Moorcock and Cabell

j d worthington

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I may be setting this thread up for immediate extinction, but it's not the first such thread I've started, nor (stubborn critter that I am) is it likely to be the last. So...

Does anyone aside from me see similarities between Michael Moorcock's work and that of James Branch Cabell?

Not in the sorts of books they write per se, nor in approach or writing style, but more as if Cabell provided a model or idea (or set of ideas) that are very close to some things Moorcock has done with his own work (whether influenced by Cabell or not). For example:

The fact that each wrote quite a few things that were very disparate, yet which were later subsumed into a vast overarching whole -- in Cabell's case, "The Biography of the Life of Manuel", in Moorcock's, his tale of the Eternal Champion, with all its links to his other work being so strong as to make them, essentially, all part of the same vast tapestry.

The frequent use of ironic allegory clothed as heroic (or romantic) myth.

The use of fantasy as a way of critiquing not only life but romantic (in the historical literary sense) art and myth itself.

The use of an elaborate cosmology including enigmatic immortals who appear from time to time and provide clues or hints not only to the characters concerning the ongoing story in which they are involved, but also to the readers concerning the overarching series of concerns informing the fiction, and often involving the reader in a metafictional act of co-creation and self-examination, wherein the reader him or herself becomes a part of the developing fiction or myth (Horvendahl in Cabell, Jermays the Crooked, Sepiriz, etc., in Moorcock).

These are a few of the things I have in mind. Anyone else notice such?

Of course, there's also something of the sort in Eddison's Zimiamvian trilogy a well, for that matter....
 

JoanDrake

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Yes and no. Some of the things you mention are characteristic of these writers and some are just general fantasy things.

This here:

The use of an elaborate cosmology including enigmatic immortals who appear from time to time and provide clues or hints not only to the characters concerning the ongoing story in which they are involved, but also to the readers concerning the overarching series of concerns informing the fiction, and often involving the reader in a metafictional act of co-creation and self-examination, wherein the reader him or herself becomes a part of the developing fiction or myth (Horvendahl in Cabell, Jermays the Crooked, Sepiriz, etc., in Moorcock).

is probably the most salient characteristic they both share. However, that's if I understand it aright, which I may not.

Though you've been admirably thorough so far, my poor brain is just overtaxed. Could you go into a little more explanation? I'd really appreciate it.
 

j d worthington

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Yes and no. Some of the things you mention are characteristic of these writers and some are just general fantasy things.

Quote:
The use of an elaborate cosmology including enigmatic immortals who appear from time to time and provide clues or hints not only to the characters concerning the ongoing story in which they are involved, but also to the readers concerning the overarching series of concerns informing the fiction, and often involving the reader in a metafictional act of co-creation and self-examination, wherein the reader him or herself becomes a part of the developing fiction or myth (Horvendahl in Cabell, Jermays the Crooked, Sepiriz, etc., in Moorcock).
is probably the most salient characteristic they both share. However, that's if I understand it aright, which I may not.

Though you've been admirably thorough so far, my poor brain is just overtaxed. Could you go into a little more explanation? I'd really appreciate it.

I'm afraid you're not alone in that this evening. It's been a most trying few weeks, and I'm feeling quite brain-fried at the moment; however, I'll attempt to touch on a few of the things which (if I recall correctly at this late date) I was thinking of at the time... and if I can word it in such a way it makes much sense....

With both Cabell and Moorcock, it seems to me that they both tend to use "romances" to address their various thoughts and concerns about what it means to be human; not merely "the human animal", but -- in Cabell's phrase, "the only animal who plays the ape to his dreams": that is, that creates these ideas of what we ought to (or can) be, and then sets about (haltingly, stumblingly, with frequent backsliding, yet nonetheless with a fair degree of determination and success) becoming that ideal, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof... though with such a long trek ahead, it is sometimes difficult to see that we've made any progress....

And, in both cases, it seems to me that, though using this tool, they rather distrusted it in some ways, at least in their early writing; only coming to view it differently as they gained more experience and thought on the matter of just how important our myths and legends can be to this process; and how often we choose the noble over the ignoble examples as our ideals. As their "trust" in this tool grows, the relationship between the creative act of fiction or "romancing" and the growth of a more civilized, liberal sort of society is made more explicit in their work, until it finally is stated quite bluntly, as in Beyond Life or much of Moorcock's later work (especially from the creation of the Second Ether on). In the process, the boundaries between the myths and legends each is weaving, and the "real" world we inhabit, becomes... not erased, but altered, in such a way as there is a conscious connection between the very act of reading these fictions and the consciousness of the effect under discussion, resulting in an engagement of that process in a curious liaison between the writer and the reader. This both lends an aura of a very ancient form of verbal tale-telling and an added layer of "reality" to the fiction being relayed. This, in turn, is addressed by various characters within the tales, noting the thin line between the fiction of the world (or multiverse) inhabited by the characters, and the "reality" of this construct of our own; again, allowing the characters and the reader to have a further bond by their awareness of how this interaction affects the realities of either.

At any rate, that's a bit of what I was addressing. There are other things, but I'm afraid I'm already rather incoherent at this point; so perhaps best I wait until I can explain more clearly before I go any further.

In the meanwhile... thank you for replying, as I'd long thought this thread to simply be something of no interest to anyone save myself. However, if I may presume further... any additional comments, whether in agreement, expansion, or debate, on this or other similarities (or contrasts) between the two, would be most welcome....
 

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