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Adalbert is a forum for me, to post ephemera, photography, poetry, occasional travel notes, and various spontaneous motions. Cover photo: Parsonage where my great-grandfather spent his early years. Taken near Liegnitz, Silesia, ca. 1870.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Microscopic Giants, Desricks, Gnoles

In the now time I re-read the superb anthology, Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum, which I first read (at least once or twice) at the age of ten or so. Earl E. Mayan's unique illustrations, compounded of painting and what appears to be clip art from some ad-man's 1960s era portfolio, and the wonderful stories make for a powerful duo. (The Obitulog blog, which I have linked to my own, also has a good entry on Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum, dated Sunday, November 20, 2011.) The Alfred Hitchock visage and brand were in its way at least as important for me as his auteur-stamped films, such as Vertigo or Spellbound. "Hitchcock," for me, stands as much for the minimalist profile sketch of the director on the early television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, coupled with softly ominous timpani strokes, or for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (and the paperback anthologies of stories from the magazine), which at one time I read a great deal of, as for, say, The Lady Vanishes, Psycho, or The Birds.   I also read with enjoyment some of the books in the Alfred Hitchock and the Three Investigators series in childhood.

Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum has a mix of well-known and more obscure writers. Many stories, such as Theodore Sturgeon's "Shadow, Shadow on the Wall," (Mayan's illustration shewn -- this one, and the others scared the crap out of me when I was a youth) are excellent examples of Poe's dictum of every word in a short story counting toward a single effect. Guy Endore, aka Samuel Goldstein, author of "The Day of the Dragon," was a riveting individual without even considering his written work, as one can readily find online. "The Day of the Dragon" is one of several apocalyptically-themed stories in the collection -- another is "Doomsday Deferred" by Will F. Jenkins, with Brazil standing as an exotic Other. I remember being stymied by the word "Deferred" when I first read this one in childhood.

Were-cats and werewolves (or, say, cat into man or man into dog), transformation, are another running note, in such pieces as Miriam Allen DeFord's "Henry Martindale, Great Dane," Jerome "It's a Good Life" Bixby's "The Young One," and Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t's "The King of Cats." Paul Ernst's (Max Ernst's brother?) "The Microscopic Giants" is exceptionally eldritch. With other writers such as Ray Bradbury, Joseph Payne Brennan, and Manly Wade Wellman joining in, this anthology is nostalgic for myself -- and still resonates today. I'll have to re-read Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery as well, which had good whimsical illustrations itself, though not as potent as Mayan's. I read this initially about the same time as my first reading of Monster Museum.

6 comments:

  1. So you're reading Hitchcock, that option is new to me. I'm still finding my way through his movie oeuvre.

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  2. Rob, I could stand to see some of his movies over again, and there are still a few of his I haven't seen yet.

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  3. Good review..the stories in this book are tasty not only for themselves, but for their gestalt, bringing me to another, more surrealist time. Doomsday Deferred, for instance, takes me back to the era of great movies and tv shows. Wasn't there some film with C. Heston in a thriller Amazonian film, involving a terrible plague of army ants? Shadow, Shadow, reminds me of a snippet of tv I saw when I was very young, involving an incarnate shadow on a staircase, terrifying at the time (I wonder if it was in fact from an A. Hitchcock presents episode?) I need to start collecting A. H's Mystery mags again, regretting that I jettisoned them long ago. They were comforting things, with their pulp smell and duo-tone, low budget illustrations. Would that we could turn back the clock to the "low budget" era, a tad sweeter than our current "no budget" period.

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  4. Thanks. Charlton Heston, army ants, sound slightly familiar... I still have quite a few AH mystery mags from the 70s, some of the Hitch photo covers of which I "enhanced" with Salvador Dali moustaches and the like... The incarnate shadow snippet triggers some vague memory as well.

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  5. The Heston movie was "The Naked Jungle" from the 1950's ( a good bit of the footage was later used in a "McGyver" episode in the '80's). The shadow memory may well be from the Year Two episode of "Night Gallery", "Certain Shadows On The Wall".

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  6. Thanks for figuring out the references. I haven't seen either the movie or Night Gallery episode in question.

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