The Book of the Damned

N.Y. Times Book Review,
s1"The Book of the Damned (1919 book)", KSRA, 2019-11-19
L'article d'origine
L'article d'origine

The startling title of this volume prepares the reader at the outset for something uncommon — probably bewitchingly wicked, of a nature to be read with discretion, where squeamish men and women have no chance to look over one's shoulder, and when the children have been sent safely off to bed. The opening paragraphs rather bear out that promise. Thus:

A procession of the damned.

By the damned, I mean the excluded.

We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.

Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You'll read them — or they'll march. You'll read them — or they'll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten.

Some of them are corpses, skeletons, mummies, twitching, tottering, animated by companions that have been damned alive. There are giants that will walk by, though sound asleep. There are things that are theorems and things that are rags: They'll go by like Euclid arm in arm with the spirit of anarchy. Here and there will flit little harlots. Many are clowns. But many are of the highest respectability. Some are assassins. There are pale stenched and gaunt superstitions and mere shadows and lively malice: whims and amiabilities. The naive and the pedantic and the bizarre and the grotesque and the sincere and the insincere, the profound and puerile.

But after that, except that the jerky, Rabelaisian trick of style is maintained throughout the nearly three hundred tedious pages, it is all painfully and boresomely commonplace. What the author seems to mean — if he means anything — is that science and worldly sentiment exclude from the realm of possibility various phenomena which actually have existed. Like the farmer who, when he first saw a giraffe — or was it a rhinoceros? — declared dogmatically, "There ain't no such animal!" So the book is filled with alleged authenticated reports of red, blue, and pink snow, live frogs embedded in ice falling from the clouds, meteorites of unknown substance, flakes of snow seven inches in diameter, and so on. The assertions about these curious visitations are the excluded, or "damned," facts about which the author writes. Whether he reaches any conclusion in connection therewith, or what that conclusion is if he does reach it, is so obscured in the mass of words — a quagmire of pseudo-science and queer speculation — that the average reader will himself buried alive or insane before he reaches the end. But the queerness of the book may be its salvation. There are persons, perhaps living in Greenwich Village, who may enjoy puzzling through it.