Author, author!


As I mentioned in my first post about Guillermo’s remarkable show, he doesn’t just adore films, paintings and drawings, sculptures props and toys – like so many of us, he first fell in love with the horror genre (and was inspired to build his collection) because of childhood encounters with great writing.

My drawing side feels his drawing intelligence keenly – but my writer side is just as tickled by his approach here – and once again, his heroes are familiar and to a thrilling extent, shared. When Catherine and I married, and pooled our two libraries, one of the first decisions we had to make was – which of our editions of the complete writings of Edgar Allan Poe do we keep, and which give-away, so as to almost certainly create another maniacal fan like us?

Shrine to Dickens (top photo)

Dickens is one of those people who many like to disdain for one finicky critical reason or another – but I regard him as a hero and model for two simple reasons – one, because he was able to create a real change in attitudes, by humanizing the poor who had been looked upon by most with contempt. Secondly, because like Twain, he was entertaining enough for his messages to actually land!

I want to stop for a moment and note the precise technique he applied here for the first effect, because this is once again incredibly relevant stuff.

The attitude which allowed Victorians to treat the poor like they were less than human, was an attitude that suggested their poverty was their fault – due to their low character and morals – laziness and lack of honour. What Dickens did was shift the label from ‘the undeserving’ to ‘the unfortunates’ – by pointing out how life could bring just about anyone into a very difficult circumstance, where others might easily wrongly judge them.

I am constantly on the hunt for new Dickens-style bearing-points, so we can begin once again to extend our compassionate imagination outward to those elsewhere who we do not often see, but whose lives are greatly changed by the way our money works in the world. For all the hits we’ve taken, I still say the luckiest humans ought to be working hard on being decent and respectful adults, in a global way. Perhaps one final high-point, before the west passes-on (that is, drops) the baton altogether.

The rain room

This small side-room at the AGO almost always has something super-funky set up inside of it (and it’s easy to miss, if you’re scanning a show too fast). In this case, Guillermo recreated his ‘rain room’ from his special horror house. He began in film working in practical special-effects, so the version he has at home has real rain rigged to run down the backlit storm-cloud windowpanes – any time day or night, it’s always a rainy day in that room. He says he finds it a wonderful place to lie down on the sofa with a notebook and write extremely productively. I am instantly convinced – so too, it seems, is Edgar Allan Poe himself, in this extremely lifelike sculpture. You’ll also find more Goya work in here, along with a James Ensor (for TMBG fans) and some very spiffy ravens!

Serious Craft

Even more impressive than the Poe figure (to me) was this life-size sculpture of the inimitable H.P. Lovecraft – which has one of the most intense, and character-specific gazes I have ever seen on a modern work. The setting and even the lighting was just right (almost a fifties pinewood horror-film feel) – and the wall behind him was one of several in the show which are fantastic demonstrations of just how many approaches there are, to book cover-design (Frankenstein elsewhere, even more various).

Lovecraft gaze

I really mean it about that gaze though. If you’ve read any Lovecraft, and enjoyed his very special way of turning sharp and hallucinatorily imaginative paranoia into a narrative means (and genuine attention-commanding virtue) I think you’ll agree with me that this sculptor did his subject deep tribute.

Also noteworthy – Guillermo has been working for a decade now, on putting together a movie of “At the mountains of madness” my absolute favourite piece of Lovecraft work (and truly, one of the most perfectly crafted pieces of short fiction of all time). It’s got everything – science and arctic adventure, poetic hubris, and mystery far more alien and horrible than anything Clarke and Kubrick ever devised, indeed, a malevolence nonpareil – terrifying stuff! (and utterly, ridiculously, thoroughly delicious!). Best of all, I trust Del Toro to do it the sort of artistic justice that no big Hollywood studio seems capable of approving anymore, without a visionary insisting. Go Guillermo, go!

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