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The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies

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A much-awaited collection of prose and poetry from one of the great cosmic masters of the supernatural Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amateur philos A much-awaited collection of prose and poetry from one of the great cosmic masters of the supernatural Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amateur philosopher, bizarre sculptor, and unmatched storyteller—simply wrote like no one else, before or since. This new collection of his very best tales and poems is selected and introduced by supernatural literature scholar S. T. Joshi and allows readers to encounter Smith’s visionary brand of fantastical, phantasmagorical worlds, each one filled with invention, terror, and a superlative sense of metaphysical wonder.


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A much-awaited collection of prose and poetry from one of the great cosmic masters of the supernatural Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amateur philos A much-awaited collection of prose and poetry from one of the great cosmic masters of the supernatural Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amateur philosopher, bizarre sculptor, and unmatched storyteller—simply wrote like no one else, before or since. This new collection of his very best tales and poems is selected and introduced by supernatural literature scholar S. T. Joshi and allows readers to encounter Smith’s visionary brand of fantastical, phantasmagorical worlds, each one filled with invention, terror, and a superlative sense of metaphysical wonder.

30 review for The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Confession: I once underestimated Clark Ashton Smith. I dismissed him as a second-rate poet, and a first-rate prose stylist who marred his work with an eccentric indulgence in obscure, latinate diction, even more bizarre than his friend Lovecraft's. I also find his fascination with evil—particularly in his poetry—rather second-rate too, redolent with faux nostalgia for the fin de siecle in decline. The funny thing is, I still believe all this to be true, but, recently, reading this J.T. Joshi a Confession: I once underestimated Clark Ashton Smith. I dismissed him as a second-rate poet, and a first-rate prose stylist who marred his work with an eccentric indulgence in obscure, latinate diction, even more bizarre than his friend Lovecraft's. I also find his fascination with evil—particularly in his poetry—rather second-rate too, redolent with faux nostalgia for the fin de siecle in decline. The funny thing is, I still believe all this to be true, but, recently, reading this J.T. Joshi anthology, I find this is only a small part of the story. First of all, although most of the poetry is second rate, some of it isn't, particularly the blank verse dramatic monologues (“Nero,” “Satan Unrepentant,” “The Hashish Eater") which rely on close reasoning or gorgeous enumerations, and the occasional isolated mood piece (“Memnon at Midnight,” “The Old Water Wheel”) which does not allow its central idea to become buried in baroque detail and mellifluous phrases. Second, the stories—at least the ones included here—all succeed as stories, and whatever they lose from Smith's showy, occasionally bizarre diction they regain by the sonority and measured movement of his prose. Like Algernon Blackwood, the objective of this prose is to hypnotize, creating the proper state of mind so that the disquieting visions may begin. Even the worst of his stories—which can seem like overly long mood pieces—create memorable sensations, and the best (“The Vaults of Yo-Vombis,” “The Dark Eidolon,” “The Weaver in the Vault, “Xeethra,” “The Mother of Toads”) are terrifying. In addition, Joshi introduced me to an aspect of Smith of which I had not been aware: the prose poems. They are more disciplined and closely crafted than either the poems or the stories, and may well be Smith's best work. I conclude with one of those prose poems, to give you a taste of the delights which await: THE MIRROR IN THE HALL OF EBONY From the nethermost profound of slumber, from a gulf beyond the sun and stars that illume the Lethean shoals and the vague lands of somnolent visions, I floated on a black unrippling tide to the dark threshold of a dream. And in this dream I stood at the end of a long hall that was ceiled and floored and walled with black ebony, and was lit with a light that fell not from the sun or moon nor from any lamp. The hall was without doors or windows, and at the further extreme an oval mirror was framed in the wall. And standing there, I remembered nothing of all that had been; and the other dreams of sleep, and the dream of birth and of everything thereafter, were alike forgotten. And forgotten too was the name I had found among men, and the other names whereby the daughters of dream had known me; and memory was no older than my coming to that hall. But I wondered not, nor was I troubled thereby, and naught was strange to me: for the tide that had borne me to this threshold was the tide of Lethe. Anon, though I knew not why, my feet were drawn adown the hall, and I approached the oval mirror. And in the mirror I beheld the haggard face that was mine, and the red mark on the cheek where one I loved had struck me in her anger, and the mark on the throat where her lips had kissed me in amorous devotion. And, seeing this, I remembered all that had been; and the other dreams of sleep, and the dream of birth and of everything thereafter, alike returned to me. And thus I recalled the name I had assumed beneath the terrene sun, and the names I had borne beneath the suns of sleep and of reverie. And I marvelled much, and was enormously troubled, and all things were most strange to me, and all things were as of yore.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) is surely one of America’s most intriguing and unique authors, a poet and writer of tales of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Born in a small town in Northern California and living nearly all his life in the log cabin build by his parents, Smith didn’t attend school beyond the eighth grade due to psychological problems; rather, all of his learning occurred at home – he read voraciously and committed much to memory, including an encyclopedia and a dictionary cov Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) is surely one of America’s most intriguing and unique authors, a poet and writer of tales of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Born in a small town in Northern California and living nearly all his life in the log cabin build by his parents, Smith didn’t attend school beyond the eighth grade due to psychological problems; rather, all of his learning occurred at home – he read voraciously and committed much to memory, including an encyclopedia and a dictionary cover to cover; he taught himself French and Spanish; he devoured book after book, such classics as Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. As an adult, along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Smith was a prime contributor to the pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales, and, like Lovecraft, whom he befriended and carried on a live-long correspondence, Smith used his own nightmares as raw material for his fiction. This fine Penguin edition is a treasure, including many short stories, prose poems and poems along with an informative Introduction by literary scholar, S. T. Joshi. As a way of sharing a taste of what a reader will discover in these pages, I have focused on one short story from the collection, Ubbo-Sathla, noting a number of themes from the tale, themes that recur in much of the author’s work. Also included is my write-up (copied from one of my other reviews) on yet another tale from this Penguin collection: Mother of Toads. UBBO-SATHLA “For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars, Ubbo-Sathla dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth.” So begins this beguiling tale of metaphysical investigation told in arcane language by Clark Ashton Smith, an author for whom fiction was as a way to explore the big philosophical questions: Where do we come from? What is the foundation of life? Why are we here? Where are we going? Again, these questions are asked in the most inscrutable language, for as the author himself explains: "My own conscious ideal has been to delude the reader into accepting an impossibility, or series of impossibilities, by means of a sort of verbal black magic, in the achievement of which I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.” Similar to young men entering antique shops filled with curios from around the globe (Honoré de Balzac’s The Magic Skin and Théophile Gautier's The Mummy’s Foot come immediately to mind), the tale's protagonist, Paul Tregardis, enters an antique shop and his eye is drawn to something in particular: “the milky crystal in a litter of oddments from many lands and eras.” And, oh, how that magically enchanted, arcane object quickly becomes the nucleus of occult unfoldings. "Tregardis thinks of his own explorations in hidden lore: he recalled The Book of Eibon, that strangest and rarest of occult forgotten volumes, which is said to have come down through a series of manifold translations from a prehistoric original written in the lost language of Hyperborea." After leaving the shop, crystal in hand, little does Tregardis know he now holds an enchanted object that will bring the book of his very own memories to life. As per vintage Clark Ashton Smith, that aforementioned remote, secret book, The Book of Eibon, was purported to have been the handiwork of a great wizard in touch with the heart of the heart of all power within the universe. "This wizard, who was mighty among sorcerers, had found a cloudy stone, orb-like and somewhat flattened at the ends, in which he could behold many visions of the terrene past, even to the Earth's beginning, when Ubbo-Sathla, the unbegotten source, lay vast and swollen and yeasty amid the vaporing slime. . . But of that which he beheld, Zon Mezzamalech left little record; and people say that he vanished presently, in a way that is not known; and after him the cloudy crystal was lost." With a wizard and sorcery added to the equation, our narrator is in for unexpected twists to his adventures. The more our young narrator peers into his newly purchased crystal, the more all of the normal boundaries of time and space expand and take on strange forms. “As if he looked upon an actual world, cities, forests, mountains, seas and meadows flowed beneath him, lightening and darkening as with the passage of days and nights in some weirdly accelerated stream of time.” Is he in twentieth century London or some other past and future time? Or, as unfathomable as it might seem, two or even all three together? It is hard for poor Paul Tregardis to tell. In this and in many other Clark Ashton Smith tales, it is left to us as readers to fathom our own conclusions, as nebulous as they might be. Paul feels something very strange, as if he is under the influence of hashish. The walls begin to wobble as if they are made of smoke; all the men and women in the streets begin to appear as so many ghosts and shades; the whole scene takes on the cast of a vast phantasm. Is Paul dreaming or hallucinating? Could be. But many the time in a Clark Ashton Smith tale, a dream or vision quickly slides into an unending nightmare. Recall the author mined his own nightmares during protracted illnesses to fuel his fantasies and tales of horror. In such a nightmare, what other evil or unforeseen event can happen? Answer: for Clark Ashton Smith, a character’s very identity can shift and change not only once but multiple times. “He seemed to live unnumbered lives, to die myriad deaths, forgetting each time the death and life that had gone before. He fought as a warrior in half-legendary battles; he was a child playing in the ruins of some olden city of Mhu Thulan; he was the king who had reigned when the city was in its prime, the prophet who had foretold its building and its doom. He became a barbarian of some troglodytic tribe, fleeing from the slow, turreted ice of a former glacial age into lands illumed by the ruddy flare of perpetual volcanoes. Then, after incomputable years, he was no longer man, but a man-like beast, roving in forests of giant fern and calamite, or building an uncouth nest in the boughs of mighty cycads." Clark Ashton Smith, such an imagination, such psychedelic, phantasmagorical visions - not only can a man or woman, plant or beast change, the entire universe can compress itself into a grey, formless mass of slime with the name Ubbo-Sathla. MOTHER OF TOADS This tale begins with Pierre, young apprentice of the village apothecary, making one of his journeys to the secluded hut of Mère Antoinette, a big ugly witch, for the purpose of returning with a mysterious brew for his master’s secret concoction. After giving Pierre what he came for, the witch beckons the lad to stay. We read his response: “Pierre tossed his head with the disdain of a young Adonis. The witch was more than twice his age, and her charms were too uncouth and unsavory to tempt him for an instant. She was repellently fat and lumpish, and her skin possessed an unwholesome pallor.” Let’s pause here and ask why do witches appear in so many Western fairy-tales? Robert Bly speaks of the tyranny of patriarchal monotheistic culture, where what is good and pure and divine is male and what comes from nature is negative, chaotic and destructive. And since women are so closely aligned with nature and fertility, their female nature is denied a place in the spiritual realm or godhead, however their energy and power does not go away; rather, it goes underground and later emerges as the witch. Since village rumors abound regarding the witch’s wickedness and her many toad-servants doing her evil bidding, we can also ask why the master sends young Pierre alone and unprotected to the witch’s hut in the first place. We read: “The old apothecary, whose humor was rough and ribald, had sometimes rallied Pierre concerning Mère Antoinette's preference for him. Remembering certain admonitory gibes, more witty than decent, the boy flushed angrily as he turned to go.” Does the older man have the best interests of the young man at heart? Robert Bly alludes to how the older generation of men in being too naïve themselves have betrayed younger men, causing those younger men to be, in turn, too naïve and gullible. So, after Pierre refuses her offer to stay, the witch proposes he drink a cup of her fine red wine. Pierre smells the odors of hot, delicious spices and tells the witch he will drink if the wine contains none of her concoctions. Of course, the witch assures him its sound, good wine that will warm his stomach. Did I mentioned naïve and gullible? Pierre drinks the wine. Big mistake. All of Pierre’s sense are radically transformed and distorted – the big, fat witch starts looking pretty good, after all. Do I hear echoes of how drinking can alter and dull our perceptions? Anyway, the deed is done – the witch gets to have a handsome, young lover for the night. Pierre wakes up sober, sees what has happened and runs away. But the evil witch possesses strange powers. Thousands of her toad-servants block his path and force him to return to the hut. The witch again proposes Pierre stay with her and drink of the wine. At this point, here is the exchange: "I will not drink your wine," he said firmly. "You are a foul witch, and I loathe you. Let me go." "Why do you loathe me?" croaked Mère Antoinette. "I can give you all that other women give ... and more." "You are not a woman," said Pierre. "You are a big toad. I saw you in your true shape this morning. I'd rather drown in the marsh-waters than stay with you again." Sorry, Pierre, it doesn’t sound like you are using your wits – when confronting powerful evil, you don’t win any points by being honest. Even as children Hansel and Gretel knew what is needed in dealing with a wicked witch is not honesty but cleverness. How does this tale end? You will have to pick up this outstanding collection and read for yourself. Here are a number of cover illustrations of tales from this Clark Ashton Smith collection:

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wilum Pugmire

    I'm reading it very slowly, and it is freaking FABULOUS. I love the Introduction, which is of great length because the Penguin editors felt that this would be a book that is the first-time experience with CAS for many readers. I love the Notes at the back of the book, with passages from letters by CAS and H. P. Lovecraft. I have been influenced as an author by this fiction, but I haven't really concentrated on it as I do with Lovecraft's excellent stories. I am doing very slow and careful readin I'm reading it very slowly, and it is freaking FABULOUS. I love the Introduction, which is of great length because the Penguin editors felt that this would be a book that is the first-time experience with CAS for many readers. I love the Notes at the back of the book, with passages from letters by CAS and H. P. Lovecraft. I have been influenced as an author by this fiction, but I haven't really concentrated on it as I do with Lovecraft's excellent stories. I am doing very slow and careful readings with this book, reading some pages two or three times just to drink in the feel and flow of language. A common complaint about Clark Ashton Smith is his use of rare and difficult words, but so far I have encountered very few that are so incomprehensible that they stop my flow of reading and leave me baffled. S. T. was over last night and we did a YouTube vlog about the book. It was incredible, because during the recording S. T. read aloud Smith's poem in memory of H. P. Lovecraft, and Joshi got so moved by the poem that he began to softly weep! I felt the tears brimming in my eyes as well. But then -- woe o woe -- just as we were finishing the video, we LOST OUR INTERNET CONNECTION! Bah!! I could not figure out how to retrieve what we had recorded and the video was utterly lost! Oy oy oy! I was so upset I slept badly, kept waking up and cursing fate. S. T. will be over again this week-end, Saturday or Sunday (March 29th or 30th), not certain which, and we will try again to record a promotional video for the book on YouTube. He will again read ye poem--and this time I shall be certain to wear my strongest waterproof mascara!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    “I, throneless, hear the discords of the dark, And roar of ruin uncreate…” 4.5 stars. This collection of short stories, prose poems, and poetry was hauntingly majestic. I thoroughly enjoyed Clark Ashton Smith’s writing style and his elegant use of language (though I must admit that at times it was a bit too flowery for me). Smith’s imagination was incredible, and the works included in this collection are generally dark, eerie, sinister, and very fucking weird. In short: they are great fun! Some ofuncreate…” “I, throneless, hear the discords of the dark, And roar of ruin uncreate…” 4.5 stars. This collection of short stories, prose poems, and poetry was hauntingly majestic. I thoroughly enjoyed Clark Ashton Smith’s writing style and his elegant use of language (though I must admit that at times it was a bit too flowery for me). Smith’s imagination was incredible, and the works included in this collection are generally dark, eerie, sinister, and very fucking weird. In short: they are great fun! Some of my favorites include: The Devotee of Evil, The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, Ubbo-Sathla, The Double Shadow, and The Treader of the Dust. I’d recommend that you read this exclusively at night, so as to obtain the proper atmosphere for these ghastly tales. Then you too might observe that “the walls quiver like a thin veil in the black breath of remote abysses.” Oh, and I’d like to add that Smith also provides the best current theory as to how life began on our planet (just kidding…or am I?!?): “There, in the grey beginning of Earth, the formless mass that was Ubbo-Sathla reposed amid the slime and the vapors. Headless, without organs or members, it sloughed from its oozy sides, in a slow, ceaseless wave, the amoebic forms that were the archetypes of earthly life. Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror…” Sounds about right.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    "Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams; I crown me with the million-colored sun Of secret worlds incredible, and take Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar, Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume The spaceward-flown horizons infinite." - Clark Ashton Smith, The Hashish Eater; or the Apocalypse of Evil Far too long neglected among American writers of the weird, Clark Ashton Smith has finally been granted a compilation of his best work by Penguin. The result is nothing short of revelatory. As can be deducted from my 'started' and 'finished' dates Iinfinite."- "Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams; I crown me with the million-colored sun Of secret worlds incredible, and take Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar, Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume The spaceward-flown horizons infinite." - Clark Ashton Smith, The Hashish Eater; or the Apocalypse of Evil Far too long neglected among American writers of the weird, Clark Ashton Smith has finally been granted a compilation of his best work by Penguin. The result is nothing short of revelatory. As can be deducted from my 'started' and 'finished' dates I took considerable time devouring this volume. This was intentional. Admittedly, Smith's prose style does tend to veer to the flowery side. It's rather dense in terms of the -sometimes obscure and archaic- vocabulary and references. He makes you work for it. In Smith's case however, I find it fits the subject matter perfectly well (Actually, for me it works better than Lovecraft's prose style, whose literary indulgences didn't always quite mesh with every tale of his). It lends to Smith's tales - a strange mix of old fantasy and cosmic horror- even more of an otherworldly, trance-inducing aspect. In short, reading it straight through can get mighty laborious, so I recommend tackling it at a measured pace. Primary attention has been given to the short stories, and with good reason. The City of the Singing Flame, The Vaults of Yo-Vombis, Genius Loci, The Dark Eidolon, The Weaver in the Vault, Xeethra, and the darkly comedic The Mother of Toads are simply sublime, pairing pure fantasy with pure terror to great effect. They're like nothing else in the field. Thankfully, Smith's prose poems and poetry are also given a generous treatment (although poetry doesn't sell, Penguin momentarily ignored financial considerations and allowed Joshi to include it). Personally, I prefer the former over the latter. Of all literary forms he practised, the prose poem might be the one he actually mastered. His talents are best represented there, I feel. S.T. Joshi's elucidating notes at the end are just the icing on the cake, making this particular edition indispensable to the library of the weird fiction aficionado.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Introduction Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Texts Short Stories --The Tale of Satampra Zeiros --The Last Incantation --The Devotee of Evil --The Uncharted Isle --The Face by the River --The City of the Singing Flame --The Holiness of Azédarac --The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis --Ubbo-Sathla --The Double Shadow --The Maze of the Enchanter --Genius Loci --The Dark Eidolon --The Weaver in the Vault --Xeethra --Th/> Introduction Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Texts Short Stories --The Tale of Satampra Zeiros --The Last Incantation --The Devotee of Evil --The Uncharted Isle --The Face by the River --The City of the Singing Flame --The Holiness of Azédarac --The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis --Ubbo-Sathla --The Double Shadow --The Maze of the Enchanter --Genius Loci --The Dark Eidolon --The Weaver in the Vault --Xeethra --The Treader of the Dust --Mother of Toads --Phoenix Prose Poems --The Image of Bronze and the Image of Iron --The Memnons of the Night --The Demon, the Angel, and Beauty --The Corpse and the Skeleton --A Dream of Lethe --From the Crypts of Memory --Ennui --The Litany of the Seven Kisses --In Cocaigne --The Flower-Devil --The Shadows --The Passing of Aphrodite --To the Daemon --The Abomination of Desolation --The Mirror in the Hall of Ebony --The Touch-Stone --The Muse of Hyperborea Poetry --The Last Night --Ode to the Abyss --A Dream of Beauty --The Star-Treader --Retrospect and Forecast --Nero --To the Daemon Sublimity --Averted Malefice --The Eldritch Dark --Shadow of Nightmare --Satan Unrepentant --The Ghoul --Desire of Vastness --The Medusa of Despair --The Refuge of Beauty --The Harlot of the World --Memnon at Midnight --Love Malevolent --The Crucifixion of Eros --The Tears of Lilith --Requiescat in Pace --The Motes --The Hashish-Eater; or, The Apocalypse of Evil --A Psalm to the Best Beloved --The Witch with Eyes of Amber --We Shall Meet --On Re-reading Baudelaire --To George Sterling: A Valediction --Anterior Life --Hymn to Beauty --The Remorse of the Dead --Exorcism --Nyctalops --Outlanders --Song of the Necromancer --To Howard Phillips Lovecraft --Madrigal of Memory --The Old Water-Wheel --The Hill of Dionysus --If Winter Remain --Amithaine --Cycles Explanatory Notes

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Some lovely classic horror and fantasy tales here. Smith was one of several contemporaries inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and made a number of lasting contributions to the Cthulhu mythos. This anthology features an assortment of his fiction, as well as poetry and prose poems. There's a poetic cadence and positively monstrous vocabulary to Smith’s prose. Some of his verbiage even warranted footnotes. There's a section at the back of the book with detailed information on when each story Some lovely classic horror and fantasy tales here. Smith was one of several contemporaries inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and made a number of lasting contributions to the Cthulhu mythos. This anthology features an assortment of his fiction, as well as poetry and prose poems. There's a poetic cadence and positively monstrous vocabulary to Smith’s prose. Some of his verbiage even warranted footnotes. There's a section at the back of the book with detailed information on when each story was written and published, as well as definitions for some of Smith’s more obscure terms. The endings of some of these stories are so obvious that only a protagonist could miss them. But, as with so much of Lovecraft’s fiction, it's not the destination but the scenery along the way that's the real draw. We know that the three warriors in “The Weaver In the Vault”, for instance, are almost certainly not coming back from their mission. But it's finding out exactly what happens to them, the exact description of the titular Vault and the Weaver therein, that keep us reading. These are fine stories indeed, most of them well-suited for reading aloud by candlelight. One of them, “Phoenix”, particularly fascinated me as an extremely early example of science fiction. Almost all of the science in it, we now know, is inaccurate. Yes, the sun does not actually have a solid surface, and sunlight is not the result of some kind of massive form of atomic-powered volcanic activity. But it gives us a glimpse of how SF “works”. Basically, humanity wants to use atomic warheads to relight the sun. Sure, we now know that there are all kinds of things wrong with that idea. And actually, at least some of it may have been a bit sketchy even in the early 50's when the story was written. But there's a certain grandeur to the idea that's just endearing. It seems like something E.E. “Doc” Smith would have come up with. Yes, you can see the ending coming from over eight light minutes away, but it's still a fun tale. As for the prose poems and poetry, well, I enjoyed a number of the former, but very few of the latter. I tend to be an uncouth barbarian where poetry is concerned, so believe me, the problem is almost certainly on my end and not on Smith’s. Some of the offerings were surprisingly … erotic. “The Litany of the Seven Kisses” is not something one casually declaims to random passers by. Nor is “A Psalm to the Best Beloved.” Use with caution. Despite my tin ear for poetry, there is a wealth of good material in this book. Highly recommended!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZeaF... Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017 A true master of horror, fantasy, science fiction - all the good things of life. ST Joshi does an excellent job with this edition, which includes the genesis story of each tale included, all good stuff if you are interested in tracing the Smith-Lovecraft bromance, which I totally am.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    I like CAS a lot, but this is perhaps too much of a good thing. Certainly by the time I reached the prose poems I was ready for a new author. I suspect this book will be most effective when dipped in and out of rather than read all at once.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ronald

    Clark Ashton Smith was one of the great triumvirate of Weird Tales, the other two being his friends H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. It seems that of the three, Clark Ashton Smith is the least well known. I'm been hoping for a Clark Ashton Smith revival, and this recently published book by Penguin might ignite it. The Introduction of this book is by S.T. Joshi, who made the editorial decision on the stories, poems, and "prose-poems" to reprint. The stories I' Clark Ashton Smith was one of the great triumvirate of Weird Tales, the other two being his friends H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. It seems that of the three, Clark Ashton Smith is the least well known. I'm been hoping for a Clark Ashton Smith revival, and this recently published book by Penguin might ignite it. The Introduction of this book is by S.T. Joshi, who made the editorial decision on the stories, poems, and "prose-poems" to reprint. The stories I've read before. The stories selected, it appears, is a sample of the different types of fiction that Clark Ashton Smith wrote--science fiction, adventure-fantasy, and supernatural horror. Most of the stories take place in the distant past, or even the far future, and take place in imaginary realms such as Hyperborea. This approach differed from that of his friend H.P. Lovecraft, and perhaps differs from most writers of the weird tale since. One the one hand, I would have liked to see more stories included, but I can understand that the editor might have had space constraints. What is new to me: the poetry, the "prose poems", and that Clark Ashton Smith painted. The cover of this book is one of Clark Ashton Smith's paintings. Joshi says that there was even an exhibit of Smith's paintings. I would have liked to see more of Smith's painting reproduced. The 1-2 page "prose poems" are not plot driven stories, but more like vignettes, mood pieces, parables. These prose poems have striking imagery--I still can recall them days after I've read these prose poems. A good amount of the poems are rhyming verse. Some poems are about an individual, such as his mentor, the poet George Sterling. Many poems have fantastical subject matter. The poem "The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil" begins: Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams; I crown me with the million-colored sun Of secret worlds incredible, and take Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar, Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume The spaceward-flown horizon infinite. I bow down before the emperor of dreams, Clark Ashton Smith.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Quiver

    I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall wirte with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of Hyperborean rulers. This is the first sentence of the first tale in the collection, The Tale of Stampra Zeiros, and it exemplifies both the craft and the fantastic purple prose characteristic o I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall wirte with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of Hyperborean rulers. This is the first sentence of the first tale in the collection, The Tale of Stampra Zeiros, and it exemplifies both the craft and the fantastic purple prose characteristic of Smith's style. The craft is in the hook for I have no other that begs the question why; the purple prose is hinted at by the long sentence and the compound words jungle-taken and long-deserted. Between those two elements the reader is hamstrung more or less in every subsequent paragraph of every subsequent story. Patience and inclination will play a role—it could be fun, though after a while it is also likely to become tiring, especially if consumed all at once. The book is divided into three sections: Short Stories, Prose Poems, and Poetry. The short stories have quirky, mystical idea lurking under layers of cloying language and are worth plodding through just to get a sense of their rich worlds. The prose poems are hard going, though with the occasional pretty turn of phrase. The poetry is actually easier to read than the prose poems, and though it feels rather free of deep content, it is by no means unpleasant. I'm glad I read this collection for its texture—linguistic and imaginative. I know of few other comparably rich works. (In a more magical-realist vein, Bruno Schulz comes close to comparable texture in his The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories, but thankfully only close and on the pleasant side at that.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kip

    Not really a "review," as such, just a general impression about a book of which its very existence has tickled me silly since first reading of its conception on the CAS forums many moons ago. CAS in Penguin Classics! Who'd have thunk it?! Anyway, I'll give no intro to CAS... in this era of Wikipedia et al I see no point. Instead, I'm just going to say what's included, what works, what doesn't, and what my impressions are of the collection as a whole. Anyway, the book! It's surpassed my hopes. Fr Not really a "review," as such, just a general impression about a book of which its very existence has tickled me silly since first reading of its conception on the CAS forums many moons ago. CAS in Penguin Classics! Who'd have thunk it?! Anyway, I'll give no intro to CAS... in this era of Wikipedia et al I see no point. Instead, I'm just going to say what's included, what works, what doesn't, and what my impressions are of the collection as a whole. Anyway, the book! It's surpassed my hopes. From the cover art to the introduction to the tales (best thing ST has penned on CAS imo), the prose-poems, and the poetry, all the way to the explanatory notes - the book is excellent. It's not perfect, of course, as I suspect that my tastes and agenda are somewhat different that ST Joshi's (the editor), but considering that I would have put ten or so tales ahead of some of the tales included in this collection - indeed, I think many will argue that The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies seems to be missing many of CAS' greatest tales - it is amazing how well these tales read again for a second (or so's) time. This collection has brought reanimated some tales that I had almost forgotten, having been initially outshone by other tales on first reading; here stories I merely considered "good" at the time are now alive and well within my imagination as they deserve to be. So, while my selected tales would have differed, I can only say that despite those disagreements this selection seems to work admirably. Okay, one or two of the stories selected slightly baffles me, especially things like 'The Face by the River,' which I can only assume was selected in an attempt to show off CAS' range and because it probably falls into the realm of a psychological ghost story (therefore satisfying the lit. crowd?), and 'Phoenix,' which I assume was only included for its overt cosmicism. As CAS readers will know, CAS' cosmicism is rarely found in any overt sense in his tales (in comparison to HP Lovecraft, at least), so I'm guessing this explains ST's inclusion of this satisfying, but, ultimately, mediocre piece. However, this is just a matter of taste, and some will no doubt make arguments for its inclusion. Obviously allowances have to be made, as Joshi's choice was further constrained by space, due to squeezing in a taster of CAS' poetic output too, and I feel this is where this collection really stands out over other collections... Much of CAS' prose reads like prose-poetry, so the inclusion of his poetry and prose-poems really makes sense, and the combined effect shows CAS at his best. Actually, my only criticism is I'd have liked to have seen the poetry and prose-poems included before the prose, but I can understand why the inverse order was decided upon. Kudos to Penguin for insisting upon the inclusion of CAS' longer poetry too. So, if you're a CAS fanatic then you've already got this, I assume. If you're a mere dabbler, then I guess it's the selection of stories and poetry that will make this selected works appeal or not. A lot of the tales, in their bastardized forms, can be found in other collections, so I suspect it will be the poetry that will appeal to those who have a CAS collection or two on their shelves. For the newbie, despite a slightly arguable selection of tales, I think this represents the best place to start, unless you have absolutely zero interest in CAS' poetry. If you simply just want a collection of CAS' best tales, then I might not recommend this, except I'm not sure there is an ideal (corrected texts) one volume starting place for CAS' stories in print at the moment. So, if in doubt, buy this or buy whichever volumes of the Collected Fantasies that are still in print while you can.

  13. 5 out of 5

    XPHAIEA.

    Normally it would take me a couple of days to read a book this length, but for various reasons I've been reading this on and off for a couple of weeks. It needs time to absorb the fantastically rich and opulent purpureal prose. Clark Ashton Smith writes wonderfully, his imagination is wild, untamed and he revels in the bizarre and fantastic - the miasma of his diction clusters and saturates the page. He was a champion of unknown and rarely used words, and this enhances the sheer strangeness and Normally it would take me a couple of days to read a book this length, but for various reasons I've been reading this on and off for a couple of weeks. It needs time to absorb the fantastically rich and opulent purpureal prose. Clark Ashton Smith writes wonderfully, his imagination is wild, untamed and he revels in the bizarre and fantastic - the miasma of his diction clusters and saturates the page. He was a champion of unknown and rarely used words, and this enhances the sheer strangeness and esoteric theme of many of the stories. The book abounds in strange and exotic flora and fauna, forgotten tombs, strange worlds, explorations into space, discoveries of time travelling, witches, mummies, black magic and the occult arts. In short, it's FABULOUS, and as a whole an incredibly rich collection of work. The book is split into three sections: short stories, prose poems, poetry and I feel as been carefully selected to represent a real range of his writing and output. Immensely enjoyable, an absolute must for any Lovecraft fans or enthusiasts of weird fiction. Highly highly recommended! *book received as a Christmas gift from my brother.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Clark Ashton Smith had the fortune to be writing his stories in an earlier time. Some of them are masterworks of Gothic creepiness, just weird, eerie things that dance around your mind for a while. Others make Lovecraft sound like Hemingway, have evil alien lord characters named Zogdor or some damn thing, and have plots that nowadays would come to the public as a movie called "Mummies on Mars 3-D." Maybe that was revolutionary 100 years ago, but now it's laughable. And a lot of Smith's verse-poe Clark Ashton Smith had the fortune to be writing his stories in an earlier time. Some of them are masterworks of Gothic creepiness, just weird, eerie things that dance around your mind for a while. Others make Lovecraft sound like Hemingway, have evil alien lord characters named Zogdor or some damn thing, and have plots that nowadays would come to the public as a movie called "Mummies on Mars 3-D." Maybe that was revolutionary 100 years ago, but now it's laughable. And a lot of Smith's verse-poetry has aged even more horribly, and lands firmly in the "definitely shops at Hot Topic" camp.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Philipp

    A good friend of H.P. Lovecraft, and it shows - both "universes" overlap a bit (the Necromonicon and Yog-Sothoth make an appearance here, for example), but Smith also came up with his own books. There are two differences: Smith vocabulary [1] is humongous compared to Lovecraft. Where everything "moves blasphemously" for Lovecraft, Smith does this: All the hideous things that had swarmed upon me beneath the cacophonous beating of those accursed gongs, drew near again for a moment; and/>

  16. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    It was near impossible to read Clark Ashton Smith without drawing parallels to H.P. Lovecraft. The two are nearly the same. But, with that said, I prefer the short stories of Clark Ashton much more. He, in many cases, has a much darker imagination. I found myself mind blown with stories such as Xeethra, The Face by the River, City of the Singing Flame, or The Double Shadow. These stories, while not entirely unlike your typical weird fiction, had more of a psychological edge to them, and as a res It was near impossible to read Clark Ashton Smith without drawing parallels to H.P. Lovecraft. The two are nearly the same. But, with that said, I prefer the short stories of Clark Ashton much more. He, in many cases, has a much darker imagination. I found myself mind blown with stories such as Xeethra, The Face by the River, City of the Singing Flame, or The Double Shadow. These stories, while not entirely unlike your typical weird fiction, had more of a psychological edge to them, and as a result the horror I felt was much more compelling. Other stories were less hallucination inducing, but no less frightening. Themes in this collection are a odd mix of sci-fi and fantasy, all with a taste of dark suspense and horror. The Poetry was nothing too inspiring or altogether impressive, but I did particularly enjoy The Hashish Eater, The Tears of Lilith, and The Motes. Favorite short story? The Dark Eidolon, hands down.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Owen

    Within these pages lie unspeakable beasts of anthroprophagic inclinations, ancient vine chocked edifices of Hyperborean civilization lost in the sea of time, and the twisted abominations of cosmic maleficence all conspiring to remind humanity of its minuscule place in the universe. Containing some of Smith's best short stories, poetry, and prose, each showcasing his extraordinary language craft. What a discovery!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Arisawe Hampton

    I love the writings of Clark Ashton Smith. He was the quintessenstial poet. BOW DOWN, I AM THE EMPEROR OF DREAMS. I Crown me with the million-colored suns of secret worlds incredible and take their trailing skies for vestment. His fiction is also clothed in words that are poetry. His only peer is Lord Dunsany.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rob Atkinson

    [3.5 stars: an average of 4 for the stories, 3 for the poetry]

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dxarmbar06

    The literary caliber of this volume is off the charts! This guy taught me new words! Here is a master whose command of the English language is worthy of song. NOT FOR PLEBS!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    As so many do, I came to Clark Ashton Smith by way of Lovecraft, and I'm quite pleased to have found him. Tonally his stories cast a much wider net, which means reading the entirety of the collection over a short span of time is a bit easier than reading your way straight through an HPL anthology. Unfortunately (for me, at least), editor S.T. Joshi decided to give the last third of this collection over to prose poems (which I loathe) and poetry proper (which I adore, but not when I'm looking for As so many do, I came to Clark Ashton Smith by way of Lovecraft, and I'm quite pleased to have found him. Tonally his stories cast a much wider net, which means reading the entirety of the collection over a short span of time is a bit easier than reading your way straight through an HPL anthology. Unfortunately (for me, at least), editor S.T. Joshi decided to give the last third of this collection over to prose poems (which I loathe) and poetry proper (which I adore, but not when I'm looking for horror stories). So despite an informative introduction, solid endnotes, and the inclusion of gems like "The Devotee of Evil" and "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" my enthusiasm for Smith had waned by the time I finished the volume. Reading CAS did, however, bring up an interesting question for me as a reader. According to Joshi's introduction, Smith was forced by circumstance to be a bit more ruthlessly pragmatic in his approach to writing than Lovecraft (well, circumstances tried to force Lovecraft, but he just chose to ignore them). Faced with the necessity of supporting ailing parents, Smith apparently gave way much more frequently to the editorial demands of the pulps who paid him, as opposed to HPL, who liked to take his toys and go home. So the question arises: Am I enjoying CAS more consistently than HPL because he's gone commercial and sold out and I'm just culturally conditioned to enjoy that kind of thing? Or did the need to work within the strictures of editorial review make his work better than it otherwise might have been? It's a point worth considering, though it's not one that can be settled without a greater exploration of Smith's work. Which - despite the unintentional horror of those prose poems - I'm more than willing to undertake.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    This is a book I read rather slowly. I enjoyed each story and poem and if I was tired or something I would stop and come back to it later. I really enjoyed it and wanted to 'savor" it. Clark Ashton Smith is an amazing writer. His imagery is profound. I loved that this book also had a selection of his poetry as it is on par and equal to his fiction. Although I am not as big on the more "fantasy" themed stories as I would have been in my teenage years, they still are well written enough and have e This is a book I read rather slowly. I enjoyed each story and poem and if I was tired or something I would stop and come back to it later. I really enjoyed it and wanted to 'savor" it. Clark Ashton Smith is an amazing writer. His imagery is profound. I loved that this book also had a selection of his poetry as it is on par and equal to his fiction. Although I am not as big on the more "fantasy" themed stories as I would have been in my teenage years, they still are well written enough and have enough menace about them to hold my interest. Highly Recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Norman Felchle

    Good dark imaginative stuff. Incredibly visual descriptions. The downside is a little racial subject matter that doesn't fit with a more enlightened time. But, there's not much of that...and it's just minor stuff in passing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave Collins

    Exceptional writing for this genre. The passion for the subject matter as well as the excitement he shared with HPL and other writers in the field for writing these short stories really sets Clark Ashton Smith apart and makes you wonder why he isn't a house hold name like Lovercraft and Poe.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    Three stars in sum. Some stories in here are five stars, others are not, and when it comes to the poetry I'm too illiterate to give it any fair assessment so I'll simply disregard that part. H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard were my gateway drugs to CAS. While I don't think CAS reaches quite their level, it is interesting to see how much of an influence he had on particularly the former. Several of the supernatural elements in CAS's work also appear in Lovecraft's writing, who borrowed them fr Three stars in sum. Some stories in here are five stars, others are not, and when it comes to the poetry I'm too illiterate to give it any fair assessment so I'll simply disregard that part. H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard were my gateway drugs to CAS. While I don't think CAS reaches quite their level, it is interesting to see how much of an influence he had on particularly the former. Several of the supernatural elements in CAS's work also appear in Lovecraft's writing, who borrowed them from CAS and not vice versa. Their writing style is also quite similar at times, though CAS is clearly the better writer when it comes to language, pacing and structure. What Lovecraft lacks in those areas he makes up for with zest and vision however, while CAS's work suffers from flat characterizations and predictable plots. The longest work in this collection, Dark Eidolon, is also the most predictable. My personal favourite was The Mother of Toads, where CAS goes into some truly bizarre territory and is better off for it, followed closely by Genus Loci, which is the best example of CAS's strange fascination with magical, alluring pits that make people throw themselves in - a running theme I found amusing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Flavia Deirdre

    The book contains short stories, prose poems, and poetry. It is a volume full of beauty, wonder, and language. Clark Ashton Smith's writings are wine for the imagination. After finishing his stories, I found myself very often daydreaming about the lost, enchanted universes he wrote about. I could hardly return to the daily routine after biting from the forbidden fruit of imagination, which is even more perilous than the fruit of knowledge(I am thinking about the story of Xeethra now, which is my The book contains short stories, prose poems, and poetry. It is a volume full of beauty, wonder, and language. Clark Ashton Smith's writings are wine for the imagination. After finishing his stories, I found myself very often daydreaming about the lost, enchanted universes he wrote about. I could hardly return to the daily routine after biting from the forbidden fruit of imagination, which is even more perilous than the fruit of knowledge(I am thinking about the story of Xeethra now, which is my absolute favourite). I also enjoyed the prose poems and some pieces of his poetry. Not all the writings collected in this book are my favourites (which is why I didn't rate this book with 5 stars), but I feel very delighted with the fact that I could read them and discover the visionary writer that Clark Ashton Smith was. The language is simply alluring; his writings aroused my imagination and awakened ideas that are not going to ever fall asleep again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gina Herald

    Clark Ashton Smith focuses on the phenomena of metaphysical evil that horrifies by incoherence. It is merely an intellectual's "horror" for that reason though. Each story purposefully leads context and background ambiguous, (other then a few anecdotes about sorcery). The style of narration itself always adds an element of the macabre with its cool-headed, verbose narrators slowly beginning to question their fates, worlds, or perceptions until the narrative trickles out in an horrified and inco Clark Ashton Smith focuses on the phenomena of metaphysical evil that horrifies by incoherence. It is merely an intellectual's "horror" for that reason though. Each story purposefully leads context and background ambiguous, (other then a few anecdotes about sorcery). The style of narration itself always adds an element of the macabre with its cool-headed, verbose narrators slowly beginning to question their fates, worlds, or perceptions until the narrative trickles out in an horrified and inconclusive way. The main reason I read this and my greatest impression regarding it was his style. There's a compelling mixture of elegance and darkness. The most obvious weakness is he never sacrifices his dry, certainly bookish style for the faster pacing necessary for suspense. Anyway, glad this is a Penguin Classic, I don't think I'd have run into him any other way.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Clark Ashton Smith is the writer I believe I would have loved at age sixteen, but did not have a chance to even try until a decade later, when I began acquiring books with his stories in them. Too late for love, by then. My sensibility had changed. I only occasionally read fantasy after I turned 26, and never again with the same effect. I had been ruined. Not merely by other genres, but by the corrosive irony of James Branch Cabell. New loves for old. But perhaps I can trea Clark Ashton Smith is the writer I believe I would have loved at age sixteen, but did not have a chance to even try until a decade later, when I began acquiring books with his stories in them. Too late for love, by then. My sensibility had changed. I only occasionally read fantasy after I turned 26, and never again with the same effect. I had been ruined. Not merely by other genres, but by the corrosive irony of James Branch Cabell. New loves for old. But perhaps I can tread old grounds with a careful step. Or new grounds in an old manner, as if young. Now I am going to give Clark Ashton Smith a try. A complete immersion. A whole collection of tales without wandering off to other writers' works. I begin....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    CAS is fantastic. And as someone who is not even a poetry fan, even I have to admit that he was a truly gifted poet who engages the reader extremely well. I would like a complete anthology as this is my second for CAS and there was only minimal overlap between the two. As it stands, there is still alot of output from the guy I still haven't read (though I know all his stuff is on eldritchdark.com I like to read on my kindle when possible). One of those overlaps though was t CAS is fantastic. And as someone who is not even a poetry fan, even I have to admit that he was a truly gifted poet who engages the reader extremely well. I would like a complete anthology as this is my second for CAS and there was only minimal overlap between the two. As it stands, there is still alot of output from the guy I still haven't read (though I know all his stuff is on eldritchdark.com I like to read on my kindle when possible). One of those overlaps though was the eponymous 'Dark Eidolon', which remains my favrotie story of his for pure imagery alone.

  30. 4 out of 5

    aaaaaaa

    I liked his prose-poetry, the rest wasn't as strong.

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