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James Branch Cabell

james branch cabell(1978-1958)
James Branch Cabell’s work was a major influence on Robert Heinlein, Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, and Neil Gaiman. His novel Jurgen was the subject of a famous obscenity case which only helped Cabell’s career. Some of his works can be downloaded free at Project Gutenberg. Here’s an interesting fan page created by Mike Keith who helpfully conferred with us while we created this page.

Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice

Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice by James Branch Cabell

Jurgen, an aging pawnbroker who considers himself a poet and a “monstrous clever fellow,” sets off to find his missing loquacious wife — not because he likes her, but rather because his family and friends say it’s the manly thing to do. While searching for Lisa, he enters a strange land and charms Mother Sereda into temporarily giving him back his youth and good looks. Then he uses his renewed vigor to lie and philander his way across a magical landscape, “dealing fairly” with all the women he meets, as he half-heartedly searches for his wife. Along the way he meets dozens of historical and mythical creatures and people (including Queen Guenevere, shown in the picture), first introducing himself as a duke, then promoting himself to prince, king, emperor, pope, and eventually, for a moment, even God.

Despite being a vain and hypocritical rogue, Jurgen has a sentimental ... Read More

The High Place: An anti-romantic fantasy

The High Place by James Branch Cabell

James Branch Cabell was a phenomenal talent. He writes with wit and style, with turns of phrase that can take your breath away and displays of keen insight into human nature. Despite all this I find myself unable to love his works wholeheartedly. I’ve been accused of being something of a cynic or pessimist myself (I prefer the term pragmatist, thank you very much), but Cabell makes me look like a doe-eyed boy scout. While I certainly do not always disagree with many of his points about the incongruous and laughable aspects of human nature, I just can’t bring myself to wholeheartedly condemn even the best parts of it as mere illusion and wish fulfillment as he does. I also find that many of his stories in the great cycle of Poictesme, known collectively as “The Biography of Manuel”, lean a little too far towards the allegorical for my taste, though I readily admit that even Cabell’s allegorical characters have ... Read More