Cabell: The Tarantino Connection

Published:January 15, 2010 by Brendan Wolfe

James Branch Cabell

James Branch Cabell‘s novel Jurgen (1919) is reviewed at my new favorite blog-slash-literary website, The Second Pass. The review begins with this evocative epigraph . . .

“I have finished Jurgen; a great and beautiful book, and the saddest book I ever read. I don’t know why, exactly. The book hurts me—tears me to small pieces—but somehow it sets me free. It says the word that I’ve been trying to pronounce for so long. It tells me everything I am, and have been, and may be, unsparingly. . . . I don’t know why I cry over it so much. It’s too—something-or-other—to stand. I’ve been sitting here tonight, reading it aloud, with the tears streaming down my face . . .”
—Deems Taylor, in a letter to Mary Kennedy, December 12, 1920

. . . before going on to compare Cabell’s characters to “those of Quentin Tarantino, [which] tend to riff most elegantly at the moments of their greatest depravity.” As our entry suggests, Cabell himself could have been a Tarantino character. That is not really captured by the picture above; instead, check out Carl Van Vechten’s creepier portrait.