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jeffreyehall
Oct 22, 2019
In Elder Sign
I really enjoyed the discussion of Clark Ashton Smith's "The Door to Saturn", even though I think your conclusions are suspect. Granted, CAS' fiction is an acquired taste, and his diction does not appeal to all readers. I think one of the most perceptive comments on CAS' Hyperborea stories comes from Steve Behrends, who wrote a critical guide to CAS' writings. To quote Behrends directly (speaking of the Hyperborea stories collectively): "The prose is intentionally pretentious, so as to mock pretension - a technique found more recently in the work of Jack Vance. We encounter elegantly depicted scenes of great silliness, absurd speeches delivered by sagacious characters, humor that is droll, dry, quiet, and above all, mock solemn." (emphasis Behrends) Beyond Jack Vance's work (which I am also a fan of), another well-known use of this technique can be found in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. That said, when I first read CAS many years ago, I did not much like his work at first, for many of the reasons you cited in the podcast episode. But after re-visiting his work a few times, I now think his best work is brilliant, and ranks up there with writers like Dickens, Vance, and François Rabelais. The caveat being that CAS did write some truly awful and formulaic stories, but I don't include "The Door to Saturn" in that category - I think it's really quite an amazing work of short fiction.
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