reform of governments all over the place. The old monarchies were changed to the forms that held until World War One. A history podcast I listen to covers this year in a whole series. It is called “Revolutions” it is done by Mike Duncan. Each series he covers a different revolution and in series 7 he covers 1848. It is about 20 some episodes each from 30 to 50 mins long about this year. I’m not this far in his podcast yet, I’m on series 5 currently, but each episode is extremely well made and informative while being entertaining. I’m sure Poe was current with the political tempest that was brewing at the time he wrote this story. It makes me even more interested to get to this series about the history.
  • When I was young I didn't read much comics. In the Netherlands 'strips' (comics) were usually the well known comics from Belgium (Tintin, Spike and Suzy) or funny and/or dirty ones. I never really liked them. American comics here were and are expensive, so I didn't read them. But I had friends who did have some, and they gave me Sandman, after which I was a huge fan from this series and Neil Gaiman. I then read Alan Moore’s comics (Moore being Gaiman’s mentor) and loved his comics too, including Swamp Thing. But, as I said, comics are expensive here, and I stopped buying them (mainly Vertigo imprints) after my graduation, unfortunately (though I once got the first issues of Preacher). I liked the episode on the podcast, so I scribbled some of the titles on paper. Moore's Providence already was on my wishlist, but 'alas', they are out of sale here (and I don't have a credit card or the like, so I can't buy things from 'far away' directly). But I keep trying. I do have a copy of stories of Lovecraft, adapted into comics by the (over here well-known) artist Erik Kriek ( http://www.gutsmancomics.com/news/ ). Though I didn't read any other books by him, I think he likes weird tales (although he also likes to make parodies and to add the afore mentioned sexual dirtiness). Many of his comics are translated into several languages. His adaptation of Lovecraft ( http://www.gutsmancomics.com/works/comics/#44 ) earned a lot of praise.

Claytemple Media is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.