R.I.P.: Skip Williamson

Ace obit that includes lots of information new to me. I knew nothing about his personal life other than his political activism and he fell off my sightlines after the ’80s. His bizarre cause of death could be taken from a comic he drew. Snappy Sammy Smoot was one of the unforgettable clueless characters or Holy Innocent or what have you. His hair trip was a graphic triumph. And the obit ends with a quip from Williamson that is about the most rat-on exhortation from the ’60s demonstrations.

Guess Williamson and Jay Lynch had to leave about the same time so they could start up Celestial Bijou Funnies. Bet it’s better than ever.



Meet James Branch Cabell

A line from the first graph of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s previously unpublished 1920 short story in The New Yorker:

I would rather bring out a book that had an advance sale of five hundred thousand copies than have discovered Samuel Butler, Theodore Dreiser, and James Branch Cabell in one year.

“James Branch Cabell” — WHOTF IS THAT?

(Just so you know, the name is CAB-ble — “Tell the rabble my name is Cabell,” he told his publisher.)

Here’s a page about him almost as eccentric as he was.

And a nice, detailed online bio.

What I have to add is that I read his masterpiece, Jurgen, the same year I read The Hobbit — 1962, when I was in fifth grade. Except that Jurgen is wildly inappropriate for a fifth-grade audience and I have not the faintest how it got in the classroom library except that, hey, fantasy book, terrific fairy-tale type illustrations. Must have been a library cut-out that nobody looked at for longer than five seconds. (Shows the depth of Cabell’s popularity that a copy of his book made it all the way to little Livingston MT.)

Anyway, it was a wild ride of a read with a lot of sex stuff way, way over my head. Then about 10 years later when fantasy lit was on a major rebound, Cabell was reissued in paperback and I decided that Jurgen was at least 10-20 times better than anything else he did, which was prolix, if occasionally witty, blather.

But go dig up a copy of Jurgen — it’s 1920s the way On the Road is beatnik ’50s.

Two Notes About This Ugly Mugger of a Blizzard

Massive snow dumps have at least one common effect on both Montanans and New Englanders — they can prompt unexpected generous acts. I clear our sidewalks and drive with a (probably under-powered) snow-thrower and the street-plowed chunks at the bottom of the driveway were a good three-four feet high. Our neighbor hires a service to plow his areas. I’ve called them slapdash in the past, but never again. The plow driver, when he saw how I was struggling with the mounded-up snow, came down and cleared out the whole end of the drive for me. What a champ!

Friends who have seen our house will know what this means: the snow was so heavy and the winds so strong (gust of 66 mph recorded) that two 50-foot branches (and a dozen smaller branches) blew down from the white pines out to the side of our place. White pines can be magnificent, but I would never tell anyone to plant them. Endless needles and cones and they do seem rather inclined to snap.

SXSW Gripe

I donno. Never been to one. But if I wanted to go to business conferences, I would have gotten into one of the more richly ruminative fields.

I was drawn because festivals seemed so much the spontaneous, anti-matter versions of such things. So if that’s utterly gone, what’s the point? Other than the usual Biz Conf garbage.