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Clark Ashton Smith

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JV
Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - 12:05 pm:   

I wonder if anybody likes Clark Ashton Smith, and if so: why? I like him and don't like him at the same time. He strikes me as a kind primitivist, a bit on the edge of outsider art in his prose, in an odd way.

I'm also curious if French translations of his work get rid of some of the clunkier bits, style-wise.

Anyhoo, love to see some comments on CAS from all and sundry, should anyone care to post...

JeffV
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des
Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - 01:05 pm:   

I fell in love with CAS' work in the late sixties. He was very much part and parcel of the same frame of mind that obsessed me then, one which included HPL. It was the opening of style vistas that I had not dreamed possible before then. CAS was very important to me but I've not touched him for decades.
His style, I recall, as blisteringly bejewelled.
I must get back to him.
des
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Brendan
Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - 11:38 pm:   

I have tried to read CAS, but didn't get very far. His stuff just didn't interest me enough to get through a whole book.
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Robert
Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - 07:02 am:   

I read some of his stories. I thought they were alright, but they didn't make me want to read more of his stuff.
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Forrest
Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - 07:21 am:   

I rather like Smith's prose, so long as it's in small doses. I find I read his work really slowly, which is good in that I'm able to let his vivid imagery percolate up in my mind, but bad in that it's difficult to stay interested in the story thread. I really, really do like his style, though.
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Nels
Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - 10:04 am:   

If I may I'd like to echo Forrest's comments; in small doses CAS fuckin' rules.

{Insert obligatory "small doses" joke here}
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jk
Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 07:35 pm:   

I love Clark Ashton Smith's writing. He's a wizard of prose! When I read the Arkham collection reissued a few years ago, a was blown away by it. Really inventive and fun to read. I like him as much as HPL. I can't wait for the Nightshade editions. I've been scrounging the net for the old Neville-Spearman(sp?) editions of the Arkham books. I actually found an Arkham copy of Genius Loci for twelve bucks on abebooks.com I think whoever listed it made a mistake, that book is worth much more.
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des
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 02:26 am:   

I have found all the Panther paperbacks of CAS's work (all eight of them!) in my collection since this thread started ... and I intend to reread them.
des
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JKS
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 07:40 am:   

What Des said; but add a decade in my case.

ERB, HPL, REH, and other Weird Tales-type writers (Merritt, Haggard etc) were late teen obsessions of mine, but I haven't read any in years. Partially because I'm not sure that they'll hold up and partially because there's so much 'new' stuff to read and I've never got back to them.

Y'know, now that I have all my Panther editions out (Nine, Des? (Abominations, Lost Worlds I & II, Genius Loci, Other Dimensions I & II, Out OF Space & Time I & II, and Tales of Science & Sorcery) they look pretty good (Hmm, must read some); I wonder if this is a 'complete' set of his work.

best,

Jonathan
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des
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 07:53 am:   

damn, I seem to have misplaced my Panther of OTHER DIMENSIONS II !
Could be anywhere.
des
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GabrielM
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 08:36 am:   

>>I wonder if this is a 'complete' set of his work.

Pretty much. The Panthers reprint the five Arkham House hardcovers that contain all the stories. After that there was another book from Greenwood that collected some odds and ends but I'd say it's really for completists.
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des
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 08:43 am:   

There are a lot of prose poems not in the Panthers.
He was and remains somehow the master of the prose poem.

The greatest short story writers - many people have opinions who they are - O Henry, Guy de Maupassant, VS Pritchett, Elizabeth Bowen...?

But if you were asked who the greatest prose poem writer was or is? - you would have to answer good old C.A. Smith!
des
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James M. Pfundstein
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 07:37 am:   

if you were asked who the greatest prose poem writer was or is? - you would have to answer good old C.A. Smith!

I think many would mention Baudelaire. Or, in English, Poe.

JMP("Pfleurs du mal")
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des
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 07:47 am:   

Well, as I don't believe poems or prose poems can be translated (in the sense that they become quite a different poem or prose poem), I was thinking of prose poems originally written in the English language - and I think CAS possibly wrote more prose poems than Poe. Whether they were greater is a matter of taste, I guess.

Here is the wonderful cover of POEMS IN PROSE by CAS:
http://www.eldritchdark.com/art/books/arkham/display/34
des
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des
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 08:10 am:   

Another interesting site:
http://web.onetel.com/~amygdala/texts/beauty_bigot.html
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James M. Pfundstein
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:18 am:   

Many thanks to des and Simon Whitechapel for alerting us to the Jewish menace.

There have been a lot of people writing prose poetry in English: Poe ("Shadow" and "Silence), Wilde, Joyce (his "Epiphanies"), T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings etc. Smith probably wrote more than most of them, but I don't think that alone qualifies him as the greatest prose poem writer.

Smith paints some interesting word-pictures but the mood he seeks to evoke is rather monotonous and his word-choice seems to me, to put it mildly, corny. I think this is true of his prose poems and his fiction, to some extent: like the Jewish editors who persecuted Klarkash-Ton, I like more story than Smith usually provides in his stories.

But I can by no means claim to have read everything he's written-- some of the old Ballantine anthologies, and a Bantam collection City of the Singing Flame (with the title story and a "greatest hits" selection from the various series). So I could be misjudging him.

JM("Meshugener")P
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des
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:29 am:   

Lin Carter was a great Ballantyne editor.
and I agree - I was being over-glib in calling CAS the greatest exponent of prose poems. Sorry.
Frederic Brown?

des in UK
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des
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:33 am:   

Fiona MacLeod? Swinburne? Dylan Thomas? Alan Bennett? ...
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:52 am:   

To the names already mentioned, I'd add Russel Edson, WS Merwin, Charles Simic, John Ashberry, Adrienne Rich, James Tate, etc etc. All of whom have done significant work in prose poetry. To annoint either Smith or Poe as the ultimate prose poet seems similar to trying to name the greatest rock band of all time. It's a matter of tastes, as are all literary affections. Personally I prefer Ashberry and Dylan Thomas.
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des
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:58 am:   

I spend a lot of time debating who is the greatest classical composer in different eras - on various forums.

For 'greatest', as you indeed say, please read 'favourite'. I'm notorious for being eclectically elitist! Sorry.

Some of the greatest prose poets would have to include DH Lawrence - *if* you re-string his hard enjambements! (eg SNAKE)
des
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 12:40 pm:   

Absolutely....Lawrence was a master of this peculiar form. Wordsworth should be considered a seminal figure as well.
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Laird
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 06:01 pm:   

My writing is most powerfully influenced by prose poetry.

Favorites--

Strand; Cummings; Carruth; Jeffers; Sandburg; Stevens; Dickenson; Eliot; Thomas; Plath...

Charles Simic at the fore of these.
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JV
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 06:06 pm:   

Simic's pretty amazing. I get the feeling he's underrated, but I'm kind of out of the poetry scene at the moment.

JeffV
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Laird
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 06:06 pm:   

Oh, as to CAS--I haven't read much of his work. The bit I've sampled left me cold.
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Laird
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 06:11 pm:   

Jeff--

Pick up Simic's Selected Poems (1963-1983) if you haven't. It's brilliant.

I also recommend any collected works of Mark Strand. Lighter touch, but absolutely devastating.
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jk
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 06:14 pm:   

Thanks to Simon Whitechapel for pointing out the racist "ugliness" in Clark Ashton's work. I'll have to burn my Clark Ashton books and forget that I ever enjoyed any of his stories. I think all of his books should be removed from bookstores and libraries, and anyone caught with one of his books in their possession should have to do 500 hours of community service. I certainly hope Night Shade is going to cancel the forthcoming books they plan on publishing.
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James M. Pfundstein
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 08:15 pm:   

Ah, the sweet smell of anonymous hysteria.

Smith probably was no worse than many people in the Thirties, the golden age of anti-Semitism. He doesn't seem to have used his work to beat any propagandistic drum. Whitechapel's piece, in contrast, is truly repulsive in its abject grovelling in the mental vomit of racial stereotypes.

Walter Kaufmann said of Nietszche something to the effect that "he must be defended from his witless detractors and admirers." And maybe the same could be said of Clark Ashton Smith.

JMP
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jk
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 09:45 pm:   

Um...I was kidding. I really don't give a friggin' rat's ass what Whitechapel thinks, and I'll continue to enjoy my Clark Ashton Smith books. And I can't wait for the Nightshade books!
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des
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 01:12 am:   

Has anyone read HPL letters to Reinhart Kleiner?
http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/sources/lrk.htm

Some of these are rabidly racist. Yet I love both HPL and CAS, or rather - their works! That sort of consideration is why I'm interested in The Intentional Fallacy and created 'Nemonymous'.
****

Prose Poems seem to be more common in SF than any other genre, eg Bruce Boston, Steve Sneyd...

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