Kuttner’s Cosmos

Posted by on December 14th, 2009 at 1:00 PM

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Frisky, coolly ingenious, both crassly blunt, and insidiously suggestive: Henry Kuttner’s fantastical modem-day fables illumined the pages of John W. Campbell’s Unknown Worlds magazine (extra-literate pulp fantasy) during its deplorably short life (1939-1943).

In interviews, Kuttner professed admiration (with perhaps a dab of professionally fraternal affection) for the spook-raising, sex-swapping , urbanely rowdy comedic/fantasy escapades of Thorne Smith. For this reader, Kuttner’s confrontations of the crass and the creepy recall Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, confronting the Troll King:  and, later, in his old age, the Button Molder. Diverse spheres in collision and, alternately, collusion. Kuttner’s “heroes” often share Peer’s chipper insolence. They succumb, however, to the varying siren songs of greed, lust, and intellectual arrogance. In the novelette (Kuttner engaged the novel’s dimensions comparatively rarely) “A Gnome There Was” (a minor classic of pulp narrative) a professional labor-agitator plies his arts among the little folk underground; challenging the rule of King Podrang to a climactic battle of our hero (?)and the over-incited little folk, at which Smith’s seraphic presence might have beamed. Yet (quintessential Kuttner) the story ends with a diminuendo touch of slithering horror.

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One Response to “Kuttner’s Cosmos”

  1. Bhob says:

    One hardly sees Thorne Smith mentioned any more except when the film of Topper plays on television. But he was one of the great humorists of the 20th Century.

    Bhob @ Potrzebie: http://potrzebie.blogspot.com