Execution, Exodus, or the Enlightenment in Charles Beaumont’s “The Jungle”

Posted on Apr 23, 2017

Execution, Exodus, or the Enlightenment in Charles Beaumont’s “The Jungle”

Take a dash of thick foliage, toss in a pinch of Sir Richard Burton, add a smidge of a slither or rustle of leaf, and you have Charles Beaumont’s “The Jungle.” Sir Richard Burton, writing in the Victorian Era, said, “Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands.” Traveling the depths of the African jungle, Burton unveiled the “old and pagan genealogies” packed with “infidel magician[s]” and a life filled with the “perpetual presence of danger.” This exoticism ignited a fervor for all things “Orient” and became one of the cornerstones of Victorian society. The jungle has, in modern times, also become a complex metaphor based on the scandalous revelations from Burton and others about the dark continent. Charles Beaumont explores this motif in his simply, yet effectively titled short story “The Jungle.” Born in 1929, Beaumont was less than a year old when the world spun out of control with the market crash. With global politics and economics spiraling downward, his world was dominated by war. In the post-war years, a new society was born. From the 1950s to the 1960s, this new society was going places. Civil rights were roiling through the South. Demands for equality across the social spectrum were increasing. Change was the new norm. The United States was proving to be the very embodiment of the Enlightenment. Now, on to the rest of the world! They were waiting, hungry for those same ideals… right? John Gray, in his work Enlightenment’s Wake, argues otherwise. We have deceived ourselves, he posits. While the First World enshrines Enlightenment ideals, most of the world does not share this enthusiasm. There are conceptions of “the good,” he points out, that are incommensurable. Diversity of life means diversity of values, and those values are often at odds. How can a society, for example, legalize gay marriage and respect the religious opposition? These values are at such odds that compromise becomes impossible. Gray posits that there are many such “rights” that are incompatible. If the rule of law is supreme, that law must be based on one of these opposing values. But which is it to be? What if a society rejects the Enlightenment ideals in favor of oppositional values? This theoretical conflict comes to life in the pages of Beaumont’s “The Jungle.” Set in a vague “future,” Beaumont’s vision is one of progress. Humanity, pushed beyond the brink through overpopulation, has resorted to radical solutions in order to “save” itself. “Vast rolling spheres and columns of colored stone” rise from the floor of a once uncontrolled jungle, creating the ultimate temple to modernity. Mountains were leveled and rivers drained or redirected. “Big gray machines” rolled in to build, and build they did. “Millions of tons of hardened stone” replaced the lush, wild landscape. It was, according to Beaumont’s protagonist, the...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson

Posted on Aug 1, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson

The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson It is probable that everybody who is at all a constant dreamer has had at least one experience of an event or a sequence of circumstances which have come to his mind in sleep being subsequently realized in the material world. But, in my opinion, so far from this being a strange thing, it would be far odder if this fulfillment did not occasionally happen, since our dreams are, as a rule, concerned with people whom we know and places with which we are familiar, such as might very naturally occur in the awake and daylit world. True, these dreams are often broken into by some absurd and fantastic incident, which puts them out of court in regard to their subsequent fulfillment, but on the mere calculation of chances, it does not appear in the least unlikely that a dream imagined by anyone who dreams constantly should occasionally come true. Not long ago, for instance, I experienced such a fulfillment of a dream which seems to me in no way remarkable and to have no kind of psychical significance. The manner of it was as follows. A certain friend of mine, living abroad, is amiable enough to write to me about once in a fortnight. Thus, when fourteen days or thereabouts have elapsed since I last heard from him, my mind, probably, either consciously or subconsciously, is expectant of a letter from him. One night last week I dreamed that as I was going upstairs to dress for dinner I heard, as I often heard, the sound of the postman’s knock on my front door, and diverted my direction downstairs instead. There, among other correspondence, was a letter from him. Thereafter the fantastic entered, for on opening it I found inside the ace of diamonds, and scribbled across it in his well-known handwriting, “I am sending you this for safe custody, as you know it is running an unreasonable risk to keep aces in Italy.” The next evening I was just preparing to go upstairs to dress when I heard the postman’s knock, and did precisely as I had done in my dream. There, among other letters, was one from my friend. Only it did not contain the ace of diamonds. Had it done so, I should have attached more weight to the matter, which, as it stands, seems to me a perfectly ordinary coincidence. No doubt I consciously or subconsciously expected a letter from him, and this suggested to me my dream. Similarly, the fact that my friend had not written to me for a fortnight suggested to him that he should do so. But occasionally it is not so easy to find such an explanation, and for the following story I can find no explanation at all. It came out of the dark, and into the dark it has...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft

Posted on Jul 28, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft

The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft I was far from home, and the spell of the eastern sea was upon me. In the twilight I heard it pounding on the rocks, and I knew it lay just over the hill where the twisting willows writhed against the clearing sky and the first stars of evening. And because my fathers had called me to the old town beyond, I pushed on through the shallow, new-fallen snow along the road that soared lonely up to where Aldebaran twinkled among the trees; on toward the very ancient town I had never seen but often dreamed of. It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten. Mine were an old people, and were old even when this land was settled three hundred years before. And they were strange, because they had come as dark furtive folk from opiate southern gardens of orchids, and spoken another tongue before they learnt the tongue of the blue-eyed fishers. And now they were scattered, and shared only the rituals of mysteries that none living could understand. I was the only one who came back that night to the old fishing town as legend bade, for only the poor and the lonely remember. Then beyond the hill’s crest I saw Kingsport outspread frostily in the gloaming; snowy Kingsport with its ancient vanes and steeples, ridgepoles and chimney-pots, wharves and small bridges, willow-trees and graveyards; endless labyrinths of steep, narrow, crooked streets, and dizzy church-crowned central peak that time durst not touch; ceaseless mazes of colonial houses piled and scattered at all angles and levels like a child’s disordered blocks; antiquity hovering on grey wings over winter-whitened gables and gambrel roofs; fanlights and small-paned windows one by one gleaming out in the cold dusk to join Orion and the archaic stars. And against the rotting wharves the sea pounded; the secretive, immemorial sea out of which the people had come in the elder time. Beside the road at its crest a still higher summit rose, bleak and windswept, and I saw that it was a burying-ground where black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse. The printless road was very lonely, and sometimes I thought I heard a distant horrible creaking as of a gibbet in the wind. They had hanged four kinsmen of mine for witchcraft in 1692, but I did not know just where. As the road wound down the...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving

Posted on Jul 22, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving

The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving A few miles from Boston in Massachusetts, there is a deep inlet, winding several miles into the interior of the country from Charles Bay, and terminating in a thickly wooded swamp or morass. On one side of this inlet is a beautiful dark grove; on the opposite side the land rises abruptly from the water’s edge into a high ridge, on which grow a few scattered oaks of great age and immense size. Under one of these gigantic trees, according to old stories, there was a great amount of treasure buried by Kidd the pirate. The inlet allowed a facility to bring the money in a boat se­cretly and at night to the very foot of the bill; the elevation of the place permitted a good lookout to be kept that no one was at hand; while the remarkable trees formed good landmarks by which the place might easily be found again. The old stories add, moreover, that the devil presided at the hiding of the money, and took it under his guardian­ship; but this, it is well known, he always does with bur­ied treasure, particularly when it had been ill-gotten. Be that as it may, Kidd never returned to recover his wealth; being shortly after seized at Boston, sent out to England, and there hanged for a pirate. About the year 1727, just at the time that earthquakes were prevalent in New England, and shook many tall sin­ners down upon their knees, there lived near this place a meager, miserly fellow, of the name of Tom Walker. He had a wife as miserly as himself: they were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other. Whatever the woman could lay hands on, she hid away; a hen could not cackle but she was on the alert to secure the new-laid egg. Her husband was continually prying about to detect her se­cret hoards, and many and fierce were the conflicts that took place about what ought to have been common proper­ty. They lived in a forlorn-looking house that stood alone, and had an air of starvation. A few straggling savin trees, emblems of sterility, grew near it; no smoke ever curled from its chimney; no traveler stopped at its door. A mis­erable horse, whose ribs were as articulate as the bars of a gridiron, stalked about a field where a thin carpet of moss, scarcely covering the ragged beds of pudding stone, tanta­lized and balked his hunger; and sometimes he would lean his head over the fence, look piteously at the passerby, and seem to petition deliverance from this land of famine. The house and its inmates had altogether a bad name. Tom’s wife was a tall termagant, fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm. Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband;...

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