Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Galleon of Dream

Picked up an interesting item for my Lin Carter collection last week. Galleon of Dream was a self published collection of poetry that Carter produced in 1953, quite a few years before he became a professional writer. Carter was a prolific publisher of fanzines and the like and he self published several projects of this nature, including a previous volume of poetry, Sandalwood and Jade, in 1951. I haven't found a good copy of that one yet. According to the owners of Haslam's Book Store (who I interviewed years ago when writing a study of Carter), a massive used book store in Carter's hometown of St. Petersburg Florida, Carter used to try and get them to sell his self published work in the store. Lin was reportedly good friends with the late Mr. Haslam and spent a considerable amount of time in the store as a child and young man. One has to wonder what Carter's life might have been like had he not had access to such a place in his formative years. I also wonder what influence his purchases from this store had on his selections for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line he would edit years later.
According to the Ebay seller, my copy was one of several that Lin had when he passed away. The same seller had several other of Carter's personal items that were bid out of my range. In any case, since Carter printed the booklet himself, it passed from his hands to mine, though several times removed. Not quite in the league of the unpublished manuscript of Lin's that I own, but still pretty cool.
Galleon of Dream contains umpteen poems, mostly about the theme of escaping to lands of fantasy through dreams. There is a plaintive quality about most of these works; the wishes of a young man to escape to far places as in this example from the titular poem, Galleon of Dream:

I sail my galleon of dream
to shores where golden cities gleam.
To Samarkind and Zanzibar,
where sandalwood and rubies are,
and fabled realms that lie beyond,
like Turkistan and Trebizond.

Many of the poems refer to books that Carter loved. Treasure Island. The Arabian Nights. The Oz books. The poems strike me as (not unexpectedly) amateurish, but are certainly competent. Carter illustrated the small book as well and his drawings are fairly well done. Anyone familiar with the maps Lin did for his Thongor and Callisto books will recognize his inkline in these early illustrations.
The thing that stood out to me the most is that the poems have a lot of imagery that seems to have been inspired by Lord Dunsany. Though Carter made his living writing books that were mostly pastiches of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, I think that the Dunsanian style fantasy was always his first love. His personal works such as Khymyrium and the Simrana cycle seem to bear this out. Though Carter is often classified as a hack by critics, and even I, a true Carter fan have to admit that he sometimes deserved the title, the works that he did for love often have a considerably higher quality of writing than the books he rushed out to pay the bills. Galleon of Dream shows the early inner life of a young writer, in love with fiction and far off lands, and waiting to escape into a larger world.

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