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Thu, Feb. 17th, 2005, 05:58 pm
Recently listed Emil Petaja article available

Lately, I have been adding scans of the covers of Emil Petaja's books to the amazon.com database. (Emil was a friend of mine, and I would be dissapointed to see his literary accomplishments neglected.) While doing so, I came across a newly-listed item which may be of interest to fans of this late sci-fi/ fantasy author. It is an article from Contemporary Authors, the reference book series found in libraries. This article can be purchased and downloaded as an e-document.

Contemporary Authors : Biography - Petaja, Emil (Theodore)(1915-2000) [HTML]
--- a three page biographical article by the "Gale Reference Team"

Sat, Feb. 12th, 2005, 12:00 am
I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore.

Watching Network on TCM. What a great film.

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore."

Mon, Feb. 7th, 2005, 10:54 pm
The Shadow of the Wind

When it was first published in English translation early last year, the New York Times stated that Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind was like "Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges’ for a sprawling magic show." Yes, indeed. This book has shot to the top of my list of novels I want to read. Tonight, Carlos Ruiz Zafon gave an enjoyable reading and talk about his most magical novel at The Booksmith.

Sun, Feb. 6th, 2005, 09:04 am
Fantastical, dream-filled, brooding verse

And here is the review I posted online of As Dream and Shadow by Emil Petaja.

"Fantastical, dream-filled, brooding verse"
by thomas gladysz

Today, Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) is best known as a writer of fantasy and science fiction. However, many of his first literary efforts were of an all-together different sort. Emil Petaja wrote poetry - fantastical, dream-filled, brooding verse. Early on, he won a "couple of minor regional poetry contests," and his work appeared in publications like Weird Tales, The Californian, and Stirring Science Stories. Petaja's two published books of poetry are Brief Candle (a mimeograph chapbook dating from around 1935), and As Dream and Shadow (an edition of 1000 hardback copies was published in 1972). This latter book - a sort of selected poems - collects work written largely in the 1930's and 1940's. (Other differently themed poetry - dating from the 1950's - remains unpublished.)

Science fiction and poetry may seem a strange mix, but the history of fantastic verse goes way back. Two of its significant 20th century practitioners include Clark Ashton Smith (a longtime friend of Petaja), and H. P. Lovecraft (with whom Petaja corresponded). Both influenced Petaja's efforts as a poet. The great illustrator Hannes Bok, whose friendship inspired some of these works, admired Petaja's verse enough that he drew four illustrations for a long narrative work, "Dark Roads." This book-length work, begun in 1931 when Petaja was 16, is excerpted in As Dream and Shadow. (Also included are Bok's original illustrations, along with many other black and white works by this noted artist.)

Petaja is by no means a great poet. His work is, at times, somewhat old-fashioned or even "tame" - as the author himself suggests in the introduction. Who were his other influences? This Montana-born writer lists Shakespeare's sonnets, Edith Sitwell and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as Coleridge, Yeats, Crane and Dickinson. At a time of revolutionary upheaval in American poetry, Petaja turned to past forms and idiosyncratic individuals for inspiration.

Petaja's notable poems include sonnets dedicated to Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, both of whom expressed their admiration. Lovecraft said of "Lost Dream," "It has a genuine and pervasive grace, and a series of eminently powerful and appropriate images." Howard, commenting on "The Warrior," said, "I feel deeply honored that a poem of such fine merit should be dedicated to me. You seem to grasp the motif of my stories . . . more completely than any one I have yet encountered. This fine sonnet reveals your understanding of the abstractions I have tried to embody in these tales."

Included in As Dream and Shadow is the Lovecraft-derived "Cthulhu Done It," as well as fine poems of personal feeling, such as "And Having Seen" and "Nova." Also of note is the seven sonnet sequence that comprises "On Listening to the Music of Jean Sibelius." This great Finnish composer, another artist who resisted the forces of change that swept the arts during the 20th century, is kindly served by these quiet homages.

Sun, Feb. 6th, 2005, 08:45 am
Fantastic Flotsam

Here is the review I posted online of Stardrift and Other Fantastic Flotsam by Emil Petaja.

"Fantastic Flotsam"
by thomas gladysz

Though he had more than 150 short stories published throughout his long career, Stardrift and other Fantastic Flotsam is Emil Petaja's only short story collection. It contains 14 of the author's fantastic tales (as chosen by Petaja), along with an introduction by Forrest J. Ackerman. (The artwork of Petaja's favorite artist and lifelong friend, Hannes Bok, adorns the dust jacket and endpapers of this 1971 collection.)

In the introduction, Ackerman states, "Through the years I have thought of Emil Petaja as a kind of literary chameleon. . . . In the fantasies of Petaja one comes upon elfin echoes of A. Merritt, crystalline concepts of Clark Ashton Smith and horrors out of Lovecraft. . . . He is an old soul, a talent surviving from the Golden Age." Apt words, for Petaja - who corresponded with Lovecraft and was a close friend with Clark Ashton Smith - was a bridge between two eras. He was - in the old fashioned sense of the term - a writer of "weird fiction."

The tenor of these sometimes moody, atmospheric works might well be suggested by the tagline for "The Answer" which appeared when the story was first published in 1951. "He had strangled Lisa many times in his dreams. But always, as she died, the phone rang. Did he dare to pick it up and answer the call?"

There is a touch of Saki and John Collier in "Found Objects" and "Dark Balcony," while "Only Gone Before" and "Dark Hollow" are horror in the Lovecraft vein. "A Dog's Best Friend" makes a grim social comment, while "Moon Fever" and "Peacemonger" are science fiction with a twist. Those who have enjoyed Petaja's well-regarded Kalevala novels (based on the Finnish epic he so loved) will be pleased to find an Otava story in "Pattern for Plunder." "Dodecagon Garden" examines what a hip planet might be like, if. . . . Also included in this 220-page collection are the title story, as well as "Where Is Thy Sting," "Hunger," "Dark Balcony," and the amusing "Be a Wingdinger, Earn Big Money." Some of these stories, it should be noted, first appeared in the pulps of the Golden Age - publications such as Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, and Weird Tales.

Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) wrote all kinds of stories - fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, detective fiction, and even westerns. He was a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Science Fiction Writers of America. (In 1995, Petaja was honored as the first ever Author Emeritus by the SFWA.) Stardrift and other Fantastic Flotsam is an all-too-slight sampling of the fantastic fiction of a gifted, though now neglected writer.

Sat, Feb. 5th, 2005, 10:29 pm
Emil Petaja

During the past week, I have been sending corrections to the online catalog update form on amazon.com. Mostly, I have been supplying missing details on the format and editions of Emil Petaja's various books, all of which were published in the 1960's and 1970's. Emil, who I knew during the last half-dozen years of his life, was an accomplished writer and a fine friend. Early works of his were published in magazines starting in the mid-1930's. Petaja (pronounced pa-tie-ya) was the author of 13 published novels, a book of poems, nearly 150 short stories, various articles, and two books of non-fiction. (He also edited and published works by his friend Hannes Bok.) Petaja's efforts appeared in publications ranging from Weird Tales, Crack Detective Stories, and Reader's Digest to Western Trails, Amazing Stories, and Writer's Digest. In 1995, Petaja was named the first ever Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

To date, I have written and posted reviews of three of Emil Petaja's book. The first was a review of Photoplay Edition (1975), his pioneering bibliographic study of movie tie-in books of the silent and early sound era. (Click here to read the review.)  I also posted reviews of Stardrift and Other Fantastic Flotsam (1971), a collection of short stories, and As Dream and Shadow (1972), a book of poems. In the future, I plan on posting further reviews. A small favor for a dear friend.

Fri, Feb. 4th, 2005, 08:59 am
A dream

Woke up this morning with this dream in my mind. . . . I arrive with a friend at a hotel meeting room or banquet hall, where a number of people have gathered. Some are dancing in the center of the room. Many are sitting at round tables, talking and drinking. Some sort of festive gathering is taking place. We sit down at one of the tables, where Hunter S. Thompson is seated with others. I don't intend to speak with the gonzo journalist, but merely hang out around him. Listen to his conversation. He is mumbling, and I can't really discern what he is saying. There is noise in the room. After a short while, Thompson gets up and circles the table, and sits down next to me. I pretend not to really notice. He starts talking about Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. This grabs my interest. I ask Hunter if he has read Jerry Stahl's novel, Fatty. He says he has, and that he liked it. . . . I wake up.

Thu, Feb. 3rd, 2005, 12:12 pm
Copyright Office Asking for Comments on Orphan Works

The Copyright Office is asking for comments about orphan works, which it defines as "copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate."

From their announcement: "The Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders." The announcement and instructions on providing feedback are at http://www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2005/70fr3739.html

Sun, Jan. 23rd, 2005, 08:34 pm
HighBeam Goes Free For A Week

If you like doing research or like looking things up, this news will excite you . . . . HighBeam Research has announced that their online research service will be free for nearly a week - from January 24th to January 28th. The service is available at http://www.highbeam.com 

You can search their extensive archive of more than 33 million documents from over 3,000 sources - a vast collection of articles from various publications, updated daily and going back as far as 20 years. The resources are grouped into documents, images, maps, and reference. [ During the free period, you'll have to fill out the free basic registration. The free basic registration requires a name, e-mail address, passwords, and a couple of basic demographic questions. ]

Sat, Jan. 22nd, 2005, 09:38 am
Husband Commits Suicide, Then Wife Wakes from Coma

Reuters (which always carries odd news) reports that an Italian pensioner committed suicide after his wife fell into a coma, but just hours after he killed himself, the woman woke up.

"Recalling the end of Romeo and Juliet, the 70-year-old man, Ettore, who had sat by his wife's bedside for four months after she slipped into a coma following a heart attack, finally gave up hope and gassed himself in the garage of his family home. Less than a day later, his wife, Rossana, woke up in her hospital bed in Padua and immediately asked for him."

The northern Italian town of Padua lies 40 miles from Verona, where the star-crossed Romeo killed himself believing Juliet to have died.

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