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Townsend of Lichfield : Dizain des Adieux

by James Branch Cabell

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1111,391,126 (3.83)4
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» See also 4 mentions

The final volume of the Storisende edition of [[James Branch Cabell]]’s [The Biography of the Life of Manuel] is as peculiar and as brilliant a conclusion as one could hope for, or fear. This “Dizain des Adieux,” as the subtitle puts it, is sort of a glorious catch-all for the author’s literary obsessions up till the late 1920s. It contains

* ruminations upon his career (the 30-odd pages of “Townsend of Lichfield”) and his books and stories (the last several sections);
* poetry (“Sonnets from Antan”);
* two book-length fantasy novellas, ([The Way of Ecben] and [The White Robe]); and
* an excellent short story (“Concerning David Jogram”).

For my part, as I thumb on my iPad to contribute this short bookchat review, I confess to having read the stories and rumination in this book out of order, twckling the second item, the werewolf story, [The White Robe], last.

This final reading was a long time coming. I own the first printing of the story, and have owned it, also, in its last incarnation to hit printing press during the author’s life, in [The Witch-Woman: A Trilogy About Her]. It is a droll story, and perhaps provides deep insight into Cabell’s own gallantry. And yes, it is about gallantry, just as [The Way of Ecben] and [The Music From Behind the Moon: An Epitome], were about the chivalric and poetic attitudes towards life, respectively.

Which is not to say that Cabell did not himself sport chivalry as well as poetry — of course he would, for this trinity attitudes is what binds his 18-volume [Biography of the Life of Manuel] together, and he undoubtedly gave his creature Manuel (see [Figures of Earth]) all three traits, just as he found them in himself.

So, can I recommend this book over [The Witch-Woman]?

No.

Sure, my judgment of Townsend of Lichfield is positive; I greatly enjoyed the book. Indeed, I go further: it is excellent; but I cannot recommend it.

Why the seeming contradiction?

The book reeks of Cabell’s trademark self-indulgence. So, only those immune to this alleged defect, or enchanted by it against counsel of both criticism and common sense, need bother reading it. While for those of us who catch the whiff of the charm here, the enchantment, and might even hazard that it does not get much better, not one of us admirers of Cabell’s art is so besotted that we cannot see the narrow confines of its appeal and of our ranks. ( )
2 vote wirkman | Dec 5, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Branch Cabellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Holt, GuyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Guy Holt's 'Jurgen and the Law' is included in this volume.
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