Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Musical Question

I saw this title card (designed by Tom Herpich, painted by Joy Ang) for an upcoming ADVENTURE TIME episode and thought it was evocative of Machen, which reminded me that Megan Abbott had recently encouraged me to reread Machen's story "The White People," which I did, though I skipped the prologue, which is cheating. As I recalled, Megan had mentioned how scary the part of the story is in which the nurse is "sweating profoundly" (as opposed to "profusely"), I seemed to think those were Megan's words [maybe it was "prodigiously," or, you know, "profusely" after all - ed.] (in the actual story the nurse is "all streaming with perspiration") so I searched through my emails so I could quote Megan accurately but could not find anything about profound sweat or Arthur Machen in them. Megan, when contacted, said I was thinking of a phone conversation. Isn't this thrilling? Reading the story again, I was struck with this sentence: "And people said the wax man screamed in the burning of the flames." And I couldn't help but wonder whether Robyn Hitchcock might have been inspired by Machen when he asked the musical question, "Is your wax doll still crying in the fire?" A note in the introduction to this collection says that Machen also wrote an "owlishly learned disquisition on various types of tobacco," which makes this a book with an owl in it, but does it count? An owl in a scholarly introduction? I'll put an asterisk by it.