Carl Van Vechten

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

Carl Van Vechten

maaliskuu 26, 2020, 4:58 pm

Hey you all,

I have just read Carl Van Vechten's 'The Blind Bow Boy' and if this isn't a minor decadent classic I dont know what is: Huysmans references (tick), drug references (tick), nudity (tick), opulent clothes/perfumes/room descriptions (tick), campness (tick), quotes in French (tick), far eastern houseboys (tick).

Its great fun and a good read. I review it (as I am reviewing all the books I read nowadays) on Goodreads. here is the Van Vechten one:

I gave it four stars.

Do we have a Van Vechten expert in our midst?

Has anybody read any of his other novels? Recommendations?

Vechten references a number of other books and authors in the text, obvious ones like Huysmans and Firbank but also more obscure ones (to me at least!) such as "plays by Luigi Pirandello, tales by Dopo Kunikida, poems by the Welsh poet, Ab Gwilym, 'Jesus-la-Caille' by Francis Carco, Las Sonatas by Del Valle Inclan...Andre Salmon’s 'La Negresse du Sacre Coeur'

Has anyone read any of these? Opinions?

Questions questions, and a new topic to ruminate over- if we can bestir ourselves from our heads to our keyboards.

REGARDS to you all in these strange times!


maaliskuu 26, 2020, 9:03 pm

I've read Tiger in the House by Van Vechten and found it a somewhat tame paean to our feline friends. You have to be a serious cat lover to really enjoy it. I believe another thread here discusses his more decadent Jazz Age works and you've reminded me that I really need to read some of them. He seems the 1920s urban sophisticate par excellence. The Tattooed Countess has been on my decadent TBR list for some time now.

Carco's 'Jesus-la-Caille' was translated as Frenzy. It's an early example of pulp noir crime fiction. Most of Carco's works fall in the same category. Lots of drug dealers and prostitutes, but of actual drugs and sex, very little. No masterpieces, but somewhat entertaining and very "bohemian".

The Valle Inclan works are available as Spring and Summer Sonatas and Autumn and Winter Sonatas. They didn't move me so much, but they're considered prime examples of Spanish Symbolism.

Pirandello was an early existentialist and exponent of metafictional narratives. Reminiscent of Samuel Beckett's work. His dramas are fairly well known and widely available.

'La Negresse du Sacre Coeur' is a paean to black women. A subject Van Vechten was familiar with.

I'll have to become much more wealthy to get my hands on a copy of the only englished version of Doppo Kunikida's stories River Mist and Other Stories, but they sound fascinating.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 27, 2020, 1:00 pm

A pulse! Hello all. I have assembled a collection of Van Vechten's books (begun years before any focus of mine on the decadence; I used to thumb through his luridly titled novels in my job as night-stocker in the Alderman library) - but have not yet read anything. He, along with John Lane published early on a showcase of Alastair's morbid art (Van Vechten's was more comprehensive than Lane's - or at least included more examples of Alastair's artwork).

Hope all are well... was thinking, lazily, of beginning a topic on plague themed art and literature.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 27, 2020, 3:17 pm

"...but of actual drugs and sex, very little." Have you read The Age of Flowers by Umberto Pasti? Here you will have it all: rape, murder, brutality, evil, drugs, seething decadence (riotous poolside orgies in the midst of devastating poverty and social/religious upheaval in an unnamed maghrebi country- amidst a riot of flowers and perfumes (and self-consciously over-ripe prose). I hate these sorts of a lazy comparisons, but you will recognize Firbank and Huysmans, along with Bowles and Burroughs.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 27, 2020, 5:24 pm

thanks for your full reply.

'The Tattooed Countess' is now firmly on my radar and River mist is available on free here

Doppo is here for free...

The Age of Flowers is new to me as well. Luckily these strange days give me plenty of reading time!

Should you begin a plague thread I recommend Stefan Eggelers portfolio titled 'Die Seuche der Pestilenz' (1919) but then I recommend Eggeler to everyone...


maaliskuu 27, 2020, 8:52 pm

>4 Randy_Hierodule: As a faithful acolyte of your LT library I did read 'The Age of Flowers' after your review of it some time ago. I agree with your assessment and the "lazy comparisons". David Madsen came to mind also. Using platitudes I'd call it an exceptionally intense and disturbing hallucinatory work.

>5 Siderealpress: I'm no fan of ebooks, but looks like no choice with Doppo. Thanks for the link. Is there a widespread plague literature/art movement I'm unfamiliar with? If not, I suppose one will be starting in the coming months....

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 11:54 am

Plague literature.

A good question. I'm not aware of a 'movement' as such, though I guess there is plenty of dystopian literature (Ballard springs to mind) and we have the racist 'yellow peril' (didn't Fu Manchu have a diabolical germ thing in a book?), lots of memento-mori/apocalyptic material in terms of images some of which must portray death as a plague carrier. I did very recently see Viennas monument to the plague (at the same time I saw the Eggeler). I can imagine there is a deep p'it to dig into. I'm not on facebook or such things but surely someone is compiling a collection as I type this.

If you compile even a short list you could start a new thread- that'll be two new ones in a week. Whoo-hoo!



maaliskuu 29, 2020, 11:32 am

I have a number of Van Vechten books as an extension of my James Branch Cabell collection. But the only ones I've read are Excavations: A Book of Advocacies (essays on neglected or quirky literature), and part of Peter Whiffle in which Cabell is a minor character. Firecrackers was dedicated to Cabell. If I recall, Spider Boy is a Hollywood novel,and Nigger Heaven was about Harlem.

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 6:43 am

Dear all,

I have just posted my review of Van Vechtens 'The Tattooed Countess' here:

Its not really 'our' territory but a light piece of amusement none the less.

Peter Whiffle is next on my list. Gawd bless the net...


huhtikuu 12, 2020, 5:36 pm

Let us know what you think about Peter Whiffle. I have meant to get to it for ages - I believe VV makes mention (and photographs?) of Donald Evans and Arthur Machen.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:27 pm

I'll be reviewing that in the next day or so but basically..
its better than 'The Tattooed Countess' probably (just about) 3 stars and yes there is a long section on Machen.

Oddly I was reading it at the same time as Ray Russell was posting his Youtube series on collecting Arthur Machen. Check em out here (they are great- amazing copies):

and he showed the book (I think its part 5) I'm read mine on-line and it seems it is the second edition that had the photos.

I'll be starting 'Parties' next...



Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 9:42 pm

>11 Siderealpress: It's starting to sound like excepting 'The Blind Bow Boy' your assessment of VV's work so far is similar to mine of 'Tiger in the House'... just ok or slight. But if you're trying to run the table, then besides the books >8 Crypto-Willobie: mentioned, there's Parties which a couple of Amazon reviewers make seem like VV's decadent masterpiece. LT ratings don't agree.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 3:38 pm

Dear all,
I have just posted my review of 'Peter Whiffle' here:

I gave it two stars. Its interesting as a debut, I think Van Vechten is staking his territory out a bit, as it is different to the others of his I have read which are more observational.

I have also now read 'Parties' which I thought quite bleak, but a fuller review will be forthcoming over the weekend.

huhtikuu 26, 2020, 11:31 am

Dear all,

late (again) to the parti(es) but I have just posted my review of it here:

the bottom line being that flawed but overall ok.

Now; a question!

What does anybody know of Vechtens relationship with Alastair (Henning Voigt) the decadent illustrator? I do know that he wrote an intro for a book of his work but how extensive was their relationship? Any info gratefully received. Thanks!



toukokuu 12, 2020, 12:56 pm

Van Vechten's Introduction to 50 Drawings does not give an impression of any degree of personal intimacy between the two. If you haven't already, you might try the CVV letters, published by Yale Uni Press. Not certain if memoirs were published.

toukokuu 14, 2020, 3:52 pm

Thanks for this.
A copy of 50 drawings is hopefully en route to me.
I might peer at the letters, it seems as if Van V could have met Alistair via people like the Crosbys but you would think that once met you'ld remember (and say so) I'm always intrigued by these odd possible links.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 18, 2020, 10:17 am

Good purchase! The artwork is gorgeous. VV was certainly in the right place at the right time, but, having gone through G. Wolff's book, there was no intersection with the Crosby's (or Alastair - at least nothing GW took pains to mention). Joseph Hergesheimer might be worth a look as well. I will dig through some of my 20s stuff and see if anything is mentioned (I wonder about Joyce biographies... perhaps even in Knowles' Beckett bio (Beckett was a Joyce apostle in the latter's Paris years; Nothing in Deirdre Bair, though, I don't believe), or things by Peggy Guggenheim?

Afterthought: The letters of Hart Crane or Archibald MacLeish may be promising, as well.

Join to post