My collection of the “Storisende” Edition of The Biography of the Life of Manuel

I wonder what James Branch Cabell would think about the library that bears his name.

As far as I can tell, it is a library without any physical books.

Of course there are books . . . at least in the Cabell Room:

By the way, who actually believed — as the narrator to this video presentation states — that Cabell’s books are “thinly veiled commentaries on the manners of his times”? The books have universal themes, and better qualify as Menippean satires than as comedies of manners.

Oh, OK: his books set in his contemporary Virginia (Sil.) might qualify as comedies of manners — The Cords of Vanity seems to fit. But The 
Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck
aims for more universal themes, and by the publication of The Cream of the Jest, Cabell was well on his way past the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

Cabell did not “thinly veil” his “commentary”: he explicitly linked his characters to a tripartite schema of universal types, and explored how particular instances of these types differently dealt with ideals and compromise and romance and dissillusion in a world not quite up to snuff, but always suggestive of grandeur and romance and many other fine things, eternally just out of grasp.

I know, Mencken asserted that Cabell’s “gaudy heroes . . . chase dragons precisely as stockbrockers play golf.” But this was not to satirize then-contempprary life, but to satirize (and cherish) universal humanity. The drolly pleonastic title for his multi-volume series The Biography of the Life Manuel suggests this more than adequately, for Cabell has written a biography (an “anatomy”) of the Life of Man.

The Commonwealth of Existence Itself — that is Cabell’s target.

twv

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