Saturday, November 07, 2015

Today’s Beautiful Writing: Robert E. Howard

Since, too often these days, I’m not coming up with blog posts related to my own work, I thought I’d start doing some more posts where I highlight beautiful writing from others. I started here but have been doing most of this on facebook. For my selections so far, I’ve gone with writers like Ray Bradbury, Pearl S. Buck, and Peter Matthiessen, all recognized literary figures who are known for their good writing. But beautiful writing comes from all kinds of places. It comes from places that many literary readers might not suspect.

I’m not a literary reader. I’m just a reader. I read pretty much anything and everything. The following selection is from a writer who has had a big influence on my fiction interests, both reading and writing. It’s Robert E. Howard, a man who died young but who in a short time created several iconic characters, including Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. Howard was a very fine writer. Here’s the opening of one of his “Crusader” stories. The tale is called “Lord of Samarcand.”

“The roar of battle had died away; the sun hung like a ball of crimson gold on the western hills. Across the trampled field of battle no squadrons thundered, no war-cry reverberated. Only the shrieks of the wounded and the moans of the dying rose to the circling vultures whose black wings swept closer and closer until they brushed the pallid faces in their flight.”

To me, beautiful writing isn’t just about describing beautiful scenes and beautiful feelings. Often, in fact, the scenes and feelings can be anything but conventionally beautiful. Beautiful writing is about creating a mood with a flow words that are placed in the right order for maximum effect. It’s about creating an emotional resonance in my psyche. This piece achieves that. Much of Howard’s work does.  

16 comments:

R.T. said...

Well, like you, I'm open to reading anything that is well-written. So, tell me your Howard recommendation. If I were to read one Howard title, which one should it be? All the best from R.T. at http://thesimpleartofmurder.blogspot.com/

Keith West said...

Charles, I think part of what enabled Howard to be such an efective writer was his love of poetry. Now that his collected poetry has been published, it's easy to see much of that same power in his poems. I especially like "A Song of the Naked Lands" and "The Tempter".

oscar case said...

Some writers bring out the best with little effort it seems. But it's hard work to get it right.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That last line knocks me out.

sage said...

There was a lot of power in the image of the vultures coming closer

Charles Gramlich said...

R,T., I'd recommend "The Sowers of the Thunder," which is where I got that piece from. It's a collection of Crusader stories illustrated by Roy Krenkel, but it might be hard to find. A couple of his Conan stories that are particularly good and probably easier to find are "Red Nails" and "Beyond the Black River." Just make sure you read the Howard only stuff. L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, and others since, have rewritten or edited a lot of stuff that Howard did.

Keith, I agree. I took pieces from some of his stories years ago and showed how they could basically be turned into poems by removing various dialogue attributions and connecting words. He was a very fine poet.

Oscar, I often wonder how much time writers spend on their work. No idea really about Howard. He sometimes bragged that he didn't really rewrite but I think that is untrue.

Patti, me too.

Sage, absolutely. Resonance.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I haven't read REH as much as I'd like to. I will put his work on my next year's reading list.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, you are in for a treat!

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Agreed. Great excerpt.

Snowbrush said...

We’ve always shared a love of Howard. Most people know him because of Conan, but I’ve never even made it through one Conan story, my main interest being his horror stories.

DJ Weaver said...

Have only been aware of Howard's work for a couple of years, but I love everything I have read from him. Glad to see some of his work being recognized here. Thanks, Charles

the walking man said...

I am forced to agree with you about the piece from Howard. Any writing that can pull emotion from the reader, be it tears or horror is good writing. Which is one of the reasons as a Bukowski fan, as much as you are of Howard I find his Poem CONFESSION to be one of the most beautiful love poems i have ever read.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, thanks.

Snowbrush, pigeons from hell is a great horror story by Howard. Wonderful writing. My favorites are his crusader stories.

DJ Weaver, appreciate you stopping by.

Mark, I read Bukowski's "love is a dog from hell." Very interesting poetry. Very compelling, although not 'poetical' in some ways. Strong stuff, though.

Erik Donald France said...

Absolutely (last paragraph) ~ ~ !

And: his vivid paragraph triggered a memory of the opening scene of 'Lines of Wellington.' I dig it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I judge writing a lot about how it evokes other thoughts, images, memories etc.

Riot Kitty said...

What is a "literary" writer anyhow? Reading should be for pleasure, methinks.