Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You Probably Don't Know the Name, But...

Looking back at Sunday's post, in which I posted a video for Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, I have to confess that I am a huge Lewis Carroll fan, to the extent that a much-worn copy of The Annotated Alice has a proud place on the bookshelf. Another big fan of Lewis Carroll was Frederic Brown, a guy whose work you've probably encountered, but whose name you probably wouldn't recognize. I've been reading quite a bit of Brown's work lately, and linked to one of his stories at the mothership.

Brown excelled in the short-short story, with his best-known story being Arena, which was the basis for the Star Trek episode in which Kirk fought the big lizard dude. Another of Brown's best known works is Knock, the original version of which was billed as the world's shortest horror story:

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door...

Brown's work often featured bitter irony, with his tale Earthmen Bearing Gifts being a particularly dark little story.

I was recently able to get my hands on Brown's Night of the Jabberwock, a mystery novella whose protagonist is a Carroll-obsessed small-town newspaper editor who longs for some exciting events to print in his paper. In the course of the novella, the protagonist gets what he wished for, in spades, though his hopes get dashed every time he gets a scoop because he realizes that he needs to refrain from printing the stories that crop up for the public good. Eventually, he gets embroiled in a murder mystery in which he is the main suspect. In the course of unravelling the mystery, he crosses paths with gangsters, a rich runaway, a bigoted sheriff, at least one murderer, and a drifter who claims to belong to a secret society which posesses knowledge that Carroll hinted at in his fiction and poems. All through his ordeal, our hero consumes an ungodly amount of booze in order to bolster his courage, and in order to make sense of a poem he feels has bearing on the case:

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

Throughout the novella, allusions are made to the game of chess, particularly the chess game that forms the structure of Through the Looking Glass. The protagonist eventually comes to see his efforts to discover the killer's identity and to clear his own name as a chess game.

If you are a big Lewis Carroll fan, I would highly recommend Night of the Jabberwock (as would this blogger). If you are not a big Carroll fan, I would recommend Brown's shorter works (if you've read this post, you've already read one of Brown's short short stories, and Arena is also a quick read). Go ahead, you can read a dozen of them in one sitting, provided you can find them.


Rev. paleotectonics said...

There is a great little episode in Wonderland in the Chronicles of Amber, the Merlin series, starting briefly at the end of Blood of Amber, and taking up the first section of Sign Of Chaos. If you get the oppurtunity read 'em, quite fun!

(Actually, I say that about the whole Amber series, one of my flat out favorite series, starting with the Corwin books.)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

(Actually, I say that about the whole Amber series, one of my flat out favorite series, starting with the Corwin books.)

I read the first couple, then lost interest around book three or four. It's funny, though, I came to believe that Nine Princes in Amber was the main inspiration for Highlander.

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ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'll have to see if Night of the Jabberwock is in the liberry.

M. Bouffant said...

I've read "Arena." Obsessives can compare & contrast w/ the Star Dreck version.