Friday, February 11, 2011

the novels of horace p sternwall

it is well known that horace p sternwall has always been somewhat defensive about his prose works, both in his own lifetime and afterwards. such comments as he has been willing to make usually concern the shorter works and fragments influenced by writers like lovecraft, robert e howard, clark ashton smith, james branch cabell - and of course, lord dunsany. in these attempts he took as his motto lovecraft's epitaph for howard - "he preferred the virile to the subtle, and repudiated modernism with sweeping completeness."

so averse was he to discussing the paperback novels he wrote in his later years - and so difficult has it been to find copies - that their very existence has been questioned.

reports of copies in the hands of collectors (mostly in japan and saudi arabia) have been brushed aside by the skeptical - often the same as doubt the efficacy of madame rue's heroic attempts to contact him in recent years - as so many urban myths.
enter mister dan leo, the heinrich schliemann of sternwallania. his diligent researches and discoveries have opened up whole new vistas to the faithful. unfortunately such copies as he has been able to obtain (like the few i own myself)
are in such disrepair as to make their complete reconstruction and dissemination a slow process at best.

anyone who has any sternwall material - or possible sternwall material - any at all - that is not already publicly available - is invited to contact me at:

rpenmarq at gmail dot com

some - myself included - have expressed frustration that an institution such as the library of america has shown so little interest - actually none - in rescuing horace p sternwall from obscurity. surely their efforts would be better served by reprinting forgotten masters - not just sternwall - fredric prokosch comes to mind - rather than repackaging widely available authors like kerouac and elizabeth bishop. if you have the time, i encourage you to write or e-mail the library of america to express this view. but please, be polite. it would not do for sternwallians to develop reputations as thugs or crackpots.

finally, a word on the artistic quality of the material dan leo has uncovered. it seems that in these works - excluding those written under female pseudonyms and intended for female consumption - he did indeed "prefer the virile to the subtle, and repudiate modernism with sweeping completeness".


Dan Leo said...

Much thanks, rhoda, for this concise overview. I have posted a copy on the bulletin board at my club, and have begun to collect signatures from the members (many of whom, as you know, carry the names of some of the oldest and finest names in Philadelphia) for a petition to this Library of America you speak of. By the way, could you please pop off the address of this library to me at your convenience?

kathleenmaher said...

I'm about to suggest something heretical, perhaps. But with publishing falling into disarray, private editions of Sternwell's novels could find a great following. (Keep the gorgeous covers and print paperbacks on acid-free paper and of course package them with a plastic sleeve.)If Sternwell's alive (didn't he write a poem about Dan a few months ago?) signed private editions could sell for fabulous sums as books head the way of museum pieces.

rhoda said...

kathleen, these are good ideas. the only problem is that horace is contacted through the spirit world and signatures obtained in this way have been challenged by the literal minded - and the courts so far have sided with them.