Wednesday 28 April 2010

Anti-Intellectual? No, Anti-Ingelligensia.

Howard and his work is often accused of being anti-intellectual, which is a notion easily splattered against the wall when one reads of his many discussions of Roman philosophers, female poets of Ancient Greece and whatnot. However, I think it's much more a case of anti-intelligensia, a dislike of obnoxious, arrogant, snooty jerks. I can certainly sympathise: I tended to get on much better with the kids in the lower range of test scores than in the top range, making it a constant source of frustration. The people I could talk to about art, literature and cinema I didn't want to talk to, and the people I wanted to talk to had nothing to say. Grah.

Generally, people are a bit better now that the Del Reys, Penguin Classics and the Library of America volumes are out. However, there's always one.

Noted in the graphs above, we can sniff out weak tales pretty easily. Not every work will be complex and emotionally engrossing. Sometimes we have to buy that paper back and go for a ride. Some weeks its Chris Bohjalian. Others, Robert E. Howard.

From context, it appears the Boston Book Bum writing this considers Robert E. Howard's stories to be "weak tales," that are not "complex and emotionally engrossing."

Once again, that timeless Tompkins quote:

You can lead a horse's ass to water, but you can't make him drink.

Ever since that other time, I've been leery of commenting on blogs. I don't know, maybe I'll go pester him, point him to the many examples of REH scholarship out there. But then, I really don't want to waste my time again.

Still, at least he isn't this guy.

EDIT: Well, get me some ketchup and olive oil, because it looks like I'm going to have to eat my words! I got an email from the Boston Literary Vagrant Kevin that explains the post more fully.

Mr. Harron

I wanted to write in regard to your coming upon our blog, Boston Book Bums. We happened to notice you quoting our site and we were worried that our note about R.E.H. was viewed as negative.

We at BBB are immense fans of Robert E. Howard, going way back to when we were kids watching the John Milius Conan movie. That movie opened us up to a world unknown, the world of Howard. Beyond Conan we are particularly big fans of Solomon Kane, so we have a lot of love for Mr. Howard's work. Howard is a classic scribe, who knows how to cut to the bone emotionally, deep gut emotions that 21st century writers can even come close to.

Our comment about Howard was meant to show the breadth of our literary likes and love, not a disparaging comment or judgment of his work. We know all too well how R.E.H. and that generation of authors are looked down upon even to this day.

We apologize for any confusion on context. We are boosters of Mr. Howard and his literary legacy.


Kevin and the BBB Team

I'm very happy to be proven mistaken or even hasty in this regard: I guess I just tend to get my heckles up very easily in regards to REH's reputation, and my heart is cheered to know it was mere misunderstanding, and that BBB are not the elitist airheads I unfairly suspected they were. My sincere apologies to the BBB gang: in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, they're aw-right.

However, let this post stand as a memorial that the horse's ass commentary goes both ways: I proved myself to be a bit of one here, even if I'm somewhat relieved to be proven one. Kind of like the guy who thinks a shipment is full of explosives, only to find out it's full of chocolate: sure, he's wrong, but hey, it's hard to be mad when you're covered in chocolate.


  1. I'm glad you posted the explanatory note from Kevin, great stuff. Not every "intellectual" need follow in the footsteps of Harold "I hate everything other people like" Bloom.

  2. Robert E Howard is William Shakespeare compared with people like Dan Brown...

  3. Thanks guys. Let it not be known that I'm afraid to be called a fool.

    I must confess, I'm sort of biased against Dan Brown by default, simply because I'd heard about the historical problems. I might be less hostile if he didn't present the book as being historically accurate and thoroughly researched.