Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wilfred Blanch Talman & An Amazing Anecdote of Intrigue

From the auctioneer:

THE POOL: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REVISIONS - SYNOPSIS" [short story]. AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT (AMs). 12 pages. Handwritten on six sheets of plain 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper. Undated, but probably 1930.

Book Description: Extensive notes for a re-write of a horror story by Wilfred Blanch {? sp}Talman about a huge ancient creature in a pool who is summoned from the underworld by human sacrifice. Lovecraft basically writes the story from different perspectives in this "synopsis." Together with typed manuscript, 12 sheets of 8 1/2 x 11" paper, typed on rectos only, this being a transcription of the above manuscript.

The transcription was made by Mark Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon, who, while serving his term of 20-to- life in Attica Correctional Facility in New York had struck up a correspondence with Jerry de la Ree based on their mutual interest in fantasy and science fiction.

Chapman takes pains to replicate the sometimes scattered arrangement of HPL's handwritten copy, which has revisions, cross-outs and belated insertions of text.

In a letter to the editor of CRYPT OF CTHULHU No. 47 (Roodmas 1987), containing a story based on the synopsis, de la Ree relates the transmission of HPL's text from HPL to Talman (who had informally mentioned to HPL that he was having trouble with the composition of a short story), thence to de la Ree (who was Talman's neighbor in New Jersey), thence for transcription to Chapman (whose identity is veiled in the letter, as per Chapman's request) and back to de la Ree, thence to E. Hoffmann Price "in hopes he could find a Lovecraft scholar or fan capable of creating a finished piece of work [from the notes]", thence to Donald R. Burleson (who indeed did write such a story, printed in the same issue of the Crypt of Cthulhu) and back to de la Ree, and, on his decease, to the present book dealer.

The synopsis itself was published in CRYPT OF CTHULHU No. 49 (Lammas 1987).

If objects retain impressions of the human spirits who have come in close contact with them (as generations of weird writers would have us believe), then the present documents could generate a roomful of ghosts! and the shades of Lennon and Lovecraft could meet, finding only three degrees of separation between them.

"The Pool" is envisioned in HPL's notes (and to some extent, presumably, in Talman's original draft) as a story about a malign portal between this world and the next (guarded by an unspeakable gelatinous Thing) through which the spirits of the unburied dead, denied entrance to the next world by the usual method of burial, try to sneak -- usually with unpleasant consequences for themselves. Also trying to penetrate it are the "un-dead" (more fully defined perhaps in the Talman draft; vampires?). A third class is constituted by the foolish mortals occasionally drawn there from curiosity or lust for forbidden knowledge, both repelled and fascinated by the legends surrounding it.

A summary of the plot is difficult since the whole point of Lovecraft's tutorial is to examine various possibilities that Talman might follow, both as to plot and narrative technique. The general idea seems to involve, besides the pool, an inn, an innkeeper, an old man (one of the un-dead), a curious young boy, and a plot to summon all the neighboring un-dead to a witches' Sabbat and offer a sacrifice to lure the Guardian from the pool so that the un-dead can enter it when It is not paying attention. Things don't go as planned, and the inn and surrounding area are devastated by the Thing. Lovecraft shifts back and forth between the critic, advising Talman how to write his story, and the author, writing it for him. We feel his tug-of- war between restraint and enthusiasm, between standing back and diving in. We watch as Grandpa, the kindly old professor, theriomorphs into Abdul Alhazred, the mad spinner of dangerous tales, then changes back again. The tone of this hybrid narrative impresses one as both tentative and insistent (rather like one of those un-dead spirits repeatedly probing the forbidden portal to find a way through: the un-read?) The result is an unusual chance for us to see Lovecraft at work behind the scenes, clambering among the scaffolding, darting in an. Bookseller Inventory # 108102 $8,500.

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