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Why The Need To Analyze The Man?


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#1 Gaelforce

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 11:43 PM

I found this forum by accident the other day and joined because my love of all things Robert E. Howard. But I admit to being mystified by the need of writers, both professional and not, to dissect the man. He had a great talent and bore a heavy burden of pain. No second guessing, no analysis, no study of him?no matter what you have read can allow anyone to actually know what he felt or was dealing with on a day to day basis.

Based on my education, training and experience I can make some guesses that may or may not be accurate, but why would I? It wouldn?t serve the man and certainly not his literature.

I?ve read here (and places I?ve been directed) about Bob?s racism, but have seen little to put it in context. He was raised in a piss-ant Texas town that even in 2000 only had a population of 1,068. Having spent some time in an equally piss-ant Texas town in the early 60?s I can tell you that they lived and breathed racism and undoubtedly still do. It?s as natural to them as wearing cowboy boots. It?s partially that feeling people who don?t live the best lives need to feel better about themselves and pure ignorance.

An interesting thing about this type of racism is that it?s so endemic and so ?normal? that no one thinks anything of it and no one makes any thing of it aside from a sociopath here and there. When I lived in S. Alabama I found that the rule was that they disliked Blacks as a group, but liked them as individuals. Mind you, they were not considered ?equals? but the person who was liked was respected and treated well. Others were more or less treated ok because manners dictated decent behavior. Its bad manners to be rude and you can bet that Mrs. Howard being a good Christian Irish woman taught little Howard to be polite when he was confronted with Blacks or Mexicans.

As he grew to adulthood he, of course, developed his own ideas, but I?ve read a lot of his writing (not letters, though) and I have never been struck that he was particularly racist. After all he wrote about barbarians who by definition would have been discriminated against by most of the populace. He showed that Conan and the others had their own self-esteem and took the sneers and the gold of the high-borns while making it clear that their approval was not needed. He could well have seen this type of dignity demonstrated in Cross Plains and it would have struck a cord with the young man who seems to have considered himself a warrior.

As for his relationship with his mother, she was a caring woman who risked her health to help others. He was her one chick so its understandable that they had a close bond. But Bob had an inner melancholy and pain that is far deeper than just a good hold on her apron strings. He expressed early and often that he was not happy in this world. Somehow it let him down and he couldn?t? forgive it for that. It may be that he didn?t kill himself because his mother died as much as he lived as long as he did because she needed him.

I have had some thoughts for many years what might have caused such pain, but I will keep them to myself as they are mere speculation and would not be welcomed here. I don?t want to analyze him, only to read his marvelous writing, dwell for a few hours in the worlds he created and appreciate the gifts he gave the world.

I miss you, Bob. I would love to have known you. I hope that you have found peace and joy.



#2 Tex

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 12:07 AM

Well said, Gaelforce.

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(and welcome to the REH Forum)

#3 Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 12:15 AM

Gaelforce
Hi and Welcome.:)

Have you read

Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art Of Robert E. Howard
[ The Definitive Robert E. Howard Biography. ]

> it's a marvelous book for all Howard fans.

It will enlighten you, and help to ease your pain.
It did for me.

It helped me to understand Bob much better.

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Lots of FUN and serious new RHYMING Hyborian/Fantasy poetry.

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leaving most warriors drooling and staring.
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I would vanish into the new Sunrise glaring."

#4 Mikey_C

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 12:50 AM

Good post! :D
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#5 docpod

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 01:17 AM

I like the term "inner melancholy."

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#6 Trond

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 02:23 AM

I found this forum by accident the other day and joined because my love of all things Robert E. Howard. But I admit to being mystified by the need of writers, both professional and not, to dissect the man. He had a great talent and bore a heavy burden of pain. No second guessing, no analysis, no study of him?no matter what you have read can allow anyone to actually know what he felt or was dealing with on a day to day basis.

Based on my education, training and experience I can make some guesses that may or may not be accurate, but why would I? It wouldn?t serve the man and certainly not his literature.

I?ve read here (and places I?ve been directed) about Bob?s racism, but have seen little to put it in context. He was raised in a piss-ant Texas town that even in 2000 only had a population of 1,068. Having spent some time in an equally piss-ant Texas town in the early 60?s I can tell you that they lived and breathed racism and undoubtedly still do. It?s as natural to them as wearing cowboy boots. It?s partially that feeling people who don?t live the best lives need to feel better about themselves and pure ignorance.

An interesting thing about this type of racism is that it?s so endemic and so ?normal? that no one thinks anything of it and no one makes any thing of it aside from a sociopath here and there. When I lived in S. Alabama I found that the rule was that they disliked Blacks as a group, but liked them as individuals. Mind you, they were not considered ?equals? but the person who was liked was respected and treated well. Others were more or less treated ok because manners dictated decent behavior. Its bad manners to be rude and you can bet that Mrs. Howard being a good Christian Irish woman taught little Howard to be polite when he was confronted with Blacks or Mexicans.

As he grew to adulthood he, of course, developed his own ideas, but I?ve read a lot of his writing (not letters, though) and I have never been struck that he was particularly racist. After all he wrote about barbarians who by definition would have been discriminated against by most of the populace. He showed that Conan and the others had their own self-esteem and took the sneers and the gold of the high-borns while making it clear that their approval was not needed. He could well have seen this type of dignity demonstrated in Cross Plains and it would have struck a cord with the young man who seems to have considered himself a warrior.

As for his relationship with his mother, she was a caring woman who risked her health to help others. He was her one chick so its understandable that they had a close bond. But Bob had an inner melancholy and pain that is far deeper than just a good hold on her apron strings. He expressed early and often that he was not happy in this world. Somehow it let him down and he couldn?t? forgive it for that. It may be that he didn?t kill himself because his mother died as much as he lived as long as he did because she needed him.

I have had some thoughts for many years what might have caused such pain, but I will keep them to myself as they are mere speculation and would not be welcomed here. I don?t want to analyze him, only to read his marvelous writing, dwell for a few hours in the worlds he created and appreciate the gifts he gave the world.

I miss you, Bob. I would love to have known you. I hope that you have found peace and joy.


Interesting, but a bit self-contradictory. You just did the same thing you complain about: trying to dissect REH's personality.
Nothing wrong with trying to analyze the personality of famous people, if you ask me. Knut Hamsun was one of Norway's greatest authors. He was also a Nazi who sent his Nobel prize to the Nazi leadership in Germany as a sign of admiration. That's an interesting fact, even though it troubles Hamsun's admirers. Compared to this, REH was a regular Mother Theresa, but even Hamsun had some redeeming features (i.e. he was no "monster").

#7 Gaelforce

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 02:32 PM

Trond, I rather did a bit of what I complained about didn't I. ;)

In re-reading what I wrote, I find I did it to try to understand why he's over-analyzed and why people feel the need to denigrate him. What he was much as much a product of the times and the place he lived as it was about genetics and upbringing. I understood this as a pre-teen reading about him for the first time, so I'm puzzled that adults seem caught up in dissecting a dead man. Bob can't speak up and say what he really meant. It's a cheap shot to speak ill of the dead who, by definition, are unable to defend themselves.

I think it's one thing to analyze someone because you are interested in why they wrote what they did. I think it's another to flay them on the dissecting table, especially when the one doing the dissecting is not a forensic pathologist. I may have my own theories and they may not be ones you would like, but that's just it they are mine and don't really need to see the light of day. I'm puzzled why lay people like L. Sprague DeCamp (who I used to admire) felt the need to savage him and then to write stories with a stolen character. That says more about DeCamp than it does about Bob.

I don't know if I want to read "Blood and Thunder." My understanding of the man is that he did his best to be a good man, a good son and a good writer. As a reader and fan of his writing, do I really need to know all about his warts, worries, peccadilloes and prejudices? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and doesn't need prodding.

By the way, thanks for the warm reception. :D



#8 docpod

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 04:04 PM

Interesting, but a bit self-contradictory. You just did the same thing you complain about: trying to dissect REH's personality.
Nothing wrong with trying to analyze the personality of famous people, if you ask me. Knut Hamsun was one of Norway's greatest authors. He was also a Nazi who sent his Nobel prize to the Nazi leadership in Germany as a sign of admiration. That's an interesting fact, even though it troubles Hamsun's admirers. Compared to this, REH was a regular Mother Theresa, but even Hamsun had some redeeming features (i.e. he was no "monster").


Trond- getting off topic here. Egil Rasmussen was a Norwegian author and has two novels that have been described as "Howardian sword and sorcery." Can you confirm?

Morgan
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#9 Mikey_C

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 05:34 PM

I don't know if I want to read "Blood and Thunder." My understanding of the man is that he did his best to be a good man, a good son and a good writer. As a reader and fan of his writing, do I really need to know all about his warts, worries, peccadilloes and prejudices? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and doesn't need prodding.

No need to worry, Blood and Thunder most definitely isn't like that. There are biographers out there who specialise on digging the dirt and painting a sensationalised portrait out of any mud they can find - but Mark Finn isn't one of those at all. In fact, he's a genuine and respectful admirer of Robert E Howard.

I don't think that any kind of analysing is harmful. It is helpful, for example to know about a writer's background so you can put their thoughs into context, which is exactly what you've done. The harmful sort of analysing is when someone uses the life and work of someone who is dead and can't answer back to bolster up their own pet theories or just to make themselves seem clever by having a new "angle".

Quite often it's a reductive process that seeks to destroy the thing it tries to analyse like killing an animal to dissect it. I can't see there's anything wrong in respectfully watching them in the wild to try to understand them, though.
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#10 Trond

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 08:28 PM

Trond- getting off topic here. Egil Rasmussen was a Norwegian author and has two novels that have been described as "Howardian sword and sorcery." Can you confirm?

Morgan

Egil Rasmussen? Sorry, but I can only say that the name sounds vaguely familiar. He is certainly not among the most popular authors in Norway, but I can't say if this is because of neglect from the publishers, or if it is because his work is no good.

One tremendously popular "pulp writer" was Kjell Hallbing, who wrote some pretty testosterone-infused westerns (most famously Morgan Kane, although Hallbing used a pseudonym in those books). I never read his books, but my brother is still into his stuff, and a well-known musician even wrote a song about Morgan Kane which was quite a hit. I guess I have to check it out sooner or later. Not sure if a western written by someone from Europe can ever work for those of you who are from North America, but that's another discussion.
http://en.wikipedia....iki/Morgan_Kane

#11 duaneshadow

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 11:59 PM

Understanding the psychology of an artist makes the understanding of his work richer and more fulfilling. Having just read Blood and Thunder I have a new way of looking at his work. I don't accept everything that Mr Finn says as gospel, because as he says, it's a subjective exercise he engaged in but it therefore adds to debate and a wider perspective still, but it all helps. i am watching TWWW again and to be honest, Mr Finn's work makes the film considerably more poignant, and makes me appreciate the job the actors did even more than i did previously.
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#12 Mark_Hall

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 02:59 PM


Trond- getting off topic here. Egil Rasmussen was a Norwegian author and has two novels that have been described as "Howardian sword and sorcery." Can you confirm?

Morgan

Egil Rasmussen? Sorry, but I can only say that the name sounds vaguely familiar. He is certainly not among the most popular authors in Norway, but I can't say if this is because of neglect from the publishers, or if it is because his work is no good.

One tremendously popular "pulp writer" was Kjell Hallbing, who wrote some pretty testosterone-infused westerns (most famously Morgan Kane, although Hallbing used a pseudonym in those books). I never read his books, but my brother is still into his stuff, and a well-known musician even wrote a song about Morgan Kane which was quite a hit. I guess I have to check it out sooner or later. Not sure if a western written by someone from Europe can ever work for those of you who are from North America, but that's another discussion.
http://en.wikipedia....iki/Morgan_Kane


Well, getting off topic, Karl May has gone through reprints throughout the decades in this country...

Best, MEH

#13 Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 10:37 PM

...I don't know if I want to read "Blood and Thunder." My understanding of the man is that he did his best to be a good man, a good son and a good writer. As a reader and fan of his writing, do I really need to know all about his warts, worries, peccadilloes and prejudices?...

I would not have recommended it to you, if I thought you did not need it.

You will always wonder: why so many of his fans praise that book so highly; what details and fascinating info are revealed within; why it satisfies much of our curiosity.

I now see Bob in a different way.
And now I think I understand a lot of what inspired, motivated, frustrated, and troubled him.
That gives more meaning to some of my fave tales by him.

That book was great therapy for me.
The writer is a great guy, and one of the most respected members of these forums.

The sooner you read it, the sooner you will reap the benefits.
:)

[ BTW, I like your avatar ]

#14 Gaelforce

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 04:41 AM

Buxom, I didn't realize that the author was a member of this forum. I figured he was just someone making a buck off of Bob, but doing it in a more acceptable way. When I can afford it I will pick up a copy. Thanks for clarifying why you recommended it.

I'm glad you like my avatar. Do you know how hard it is to find a woman warrior with clothes -- let alone armor? LOL I play World of Warcraft and I swear the higher the armor rating the less there is of the piece.

I like your avatar as well. I swear I've seen the art someplace.


#15 Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 07:12 AM

Buxom, I didn't realize that the author was a member of this forum. I figured he was just someone making a buck off of Bob, but doing it in a more acceptable way. When I can afford it I will pick up a copy. Thanks for clarifying why you recommended it.

I'm glad you like my avatar. Do you know how hard it is to find a woman warrior with clothes -- let alone armor? LOL I play World of Warcraft and I swear the higher the armor rating the less there is of the piece.

I like your avatar as well. I swear I've seen the art someplace.

Thanks. :)
Mark Finn is the great fan and writer.

Blood and Thunder 1 topic...

http://www.conan.com...?showtopic=3698

An expanded version 2 is due out...

http://www.conan.com...?showtopic=8080

--
But if you are looking for a bargain I have seen it Used on amazon.com for about $10 .

----
If you look back through our
BARBARIAN WOMEN topic
you should find lots of good pics of Females in clothes/armour, among the other topless beauties.
I found lots of them on the great deviant art site.

I love making lots of female Avatars and change my face often.
Please use [copy] any of the avatars that I wear? I am delighted to see them used by any other members.

And please post and discuss new avatars and art in my
AVATARS GALORE ! topic.

Best wishes :)

#16 Taranaich

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 09:57 AM

I figured he was just someone making a buck off of Bob


That might describe more than a few so-called "biographers" of Howard, but most certainly not Mark Finn. Mark's a fan of Howard's, and he's as sick and tired of the rumours, speculation and myths which have sprouted up over the past decades as anyone. Blood and Thunder is the antithesis of that: it eschews sensationalism in favour of facts, and any speculation or supposition on his part are clearly delineated as such.

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#17 mario

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 01:44 AM

so um when is someone gonna do an L Sprague DeCamp bio.....any takers?...hullo? .....just kidding of course! :P

#18 BarB

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:15 AM

Hi Gaelforce,
Welcome to the Forum. Great name and picture!

Part of the reason for writing books such as Blood and Thunder is to counter comments de Camp made in his book. The early members of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association (REHupa) fought hard to get REH’s original text printed so that today we have his stories as he wrote them. They also fought to overcome the “Oedipus Complex” label that was attached to REH in early days. Most of the scholarly papers, such as the one Mark wrote in rebuttal to “Southern Discomfort” (see REHupa website) and the one I did on racism in REH’s poetry are a rebuttal to attacks from writers who do not thoroughly research their subjects. However, they can’t be expected to print anything but errors if that information is not available. Unfortunately, the misinformation printed about REH seems to take on a life of its own.

Just to let you know another reason for studying Howard is my intense interest in him and his life. Thanks for REHupa members like Rob Roehm, we now have more information about REH’s friends and their activities.

I hope this helps to explain the *dissecting* – I can't speak for others but for me personally, it’s not to tear apart but to understand an author and poet that I revere.
BB

#19 ghost of '82

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 03:46 PM

I think that part of the appeal re:analysing REH is that the man is so much an enigma and always will be. Everyone has his own opinions and insights but we are looking at REH across an abyss of over 70 years, on limited evidence, and little or no living memory now, from the viewpoint of a completely different world. There has been another World War, many other wars since, political assassinations and corruption of high office, a Space Race, huge leaps in knowledge and technology. The world that REH lived in is so different to what we know, how can we today ever really know him? It's all just fumbling in the dark.

I often think back to the events of the last century and wonder what REH might have thought, had he lived. How that second World War or Vietnam or a man on the moon might have flavoured his writing. Or had he settled down, married, raised kids, how that may have changed him and his writing. We can never know, but still, sometimes I can't help but wonder.

Regards racism in REH's work, I have no problem with it. It's a product of the time and place- I don't agree with it but its perfectly understandable. I recently saw the BFI disc The Great White Silence, about Captains Scott's ill-fated trek to the South Pole, during it there is a light-hearted moment regarding the expeditions black cat, who they named '******' . We cringe now, but back then, it's how the world was. Do we censor that historical record because we don't agree with it? It's like portrayals of women in historical documents, written in a world dominated by men from the Dark Ages onwards. It's the world they lived in.

The biggest question is, if I could travel back to 1934 and spend an hour or two with REH, would I even like him? Would he like me? Hell, we'd hardly agree on everything so who knows? Let's not idealise him, make him something he wasn't, or deceive ourselves in thinking he'd even give two hoots about those of us today who read his work. It's his work, afterall, that matters and has survived beyond him. Yes I'd love to spend an hour or two with him, I think he'd be fascinating to meet. But all the same, I'm under no illusions. REH was a complicated individual who lived in a world alien to ours. Maybe he would be the kindred spirit we all wish him to be, but maybe he wouldn't. He was only human.


*just noticed after posting the above that the cats name has been asterisked out by the forum editor. Apologies I meant no offence, but this says everything about what I was discussing- do we censor history because we don't agree with it? So they called their cat a name we cringe at today, and I can't use that word in an innocent comment on a forum when making my point?

Edited by ghost of '82, 28 December 2011 - 03:51 PM.

Tempus Fugit!

#20 mario

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 05:15 PM

kudos to you sir!couldnt have said it better!