The Last Battle: Stanley G. Weinbaum’s Odyssey

Stanley Grauman Weinbaum was born on 4th April 1902, in Louisville Kentucky. In spite of his family’s strong show business connections – he was a relative of both Sid Grauman, the creator of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the actor George Jessel – Weinbaum’s only real ambition was to become a writer. At the age of 15, he penned The Last Battle, a piece for his school magazine that predicted the end of the First World War in 2001.

In 1920, Weinbaum enrolled at the University of Wisconsin to study chemical engineering, but eventually decided to change his major to English Literature, after which he began publishing some of his poetry in The Wisconsin Literary Journal and befriended Horace Gregory, who would become a distinguished poet himself, and who remembered Weinbaum in his autobiography, as having ‘a number of ruling passions’ which included ‘playing his guitar as though it were a lute, alliteration in writing verse and chanting it, mathematics, Turkish coffee, the invention of scientific gadgets, and cigarettes. In his speech, he had great purity of diction, and a love of entertaining everyone around him – this last with an artless air that seldom failed to please.’

Weinbaum never received his degree as he was caught pretending to be another student and sitting their exam for a bet. Consequently, he took a number of unfulfilling jobs but continued to write in his spare time. The Lady Dances was his first novel, and in 1933, was purchased by the King Features Syndicate, who then serialised it in a number of national newspapers, under the pseudonym Marge Stanley. However, Weinbaum’s attempts at publishing some of his other romantic stories fell flat, prompting him to return to his first literary love, science fiction. Continue reading

Le Grand Jeu: René Daumal’s Peradams

Like his literary hero the poet Arthur Rimbaud, René Daumal was a native of the Champagne-Ardenne region of north-eastern France. His brilliance and tragically early demise, were also shared by his predecessor. In the seventy years since his death, Daumal has become a cult figure, with his influence evident in the works of other ideologists and truth seekers, notably the legendary Chilean film maker and guru, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Hailed as ‘a hallucinogenic daydream’ by The New York Times, the underlying cinematic inference of Jodorowsky’s psychotropic creation, The Holy Mountain (1973), is in fact far more numinous and esoteric than such a description implies. The film can be viewed as an extension of Daumal’s remarkable vision, for as the French writer and poet believed, and Jodorowsky himself has suggested, the irrefutable reality of human existence is that, ‘Every one of us lives in a different world, with different space and different time.’

Above: Trailer for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973)

Born on 16th March 1908, in the village of Boulzicourt, Daumal’s childhood was an unsettled one, given his parents’ propensity to routinely uproot the family. The most stable figure for the young boy was his paternal grandfather Antoine, a bee keeper whose interests included freemasonry and spirituality.

Moving to Reims in 1921, Daumal befriended a group of fellow students, and their shared bond would provide each of them with an enduring source of personal and professional inspiration. Originally known as the Phrères Simplistes, Daumal along with Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Roger Vailland and Robert Meyrat would go on to form the collective, Le Grand Jeu. Continue reading

Ace Of Clubs: The Matchless Pamela Barton

Born in Barnes on 4th March 1917, Pamela Barton, Pam for short, showed an astonishing golfing prowess from early childhood. At the age of 17, Barton won the French International Ladies Golf Championship and two years later, was awarded the British Ladies Amateur, which was swiftly followed by her winning the American Ladies Amateur at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, New Jersey where she defeated the American champion Maureen Orcutt in a record-breaking victory,  becoming the first player to hold both titles at once for almost  thirty years.

By the mid-1930s, Barton’s sporting career was going from strength to strength; she was on the British Curtis Cup team from 1934 to 1935 and in semi-finals of the 1935 British Ladies Amateur, she beat her younger sister, Mervyn Barton. Their mother Ethel, also a keen golfer, won the 1935 Mothers and Daughters Foursomes Tournament with her eldest daughter.

Barton was again selected as a member of the 1936 Curtis Cup team, and then travelled to New Jersey to compete in the American Ladies Amateur for the second time; she left victorious, and Mervyn, who had gone to support her sister, recalled that ‘Pam was thrilled, she was over the moon.’ A book authored by Barton and entitled, A Stroke a Hole, was published in 1937.

Above: Pam Barton wins the American Ladies Amateur Golf Championship (1936)

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Corpse Bride: La Casa De La Pascualita

Since 1930, La Popular, a bridal shop in the Mexican city of Chihuahua has had its gowns modelled by a uniquely beautiful figure – one who has not aged a bit in 85 years, and still looks as striking as the day she arrived. So legendary has she become, La Pascualita as she is known, attracts tourists from all over Mexico and the rest of the world, eager to decide for themselves whether she is merely a mannequin, or if her origins are far more sinister.

From the first time she appeared in the shop’s window, allegedly having been shipped over from Paris, La Pascualita aroused suspicion; her hands were so realistic that she had fingerprints and faint varicose veins were visible on her legs. But it was her large brown eyes that gave La Pascualita her almost human quality and though they were made of glass, those who looked into them swore they were animated and full of emotion.

Soon, word spread that La Pascualita was no ordinary mannequin; she was actually the perfectly embalmed body of the daughter of La Popular’s owner, Pascuala Esparza. Certainly, it did not go unnoticed that the model bore a strong resemblance to Esparza. Continue reading