In response to my request for comments regarding "Pickman's Other Model," I received a rather marvelous email from one Mr. Tim Huntley, who writes:
The lines from the Ovid in Part 3 drew me to thinking about transformation but also about the particular morphē that changes. What, for me, was particularly well written throughout "Pickman's Other Model (1929)" was the notion of change and development. I touch on nothing you didn't intend, I'm sure, but I find that there is an interesting development from the paintwork and photography of Lovecraft's own mode of revelation into the charcoal sketches and cinematic reels of the mode of grotesque revelation in your own piece.
The role of cinema is very well placed though. Having read Sirenia Digest #28, I looked to some Lovecraft letters and found a Sept 1935 note where HPL bemoans missing a screening of Caligari. Yet cinema is a mode not in Mr Blackman's favour: he is a man of the theatre, favouring "living actors." As such your story gives rise to thinking on the oppositions of metamorphosis and body; of theatre and cinema. The performance one becomes gives way to what one is, a fixity surely put in question by any notion of acting. However, for all the doubt Mr Blackman casts on his own authorial veracity, Lily nonetheless casts him as "a persistent fellow such as you".
In short, "Pickman's Other Model" takes up the ways in which popular folk myth, cultural gossip, horrors, and memory endure. It takes them up and scatters them through a myriad of forms. (On a lighter note, dare I say that Thurber's presence at the screening ("Now, do you understand?") seems to have the hint of a nod to that moment in Landis' An American Werewolf in London, where Kessler sits with Jack Goodman...) There was also an echo from your own work: I loved the ground that seems to stretch from the private arcane collection of Silas Desvernine in "Estate" to the corporeal arcanum of the Hounds' film. Between these two stories there was an interesting shift from introspective real estate to projected industrial product: the cinema film (played, nonetheless, underground by the Harvard Square collective). And the relaying of the Durand Drive events was superb – for me it was inlaid perfectly: like a miniature inset of "The Call of Cthulhu" part II.
Finally, I have to say, Lillian Margaret Snow is a splendidly defined ghost, shifting through the whole of the piece. "Pickman's Other Model (1929)" is a piece for which you should be proud.
Danke schön. Actually, though I do see your point about Jack Goodman, I think what was actually going through my head at the time was a line from Poe's "Hey Pretty" ("Do you get this gist of this song now?"), which, of course, leads back to Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. Also, Sean writes:
I'd never read it ["Pickman's Model"] before with thoughts towards the unreliability of first person narration, but I think the points from your prolegomena are well taken. It did seem like Thurber was about to come off the rails completely before his account was finished. In that light, it seems perfectly logical that he might have later committed suicide. Your story did seem to leave one unanswered question though in regards to Thurber — what, if any, was the extent of his contact with Vera Endecott/Lillian Snow? Did he merely get the sketches from Pickman, or did they meet during the time she modeled for Pickman? What exactly was the final straw that broke his mind is also somewhat shady. Perhaps you left these things ambiguous on purpose and, in any case, the story didn't suffer for it.
To which I reply, I always try to leave as many questions unanswered as answered, and thinking on it now, answering your questions would make another good story (and no doubt lead to new questions, because this regression is infinite). Anyway, my thanks to Sean and Tim, both.
I'm taking the day off, going to the picture show with Spooky. There was a very small seizure late yesterday, the sort that is usually called "petit mal" or "absence" seizures, which mostly just leave me feeling odd for a few hours. But the insomnia and stress is piling up, so, yeah, a day off to try to get pointed to true north once more. But, first, these marvelous images, courtesy thingunderthest (behind the cut):
*Just a word to the wise, from me to a certain "Tristan Pennell," should he actually be reading this (by way of the Dresden Dolls, of course).