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Robert E. Howard – The Whole Wide World

Robert E. Howard, Irish-American heroic fiction author and essayist
Robert E. Howard, Irish-American heroic fiction author and essayist

While going through the old bookmarks on my browser the other day I came across the Cimmerian, a wonderful if now defunct group-blog that was dedicated to Fantasy, Horror and Adventure fiction, with a focus on the works of the Irish-American writer Robert E. Howard in particular. Some of the most intelligent and thoughtful pieces on Fantasy literature that I have ever read graced the webpages of the Cimmerian, many notable for their length and analytical nature (the curse of the internet is the culture of brevity – very few people write long articles now and even fewer read them. Perhaps the rise of the tablet and phabelt will change that?).

As for the great man himself, Robert E. Howard is an author of some special meaning to me. Enough to know that it was the 107th anniversary of his birth three days ago. Most of his works have dated with the passing of the years –  strange snapshots of another time, another place. Ironically so given their frequent historical setting (real or imagined). Yet the raw talent, creativity and productivity that left many others floundering in his wake continues to inspire new generations of artists, be they writers, illustrators or movie-makers. Howard was an author who truly had the potential for greatness, who was growing into his abilities with every new tale, until he brought it all to an end one terrible summer’s day in June 1936 at the tragically early age of 30.

Perhaps it is the tortured artist that I identify with? Or the fatal allure of self-death. While I celebrate life I do have my darker moments and a certain susceptibility to the siren call  of the Cthulhu. Would it surprise you that back in the day some regarded me as a goth? I suppose I was in a way though I despised the term and those who wallowed in it as a lifestyle choice. I remember the young son of a friend describing me with the innocence of a child as “very black”. It amused us mightily at the time since we took it as a reference to my preferred colour of clothing. And car. And decoration. Perhaps it should have been An Sionnach Dubh? But I think he was also referring to my dark nature. More of the Diarmaid than the Fionn. Who else would love a black Christmas Tree? That’s not normal is it? But then being not normal is what I admire. I glory in unconventionality and those who cock-a-snoop at society and its restrictions. Conform? The hell I will.

Of course, I’ve changed a lot since those halcyon days. I’m not sure how anyone regards me now. I suspect with little favour. Too much pain. Too many things seen and done. Life is cruel and it will seek you out no matter how hard you try to hide. In my youth I was Séadanta. Now I have become Conchúr.

All of which rambling brings me to this movie I stumbled across on YouTube, “The Whole Wide World”, focusing on the relationship between Robert E. Howard (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) and his friend and lover Novalyne Price Ellis (a young Renée Zellweger). Enjoy.

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