Pearls & Pyramids / Temples & Torments, Simon Whitechapel
Nice covers, shame about the text. As if the polysyllabic vocab and convoluted (not to say strangulated) syntax of the first two stories in Pearls & Pyramids weren’t bad enough, along come the blatant racism and misogyny of the third, in which members of the Black community are showered with the kind of vilely bigoted slavery-era clichés that even the reddest neck in the deepest south might think twice about using nowadays. Yes, more sensitive members of the anti-racist community won’t even make it past the first line of “The Pearls of Ngaháksha”, which introduces its anti-heroine as a “corpulent black (sic) cannibal witch”. Count the racist discourses at work there, cultural theoreticians! Then read on, if your stomach’s strong enough, and see how they’re repulsively developed and expanded.
Whitechapel’s racist and misogynistic agenda isn’t so foully evident everywhere else, but it is evident from the epigraphs in pretentiously untranslated Italian, Latin and French that he fancies himself as some kind of rogue literary scholar. Real literary scholars won’t be taken in for a moment: if you’re going to pretend that you read Horace in the original, it helps not to make errors as egregious as “vas inferior…naturalis” in the story that follows. But Whitechapel can’t avoid egregious errors in English either: get your laughing gear around “all those whom (sic) his spies discovered had slain…”, for example. Not having a pair of rubber gloves to hand, I’m not going to probe the psychology of the story that’s taken from (“The Similitude of Anina-Casor”), but there are enough philias, phobias, and fetishes on display to keep a team of psychiatrists at work for weeks. Throw in the other stories and you’ve got a feast of mental pathologies that even the Marquis de Sade might have found too rich for one sitting – if the prose and plots were ten times better.
But okay, I admit that Pearls & Pyramids did get me thinking hard, and Temples & Torments thinking even harder. I thought: What did Clark Ashton Smith do to deserve a “disciple” as despicable as this? Did he set fire to an orphanage or something? Well, probably not: it’s just an example of how the miserable luck that dogged CAS in life has extended beyond the grave. I’d rather not know how Whitechapel bribed or blackmailed an otherwise admirable small press like Rainfall Books into publishing this garbage, but they should be ashamed of themselves.